Postgraduate Diary

Hannah Larsen is bringing a taste of CSI to the south coast of England

If you happen to be out walking in the countryside near the Dorset-Hampshire border in the next few weeks, and see a young woman burying what looks like blood-soaked rags in the middle of some woods, it may not be as suspicious as you’d think. You might just have stumbled across postgraduate student Hannah Larsen from Bournemouth University’s forensic and biological sciences department.

Larsen, 21, is one of eight students on an MSc in applied sciences and research, each coming from a different area of undergraduate study, hers being a BSc in forensic and crime scene science at Bournemouth. Central to the current course is a piece of extended research in each student’s chosen field, which, in Larsen’s case, is the behaviour of blood samples on different types of materials after being buried underground. The research will entail her returning to the burial site to bring specimens back to the university laboratory for analysis after two, four and six weeks.

“It’s an exciting time to be in forensics science, with a lot of new techniques coming out,” she explains. “The ultimate goal of the science is justice, and to be able to do something towards that is great.” A more immediate goal, however, is to produce something that is publishable. “So it’s about research skills, how to write and present statistics that help make a good argument in a paper.”

Larsen recalls an A-level biology unit which fired her enthusiasm for forensic science, as well as an undergraduate project, investigating commercially available kits designed to test whether a drink contains a “date-rape” drug .

“My dissertation at undergraduate level gave me a real taste for research,” adds Larsen, “but I thought I needed more research skills before trying to get a job.”

Those skills are being honed in the laboratories that have helped Bournemouth establish a reputation in these investigative fields.

“They have fantastic equipment – everything you can possibly think of. We had a bit of an introduction to using all the facilities during our first degree, but after the Masters, we’ll all be better equipped.”

As a postgraduate, she’s also enjoying her new status slightly higher up the student food chain at the university. “We get a nicer section in the library,” she says, “plus you get a lot more one-to-one attention.”

For the first half of this term, she and her colleagues had eight lectures a week, but that figure has now come down to four a week as the research project takes more prominence, a factor underlining her preference for a research-based (rather than a taught) Masters. “I prefer getting on with things myself. I’m excited just to get on with my project. That’s what this year is all about.”

But she’s not completely on her own. “I have a supervisor who knows what’s important in the research areas,” says Larsen. “She’s with me at every stage.”

Financially, Larsen benefits from a 25 per cent fees reduction because she’s a Bournemouth graduate, and via an additional scholarship from the university as a result of her undergraduate performance. That leaves her with fees of £2,350 plus living costs. She’s funding this herself, partly by working early mornings and afternoons at a local primary school breakfast and after-school club. And she hopes that acquiring the Masters degree will pay off financially in the long run.

“I hope that having a Masters degree improves my wages to the point that it all seems worthwhile!” 

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

£24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam