You spend weeks locked in a dark room, watching students as they carry out fingerprint recognition tasks (yes, it is indeed a positively riveting experience), you long for the day when it’s finally over…
After nine months of being cooped up in Leicester, I’d had enough! Only four days after FINALLY ending my active treatment, I was on a plane. Destination: Furrybootstoon, the Granite City, the Silver City by the Sea, the oil capital of Europe, and home to the largest, most vicious and ferocious seagulls known to mankind: Aberdeen.
Entertainingly enough, as the plane landed I noticed that the airport hotel appears to emulate a famous illusion. I found this quite fitting, seeing as this is the place where I developed an interest in studying visual perception.
So, after endless months of possibly some of the most horrible medical treatments available to mankind, I am finally back at work!
And oh my, how things have changed. While I was on medical leave, my department, the School of Psychology, moved from Henry Wellcome Building into the fancy new Centre for Medicine! It’s a (for Leicester’s architectural standards) nice, modern, and apparently very environmentally sustainable building that doesn’t require much energy for heating or cooling.
Now, I’m quite happy with this building. I have a lovely, shiny new office with windows! Yes, windows! I never had these in my old office, and now we have two walls that are pretty much just windows. Nice wide open space, a wonderful view of Victoria Park (which is especially gorgeous when autumn starts painting the leaves). We also have really cool lab spaces.
However, modernity has its drawbacks… one of which is the automatisation of processes. You see, because the new building is so incredibly advanced and environmentally sustainable, you cannot trust mere people to control the lights, blinds, and heating/air conditioning. People are prone to focus on their own needs rather than those of the building as a whole. Therefore, logically, the building is in charge of the lights, blinds, and heating.
And as any avid science fiction fan can imagine, this has…. interesting consequences
[I’ve been promising myself a new blog a couple of months ago. A video blog as well. But, work and personal issues got on the way. Well, at least I finished my primary data collection. I still have a couple of experiments in the pipeline, but those will be made if time and energy allows me to. In between I leave you guys with some thoughts I’ve been thinking of in the last months. Hope you enjoy it]
In a blind room, can you see?
Currently we find forensic sciences experiencing big changes. But if we think deeply about it, is this something new? Or is the word “change” something that academics like to engage with?
We – I put myself in this academic room of course – tend to overreact when we find that something can change. [Read more…]
In the famous book and movie, Kevin is a young boy displaying characteristics commonly associated with sociopaths, who carries out a massacre at his school…
In Germany, Kevin is the boy at school that the teachers dislike. He is likely to come from a lower-class background, with parents who are not well educated and probably unemployed – all traits that are very much frowned upon. Apparently he is likely to be a troublemaker in class, and may even end up more likely to form habits such as smoking.
In my case, Kevin is an invasive ductal carcinoma, a bunch of ever-dividing cells invading not just my breast, but also every aspect of my life.
[disclaimer: I started this post in U.S. And I start to mention a visit to Scotland. I continued writing it in Portugal while I was on holidays, and finally in my calm city of Leicester, I finished it. Don’t worry, I also believe that time is relative!]
With a time difference of 7 hours, here I am giving you another bit of what’s going on on my project!
A couple of weeks ago Silke and I went to Scotland to meet Joanne Tierney and her colleagues at the Scotland Police Authority. We’be been in two different laboratories, one in Dundee and the second one in Glasgow, more specifically in Gartcosh.
In both labs we’ve been received in a very warm and keen way. Examiners had a very excited attitude towards our projects, and we believe they will participate in the future to complete our experimental avtivities!! 🙂
Besides that, I was for the first time in Scotland. And, as a good student I did my homework and figured that the best clothes to take with me would be something warm and rain proof!
How wrong I was!
Silke and I could not believe that weather! E got in 5 days only a bit of rain, maybe drizzling to be honest. The rest of the time the weather was as you can see the pictures.
No, I’m not joking or trying to create some kind of experiment within this post! It was truly like that! I really don’t know if it was Scotland’s weather presenting me with a local souvenir stating something like “enjoy as much as you can. It will happen again… In 10 months!” 😏
You can see the other pictures if you like in my Instagram. Disclaimer: don’t get envious if you live in Scotland!!
We also had the chance to catch up with some old colleagues of Silke who were astonished by the weather, or by our wizard skills! 😁😂
Thanks Scotland! Great to meet you 🙂 and see you very soon!
So 7 hours later than in the UK, it was time to head with Lisa to the 68th Meeting of the American Academy of Forensics Sciences in… Las Vegas!
Yeah, I know… Only boring places… What can you do, researchers life is tedious sometimes!!
More seriously, this meeting had a huge number of attendees, I think it were attending more than 400 hundred people? Anyway, the first days were to attend workshops. I attended one in profilling and criminal investigation and it was very good all of the content that the speakers provided the audience with. It was very interesting to see the interdisciplinary system they presented betweenpsychology and forensic sciences, which in my opinion has a huge gap currently.
We could now start a discussion about it, and about how natural sciences (which are the majority of fields in forensics such as DNA analysis or toxicology) need to work with the fielda that come from social sciences..!
But instead I’ll speak about the poster session, where I presented my work. It was definitely one of the most busy poster sessions I have ever seen! Besides the conference having some sessions with less interest (for me of course) the poster sessions were always really busy, the organisation made it really well as they didn’t have anything else planned for that moment! 👌
I had my poster on Wednesday and it took 5 minutes from the moment I did hang the poster in the board and the people to come and start to make questions 😃
My poster had some preliminary results from the interviews I started last year and am still doing – I have already more than 35 interviews!!
Some of these results were to show that there is a interesting division in examiners’ motivation. Whereas some examiners have a more task focus motivation, others mentioned that their motivation is more than just the task of comparing fingerprints, instead this bit ackowledges the fact to be for instance engaged in the improvement of the criminal justice system.
This is quite interesting as some of the guidelines in some countries mention that examiners need to work in a 100% blind context.
Anyway, I’m still analysing the results but in a near future (I hope!) I’ll be able to make a better discussions of this 🙂
Phoenix was a real relaxing way to get off Vegas. The city is very calm with loads of sun. For me, coming from Portugal, seems that I’m having a summer week!!
Here I met examiners in two labs. Phoenix Department of Public Safety, and Mesa Forensic Services. I need to thank Eric Ray and Heather Conner for their availability and for their colleagues’ keenness as all of the examiners were extremely kind in participating in my research 😃
In total i got 7 more participants!!
Thanks to all of the examiners who engaged in my research! They know who they are!! 🙂
See ya later!*
Still digesting my last two weeks, and with some spare time at the moment, to digest the amount of information I got, I need to write this post before the mood is gone.
So on my last blog, if you read it, I was stuck in Istanbul due to weather conditions.
Eventually (hopefully tbh!), I got a new flight to my final destination, Beijing.
Before talking about the city itself, let’s talk about serious content: my data collection and my project discussed with Chinese examiners.
It was very interesting the way Chinese examiners found my project relevant. Honestly I was surprised with so many common points I found on their motivations to carry their job as fingerprint examiners. Probably I was expecting much more differences as I was, actually(!), in the other side of the world. But apparently, their motivations were, in some cases, pretty similar to examiners I’ve been speaking with in western countries. I started the data collection on the laptop experiments. This was very interesting as well, their approach was in the beginning a bit reluctant as I am presenting my stimuli for a short period of time, and examiners were a bit afraid of their performance. I ensured them that this was only an experiment, and not a real case work. The main objectives were explained, and after some discussion we were ready to start. I did 9 interviews and laptop experiments, which in my opinion was pretty good, taking into consideration that I lost two days of work due to the delay of my flight.
Dr Liu Shiquan arranged four students (two PhD and two MSc) fromPeople’s Public Security University of China to be with me at all time. This was amazing for either translations reasons, and also to make me feel comfortable. I really need to say:
THANK YOU for all of your hospitality Ai Le, Liu Zhe, Dan Song and Luoxi Liu!!!
I also had the chance to meet Professor Luo Yaping, who was extremely kind during my stay. We had the chance to discuss an article that her student is writing which was really interesting, and during lunches I had the opportunity to meet Professor Christophe Champod and Dr Alexander Gyrod, with whom I had a very good discussion about my project. At the beginning I found that I was being tested to be honest, but afterwards it all went alright, and some new ideas came to the table, which by the way, was full of food!
[oh man, the food was always coming in astronomic quantities!!! Some new experiences which were a bit different for a simple western guy, but some others really delicious!]
Dr Shiquan also arranged his old colleague Wong Jyu who took me to do some sightseeing on Sunday and Monday before the time for my flight. Although the cold was way more than I expected (-18º), the walking mixed with good food and tea was an amazing time. Thanks a lot for your time Jyu!!! 🙂
Finally, I would like to thank again to Liu Shiquan, for all of the hospitality and kindness he provided me as well to all of the fingerprint examiners who were really keen taking part on my research. I’m very grateful for all you have done for me during my journey! If it wasn’t for the distance, I would come along next week! (with no flight delays on the way though!!!).
If you want to know People’s Public Security University of China, just click here! 🙂 (there is an official website which you can visit and use a tool to translate the contents if you don’t know Chinese).
On my way, I was supposed to arrive in Brussels to visit Frédéric Quewet at the Belgium Bureau of Identification and his colleagues who do fingerprint analysis to continue the data collection journey. But of course, Murphy was watching me, and thought it could be important to remember him again, so my flight from Istanbul to Brussels got cancelled… Instead of three hours at the Ataturk airport, I needed to stay 6 hours. I cancelled my appointments for that day since I would arrive later than it was suppose, and after a – more or less – battle with the ground team, I surrended I went to a hotel for three hours to have a shower and two hours of sleep, which btw, seemed like 8!
12:50pm I was already in my flight. Destination Brussels!
Brussels was trying to remember me and Silke, who also went to visit the Belgium Bureau, UK’s weather, as we only got one day without any rain.
[ANNOUNCEMENT: I will never speak badly about UK’s weather. Actually, I LOVE UK’s WEATHER!!!] – at least the next few months…
On Wednesday morning Silke and I went to the bureau, but not without getting “une sandwich avec le brie et un èclair”. Belgium is the most danger place for people who love chocolate! I would say that maybe even more than Switzerland..!
At the bureau, we met with Xavier De Borggraef who showed us around and the rooms the team provided us to do our data collection. The day before Silke did a presentation and the team was already expecting us to come and to start our research. They all were extremely keen and generous in their time, since some examiners took some of their non working hours to complete our experiments. Thank you very much to all!
[fingerprint analysis it’s not only made with technology and computers… check the picture below!]
On my part, I found that the examiners were very keen also in the bit of the focus to the motivations to the work, as well as the laptop experiment. I don’t have analyzed results yet, but I’m sure they will be very receptive to some results and possible suggestions. Even had the opportunity to see their informatic system working when Hoa Nguyen who is also a fingerprint examiner at the bureau showed it to me!
Frédéric Quewet was really keen in our work, and we had some great discussions with him about possibilities to present the work in the future, and within one of them, Silke and I with also Etienne, were invited to present some results at one webinar held by the European Division of the IAI!! – This got us surprised, since we were (at least I was) only tasting a great Orval (amazing Belgium beer) and some cheese!
At the night, we also did kind of a marathon through the places to see in Belgium with Frédéric, which was amazing! Ah… and the Belgium fries with fricadelle!
What an amazing journey. There would be more to say, but then this wouldn’t be a blog post, and would become a chapter… I am extremely grateful to all of the examiners who took part on the research and to all of the great insights I was provided with.
I’m looking forward to continue this journey, but now let me rest, rehearse my presentation for the 5th Feb as we will present our works at the mid-term review of the INTREPID Forensics Programme (nervous!) and cook some meal – they say it’s important to eat!
See you all very soon!
Ps. Yes, I didn’t forget my video. And yes, now I have to videos coming out soon. But priorities first. Although I must say, one of the videos will make Leicester very happy, even (still) cloudy xD
Pss. Sorry Etienne…
One of the great things about a project such as INTREPID Forensics, that is interdisciplinary and involves people with various academic backgrounds, is that you get to broaden your horizons. You learn a lot about different subject areas and research approaches – and you sometimes even get to participate in activities you’d have never dreamed about engaging in!
So my data collection started last year, which btw, I didn’t say anything about it, so here it goes:
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE 🙂
During the first moments I already visited some bureaus and interviewed 16 fingerprint examiners. Some from Netherlands, some from Germany and some in the UK.
It has been amazing to change some ideas, and to discuss the guidelines with the people who actually need to ‘follow’ them.
After the break I returned to work, and was about to do another visit, this time in Beijing, China – yes(!), China! 😀
However, weather conditions made me stay in Instabul, wherw I was not – at all!! – expecting so much snow!
I took so advantage of this two days to finish a doc I needed for my meeting with the Probation Review, and worked a bit on the interview translations. Took meals at different times and have slept also at weird hours in order to get in China without so much jet-lag… So for me now it’s 3am 😐.
Here I am, waiting for a shuttle to take me to the airport… And fingers crossed, I will be able to make it and visit the Chinese bureau in Beijing!
See you all soon!