Student 'Spice' researcher wins national award

“It's absolutely fantastic to be recognised by such a big society and it's great that my research has been recognised for what it is because I have worked hard.”

Mia Abbott, PhD Forensic Science

A student working to identify new strains of the synthetic drug 'Spice' in prisons has won a national forensics award.

Staffordshire University student Mia Abbott, 22 from Carlisle, has been named winner of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences' Undergraduate Most Meritorious Student Award 2018.

The annual award recognises the achievements of a student from an accredited Forensic Science degree and Mia follows in the footsteps of fellow Staffordshire University students Philip Pikula and Olivia Churchill who won the prize in 2015 and 2016.

She said: “It's absolutely fantastic to be recognised by such a big society and it's great that my research has been recognised for what it is because I have worked hard.”

During her undergraduate studies Mia completed a placement with Staffordshire Police. She researched how to identify the synthetic drug mephedrone at music festivals using drug samples provided from the amnesty box at V Festival.

Mia then moved onto the integrated MSci Forensic Science and spent 12 weeks on placement at Featherstone Prison in Wolverhampton helping to identify synthetic cannabinoids inlcuding the street drug 'Spice'.

“I took swabs from the post that came into the prison and Rapiscan Systems kindly lent me an itemiser to analyse the samples.” she explained.

“I identified any new strains of Spice that the prison wasn't aware of so they could proactively search for them. These different strains were saved into a library so that they can be easily recognised in future.”

Mia is now beginning a PhD at Staffordshire University to continue her research and hopes to set up a central hub to share information about new strains of synthetic drugs with police forces and prisons across the UK.

Dr Jodie Dunnett, Lecturer in Forensic Science, said: “I am so proud of Mia for receiving this award. Mia worked very hard during her Independent Project and her placement and it is fantastic that her achievements have been recognised by such a highly regarded organisation”

Praising the support of her lecturers, Mia said: “In terms of the Law, Policing and Forensics staff I absolutely adore all of them. They are very forward in making sure you get all the best opportunities you can.

“They are always on hand if you need extra help or if you need that bit of guidance or when it comes to branching out and looking at different jobs or placements.”

Mia will be presented with her prize, which also includes a year’s complimentary membership with the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, at a special awards dinner in November.

Contact

Amy Platts
Multimedia Press Officer
Marketing and Public Relations
L600, Flaxman Building
College Road
Stoke-on-Trent
ST4 2DE
t: +44(0) 1782 292702
m: 07799341911
e: amy.platts@staffs.ac.uk