- Course studied:
- Forensic Science
- Year of graduation:
The study of insects and their impact in forensic science has been the focus of Dr Andy Chick’s education and career. He is a published author, researcher, lecturer and consulting entomologist whose work is used to teach students and also in court cases.
Different species of insects can be found on bodies at various stages of decomposition, providing vital clues that can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. Andy has been studying the effects of various common household chemicals and what impact these have on this process – such as nicotine, which has proven an effective insecticide.
“I see myself as an ecologist who specialises in forensics,” Andy said. “Staffordshire University taught me how to use the skills I learned from biology and put them into practice in forensics. Now I really enjoy a mixture of teaching and research and I’ve also had a book published on insect microscopy.”
GCSE to PhD
Andy, from Long Eaton, just outside Nottingham, was always interested in science, opting for triple GCSEs at school. “Chemistry and physics always seemed abstract to me, whereas biology always appealed, so I pursued it with a foundation degree at Nottingham Trent University after leaving school,” he recalled.
He progressed to study environmental biology at undergraduate level at NTU before realising he wanted to become a scientist, making the decision to focus his studies further.
Andy said: “When I was coming towards the end of my BSc in environmental biology, it was about the time people were talking about carbon neutrality, and it seemed all biology related jobs were as a salesman for environmental technology. I wanted to be a scientist so I decided to focus and went to Staffordshire University.”
Andy pursued an MSc in forensic science, choosing to move to Staffordshire to learn from new lecturers. He explained: “I looked at Staffs for an undergraduate degree but, at the time, I decided I didn’t want to move that far away from home. I was one of the few people from my college to go to university, so it was a big step.
“After my FD and BSc at NTU, I wanted to gain a wider worldview and Staffordshire University provided that. I chose to pursue forensic entomology, which I focused on for my project, and got a brilliant supervisor in John Cassella. It’s hard for me to overstate the influence he’s had on my career.”
Andy studied the effect of common insecticides, such as lice treatment, on the decomposition of mammals. It was an area of study he continued for his PhD, which was back at NTU, this time exploring the effects of nicotine on insects. However, Staffordshire University’s Professor Cassella continued as Andy’s external supervisor until he became a doctor in 2016.
Author and teacher
Andy published his first book shortly afterwards, titled Insect Microscopy, which reveals the basics of the microscopic study of tiny creatures. One of his PhD papers, examining soldier flies on carrion, was also requested for use in an Italian court case. And he has been made a fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Entomological Society.
He also regularly lectures at universities in Derby and Lincoln and is already scoping out his next book. Andy said: “Insect Microscopy is my first book, which took about 12 months to write shortly after finishing my PhD, before my final examination. I’d like to write more and I’ve been in talks with the publisher about doing another, this time on decomposing animals. I enjoy the writing process but it’s great from a teaching point of view as well.”