- Course studied:
- Forensic Investigation
- Year of graduation:
Forensic examiner Tina Varley went from investigating gas and electric meter tampering for npower to probing mobile phones for evidence of criminal activity for Staffordshire Police.
“I had been with npower for eight years,” she explained, “and I decided to have a look at University to take what I had learnt in a new direction. I was always interested in crime prevention and watching crime shows on TV.”
A degree in Forensic Investigation from Staffordshire University provided her with the skills and experience to make the transition. Since 2014, she has helped Staffordshire Police with a project to speed up the process of lifting fingermarks from evidence and is now a Digital Forensics Examiner.
Tina, from Penkhull in Stoke-on-Trent, left Newcastle-under-Lyme College to work behind bars as a manager before applying for a position at energy giant npower. After progressing through the company, at 29 years old she decided to start her degree at Staffordshire University, in 2011.
“I was one of the oldest on the course,” Tina recalled. “I found it difficult at first because I hadn’t done any academic work for a while. The other students had just come out of school and college and were full of enthusiasm, which was great. But the course and the lecturers really helped me.”
She continued: “Having lecturers who were ex-police and detectives was a highlight because I could relate what we were learning to real life uses. The practical side of the course, using the crime scene house, was amazing.”
After looking at fingermark processing as part of her dissertation, Tina applied for a 6-week research project with Staffordshire Police to work on their own ongoing project. The project looked at using a “drying cabinet” to speed up the process of lifting marks from evidence.
Tina explained: “If you’ve got a drugs package, for example, which is covered in plastic, we use a dye to test for fingermarks that we then have to leave to dry, which can take days. The drying cabinet speeds up the process to a few hours.”
Tina gained as much experience as she could through the summer after completing her dissertation. She then applied for a 3-month temporary job for Staffordshire Police and was given a further 6-months contract as a Digital Forensic Technician in the Digital Forensic Unit. Eventually, Tina applied for a full time position and was successful in 2015 in becoming a Digital Forensics Examiner.
“I was lucky enough to get the temporary position within the department because, having worked with them before, they knew my capabilities,” Tina said. “The course at Staffordshire University prepared me well for the criminal side of the job, knowing the importance of evidence continuity, as I had gained knowledge that some of my colleagues from elsewhere didn’t have.”
“I’m really pleased to be part of the Digital Forensics Team. The capacity and memory of today’s smartphones are huge. They store so much data and they have become more and more important in criminal investigation. It’s an exciting place to be and I’m lucky to still be in Stoke. Plus, I’m able to keep in touch with my lecturers, as there is a very close relationship between the University and Staffordshire Police, with various projects and student work placements.”