Professor John Cassella

Job Title and Responsibilities

Professor of Forensic Science Education

As a Professor in the Department, I have the responsibility as the lead for:

  • The provision of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Work Based Learning (WBL) at the national, regional and local level with partners and clients

  • The development and maintenance of the research culture within Forensic and Crime Sciences

  • To teach aspects of ‘Human Identification in mass disaster situations' and elements of ‘forensic pathology’ and ‘forensic biology’ to both undergraduate and postgraduate students

About Me

I graduated with a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences and Chemistry from Leicester in 1988 and a Doctorate in Orthopedic Pathology from the University College London [Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital] in 1993. I have published widely in the area of medical and related biomedical sciences. Having worked in many of London’s major teaching hospitals [The Royal London, St Thomas’s, St Mary’s Royal National Orthopaedic, Kings] in a variety of areas of medical research and teaching medical students I took up a post at the University of Central England in Birmingham [now the University of Central Birmingham] as a lecturer in Biomedical Sciences. Subsequently, I became a Reader in Biomedical Sciences and also a ‘Programme Leader’ for the Forensic Science degree courses at the University of Derby in 2002. I joined the forensic science team at Staffordshire University in 2005 where I teach elements of forensic pathology, techniques of human identification and body recovery from disaster situations. Conferred a Professorial Chair in Forensic Science Education in 2008. I am the CPD/WBL lead in forensic and crime science for the development and delivery of a wide variety of short courses to external organisations such as forensic awareness training for various services. I sit on a number of groups that work at a national level in promoting the development and improvement of the delivery of forensic education and to improve the links between academia and the forensic industry and UK Police Services.


BSc (Hons) Medical Laboratory Science and Analytical Chemistry – DeMontfort University 1988

PhD “Osteogenesis Imperfecta: Ultrastructural and Microanalytical Changes in Bone." University College London July 1993

PGCE Warwick University 1999

Professional Memberships and Activities

Professional Memberships
Fellow of the Forensic Science Society

Member of the United Kingdom Forensic Science Education Group
Member of the management board of the ‘Forensic Institute Research Network’

External Examinerships

  • Greenwich University for BSc (Hons) Forensic Science and MSc Biomedical Science degree

  • Forensic Science Foundation degree at Plymouth College of Further Education

  • University of Central Lancashire, BSc (Hons) Forensic Science & Criminal Investigation

  • The Robert Gordon University, BSc (Hons) Forensic Science

United Kingdom Forensic Science Education Group [UKFSEG] - National organisation offering advice on education in forensic science to any agencies Governmental etc

Forensic Institute Research Network [FIRN] - FIRN aims to move forward research and education in forensic science

Fellow of the Forensic Science Society [FFSSoc] - National recognition of expertise in the Faculty

Working with the Media

Areas specialised in:

  • Science and Technology

  • Forensic science

  • Biomedical science

  • Pathology

Previous Media Experience:

  • British Science Association - Media Fellow 1992*  - worked for 8 weeks with ITN/Channel 4 TV  science correspondents

  • Royal Society training course - Media communications - May 2011

  • A variety of local radio interviews on different topics (e.g. BBC Radio Stoke and BBC Radio Derby)

*The British Science Association Media Fellowships are intended to create a greater awareness and understanding of the workings of the media among practising scientists, social scientists, clinicians and engineers. Up to 10 Media Fellows spend 3 to 8 weeks working with a national press, broadcast or internet journalist learning to work within the conditions and constraints of the media to produce accurate and well informed pieces about developments in science and then attend the British Science Festival.

Enterprise and Commercial Activities

Digitisation project
This JISC funded digitisation project has produced a teaching resource of skeletal material from an excavation at Hulton Abbey. Whilst primarily developed for forensic science teaching, the uniqueness and historical significance of the material gives the resource an interdisciplinary value. The project resource was developed using Macromedia Director to produce a standalone product and is available on DVD in Windows and Macintosh formats. By developing the resource this way, individual images of the skeletal material can be searched for and examined using interactive tools.  Click here for more information.

OER projects
Jorum is a JISC funded Service in Development in UK Further and Higher Education, to collect and share learning and teaching materials, allowing their reuse and repurposing. This free online repository service forms a key part of the JISC Information Environment, and is intended to become part of the wider landscape of repositories being developed institutionally, locally, regionally or across subject areas. I currently have 2 projects on Jorum:

Title: “What them old bones can teach us"
This project document contains activities for tutors to offer to students. These activities develop from the basic understanding of the ethical handling of human bone remains and develop through to the understanding of skeletal anatomy. As the activities develop, the role of forensic pathology of skeletal remains is examined. There are also basic activities to introduce the concepts of archaeology and context of the materials recovered in an archaeological setting.
Keywords: Forensic science; Archaeology; Pathology; Osteology; Skeletal; Measurement; Bone; Digital; Skull; sfsoer; ukoer
Click here for more information.

Title: Law‐Forensic Science Crime Scenario
Author: Dr Carole McCartney; Professor John Cassella
Description: This resource offers law and related students the opportunity to work through a crime scene and evaluate the forensic science with due consideration to the legal process required to make it a robust investigation.
Keywords: Law; Forensic science; Crime scene; Investigation; Legal processes; sfsoer; ukoer
Click here for more information.

Development project
The Hulton abbey skeletal digitisation project ‐ HASDIP2 ‐ use of non‐contact laser digitisation to capture images from fragile skeletal material for use in teaching and research 

Staffordshire University, Forensic Science Department has established links with the University of Reading Archaeology Department for access to rare Hulton Abbey skeletal material. This project is of particular interest to the educational world as it ensures the digital preservation of some of the material for their future use. The recently completed project (Hulton Abbey Skeletal Digitisation Project‐ HASDiP) was designed to photograph and archive images using bespoke software, which allows this freely and widely available resource to be used by variety of groups.

This project provides further resources that may be utilised by the whole forensic science community and further afield. In addition, there is great potential for the wider use of the resources and therefore this recently completed project and the subsequent planned project has the potential for offering great educational impact.
This project [HASDiP2] will allow for the use of a non‐contact laser digitisation device which will offer data to compliment the existing photographic information. It will also help to strengthen further a new relationship to take the whole digitisation of skeletons to the next logical step which is a national strategy of digital archiving of fragile and relatively inaccessible skeletal material. The Forensic Science Department will be able to access state‐of-the-art equipment (Laser scanning digitisation) for ‘HASDiP2’ .
For this project to be a successful, not only is the permanent preservation of the friable skeleton paramount, but so too, is the use of the digital resource by a variety of users for their own particular learning outcomes.

Ideally, those who utilise this digitised resource for their own purposes will have set learning outcomes which generically could include:

  • Understand and undertake the methods of producing accurate archaeological/anatomical drawings/photography

  • Understand and apply the requirements of archaeological/anatomical recording procedures

In addition, the following transferable skills could be developed and enhanced:

  • Critical thinking

  • Team working and independent working

  • Communication skills, written and oral

  • Observational skills

  • Problem solving skills

  • Recognition, description and reporting skills

  • Accuracy in working and reporting

  • Analytical and practical skills

  • Numerical skills

  • Enhanced visual literacy in the making, understanding and interpretation of forensic photography

This material would facilitate and promote better understanding of skeletal material for osteology, anthropology, archaeology anatomy, pathology and forensic science teaching etc in the UK.

Research Interests

  • Bone Biology – pathology

  • Forensic Science

  • Postmortem changes ‐ Taphonomy

  • Clandestine burial detection

Selected Publications


Pringle J, CASSELLA JP, Jervis J,
Preliminary soilwater conductivity analysis to date clandestine burials of homicide victims.
Forensic Science International, 198(1), 18-20, 2010

Pringle J, Jervis J, CASSELLA JP, Tuckwell
Time lapse geophysical investigations over a simulated urban clandestine grave.
Journal of Forensic Science, 53 (6):1405-16, 2008

Cassella JP, Chick A, Terrell‐Neild C.
A study of the effects of common insecticides on the colonisation and decomposition of carrion by invertebrates.
Global Forensic Science Today Issue 6:18‐26, June 2008

Sarathchandra,P, CASSELLA JP, S.Y. Ali.
Enzyme Histochemical localisation of Alkaline Phosphatase Activity in Osteogenesis Imperfecta Bone.
Micron, 36(7‐8):715‐20, 2005

Fletcher JP, CASSELLA JP, Hughes D , Cassella S.
An Evaluation of the Mutagenic Potential of Commercially Available Tea Tree Oil in the United Kingdom.
International Journal of Aromatherapy 15 (2):81‐86, 2005

Cassella S, CASSELA JP, Smith I
Synergistic Anti‐fungal Activity of Tea Tree (Melalueca alternifolia) and Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oils Against Dermatophyte Infection
International Journal of Aromatherapy 12 (1):2‐10, 2002

Sarathchandra P, CASSELLA JP, Ali SY
Proteoglycan and Type I collagen interactions in Osteogenesis Imperfecta and normal bone as demonstrated by cuprinolic blue staining
Journal of Bone and Mineral Metabolism  20 (5):288, 2002

Ashford RL, CASSELLA JP, MacNamara S, Stevens RM.
A retrospective magnetic resonance image study of Patellar tendinosis
Journal of Physical Therapy in Sport 3 (3):134‐42, 2002

CASSELLA JP, Dronsfield A, Ellis P
Harnessing the Rainbow – Dyes and the advent of antibiotics
Chemical Education 39 (3):72‐75, May 2002

Kelly J. CASSELLA JP, Ashford RL, Thompkin GH
An iontophoretic study of the endothelial response in the Diabetic foot with symmetrical sensory neuropathy.
The Foot  11: 144‐150, 2001

CASSELLA JP, Dronsfield A
The Chemistry of the Perls Prussian Blue Reaction
Chemical Education 40 (4) :101‐103, 2001

CASSELLA JP, Ashford RL, Meakin J.
The effect of caffeine on neurothesiometer readings.
Diabetic Foot  3 (1):18‐20, 2000

CASSELLA JP, Ashford RL, Kavanagh‐Sharp V.
The effect of applied pressure in the determination of vibration sensitivity using the neurothesiometer.
International Journal of Clinical Foot Medicine  10: 27‐30, 2000

Vogiatzoglou F, Ashford RL, Tollafield D, CASSELLA JP
A retrospective analysis of Swanson Silastic double‐stemmed great toe implants following surgery for arthritic joint disease.
International Journal of Clinical Foot Medicine 10: 6, 2000

Lawrenson JG, CASSELLA JP, Hayes AJ, Firth JA, Allt G.
Endothelial glycoconjugates: a comparative lectin study of the brain, retina and myocardium
Journal of Anatomy  196: 55‐60, 2000

Invited Lectures
"Towards an understanding of the geophysical response of shallow graves". Jervis, J., Pringle, J.K., Cassidy, N.J. & Cassella, J.P. 2007 Presented [by Jervis] at the 2nd International Workshop on Criminal & Environmental Forensics, Heriot‐Watt University, Edinburgh, UK, 30th October – 1st November

"Time‐lapse geophysics, composite probability maps & taught site material on a simulated urban clandestine grave site". Pringle, J.K., Cassella, J.P., Jervis, J. & Cassidy, N.J. 2007. Presented [ by Jervis] at the Environmental Forensics: A new frontier conference, held at Bournemouth University, UK, 16‐18 April

"Essential Oils do work: New evidence” Federation of Holistic Therapists – Professional Therapy Conference Birmingham, March 2003 Cassella S, Cassella J.P., Tan JW

"Investigation of the antimycotic properties of natural medicines" 5th International Symposium of aromatherapy & Medicnal Plants, 21‐23rd March 2003, Grasse, France. 
"Complementary medicines: A friend in fighting fungal foes?" Bioforce Phytotherapy Conference, Glasgow March 2002

“Bones and Microanalysis A Cracking Mix!” Electron Microscopy Users Group South, Pirbright Animal Health Laboratories, February 2002 and Society of Electron Microscopic Technology School of Pharmacy London, December 2001.

Invited Speaker at the ‘Brittle Bone Society Annual Conference’ Birmingham August 2001

“The use of essential oils in podiatric fungal infections”. Podologie 2001, Paris, May 2001

“Research and Complementary Medicine: A synergistic blend?” Professional Therapy 2001, Birmingham, April 2001

“Studies into Brittle Bone Disease” Canterbury Christ Church University College, March 2001

Poster Presentations (first author unless otherwise stated)

"Manganese staining of Medieval bone from Hulton Abbey, Stoke‐on‐Trent, Staffs". Lamont, N., Boothroyd, N., Cassella, J.P. & Pringle, J. 2007. Presented at the 2nd International Workshop on Criminal & Environmental Forensics, Heriot‐Watt University, Edinburgh, UK, 30th October – 1st November

"Multi‐disciplinary studies and taught site material on a simulated clandestine grave site." Pringle, J.K., Cassella, J.P., Middleton, H., Rogers, D, Summers, R. & Cassidy, N.J. 2006. Presented at the Geological Society Forensic Geology AGM, London, UK, 19th December

"Natural anti‐fungals: from anecdote to evidence." Cassella S, Cassella JP, Gallagher J, Tan JW. 10th Annual Symposium on Complementary Health Care December 2003 – Southgate Hotel, Exeter, UK

"The Essential Oil of Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) Demonstrates a Superior Anti‐fungal Activity Compared to Tea Tree (Melalueca alternifolia) or Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia", Cassella S, CASSELLA JP, 9th Annual Symposium on Complementary Health Care 4th ‐ 6th December 2002 – Southgate Hotel, Exeter, UK

"Investigation of the antimycotic properties of natural medicines" Cassella S, CASSELLA JP, Tan JW, 9th Annual Symposium on Complementary Health Care 4th ‐ 6th December 2002 – Southgate Hotel, Exeter, UK

"The effect of fluoride on mineral formation in novel hydrogel matrices Atremate Brachiopods A novel in vivo system for studying the effects of bisphosphonates on mineralising tissue", "Ultrastructural enzyme histocemical localisation of alkaline phosphatase activity in bone in osteogenesis impefecta" British Orthopaedic Research Society, University of Leeds, March 2002

"Immunocytochemical Localisation of PECAM‐1 (CD31) in Developing Microvasculature" Royal Microscopical Society Meeting, University of York

"A retrospective epidemiological MRI study of patellar tendinitis: the effect of age and weight on mid tendon degeneration" ‘United Kingdom Radiological Congress’, Wembley, London 21‐23 May 2001 and at the ‘Centre for Research in Professions Allied to Medicine’ Conference, London 5‐7th September 2001

"The use of gas chromatographic mass spectroscopy for the analysis of ’blends’ of tea tree and lavender essential oils: does synergy have a chemical basis?", "An ultrastructural study of the action of tea tree and lavender essential oils on Trichophyton rubrum", "Antifungal activity of tea tree and lavender essential oils in the treatment of Trichopyton rubrum infection", "Essential Oil Induced Mutagenesis: A Preliminary in vitro Study" 7th Annual Conference on Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter, December 2000

"MRI analysis of the flexor hallucis brevis muscle" Imaging, Oncology and Science, Birmingham 22‐24th May 2000

"Ultrastructural analysis of articular cartilage and subchondral bone in the STR/ORT mouse" Pathology 2000, Birmingham May 2000

Current Teaching


Level 2 ‐ Techniques in Human Identification
Level 3 ‐ Forensic Pathology
Level 3 ‐ Techniques in the Identification of Human Remains


MSc Project Supervision


Professor John Cassella
Professor (Tef)
School of Sciences (Forensic and Crime Science)
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences
Staffordshire University
Science Centre
Leek Road
Stoke on Trent
t: +44 (0)1782 294434