SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHF423631
Module Leader Mahesh Uttamlal
School School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment
Subject Chemical Science
  • A (September start)
  • A (September start)-B (January start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Organic Chemistry 2 M3F121840 and Civil & Criminal Procedure M2M224779

Summary of Content

The module will develop the students' understanding of microscopic methods of analysis that will enable the selection and justification of practical procedures in response to the solution of forensic investigations. Techniques will include; Various modes of optical microscopy (brightfield, darkfield, polarized light and phase contrast). In addition a range of analytical techniques applicable to hair and fibre analysis is introduced.


THEORY OF LIGHT MICROSCOPY Diffraction of radiation from edges and slits, image formation as recombination of diffraction pattern and unscattered radiation. The focal plane, resolution (Abbe limit) and contrast. Image capture. Measurement of refractive index, fluorescence, birefringence and dichroism. MICROSCOPES Conventional light microscope. Polarized Light Microscope. Comparison Microscope. HAIR AND FIBRE ANALYSIS Microscopy of Textile Fibres Classification and naming Sample handling and preparation (longitudinal and cross-section) Fibre chemistry of natural polymers, synthetic polymers and regenerated polymers Spinning of man-made fibres Man-made fibres (synthetic, regenerated, other): Physical features - diameter, colour, particles, shape, surface. Optical characteristics. Natural fibres (animal, vegetable, mineral): Physical features, morphological features. Other test methods: solubility testing, thermal effects, chemical testing. Microscopy of Hair Fibres Hair Evidence. Hair Anatomy and Growth. " Human Hairs: body area determination, racial determination, age and sex, treatment and removal, biological or environmental alteration. Animal Hairs. Significance of Hair Evidence.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module the student should be able to:1. demonstrate a practical knowledge and understanding of the principles of conventional light microscopes, polarizing microscopes, and the comparison microscope.2. use effectively each of the microscopic instruments listed in (1).3. demonstrate a knowledge of the chemical and structural characteristics of natural polymers, synthetic polymers and regenerated polymers as applied to fibres4. plan, select and use an appropriate microscopic technique to solve a given problem such as the matching of hairs and fibres or questioned product authenticity.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

This module will be taught by an integrated package of lectures, practical work and tutorials. Students will study, analyse and solve common forensic microscopy problems based on real life scenarios using best laboratory practice. This will involve and encourage divergent, broader and deeper learning. It will enhance skills with respect to acquiring data in the area of image capture, enhancement, analysis and annotation. In addition to these investigative skills, the critical evaluation of the students work will be communicated as a formal report hence enhancing communicative and writing skills. Students will be supported by use of the managed learning environment GCULearn, where appropriate, as well as encouraged to research and source relevant material themselves as is expected at this level. Students will receive timely in depth feedback through tutor contact at tutorials and marked course work.

Indicative Reading

Greaves, P. H., Microscopy of textile fibres (1995) Oxford: BIOS Scientific in association with the Royal Microscopical Society. (ISBN: 1872748244) Textile Science, Hatch K L, West Pulishing Company, 1993 . Forensic Examination of Fibres, 2 ND Edition, James Robertson, CRC Press 1999. Color Atlas and Manual of Microscopy for Criminalists, Chemists and Conservators, Thomas Kubic and Nicholas Petraco, CRC Press 2003.

Transferrable Skills

On completion of the module the student will have developed the following transferable skills: Communications skills - Written skills will be enhanced during the recording of data and writing of the project report. Practical skills - the student will engage in the handling of chemicals and the operations of high-end laboratory instrumentation. IT skills - will be developed in the processing and manipulation of experimental data and the preparation of the laboratory report. Interpersonal skills - the student will develop the ability to work independently as well as with other scientists and support staff.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Practicals (FT) 36.00
Independent Learning (FT) 78.00
Assessment (FT) 38.00
Tutorials (FT) 12.00
Lectures (FT) 36.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
EX1 2.00 50.00 35% essay questions
CW1 n/a 50.00 35% 1 laboratory report: practical investigation of issued unknown samples making use of microscopic techniques. Outcomes 1,2,3,4