Answering e-mails, solving crimes

October 26, 2007

Name: Brian Rankin

Age: 52. Born the year the hovercraft was invented and a vaccine for polio was made.

Job: Head of the Centre for Forensic Investigation, Teesside University

Salary: More than the national average, but rather less than I got in my previous role.

What's your practical training? I gained a masters in forensic science from Strathclyde University, then joined the Forensic Science Service. I trained as an operational forensic chemist, fire-scene examiner and authorised analyst.

What are your working hours? I thought I worked long hours before, but they're now even longer. I can't believe the number of e-mails.

What's your department like? The School of Science and Technology creates a thriving environment for our forensic and crime-scene science subject areas.

What is your office like? I have an office on the first floor of the Innovation Centre - which is great. But I can't get over the row of offices which, when the doors are shut, bears an unfortunate resemblance to Alcatraz.

What is your biggest challenge this year? Some think there are too many forensic courses and that universities are more interested in bums on seats than producing skilled scientists. We need to step up to the mark and understand the skill requirements for employment.

And how will you meet that challenge? Through bodies such as the Forensic Science Society, Skills for Justice and UK Forensic Science Education Group, which recognise universities that are serious about who they educate and what they deliver.

What was the worst moment of your career? In court, when a barrister asked me the boiling range of petrol and my mind went blank.

Do you socialise with people at work? I'm Irish. I like talking. And my colleagues are sociable. We meet at lunchtimes for a bit of banter. I note that more than 700 of us have registered to attend the Christmas party.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? I haven't encountered anyone in the university who has been as difficult to handle as some of my previous encounters during cross-examination.

Best excuse you've had for bad behaviour? The best bad behaviour I can relate to would be the recent unethical behaviour of the TV companies and the money collected from premium-rate phone lines for competitions.

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