Forensic Nexus Q/A Session with a Forensic Jeweler

MariaMaclennanForensic Nexus would like to introduce you to Ms. Maria Maclennan of Dundee, Scotland, UK who has a very unique speciality. She is a Forensic Jeweler.

Ms. Maclennan kindly agreed to being interviewed by Forensic Nexus to share her career path. We asked her the following questions:


What is your area of expertise/forensic discipline?

Despite originally having trained as a contemporary jewellery designer and metalsmith, I now consider myself to be a ‘Forensic’ Jeweler. I became involved in the field of forensics – specifically, in the field of Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) – through my Master’s research, and I am now reading for a PhD on the topic of ‘Forensic Jewelery Identification’. Primarily, I am interested in how jewelery can be used to help identify victims of international disasters such a 9/11, however I am also interested in jewelery’s use in other related law enforcement fields such as in homicides, missing person(s) cases and cold case investigations. I don’t come from a traditionally Forensic (or even scientific!) background in/approach to the area, but it certainly brings a unique approach to my area of expertise.


Where do you work as a forensic scientist?

I am currently a ESRC CASE PhD Researcher at the University of Dundee in Scotland, where I work from my office in the Visual Research Centre at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA). My research is the result of a collaboration between the world-renowned Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) and Duncan of Jordanstone Cllege of Art and Design (DJCAD). One of my supervisors includes Professor Sue Black OBE, a world-renowned expert in the fields of forensic anthropology and DVI.


What is your typical work day like?

I generally work full days (9-6 and usually beyond), Monday-Friday in the office, where I conduct research, collaborate with other researchers, and write articles. I also spend a lot of my time speaking and presenting at conferences, seminars and holding University lectures to undergraduate students. As my research is currently in it’s early stages, the majority of my time is spent planning new projects, tests, trials and collaborations for the future which will contribute towards my doctoral thesis.


What inspired you to pursue this career?

In comparison to the career I originally trained for (in Art and Design), the area in which I am currently working in came as relatively unexpected! Despite always having a interest in forensics and crime, I never for a second imagined that I would be able to contribute in an original and in native way to such a highly-researched field. When I begun my Master’s project (as part of an external brief on behalf of a project for INTERPOL), I absolutely fell in love with it, which inspired me to continue researching the possibilities of ‘Forensic’ jewellery. Now, I am actively involved in a highly innovative and emerging field of forensic art and design, and I am thoroughly grateful that I have been given the opportunity to apply my craft skills to the field of forensics in such an interdisciplinary way.


What is your academic background?

I possess a Bachelor of Design (with Honours) in Jewelery and Metal Design, from which I graduated with an ‘A1’ grade for my thesis. I also possess a Master of Design (with Distinction) for my ‘Forensic Jewelry’ Master’s research project. I am currently undertaking a PhD in Design through which I am further researching this field. Additionally, I am undertaking a professional postgraduate teaching qualification as I continue to build on my academic teaching/lecturing experience.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the diversity of my work and also the uniqueness of the area in which I am currently researching. To my knowledge, no previous research has been conducted into how jewelery can be used as a method of identification, and it certainly has numerous diverse possibilities over and above what might be immediately obvious. I have a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with and learn from experts in the fields of forensics, forensic art, policing, family liaison, and DVI; but also in design, jewellery, craft, education and research. It really is a great opportunity to research a unique approach within the arsenal of forensic identification.


What suggestions do you have for students that are interested in pursuing a career in your profession?

Theoretically, as a PhD researcher, I am technically a student myself! My advice therefore comes very recently as a graduate and is hopefully empathetic to current or prospective students in the field. Although the current job climate is increasingly extremely difficult, I have found myself (through hard work, passion, collaboration and perserverance) successfully pioneering the field of ‘Forensic’ jewellery. I think although qualifications are certainly a good thing; practical experience, passion and determination are key qualities that will help a new student/recent graduate succeed. Having a particularly fresh eye or approach to current processes and procedures certainly won’t go a miss, either!

Have we covered all bases? Any further questions come to mind while reading Ms. Maclennan’s story? Please feel free to submit questions by commenting on this post and we will direct them to Ms. Maclennan and post her responses.

Forensic Nexus would like to thank Ms. Maclennan for her participation. She has also agreed to offer mentorship to individuals seeking career advisement.

Contact us at for more information about mentorship.

To contribute your story, please visit

Till next week!

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