[This piece of content was originally posted in a Students' Union Newsletter from October 24th 2016.]
Laura Walton-Williams is a Lecturer in Forensic Science has been since 2004. Read on to find her talk about her history in boxing, being a child genius and how she helped train the Mauritian police force.
What was your university experience like?
LWW: I’ve been to a couple of different Universities, as well as doing a year in industry. I had a really varied experience, but I loved it. It’s a great time to grow up a little bit. I enjoyed myself as well as working hard, I had a great social life as well as the academic kind of things. For me, it was brilliant, it really developed my confidence, as before I came to university I was incredibly shy. So for me, it was an incredible opportunity to develop my independence, my confidence and my ability to talk to people.
What do you notice is different between University today and your university experience?
LWW: My relationship with the students is very different to how my relationship with my lecturers was when I was at university. The approach I have with my students is much more personal, and the additional support and pastoral care is much better. There are more pressures on students today, there’s more distractions and more financial worry, but at the same time there are many more opportunities available to students. We really try and encourage students to try and get involved with extra-curricular activities and get work experience.
What makes you proud to be a lecturer at Staffs?
LWW: Probably the students to be honest. I love seeing people come in and then seeing how much they’ve changed when they graduate. In my opinion 95% of students will leave university and be more confident than they were when they arrived. I love teaching and I love the potential to collaborate with students on their final year projects. I enjoy the sense of achievement when I see a student that’s done really well, and that’s potentially because of my teaching.
Tell us about a cause you really care about.
LWW: A lot of the work that I and the other Forensic lecturers do are to do with victims of crime and sexual assault. I work in biological evidence, so I work very closely with sexual assault centres. Any charity that aids the survivors get back on their feet are close to my heart. Aside from that, one of my colleagues has a child that was born with a cleft lip, so a couple of years ago I did a charity boxing match for the Cleft Lip and Palate Association, which is a smaller charity that I felt I could help make a difference to.
If you could offer any piece of advice to current students, what would it be?
LWW: Seek help if you need it. A lot of the time, people who succeed and do really well are in essence, fearless. Don’t be scared to speak to a member of staff if you’re struggling, whether it’s academic, personal or financial. If an opportunity is there for you, take it – you might not love it, and it might be really hard but it’s people who take every chance they have that do well at University.
Are you currently working on anything outside of lecturing, or have you recently?
LWW: A lot of the research I do is around sexual offences, DNA, body fluids and blood pattern interpretation. One thing that I’m quite proud of is that myself and two colleagues have basically developed a swab for the collection of samples from sexual abused or assaulted people which has been patented. I think that’s a fantastic achievement because getting things patented is incredibly hard. We’re currently in the product development stage.
Tell us something about you that people may not necessarily be aware of.
LWW: People might not be aware of the fact that I went to school abroad as a child, and when I came back I did my GCSE’s and A Levels two years early. I was born in Halifax, but I went to schools in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, and because of that they considered me to be some kind of “child genius”. Unfortunately, I’ve lost that now – it was all very exciting when I was younger - but then I discovered drinking!
What is the most interesting thing that your line of work has had you involved in?
LWW: One thing that I really enjoyed is that as part of an EU funded project, we were asked to develop forensic programmes in Jamaica and Mauritius. We got to go to the places to do this, and got involved in giving some basic forensic training to the police in Mauritius. I’d got to go to places that I’d never been before, and managed to squeeze in a couple of days of holiday too!
Have you ever been involved in anything of great importance due to your line of work?
LWW: I’ve been asked for my advice because of my PhD area which is an area questioned quite a lot in court. Both nationally and internationally I have had people contact me. An example is that I’ve given advice to be used in court trials in Australia, which I was quite hoping they’d get me to come and give evidence in, but they denied me the chance of a holiday and said they trusted my advice.
What is your favourite book?
LWW: I like thriller type books, so I’ve really enjoyed ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Girl on the Train’. I would say my favourite is ‘The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair’ by Joël Dicker, I read it after it was recommended on the radio and didn’t regret it! I do love reading though, so I’ve read quite a lot of books.
What is your favourite film?
LWW: Again it’s quite related to the area I work in, but I quite like the Hannibal films. Silence of the Lambs and films similar. I also quite like X-Men and things like that.
What is your favourite album/band?
LWW: More recently, Catfish and the Bottlemen. I went to see them in Wales and they were really good. I do enjoy a bit of country too, so I’m really into The Shires at the moment.