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Dr Mark Fowler

Job: Principal Lecturer in Forensic Science and Teacher Fellow

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: Leicester School of Pharmacy

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH.

T: +44 (0)116 250 6385




Research group affiliations

  • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Biomolecular Technologies Group.

Publications and outputs

  • PuzzlEd: RAISE
    PuzzlEd: RAISE O'Sullivan, Angela; Nichols-Drew, L.; Bacon, Joanne; Bassford, Marie; Crisp, Annette; Fowler, Mark R. In this interactive workshop, the HE Advance CATE (Spotlight) Award winning CrashEd team from De Montfort University will showcase our current innovative venture, PuzzlEd. Whereas CrashEd was the culmination of interdisciplinary subject specialisms including Criminology, Forensic Science, Physics, Maths and Policing, PuzzlEd has evolved from our differentiated personal learning styles. Between the team members, our varied strengths are represented including words (anagrams and homophones), associations (shapes, numbers, colours), language and images. By working together as partners, we have evolved our original collaborations which has culminated in an immersive and engaging pedagogic tool, that accommodates a range of learning styles and in doing so promotes teamwork and peer feedback. The purpose of PuzzlEd is to utilise the popular genre of escape rooms, whereby participants face tasks against the clock. We have created our challenges influenced from our own learning styles, resulting in an array of logic puzzles which when solved generate padlock codes leading to further clues. Underpinning PuzzlEd are numerous theoretical approaches such as Constructivist, Humanist and Connectivist, enabling scaffolding of learning and transformative opportunities. Utilising technology via computerised avatars as narrators further enhances the PuzzlEd experience for participants. This is a novel approach to teaching, learning and assessment, which will inspire and empower the higher education community. Workshop at 2019 RAISE Pedagogic Conference in Newcastle
  • PuzzlEd
    PuzzlEd Nichols-Drew, L.; O'Sullivan, Angela; Crisp, Annette; Bacon, Joanne; Bassford, Marie; Fowler, Mark R. This interactive workshop showcases the next creative and innovative project, PuzzlEd, being developed by members of the successful Advance HE CATE (Spotlight) 2018 award winners, CrashEd, (Marie Bassford, Joanne Bacon, Annette Crisp, Leisa Nichols-Drew, Mark Fowler, Marisol Martinez-Lees and Angela O’Sullivan [NTF] ). The project emulates the successful constructivist and inter-disciplinary approach employed in CrashEd, ensuring that the knowledge and scholarship developed by the team’s good practice underpins the pedagogy of PuzzlEd as a teaching, learning and assessment tool. Delegates will have the opportunity to experience PuzzlEd which uses the principles of escape rooms to engage learners to develop teamwork skills whilst learning new concepts. A range of creative and innovative teaching and learning tools will be employed to encourage abstract thinking and nurture problem solving skills. Participants will be immersed in the challenge, building scaffolds of knowledge and bridges across inter-disciplinary subjects with a range of 'hands on' puzzles. Teams of participants will have the opportunity to work to their strengths, solving anagrams, abstract puzzles and a range of other practical logic problems to literally unlock the padlock to reveal not only the answer to the formative assessment but the answer to engaging students in fun, interdisciplinary tasks to embed learning. Like any good escape room scenario the task is against the clock and so participants will have a brief introduction to the task and a 15 minute plenary discussion afterwards to identify the key factors that make this creative approach engaging and transferable. Faculties of HLS, CEM and interdisciplinary research.
  • A Novel Pedagogical Approach In Higher Education Using Blood Pattern Analysis
    A Novel Pedagogical Approach In Higher Education Using Blood Pattern Analysis Nichols-Drew, L.; Fowler, Mark R.; Vamathevan, N.; Dougan, L.; Ford, A.; Irvine, C.; Atkinson, A. The BSc (Hons) Forensic Science undergraduate degree course at De Montfort University in Leicester is accredited by the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences and involves students undertaking a final year practical research project. Within higher education, there is an expectation of autonomous independent initiative alongside collaborative group working. Here, we highlight a novel integrated research approach involving five blood pattern analysis related projects. This student driven research has culminated in a research informed teaching approach and is a paradigm shift in forensic science educational delivery and engagement. International Association of Blood Pattern Analysts - European Division 2017, Jachranka, Poland
  • Using UFOs to engage undergraduates in forensic science
    Using UFOs to engage undergraduates in forensic science Nichols-Drew, L.; Brawn, R. J.; Fowler, Mark R. Student engagement is typically measured by attendance levels, academic performance and survey responses. This presentation will highlight novel pedagogic approaches to maximising the potential for forensic science students from De Montfort University. UFOs (Unique Forensic Opportunities) offer bespoke events incorporating intra and extra curricular activities; within industry standard facilities through delivery by forensic science professionals from the UK Criminal Justice System. Resulting in 80% increased student engagement for a standalone Enhancement Week within the academic calendar. UFOs are integral at promoting employability and student autonomy for continual professional development. Therefore, an evident exemplar to other subject disciplines and academic institutions. HEA STEM Conference 2017: Achieving Excellence in Teaching and Learning Manchester
  • The Co-creation, Connectivism and Collaboration Jigsaw; assembling the puzzle pieces for a successful multi-disciplinary student learning experience
    The Co-creation, Connectivism and Collaboration Jigsaw; assembling the puzzle pieces for a successful multi-disciplinary student learning experience Bassford, Marie; O'Sullivan, Angela; Bacon, Joanne; Crisp, Annette; Nichols-Drew, L.; Fowler, Mark R. CrashEd is a multi-disciplinary, cross-Faculty, University project that arose from five academics’ collaborative commitment to develop a car crash scenario as a widening participation activity. The success of the outreach project culminated in the inspiration to develop more academically challenging forensic scenarios for study at Higher Education level. The ethos of the Forensic Investigation module is on realistic, scenario-based learning and assessment methods, and involves subject specialists across five Schools, an FE college and the Leicestershire Constabulary. CrashEd team members and the police Forensic Crash Investigator have delivered their specialist expertise on anatomy and physiology, ballistics and trauma injuries to students on a local college FdA Theatrical Make-up and Special Effects course. These students have reciprocated the collaboration with the development of bespoke prosthetic resources designed from remits written by University Forensic Science students. The result is realistic latex ‘injuries’ for use as teaching and assessment tools for the new undergraduate module (optional for Physics, Mathematics, Criminology and Forensic Science students). This is a novel example of students working as co-creators. This study involves an investigation into the practicalities, benefits and challenges of co-creation and collaborative work; for example, the expanded specialist knowledge base available to the Physics and Maths undergraduates has provided them with wider vocational career awareness. The connectivist approach has stretched students to think across subject boundaries; a great motivator that has enhanced student engagement. The specialist resources provided by the police have enabled students to learn from real life simulations; a truly ‘hands on’ experiential learning environment.
  • CrashEd - A live immersive, learning experience embedding STEM subjects in a realistic, interactive crime scene
    CrashEd - A live immersive, learning experience embedding STEM subjects in a realistic, interactive crime scene Bassford, Marie; Crisp, Annette; O'Sullivan, Angela; Bacon, Joanne; Fowler, Mark R. Interactive experiences are rapidly becoming popular via the surge of ‘escape rooms’: Part game, part theatre, they are exploding globally, having gone from zero at the outset of 2010 to at least 2800 world-wide today. CrashEd is an interactive learning experience that parallels many of the attractions of an escape room – it incorporates a staged, realistic ‘crime scene’ and invites participants to work together to gather forensic evidence and question a witness in order to solve a crime, all against the backdrop of a ticking clock. An animation can enhance reality and engage with cognitive processes to help learning; in CrashEd it is the last piece of the jigsaw that embeds the students’ incremental acquisition of knowledge to tie together the pieces of evidence, identify a suspect and ultimately solve the crime. This paper presents the background to CrashEd and an overview of how a timely placed animation at the end of an educational experience can enhance learning. Our lessons learned from delivering bespoke tailored versions of the experience to different ages and demographics are discussed. The paper will consider the successes and challenges raised by the collaborative project, future developments and potential wider implications of the development of CrashEd. Open Access journal
  • Real Engagement
    Real Engagement Bassford, Marie; O'Sullivan, Angela; Bacon, Joanne; Crisp, Annette; Fowler, Mark R. Pedagogical practice in STEM education is directed to authentic learning approaches in order to engage students and develop graduates with the skills employers demand. This pecha kucha considers the outcomes of this approach to learning and assessment in a physics and mathematics module at De Montfort University. The collaborative CrashEd project was developed by university Teacher Fellows, academic specialists, police crime scene investigators and and an FE college Theatrical Make-up and Special Effects department. The result is a ‘real life’ car crash. Undergraduates have been taught a wide range of forensic crash investigation skills on a cross-faculty module by academics and police staff. These include criminology, blood pattern analysis, skid mark and light bulb analysis alongside forensic entomology and palynology (creepy crawlies and pollen!) Teaching and formative assessments utilise realistic learning tools including the university’s forensic house and a bespoke crashed car. Qualitative evidence drawn from multiple deliveries of the course suggest that authentic assessment is a valuable tool for improving student learning outcomes and delivering key insights into workplace practices. Students were enthused by this novel approach; “It was such a refreshing change to our usual assessments”. Academics were equally enthused by the professionalism displayed by the students as they became emersed in the realism of the summative assessment investigation. This involved students collating evidence at the scene of a fatal car crash, complete with a realistically injured manikin. Assessment has never been such fun, both for the students and the academics!
  • The Evidence: Translating a crime scene outreach activity for school pupils into a Higher Education module whilst maintaining student engagement
    The Evidence: Translating a crime scene outreach activity for school pupils into a Higher Education module whilst maintaining student engagement Bassford, Marie; O'Sullivan, Angela; Bacon, Joanne; Crisp, Annette; Fowler, Mark R. In April 2014, a team of academics at [anonymised] University developed a ‘hands on’ outreach initiative for year 8 school pupils attending a TeenTech event. A realistic crime scene was set: the pupils, dressed in forensic overalls, approached the ‘live’ scene of a crime whereby a car had just crashed, a ‘body’ lay injured in the vehicle and a distressed witness was causing havoc nearby. On cue a Police Officer approached the scene of the crime and the children were led through a process of gathering evidence and interviewing the witness in order to identify the cause of the crash. In the past year, the outreach activity has been incorporated into numerous other on-campus school visits and university-wide open days, with more than 200 school pupils to date participating in our practical challenge. The age range of participants has naturally increased to include pupils in year 8 to year 12, and accordingly the content and pitch of the activity has evolved significantly. Feedback from schools and TeenTech organisers has been extremely positive; student engagement is exceptionally high. It has proven especially effective as a way to enthuse and motivate pupils identified as disengaged from education. The academic team recently acquired University funding to adapt and enhance the scenario to develop a new cross-Faculty module on Forensic Investigation aimed at Physics, Mathematics and Forensics undergraduates. The translation of a single, focused activity lasting between 20-30 minutes into a 12-week module involves significant new material development, however the ethos of the module will continue to centre about our innovative ‘hands on’ crime solving scenarios. This is because with striking consistency, studies show that innovative, active, collaborative, and constructivist instructional approaches shape learning more powerfully, in some forms by substantial margins, than do conventional lecture- discussion and text-based approaches [1]. Another step towards the improvement of student engagement is the provision of clear, immediate feedback. Our crime scene scenario concludes with an animated film that shows the cause of the accident – texting while driving, which immediately confirms the students’ success or otherwise in solving the crime. This paper presents our collaborative experiences in translating a successful school activity into a HE module, and includes the benefits and challenges to raising the academic level whilst maintaining student engagement. [1] Pascarella, E.T. and Terenzini, P.T. (2005). How college affects students, Volume 2, A Third Decade of Research, p.646, San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Crime Scenes: cultivating colleagueship and enabling connectivist learning
    Crime Scenes: cultivating colleagueship and enabling connectivist learning Bassford, Marie; O'Sullivan, Angela; Bacon, Joanne; Crisp, Annette; Fowler, Mark R. A cross-Faculty collaboration has brought together five academics from a variety of disciplines at De Montfort University (DMU), resulting in a novel project that inspires year 8-12 students to learn collaboratively and apply their mathematics, physics and other classroom learning in a practical context. The exercise centres around the collision of a real motor vehicle on campus at DMU and a realistic injured manikin. Along the way students have to question a witness, measure skid marks to calculate speed and collate additional forensic evidence to enable them to identify the cause of the crash. An animated film finally shows the cause of the accident – texting while driving. Ainsworth’s six different levels of explanation that can and should be evoked to understand learning with animation [1] are explored as part of this paper, namely a) expressive, b) cognitive, motor and perceptual, c) affective and motivational, d) strategic, e) metacognitive and f) rhetorical. An animation can enhance reality and engage with cognitive processes to help learning and in our project is the last piece of the jigsaw that embeds the student’s incremental acquisition of knowledge to tie together the pieces of evidence, identify a suspect and ultimately solve the crime. The ‘hands on’ initiative was initially developed for a TeenTech event in April 2014 and hosted at the University. Since then, more than 200 school pupils along with visitors at three university-wide open days have participated in this practical challenge. Collaboration with local police Crash Scene Investigators (CSI) and Artistic Make-Up and Special Effects (AMSE) students from a Leicester college helped to increase the authenticity of the project. It has proven especially effective as a way to enthuse and motivate pupils identified as disengaged from education and demonstrates the importance of connective knowledge requiring an interaction. Downes posed ‘Is the knowledge being produced the product of an interaction between the members, or is it a (mere) aggregation of the members’ perspectives?’ [2]. We have observed that a different type of knowledge is indeed produced when student learners interact as a network to solve a crime and concurs with one of Siemen’s principle of connectivism, namely that the ‘ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill’ [3]. We will discuss the successes and challenges raised by the collaborative project, and consider the numerous nodes and connections in our network as well as future developments and potential wider implications. [1] Ainsworth, S. (2008). How do animations influence learning? In D. Robinson & G. Schraw (Eds.), Current Perspectives on Cognition, Learning, and Instruction: Recent Innovations in Educational Technology that Facilitate Student Learning. pp 37-67: Information Age Publishing. [2] Downes, S. (2007). An Introduction to Connective Knowledge, Media, Knowledge & Education – Exploring new Spaces, Relations and Dynamics in Digital Media Ecologies. Proceedings of the International Conference held on June 25-26, 2007. [3] Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, Vol. 2 No. 1.
  • Changes in the Chlorophyll Content and Cytokinin Levels in the Top Three Leaves of New Plant Type Rice During Grain Filling
    Changes in the Chlorophyll Content and Cytokinin Levels in the Top Three Leaves of New Plant Type Rice During Grain Filling Rubia, Leila; Rangan, Latha; Choudhury, Rimjhim Roy; Kamínek, Miroslav; Dobrev, Petre; Malbeck, Jiri; Slater, A.; Scott, Nigel W.; Bennett, John; Peng, Shaobing; Khush, Gurdev S.; Elliott, Malcolm C.; Fowler, Mark R. This paper reports the ways that the differences in leaf senescence are related to grain filling, grain yield, and the dynamics of cytokinins (CKs) in the top three leaves of four field-grown new plant type (NPT) rice, a tropical japonica developed at the International Rice Research Institute, Philippines, to increase the yield potential of rice. The chlorophyll content in leaves decreased from flowering to maturity in all the NPT lines, whereas the grain filling percentage was higher in the fast-senescing NPT line than in slow-senescing NPT line. Grain yield was positively correlated with senescence in the flag leaf. Rapid changes in the CK levels were recorded in the leaves of the fast-senescing line, whereas the CK levels were relatively stable in leaves of the slow-senescing line, suggesting that the dynamics of CKs in the fast-senescing line are vital for fast senescence. There were no significant changes in bioactive CKs, CK O-glucosides (storage CKs), and cis-zeatin derivatives in different leaves of the slow-senescing NPT line between 0 and 3 weeks after flowering, suggesting that the content of these CKs is relatively stable during grain filling. A progressive increase in levels of bioactive CKs was positively correlated with gradual accumulation of CK N-glucosides (inactive CKs) in the top three leaves of the slow-senescing NPT line, whereas the decrease of bioactive CKs in the flag leaf of the fast-senescing line was accompanied by accumulation of CK O-glucosides. These results suggest that there is a higher rate of biosynthesis and/or import of bioactive CKs as well as their turnover which may favor delay of leaf senescence in the slow-senescing NPT line.

Click here for a full listing of Mark Fowler's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

  • Molecular biology applications
  • Medicinal herb authentication
  • Forensic science (fingerprint analysis and recovery, DNA)
  • Genetics education, TEL and OER.

Areas of teaching

  • Forensic and clinical molecular biology
  • Genetics and genomics
  • General forensic science.


  • BSc(hons) Science and the Environment (biotechnology)
  • PhD Plant Molecular Biology
  • PgC (distinction) Forensic Science
  • MSc (distinction) Science, medical science.

Courses taught

  • BSc Forensic Science
  • BSc Biomedical Science
  • BMedSci Medical Science
  • MSc Advanced Biomedical Science

Membership of professional associations and societies

  • Member, Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education/Fellow,
  • Higher Education Academy (current).
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Medicine (current).
  • Member, Institute of Biology/Society of Biology (current).
  • Professional Member, Forensic Science Society (current).

Conference attendance

Molecular Identification of St John’s Wort by PCR amplification of the ITS1 Region: Implications for medicinal plant identification. Caroline Howard, Paul D Bremner, Mark R Fowler and Adrian Slater. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 2008; 60: A10. British Pharmaceutical Conference, September 2008.

PlantID – A System for the Identification of Medicinal Plant Material by DNA Profiling. Caroline Howard, Eleni Socratous, Sarah Smith, Eleanor Graham, Mark R Fowler, Nigel W Scott, Paul D Bremner and Adrian Slater. RRJ Arroo (ed.) (2010).

Trends in Natural Products Research: Abstracts of the Phytochemical Society of Europe. Phytochemical Society of Europe, Leicester. ISBN 978-0-9565472-0-0. Meeting held at De Montfort University Leicester, April 2010. Howard C, Socratous E, Williams S, Graham E, Fowler MR, Scott NW, Bremner P D, Slater A A.  One-tube assay for four Hypericum species – PlantID PLANTA MEDICA 77: 1243 2011.

PI10 PCR based assays for the authentication of Black Cohosh Products. Miss Sarah Williams, Dr Caroline Howard, Dr Paul Bremner, Dr Mark Fowler and Dr Nigel Scott. 59th International Congress and Annual Meeting of the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research 4-9 September Anatalya Turkey 2011.

Externally funded research grants information

Plant ID
Higher Education Collaboration Fund, 1/7/2009-31/3/2010 £24,000 CI (with A Slater, NW Scott and E Graham, East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit)

Sickle Cell Open: Online Topics and Educational Resources (SCOOTER)
JISC Open Educational Resources Programme, 31/08/2010-31/08/2011 £123,548 (total value £247,096) CI (with V Rolfe and S Dyson).

The use of mobile touch screen devices in teaching crime scene processing to forensic science students. Higher Education Academy, 2011 £3,000 PI (with NW Scott, R Brawn and V Rolfe).

HALS JISC Open Educational Resources III, 2011 £199,982 CI (with V Rolfe and J Williams).

How institutional culture can change to adopt open practices
HEA/JISC Open Educational Resources Case studies – Pedagogical development from OER practice, 2011 £2,000 (joint PI with V Rolfe).

Professional esteem indicators

HEA Teaching Development Grant reviewer.
Reviewer for “New Directions”.

Case studies

Total sales for "Plant Biotechnology; the genetic manipulation of plants" are now well over 11,000 copies and is in its second edition and in the top 10 plant genetics books by sales on Amazon UK. It is described as a “superb book and a valuable resource for all those with an interest in the genetic modification of plants”, widely recommended text by universities worldwide.

Expertise in fingerprint research recognised by invitation to join the SATIN project (led by Dr Paul Smith of Portsmouth University, Leicestershire Constabulary, BVDA, Hampshire Constabulary, the Scottish Forensic Services and staff at the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) Forensic Training Centre); the SATIN project was highlighted in The Investigator magazine (Feb 2010, 41-43).

Both contributions to the Encyclopedia of Industrial Biotechnology: Bioprocess, Bioseparation, and Cell Technology were by invitation.