Richard Brawn

Job: DPL/Senior Lecturer in Forensic Chemistry

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 6198




Personal profile

Richard’s forensic science career began in 2000 and in his role as a Technical Consultant for the Forensic Science Service, he has worked in a variety of areas, carrying out work both within the UK and internationally; often with high profile organisations (such as the FBI, RCMP, NTPFES, NFI etc.) and international and national policing organisations. 

Richard has been teaching forensic science at DMU since 2009 and is the current DPL, year 3 head and admissions tutor.  He is primarily involved in the teaching of Forensic Imaging, DNA, Fire investigation, Chemistry and Trace analysis and is also a personal tutor.

Research group affiliations

  • DMU Centre for Pedagogic Reserach
  • School of Pharmacy Education and Pedagogic Research group
  • Biomolecular Technology Group

Publications and outputs 

  • Beyond the Pale Horse - The Application and Impact of a Project Based Approach to a Challenging Module
    Beyond the Pale Horse - The Application and Impact of a Project Based Approach to a Challenging Module Brawn, R. J.; Johnston, Emma Problem-Based learning (PBL) is a form of Enquiry-Based learning in which learning is focussed around an often complex and ill-defined problem, scenario or situation. Students typically work as part of a team; developing a problem-management strategy and in doing so, the skills and requisite knowledge to generate possible solutions. Ultimately, the focus in PBL is the development of problem-solving skills and the learning opportunities that this provides, rather than realization of a specific or defined ‘correct’ solution. Whilst PBL may represent an excellent instructional tool in many subject areas, it is not always applicable to forensic science curricula, where (to accurately reflect forensic science practice), exercises are almost always carried out within a rigid framework or must comply to a specific quality standard which ultimately defines process and methodology, thus neutralising some of the core benefits conferred by a true-PBL approach. By contrast Project-Based Learning offers a viable alternative to PBL and although it does not necessarily deliver quite the same outcomes, it retains many of the core characteristics of PBL and can be operated within a framework that steers the student approach to the problem. This not only increases the applicability of the project-based learning to forensic science curricula, but also provides the instructor with greater control over learning outcomes, thus increasing the efficiency of the learning activity minimising the impact of its application on staff-loading. In our work, we consider the application of a form of innovative project-based learning to a challenging module which had for several years performed poorly, had considerable problems with student engagement and had been described by some students as teaching “The most boring subjects imaginable”. The work, inspired by Belt et al’s ‘The Pale Horse’ (2009) places the investigation of a criminal case at the centre of the module and takes a top-down teaching approach designed not only to mimic real-life practices, but also help students to foster skills in metacognition. All module content feeds into the investigation and supports the development of the practical, analytical and evaluative skills and knowledge required to address the case; providing students with a genuine reason to learn and a clear goal to achieve. As with many examples of active-learning, students work in teams of 4-5 individuals with whom they work throughout the academic year, thus providing insight into real-world practise and experience of dealing with the difficulties that inevitably arise in a constructive and professional manner helping to support employability goals. In our talk we will consider and discuss the second iteration of our module design reflecting upon the benefits and of course the issues that have arisen in its application. We will also consider the impact of our chosen approach in terms of module achievement and student engagement and hope to provide some insight which may be useful for those considering a similar approach in their own subject areas.
  • 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
  • Concepts of Competence in Forensic Science
    Concepts of Competence in Forensic Science Nichols-Drew, L.; Fowler, M.; Johnston, Emma; Brawn, R. J.; Yusuf, S. STEMHorizons presentation
  • Addressing the Employability Needs of Forensic Science Graduates
    Addressing the Employability Needs of Forensic Science Graduates Fowler, Mark R.; Brawn, R. J.; Marriott, Anna; Roy, P. Lucy; Scott, Nigel W.; Patterson, H. B.
  • Embedding employability in forensic science provision.
    Embedding employability in forensic science provision. Fowler, Mark R.; Brawn, R. J.; Scott, Nigel W.; Patterson, H. B.
  • From small beginings come great things? International consultancy as a means to Internationalisation
    From small beginings come great things? International consultancy as a means to Internationalisation Brawn, R. J.; Fowler, Mark R.; Scott, Nigel W.

Click here for a full listing of Richard Brawn's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

  • Pedagogy and Active Learning
  • Imaging and Photography
  • Trace Evidence Analysis and Interpretation
  • Gun Shot Residue Analysis

Areas of teaching

  • Imaging and Photography - Module Leader
  • Materials Identification - Module Leader
  • Fire, Arson and Explosions - Module Leader
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Bodies, Tissues, Fluids
  • DNA profiling

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