Studying skeletons in Guatemala part of Forensic Science students' #DMUglobal experience

Forensic Science students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) are getting an incredible opportunity for some hands-on training and research in an interesting location when they travel to Guatemala this month.

Ten final-year students will get to witness up-close the work of experts from the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, an organisation that has carried out important work in helping to unearth human rights abuses and genocide in the Central American country.

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The 10-day trip, which begins on Saturday, was held for the first time last year and is part of the university's award-winning international experience programme #DMUglobal.

It will give students the opportunity to visit excavation sites in the country's rural hinterlands as well as laboratories in the capital, Guatemala City, to see leading anthropology scientists studying skeletons and using techniques such as DNA profiling to help identify individuals by characteristics of their DNA.

This fascinating prospect has come about thanks to DMU Forensic Biology lecturer Emma Johnston and her links with the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation.

After a stint at LCG, one of the largest forensic science providers in the country, Emma carried out voluntary work at the Guatemalan foundation - which was so impressed that it ended up employing her and she stayed there for two years between 2013 and 2015.

The foundation played a pivotal role in gathering forensic evidence that led to former army general Ríos Montt being brought before the Guatemalan courts in 2012 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity connected to the country's 42-year civil war (1954-1996).


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Emma said: "This is very much a research-based trip and about teaching the future generation of forensic scientists. It's a busy itinerary with lots to learn, see and do."

It will also give the students their first opportunity to 'articulate' an actual human skeleton - up to now they have only handled plastic bones.

Despite the packed schedule - some days start at 5.30am - there will still be some time for students to broaden their horizons with sight-seeing excursions. They will get to visit Antigua in the country's central highlands, which boasts some fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture, while another stop-off will take in the volcanoes at beautiful Lake Atitlán in the Sierra Madre mountain range.

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The #DMUglobal initiative won the Times Higher Education Leadership Management Award for Outstanding International Strategy last year and #DMUglobal is the inspiration behind the university's international strategy up to 2020, Global Instinct.

This strategy is taking the institution out into the world and ensuring that by 2020, DMU is the definition of a 21st-century global university.

As well as a big trip to New York two months ago, #DMUglobal is sending students to St Petersburg in Russia, Berlin in Germany, Porto in Portugal and dozens more exciting locations across the world in 2017.

Posted on Wednesday 22 February 2017

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