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World-leading forensics expert goes back to school

ByJill Lundberg

Oct 13, 2019 #education

One of the world’s leading forensics experts inspired over 600 students when she went back to Richmond School to talk about her career and achievements. Alumna Professor Sarah Hainsworth OBE FREng was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services to Engineering and Forensic Science in the 2019 New Year Honours List.

It was thanks to the Darlington & Stockton Times that this very special visit was made possible.  In January, the paper reported that Professor Hainsworth had been awarded the OBE. This led to an ex-classmate, and member of staff at Richmond School, spotting the feature and getting in touch, 33 years after they left school, and inviting Professor Hainsworth to talk to the students.

Professor Hainsworth is a Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University and a Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering.  She spoke to students in Years 9, 10, 12 and 13 about the diversity of her work, explaining that Engineering is everywhere, leaving them in no doubt that there are opportunities in virtually every field of work. She opened her presentation with a press cutting from the Northern Echo in 1985 when she was involved in a BBC-run competition at Richmond Sixth Form college where students saved and recycled plastic cups to create a swan, winning an Acorn computer!

Professor Hainsworth is a Forensic Science expert in stabbing and dismemberment. The students were especially intrigued by her role in establishing how King Richard III died, by examining and analysing the wound marks on his skull and relating these to the weapons that were likely to have caused them.  She issued 3D glasses to the students so they could get a visual interpretation of the skull and the forensic analysis carried out.

Lauren Bastow, Year 13 student, said: “I found the presentation really interesting, the amazing variety of work that Professor Hainsworth has been involved in really demonstrates the huge scope of career opportunities within Engineering that I didn’t realise there could be. I’m hoping to study Psychology at university and, having seen Professor Hainsworth’s work in Forensics, it has inspired me to consider Forensic Psychology as a possible future career.”

Subin Pariyar, Year 13 student, added: “I thought that Professor Hainsworth’s talk was really insightful and made me think about my career options in the future. It showed me a more interesting side of Engineering that I had not thought about before.”

Professor Hainsworth currently leads Aston University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, which has around 3,800 students and 350 staff. She was elected to the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2016 and is Deputy Chair of its Diversity and Inclusion committee. Among Professor Hainsworth’s many other accolades is the Andrew H. Payne Jr. Special Achievement Award, from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Engineering Sciences Section, in recognition of exemplary contributions in advancing Forensic Engineering Sciences.

Professor Hainsworth is keen to inspire more talented and creative engineers to embrace the many exciting opportunities that a career in Engineering presents. She said: “It was lovely to be back at Richmond and see the new buildings and the vibrant learning environment. Engaging with the current Richmond students was a great experience and hopefully it may inspire them to think about Engineering as a career.”

Susan Thornton, STEM Co-ordinator at Richmond School and Sixth Form College, concluded: “ We were delighted that Professor Hainsworth was able to take time out of her busy schedule to talk to our students about her career and the possibilities open to them.  This inspirational talk from an ex-student has really motivated our students in the many areas of STEM. ”

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