Introducing… Leisa Nichols-Drew

Leisa Nichols-Drew is honoured to be a member of the newly formed CATE-Net and a friend of the NTF Committee.

I am a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science and have been at De Montfort University since 2016, for the Chartered-Society-of-Forensic-Sciences (CSoFS) accredited undergraduate degree programme, where I work in a team with truly fantastic colleagues. However, my journey to DMU started in 2000, as a Forensic Scientist at the Home Office Forensic Science Service, coordinating the laboratory examinations of crime scene exhibits.

I am proud of this practitioner career and refer to myself as a ‘pracademic’. On the way to DMU, I facilitated Further Education qualifications including the BTEC Extended Diploma in Applied Science, in addition to university modules, enabling me to qualify for both DTLLS and PGCertHE. This FE experience has undoubtedly informed and shaped my HE pedagogy, which is a holistic blend based of connectivism and constructivism.

In 2017, I obtained my Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, and in 2018, I was awarded a DMU Teacher Fellowship, and honoured with a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to investigate international approaches to knife crime in Australia and Canada. Also, in 2018 as part of the acclaimed CrashEd team led by Professor Angela O’Sullivan (NTF 2017), we were delighted to be successful with a spotlight and CATE award. In 2019, I was beyond proud when my application for National Teacher Fellow was successful. In 2020, my practitioner expertise was recognised with Chartered Forensic Practitioner (ChFP) status by the CSoFS.

I have an altruistic pedagogic partnership with Angela O’Sullivan and Julia Reeve, who are creative and inspirational DMU colleagues. Our conference workshops and online disseminations have included lego, xylophones, 150-year-old crimes, and treasure chests!

I am also undertaking practice-based PhD research. Recently, my first ever journal article, on rounded knives was published, hopefully preventing future injuries.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, it is a privilege to have collaborated with 2 other forensic science NTFs; Associate Professor Rachel Bolton-King (Staffordshire University, who is a CATE winner too!) and Professor Ian Turner (University of Derby). Together, we have launched a forensic science community (#RemoteForensicCSI) for FE/HE lecturers, practitioners and trainers, sharing ideas for teaching in a blended way using novel resources, promoting engagement and transforming forensic science education. Our first webinar (August 2020) was viewed by participants from around the world, focussed on three areas: crime scene, forensic laboratory, and court. Our resources are hosted on a website ‘Lecturemotely’, established by three DMU academics: Dr Jo Rushworth (NTF), Dr T J Moore and Dr Beth Rogoyski. This website also includes the #DryLabsScience material by Dr Nigel Francis, Dr Francis Smith, and Prof Ian Turner (which originally inspired #RemoteForensicCSI), and Final Year Project material by Dr Dave Lewis.

Here is the link to the ‘lecturemotely’ website and #RemoteForensicCSI resources:

Forensic science is my absolute passion and it remains an honour to be both an NTF and CATE in this subject, so I look forward to building connections within the CATE and NTF community and communicating these awards across all sectors (HE and FE).

Leisa Nicholls Drew, NTF, CATE

Covid-19: Collaboration, Opportunity, Virtual, Invention, Distance

This blog was contributed by Leisa Nichols-Drew, a Forensic Science Lecturer at De Montford University, and winner of both an NTF (2019) and a CATE (2018) award. Leisa is also a friend of the Committee of ANTF. Based in Leicester, which experienced an extended lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Leisa was inspired to share with us her reflections on academic life during lockdown. Here, she shares her thoughts on Collaboration, Opportunity, Virtual, Invention, and Distance.

If you were asked to choose one word to describe the Covid-19 pandemic, what would your choice of word be? Unprecedented? Rainbow?

When reflecting on the last twelve weeks, I actually found this extremely difficult, to choose just one word, which resulted in me creating an acronym. This was in no way out of disrespect or failing to acknowledge the severity of this situation, it was a coping mechanism to summarise my personal snapshot of this time.

I am a new NTF (2019) and was fortunate to be in a CATE winning team (2018), so for me being part of the NTF-CATE network is a community of like-minded people, where uniting together and collaborating is key. Since 23rd March 2020, I believe ‘Collaboration’ has never been so relevant, whether it is colleagues pulling together, families living and working in one space, neighbours looking out for each other, and people clapping their appreciation on doorsteps for our key workers and NHS.

Additionally, this difficult time in my mind has given us an ‘Opportunity’, one to pause, to take a moment to think and reflect, develop, even to declutter, to try something new such as knitting, baking, or hair cutting!

One word that had to be included is ‘Virtual’, whether communicating in team meetings, informing each other in conferences, socializing with friends and relatives, participating in quizzes, fitness, choirs and even escape rooms online.

This brings me to ‘Invention’, as we have all had to change (whether we liked it or not) and find new ways to do our jobs, shop, home school, live, learn and work. For some, this may be for the better, when considering the positive impacts on wellbeing and reductions in travelling time. For others, the impacts may be longer lasting and uncertain.

Finally, I had to include ‘Distance’, not only the recommended two metres from one another, but the isolation I have felt from relatives, the people I work with, my students, even though ironically, we have never been more connected with technology. Even, events where we look forward to attending to celebrate together were cancelled, such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, concerts, holidays etc. When I had a bereavement at the beginning of lockdown, not being able to attend the funeral, to grieve together was unknown territory for my family, as I can imagine many others during this time.

Moving forward, whatever the next steps will be, this has made me realise the importance of contact, to rejoice when we can (and we will) be together again. Furthermore, be kind and thankful, to others and yourself.

Thank you for reading.

You can find out more about Leisa here: and follow her on @ForensicLeisa on Twitter

Photograph of Leisa Nichols-Drew