Staffordshire University ‘Spice’ student researcher wins national award

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A forensic student researching the new strains of the drug ‘Spice’  has won a national award for her research.

Staffordshire University student Mia Abbott, 22, from Carlisle, has been named the winner of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences’ Undergraduate Most Meritorious Student Award 2018.

During her research, Mia completed a placement with Staffordshire Police.

She researched how to identify the synthetic drug mephedrone at music festivals using drug samples provided from the amnesty box at V Festival.

Mia Abbott lab

Student lab picture

Mia said the reason for wanting to pursue her research into this particular drug was because: “It is a common issue at the moment, it is in all of the media because it is in prison and in the homeless community.

“It is so easy to get hold of but no one knows what is it or what it does and there is not enough research into it. It is completely misunderstood.”

Mia then moved onto the integrated MSci Forensic Science and spent 12 weeks on placement at Featherstone Prison in Wolverhampton helping to identify synthetic cannabinoids including the street drug ‘Spice’.

She said: ” In terms of getting samples, they are not easy to get hold of. The drugs change so quickly and there seems to be 16 strands coming out per year and no one can quite keep up and that has been difficult.

“Going into the prison was quite scary, but everyone was really lovely and only saw the prisoners once. I was not in with them all the time.”

Mia will be presented with her prize at a special awards dinner in November, which also includes a year’s complimentary membership with the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

Mia Abbott lab photo

Mia Abbott testing in a Lab

When asked if she was surprised to receive the award, Mia said: ” Yes, I am surprised that I won it but I am very proud and thankful for the School of Forensics.

“I initially got an email which told me I was nominated for the award, it was a few months later, I had completely forgotten about it and I received another email saying I had won!

“It was great for the university to put me forward for it because they did not have to, so it was very nice of them” 

Dr Jodie Dunnett, Lecturer in Forensic Science, said: “I am so proud of Mia for receiving this award.

“Mia worked very hard during her Independent Project and her placement and it is fantastic that her achievements have been recognised by such a highly regarded organisation”

Mia is now beginning a PhD at Staffordshire University to continue her research and hopes to set up a central hub to share information about new strains of synthetic drugs with police forces and prisons across the UK.

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