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Down to the bones

13 June 2011 @TeessideUni


When the phone rings late at night for Dr Tim Thompson, it’s likely to be the police saying they have found a skeleton.

What they need to know is whether they’re dealing with a recent crime or have stumbled across some archaeological remains.

Tim doesn’t mind – he’s used to it. And he sees it as a useful way of sharing his knowledge and expertise as Teesside University’s senior lecturer in crime scene science and digital forensics.

But he does think the identification process could be more accessible for those who, unlike him, don’t have a PhD in forensic anthropology.

Tim recently submitted his digital technology plans to the 2010 Blueprint Business Plan competition, which celebrates enterprise and innovation among North East university staff and students each year. He won the Ward Hadaway Science Award at Teesside’s Blueprint area finals and was highly commended in the Knowledge Transfer Staff category at the regional finals.

That gave him the confidence to polish up his business plan. And, with a grant from Teesside University Enterprise Development Fund and help from a DigitalCity Fellowship, Tim launched his spin-out business, Anthronomics.

‘In much forensic anthropological work, we’re still using pen and paper and stills photography for casework, research and teaching. My idea is to digitalise as much of the process as possible, developing appropriate protocols for scanning the bones into 3D models.

‘Bones are actually very difficult to scan. You’re dealing with holes and pores, lumps and ridges and a combination of organic and inorganic materials. It’s not as easy as you might think.

‘But my new company plans to work with experts at the University, including our own Teesside Manufacturing Centre, to create the scans.’

Tim is also creating new information management software. ‘By importing the bone data straight into the software, we hope to give much quicker information to people who aren’t trained forensic anthropologists – about the sex, age and height of the body. This will be a great help in determining what the police might be dealing with – a recent murder victim or someone who died centuries ago?’

The new company is already established in one of Teesside University’s business incubation units. It’s looking at having its first scans available by the end of 2011 to market to universities, schools and colleges. ‘It will be a great classroom aid for teaching biology, anthropology and forensic science’, says Tim.

‘I wanted to register the company at the University because it’s such a good place to access funding opportunities and the University has been so supportive. As a spin-out of my University work, it makes a lot of sense to base it here.’

In the News

Down to the bones
Investment Now, 02/06/2011, p.11
Dr Tim Thompson, Teesside University's senior lecturer in crime scene science and digital forensics, is launching a company called Anthronomics, developing software that will allow other people to cre

From bones to business
BQ (Business Quarter North East), 04/07/2011, p.22
Teesside University's Dr Tim Thompson, is an example of an academic who has turned their love of teaching and research into a business idea. Dr Thompson launched his business, Anthronomics, earlier th

Tim's digital look into past crimes
Evening Gazette (Teesside), 22/06/2011, p.28
Dr Tim Thompson, a senior forensics and crime scene lecturer at Teesside University, is launching Anthronomics, a new digital business which will help the police to identify human remains.

Bones expert launches digital business
Advertiser Series (Web), 22/06/2011; (Web), 22/06/2011; The Journal, 23/06/2011, p.39
Dr Tim Thompson, a senior lecturer in crime scene science and digital forensics at Teesside University, has established a new business venture, Anthronomics, looking to develop products that will help

Venture will help to identify bodies
Northern Echo, 22/06/2011, p.26
A forensics and crime lecturer at Teesside University is launching a digital business which will help police to identify human remains.

Software may help to identify bodies
The Engineer, 04/07/2011, p.12
Dr Tim Thompson, of Teesside University, gas made a computer programme for creating detailed 3D models of bones, which could one day help with the identification of dead bodies.