Murdoch University’s Dr Paola Magni has been recognised in the 40under40 Awards, taking home the Intrapreneur Business Award for her work bringing innovation to crime scene investigation.Innovative, vibrant and fearless, Murdoch University’s Dr Paola Magni is a forensic scientist using nature to solve some of the most sinister of crimes.
Known as ‘The Bug Whisperer’, Dr Magni’s research focuses on the application of natural sciences (entomology, taphonomy and aquatic biology) to further crime scene investigations. She is the secret weapon prosecutors and defenders turn to when investigating complex homicides, suspicious deaths and cold cases.
Her innovative research and teaching practices are helping to shape the future of crime scene investigation, and, have resulted in her being recognised at the 2020 Business News 40under40 awards.
Sitting at the cutting-edge of the discipline, she has developed SmartInsects, a smartphone app which assists law enforcement agencies and pathologists at crime scenes around the world.
And, she has developed ‘VirtualCSI’, an immersive virtual reality simulator to help train and assess the next generation of forensic scientists and practitioners.
Virtual crime scene investigationWorking with Jeffory Asselin, Media Producer in Murdoch University’s Learning Innovations team, Dr Magni has created a library of crime scene scenarios that can be used for both training and assessing purposes, where specifics like the type and number of victims, forensic evidence or weapons, can be used and interchanged.
The Murdoch team worked with WA Police to make sure the crime scenes were as realistic as possible.
“The things you can see in virtual reality are similar to what you would see at a crime scene,” Dr Magni said.
Image: VirtualCSI is a fully interactive virtual reality application that allows students to experience realistic crime scene scenarios
First developed thanks to a grant awarded as part of the Murdoch University Vice Chancellor’s Small Steps of Innovation Funding Program, the fully interactive virtual crime simulation application engages and stimulates learner’s natural curiosity as they learn.
Dr Magni said it was especially appealing to a new generation of tech-savvy students.
“The idea is to provide an environment where students can experiment with and explore different crime scene scenarios — and at less cost than cadaver-based mock scene laboratory exercises,” Dr Magni said.
“Plus, the training can be provided off-campus, to students based overseas or those simply studying from home because of COVID-19.”
Murdoch University is a leader and early adopter of virtual reality and simulation technology both in the classroom and as the classroom. The ‘VirtualCSI’ team is part of the Murdoch Virtual Centre for Simulation, which helps to enhance teaching and learning experiences within the higher education space.
‘VirtualCSI’ is also among the projects supported by the Singapore Centre for Innovation, Productivity & Technology (SCRIPT), based at Murdoch University Singapore.
Gamification and the utilisation of virtual reality technology is the future of learning and teaching.”
“Support for VirtualCSI is part of Murdoch University’s commitment to enhancing the learning, encouraging critical thinking and keeping up with technological trends that students are used to,” Dr Magni said.