Portrait of Dr Anna Williams Dr Anna Williams

a.williams@hud.ac.uk | 01484 473031




Dr Anna Williams read Archaeology and Anthropology at Oxford University (1995-1998), and completed an MSc in Forensic Anthropology at Bradford University (1999). After working for West Yorkshire Police as a Forensic Mark Analyst from 2000-2001, she gained her PhD in Forensic Anthropology from Sheffield University in 2005. Her doctoral research used novel histological and immunohistochemical techniques to quantify bone fracture healing, which is of particular relevance to the investigation of child abuse and identification of unknown individuals.

From 2004-2006, Anna was engaged in post-doctoral research entitled ‘A Laboratory Based Analytical Technique to Determine ‘Age at Death’ For Forensic Purposes from Human Compact Bone’ at Cranfield University, and became a Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology there in 2006. She was instrumental in developing and delivering the MSc in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology at Cranfield, and was Head of the Centre for Forensic Anthropology Research. She also established a successful taphonomy research facility and was a CDS Teaching Fellow from 2010-11.

In October 2013, Anna joined the School of Applied Sciences at the University of Huddersfield as a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science. She leads the MSc in Forensic Anthropology and lectures on the BSc/MSci Forensic and Analytical Science degree. She leads the Forensic Aspects of Disaster Management module on the MSc Risk, Disaster and Environmental Management. She leads the Forensic Anthropology Research Group. In August 2015, she was promoted to Principal Enterprise Fellow.

Anna is an experienced Forensic Anthropologist, with considerable case work experience. She regularly undertakes consultancy work for national police forces, Forensic Engineering Solutions and Kenyon International Emergency Services.

Anna is currently Editor-in-Chief of a forthcoming volume dedicated to Forensic Science Education, to be published in 2016 by Wiley Publishing. She also acts as an External Examiner for Kingston University, and has been External Examiner for doctoral candidates at Bournemouth University and University of Technology Sydney.

Anna is passionate about science communication. She was the winner of the Forensic Zone of the prestigious Wellcome Trust-funded I’m A Scientist competition in 2011. In 2014. Anna was awarded a British Science Association Media Fellowship and a placement at New Scientist. She has presented at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, the British Science Festival and the Royal Institution.

Anna writes an award-winning blog called Forensic Anna:thropology.

Watch her showreel here

In the Media

Authored by Anna

Forensic science

General science

About Anna's research

Anna also acts as a Forensic Anthropology advisor for Silent Witness (BBC) and Bones (Fox).

Research and Scholarship

Decomposition and Taphonomy

The nature of human decomposition is still poorly understood in the context of UK climate, insects and fauna. This on-going research aims to investigate the rate of decomposition in a variety of conditions, and improve methods of accurate post-mortem interval estimation, location of clandestine burials, and understand and the factors that influence its rate, using animal analogues on a purpose-built taphonomy research facility.

Artificial cranial deformation and craniosynostosis

Cultural or artificial cranial deformation has traditionally not been thought to affect brain development. However, by examining modern infants suffering from premature suture closure or craniosynostosis, it is possible to draw comparisons to enable understanding of how this practice, still carried out today, affects neurological function.

Disaster Victim Identification and holistic disaster management approaches

After disaster, the requirements of the bereaved and those of the criminal investigation or identification process can sometimes come into conflict. This research explores potential areas of conflict and the opportunities to minimise them through holistic disaster management. It also explores how disaster victim identification (DVI) techniques can be improved, and how the methods can be standardised internationally, and efficiency increased.

Dominance of women in Forensic Anthropology education and practice

The dominance of women in Forensic Anthropology is a worldwide phenomenon that extends to education and professional practice. It bucks the trend for lower numbers of women in other STEM subjects. This research has examined possible motivations and inspirational factors for men and women joining the discipline, and investigated career progression and retention on a gender level.

Trauma analysis of skeletal remains

This research has focussed on the methods for determining the ‘age’ of a fracture, or the time elapsed since trauma occurred. It has explored methods of distinguishing between ante-, peri- and post-mortem trauma.

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Procopio, N., Williams, A., Chamberlain, A. and Buckley, M. (2018) ‘Forensic Proteomics for the Evaluation of the post-Mortem Decay in BonesJournal of Proteomics . ISSN 1874-3919


Handke, J., Procopio, N., Buckley, M., van der Meer, D., Williams, G., Carr, M. and Williams, A. (2017) ‘Successive Bacterial Colonisation of Pork and its Implications for Forensic InvestigationsForensic Science International . ISSN 0379-0738

Williams, A., Cassella, J. and Maskell, P. (2017) Forensic Science Education and Training . Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1118689233


Pringle, J., Cassella, J., Jervis, J., Williams, A., Cross, P. and Cassidy, N. (2015) ‘Soilwater conductivity analysis to date and locate clandestine graves of homicide victims.Journal of Forensic Sciences , 60 (4), pp. 1052-1060. ISSN 0022-1198

Fredericks, J., Ringrose, T., Dicken, A., Williams, A. and Bennett, P. (2015) ‘A potential new diagnostic tool to aid DNA analysis from heat compromised bone using colorimetry: A preliminary studyScience and Justice , 55 (2), pp. 124-130. ISSN 1355-0306


Frowd, C., Jones, S., Fodarella, C., Skelton, F., Fields, S., Williams, A., Marsh, J., Thorley, R., Nelson, L., Greenwood, L., Date, L., Kearley, K., McIntyre, A. and Hancock, P. (2014) ‘Configural and featural information in facial-composite imagesScience and Justice , 54 (3), pp. 215-227. ISSN 1355-0306


Zioupos, P., Williams, A., Christodoulou, G. and Giles, R. (2013) ‘Determining ‘Age at Death’ for Forensic Purposes using Human Bone by a Laboratory-based Analytical MethodJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials . ISSN 1751-6161

Fredericks, J., Brown, K., Williams, A. and Bennett, P. (2013) ‘DNA analysis of skeletal tissue recovered from the English ChannelJournal of Forensic and Legal Medicine , 20 (6), pp. 757-759. ISSN 1752928X


Williams, A., York, H. and Frowd, C. (2012) ‘Understanding Familiar Face Recognition for 3D Scanned Images: The Importance of Internal and External Facial Features’. In: Third International Conference on Emerging Security Technologies. Lisbon, Portugal: IEEE. pp. 27-32. ISBN 978-1-4673-2448-9

Fredericks, J., Bennett, P., Williams, A. and Rogers, K. (2012) ‘FTIR spectroscopy: A new diagnostic tool to aid DNA analysis from heated boneForensic Science International: Genetics , 6 (3), pp. 375-380. ISSN 1872-4973


Mileson, S., Nicholls, D. and Williams, A. (2011) ‘The ‘Lost’ Church of Bix Gibwyn: The Human BoneOxoniensia , 76, pp. 15-36. ISSN 0308–5562


Williams, A (2010) ‘The Search for the Missing Church of St Michael's, Bix Gibwyn, Bix: Concluded? Initial Analysis of Human RemainsSouth Oxfordshire Archaeological Group Bulletin (64), pp. 17-21.

Williams, A (2010) ‘Human Remains Found While Searching for the 'Lost' Church of Bix GibwynSouth Midlands Archaeology , 40, pp. 58-61.


Williams, A., Temple, T., Pollard, S., Jones, R. and Ritz, K. (2009) ‘Environmental Considerations for Common Burial Site Selection After Pandemic Events’. In: Criminal and Environmental Soil Forensics. London, UK: Springer. pp. 87-101. ISBN 978-1-4020-9204-6


Shortland, A., Masters, P., Harrison, K., Williams, A. and Boston, C. (2008) ‘Burials of eighteenth-century Naval personnel: preliminary results from excavations at the Royal Hospital Haslar, Gosport (Hants)Antiquity , 82 (317). ISSN 0003-598X


Payne, L. and Williams, A. (2006) ‘Managing Potential Conflict Between Forensic Procedures and the Needs of the Bereaved.Alert: Journal of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management , pp. 16-17.



  • CDS Teaching Fellow, Cranfield University (2010-2011)
  • Winner, Forensic Zone, I’m A Scientist (June 2011)
  • EPSRC CASE Award: The development of new tools for forensic analysis of DNA from compromised bone. £69,000

Professional Bodies

  • Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • Fellow of the Institute for Civil Protection and Emergency Management (ICPEM)
  • Professional Member of the Forensic Science Society (FSSoc)
  • Co-Chair of the Academic Committee, British Association of Forensic Anthropologists (BAFA)
  • Member, British Association of Human Identification (BAHID)
  • Member, British Association of Biological Anthropologists and Osteoarchaeologists (BABAO)
  • Associate Member, American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS)
  • Burial Research Consortium
  • Aquatic Forensic Group 

Invited Talks

  • “Body Farms: Nauseating of Necessary?” St Bart’s Pathology Museum, London (2015)
  • “Corpses, Chemicals and Controversy” London Month of the Dead, Brompton Cemetery (2015)
  • “What Does Death Smell Like, and Why Do We Need to Know?” Otley Science Cafe, Otley (2015)
  • “What Does Death Smell Like, and Why Do We Need to Know?” British Science Festival, Bradford (2015)
  • “Ahead by a Nose” Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science (2015)
  • “Ahead by a Nose” Forensic Forums, London (2015)
  • “A Day in the Life of a Forensic Anthropologist” Psycho-Legal Society, Huddersfield (2014)
  • “Future-proofing Forensic Anthropology” Forensic Expo, London (2014)
  • “A Whistle-stop Tour of Forensic Anthropology” Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society (2013)
  • Panel Chair, Following the Fingerprints. Royal Society Summer Exhibition.(2012)
  • Keynote Speaker “Forensic Anthropology: As Rock And Roll as it sounds” Forensic Science Society Student Conference “Sex, Drugs and…”, Robert Gordon University. (Dec 2011)
  • Thamesfield Village. (2011)
  • Henley Rotary Club. (2010)
  • Session chair ICPEM conference ‘Forensic Aspects of Disaster Management’ (2010)
  • Maidenhead Historical and Archaeological Society. (2009)
  •  “Forensic Science in Archaeology”Archaeology in Marlow (2009)
  • . “Excavations of the Burial Ground at Royal Hospital Haslar” Nautical Archaeology Society Conference, Portsmouth (2009)
  •  “Evidence from the Skeletons found at Haslar” Haslar Royal Naval Hospital. (2008)
  • “Forensic Anthropology: Theory, Practice and Service” Wiltshire Police Scientific Conference, Swindon. (2008)
  •  “Forensic Environmental Evidence” South Oxfordshire Archaeological Group (2008)
  • “Murder, Maggots and Mandibles”, Forensic Science Student Conference Cranfield University. (2008)
  •  “Science vs Crime” Sir James Henderson British School, Milan (2003)

Research Degree Supervision

PhD Supervision Past and Present

Anna has previously supervised the following:

  • The Effect of Age on Trauma Patterns – the Search for Good Bone Models (Lindsay Cooper, self-funded (MPhil, 2013) Cranfield University).
  • The Development of Novel Tools for Forensic Analysis of DNA from Compromised Bone (Jamie Fredericks, EPSRC CASE Award, Cranfield University, completed 2011).
  • Identification and Quantification of the Gaseous Products of Decomposition In Relation to Victim Recovery Dog Efficiency (Lorna Irish, F/T,University of Huddersfield fee waiver studentship, completion expected 2016).

Anna is currently supervising PhD research in these areas:

  • The Relationship of Developmental Instability, as measured by Fluctuating Asymmetry, to Ill-health experienced by past populations (Danyelle Thickett, P/T, University of Huddersfield fee waiver studentship, completion expected 2018).
  • The Development of a Classification System for the Gait Features observed in Forensic Gait Analysis (Lisa Dunkley, P/T, staff candidate, completion expected 2017)

Potential PhD Supervision

  • Forensic Taphonomy and Decomposition (using animal analogues)
  • Identification of Submerged remains
  • Post-Mortem Interval Estimation
  • Human Remains Detection (‘Cadaver’) Dog performance
  • Human Osteology
  • Trauma Analysis (bone fractures)
  • Disaster Victim Identification
  • Mass Disaster Management techniques/policies