Maria Maclennan

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Personal profile

Biography

Dr Maria Maclennan is an award-winning interdisciplinary designer, researcher, educator, and TEDx Speaker. Her research interests concern the role of jewellery in forensic and criminal contexts, and the use of design in facilitating collaboration across diverse fields such as forensic science, policing, government, and education.

Maria obtained her PhD in Forensic Jewellery from The University of Dundee in 2018, a unique partnership between Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD), the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID), the V&A Dundee, and The Institute for Capitalising on Creativity (ICC) at The University of St Andrews. As the world’s first ‘Forensic Jeweller’, she has collaborated on a broad portfolio of practice; outside, inside, and alongside high-profile public, private, and third sector organisations internationally, in the UK, USA, Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Brazil, Australia, and South Africa. This includes audiences such as INTERPOL, the National Crime Agency, European Academy of Forensic Science, British Transport Police, and Royal Institute of Great Britain. She is currently a Consultant with Blake Emergency Services, and regularly provides support and advice to international policing agencies on the identification and repatriation of jewellery recovered with human remains.

Passionate about public engagement, Maria is a regular contributor to national television and radio, having featured on BBC One, Radio 4, STV News, and Scotland Tonight. Her work has been the subject of major profiles by The Financial Times, The Times, New York Times, BBC Crimewatch, and the popular Ripley's 'Believe It or Not’. In 2022, she was named a finalist in the AHRC/BBC ‘New Generation Thinkers’ scheme, and featured by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in their documentary series, ‘101 Jobs Changing the World’. A short collaborative film about her research (The Dead Are Jewels To Me) created in partnership with two documentary filmmakers was nominated for ‘Best UK Short Film’ at London Short Film Festival 2021, Glasgow Film Festival 2021, and in the Shooting People ‘New Shoots: Filmmaker Competition’ 2021. Most recently, Maria was the recipient of an Outstanding Early Career Impact Award from the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR). She is currently represented by TV and Media agency, Gritty Talent, working on her first monograph on the forensic and criminal use of jewellery. 

Prior to her appointment at ECA, Maria held several senior leadership roles across the public sector and civil service, including the Police Service of Scotland (Service Design Manager; Academic Research Lead) and Scottish Government (Lead Service Designer; Senior Service Designer). Previous academic roles include appointments as a Lecturer in Designing Out Crime (University of Dundee), Research Assistant in Design Against Crime (Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London), Research Assistant in Service Design (Home Office College of Policing), and as a British Research Council Fellow at the John W Kluge Centre (Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.).

Teaching

Maria currently contributes to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research supervision across a range of courses at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). Her highly interdisciplinary research-informed approach is focused on encouraging students to think outside of their subject-specific disciplines and apply design theories in practice. In 2021, she was nominated for a University of Edinburgh College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Teaching Recognition Award under the category of ‘Excellent Newcomer’. She is currently a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), having obtained her Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education from The University of Dundee in 2015. 

In addition to The University of Edinburgh, Maria has delivered over 100 guest talks and lectures to a variety of academic institutions and professional organisations internationally, including the Royal College of Art (RCA), Birmingham School of Jewellery, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Federal University of Brazil, and Toronto Metropolitan University Canada.

  • DESI10025: Jewellery and Silversmithing: Professional Practice 4 (Course Organisation; Regular Teaching; 2019-present)
  • DESI08144: Living Objects: Concept and Narrative (Course Organisation; Regular Teaching; 2020-present)
  • DESI10133: Design Identities: Roles and Ecologies (Course Organisation; Regular Teaching; 2021-present)
  • EFIE11110: Building Near Futures (Course Development; Regular Teaching; 2022-present)
  • EFIE11126: Service Design & Management: Knowledge Integration & Project Planning (Regular Teaching; 2023-present)
  • DESI09097: Design Externality 3 Major (Regular Teaching; 2020-present)
  • DESI09099: Research for Inspiration 3 (Ad-Hoc Teaching; 2020-present)
  • DESI10045: Design Research 3: Jewellery and Silversmithing (Ad-Hoc Teaching; 2020-present)
  • DESI10052: Design and Screen Cultures 4: Design Dissertation (Regular Teaching; 2022)
  • DESI10134: Design for Ageing (Regular Teaching; 2022)
  • DESI11176: Body, Identity and Technology (Ad-Hoc Teaching; 2023)
  • DESI10109: Design Research 3: Product Design (Ad-Hoc Teaching; 2019-2020)
  • DESI11077: MFA2 Design Studio (Ad-Hoc Teaching; 2020)
  • DESI11079: MFA2 Design Exposition (Ad-Hoc Teaching; 2020)

Research Interests

The recipient of several research grants and fellowships, Maria’s research in ‘Forensic Jewellery' is the first of its kind in the world, having been met with critical acclaim internationally. In 2011, she was awarded an ESRC CASE (Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering) PhD Scholarship to undertake research related to the role of jewellery in a variety of forensic and criminal contexts (2011-2018; RES 187-24-0014). In 2013, she was awarded an ESRC Internship exploring the role of design in policing and crime reduction with the Home Office College of Policing. In 2014, she secured an AHRC International Placement Fellowship, through which she spent time at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., researching jewellery’s role after 9/11.

Maria is currently Principal Investigator on Identifying the Displaced (2021-present), a multidisciplinary investigation into the role of personal effects in the migration context. Funded through an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award (EDI-21/22-P0049), the research is the result of a multidisciplinary international collaboration with experts in Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Pathology; with Dutch charity, the Transnational Platform for Forensic Assistance Forensic Missing Migrants Initiative (Athens), and the Department for Forensic Medicine at Alexandroupolis University Hospital (Evros). The heart of the research centres on the ongoing development of the world’s first online catalogue of personal property belonging to over 100 missing and unidentified migrants. Combining hundreds of police files and autopsy reports together with object biographies, photography, and documentary film; each case adopts a unique first-person narrative, gifting individuals with the ability to speak their own truth about the physical and emotional challenges experienced: from handmade ta'wiz amulets offering protection to the wearer; Islamic misbaha beads used to keep count during prayer; sim cards intricately wrapped in clingfilm to protect from harsh waters; and family photographs secretly sewn into the lining of clothing.

Education/Academic qualification

Digital Business, Graduate Certificate (GCert), Abertay University

Award Date: 11 Apr 2022

Forensic Jewellery, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Dundee

Award Date: 18 May 2018

Teaching in Higher Education, Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), University of Dundee

Award Date: 22 Jun 2015

Design for Services, Master of Design with Distinction (MDes Dist.), University of Dundee

Award Date: 22 Aug 2011

Jewellery and Metal Design, Bachelor of Design with Honours (BDes Hons), University of Dundee

Award Date: 21 Jun 2010

External positions

Emergency Response Consultant, Blake Emergency Services

Dec 2022 → …

Service Design Lead, Education Scotland

Feb 2022Mar 2023

Service Design Manager, Police Scotland

Feb 2021Feb 2022

Senior Service Designer, Scottish Government

Aug 2020Feb 2021

Academic Research Lead, Police Scotland

Aug 2018Aug 2020

Forensic Imaging Officer, Scottish Police Authority

Aug 2015Jul 2018

Research Assistant in Design Against Crime, Central Saint Martins - University Arts London

Feb 2015Jul 2015

AHRC British Research Council Fellow, Library of Congress

Oct 2014Feb 2015

ESRC Research Fellow, College of Policing

Sept 2013Apr 2014

Emergency Response Consultant, Kenyon International Emergency Services

Jul 2011Nov 2022

Research Assistant, University of Dundee

Jan 2011Jul 2011

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