Dr Lata Gautam

Forensic Science Course Leader and Associate Professor in Forensic Science

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Life Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Analytical Chemistry , Forensic science and crime

Research Supervision:Yes

Lata is a highly self-motivated, practical and enthusiastic person with more than 20 years of experience in forensic and analytical chemistry, particularly in teaching and research on drugs of abuse and pharmaceutical compounds, analysis of these compounds in different sample types (including spiked drinks related to the drug facilitated sexual assault investigation), and consultancy and project management in analytical and forensic chemistry. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.


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Lata obtained a PhD in Forensic Science in 2007 from Anglia Ruskin University. Before taking up her current position, she was engaged in postdoctoral research in the Environmental Sciences Research Centre under our Millennium European Climate project. She also holds an MSc and BSc from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. She has worked in the Toxicology & Chemistry Unit and the Biology & Serology Unit at the National Forensic Science Laboratory, Nepal, where she analysed forensic case samples. She has been working in collaboration with different institutes and researchers from Botswana, India, Nepal, South Africa, Syria and United Kingdom.

Spoken Languages

English, Nepali and Hindi.

Research interests

Lata’s research interests lie in the chromatographic and mass spectrometric analysis of drugs of abuse and pharmaceutical compounds from human and animal hair; water and wastewater samples. In addition to these, she is also researching on analysis of seized street drugs, spiked beverages, food supplements, green tea and herbal medicines/ products.

Lately, she has focused her research activities on drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) investigation and increased awareness and recognition of such cases among students, forensic scientists, police officials, legal professionals and education authorities. In this topic, she and her research group have been sharing knowledge to increase public awareness in different countries including Belgium, Botswana, Canada, India, Nepal, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America via different forums such as webinars, conferences, and workshops/exhibition.

She is working in collaboration with LGC and ALS labs in the UK in analytical chemistry-based projects. DFSA research is currently ongoing in Oman, India and Botswana. Herbal medicine related research is currently being expanded to Syria, Nepal and India.

Areas of research supervision

Current supervision

  • Second supervisor for a MSc research student based in Botswana International University of Science and Technology, who is studying Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault – survey and stability studies (since September 2020, in collaboration with Dr Ellen Mwenesongole)
  • Second supervisor for a MPhil student, who is studying impurities associated with conversion of cannabidiol products into 9-THC (September 2020)
  • Second supervisor for a PhD student who is studying effectiveness of fingermark development techniques from eco-friendly plastic bags (September 2020)
  • Second supervisor for MSc research in Botswana International University of Science and Technology, on analysis of wastewater in Botswana for drugs of abuse using spectrometric techniques (since June 2019, in collaboration with Dr Ellen Mwenesongole).
  • Second supervisor for a PhD student who is studying impurity profiling of heroin and statistical methods to the profiling process (since May 2019, research in collaboration with Cambridgeshire Constabulary, UK).
  • First supervisor for a PhD student who is studying designer benzodiazepines since September 2018
  • Second supervisor for a MPhil research student on geographic variation in Addar Venom Composition (since 2018)

Recently completed PhD supervisions

  • The pattern and use of herbal medicine in Nigeria: identification of chemical constituents and epidemiological study (first supervisor)
  • The analysis of surface water, wastewater and sewage for illicit drugs (first supervisor)
  • The development of latent fingermarks on painted walls (first supervisor)
  • The impact of artificial sweeteners on VEGF induced permeability in glomerular microvascular endothelium (third supervisor)
  • A new adsorbent mixture for the collection of common ignitable liquid residue vapour (second supervisor)
  • Evaluation of the presence of drugs and pharmaceuticals in drinking water and their removal by drinking water treatment plants (second supervisor)
  • The detection of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in alternative non-invasive biological matrices, with emphasis on samples from endangered species (second supervisor)
  • What is the difference between Ecstasy and MDMA? (second supervisor)


Course Leader of BSc (Hons) Forensic Science (shared with Dr Nathalie Zahra)

Lata is currently teaching in following undergraduate modules:

UK legal system and Law, Introduction to Forensic Photography and Methodologies, Chemical Criminalistics, Forensic Analytical Chemistry, Placement module, Undergraduate Major Project module and Cohort Based Tutorial modules (Group Tutorials). All other modules are offered jointly to BSc (Hons) Crime and Investigative Studies except Chemical Criminalistics and Forensic Analytical Chemistry (only offered to Forensic Science students).

MSc in Forensic Science: Mastering Forensic Analysis

She also supervises students in these MSc modules: Specialised topics for Forensic Scientists, Research Methods and Preparation and MSc dissertation.


  • PhD In Vitro Investigation of Amphetamine Binding to Natural and Synthetic Melanin, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK (2007)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK (2009)
  • MSc Plant Science with specialisation in Plant Physiology, Tribhuvan University (TU), Kathmandu, Nepal (1998)
  • BSc Chemistry, Plant Science and Microbiology, Tri Chandra College, TU (1996)

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Member of Forensic Capability Network Physical Science Subgroup - Drugs and Toxicology
  • Co-convenor – International Conference by the Biotechnology Society of Nepal, February 2020
  • Advisor – Impact of Biotechnology in Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, April 2019
  • Scientific Committee Member - GCC Forensics Exhibition and Conference, Abu Dhabi, Oct 2018
  • Member of Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC)
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)
  • Member of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT)
  • Life-time member of Biotechnology Society of Nepal (BSN)
  • UK representative of the UNESCO Associated Schools Cooperation Council, Nepal
  • Member, Editorial Board of Forensic, Legal and Investigative Sciences
  • International Advisory Board of the Journal of Forensic Chemistry and Toxicology

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Research grants
  • Royal Society of Chemistry, Inclusion and Diversity Grant, October 2020 as PI with Dr Nathalie Zahra (£4985.50)
  • Fattoria La Vialla, Investigating the impact of a natural antioxidant food product on exercise-induced oxidative stress in recreationally active participants, September 2020, as Co-I with Dr Justin Roberts (PI) and Dr Havovi Chichger.
  • Masters’ project research grants from Botswana International University of Science and Technology, June 2020 (Ms Lorato Makanye, Pula 30, 000 research topic – drug facilitated sexual assault) and February 2021 (Ms Molatelo Thutwa, Pula 29,800, research topic – drugs of abuse analysis from wastewater), with Dr Ellen Mwenesongole
  • Royal Society of Chemistry school engagement project 2017 (£2000) for Applying chemistry to solve crimes (PI).
  • Royal Society of Chemistry, Scientific meeting grant 2019 (£1500) towards conference organisation (PI).
  • Royal Society of Chemistry Outreach Scholarship (Analytical Trust Fund) 2018 (£5000) - Capacity building on forensic toxicology and drugs chemistry in Nepal (PI).
  • Investigation into the detection and recovery of fragrances. Royal Society of Chemistry, Analytical Trust Fund for summer internship £1400, 2012 (stipend).
  • Accredited, bite sized learning to upskill chemical industry employees, funded by National HE STEM programme, £31950 (with High skills at work, ARU).
  • Research students related external funding from NRF, BMSS, RSC, BIUST total of £23,000.

Various internal fundings secured (e.g. Postdoctoral Researcher for 16 months 2017/18) funded by QR funding, Research funding observatory, 2018; Enterprising academics, 2015; Graduate teaching assistant, 2012; Research enhancement bid, 2008/9. Summer internships secured in 2015, 2011 and 2010. QR funding for impact case study support was secured in 2019 and 2020.

  • Consultancy with Legal Foods Limited in 2020, £9,800 (with Dr Havovi Chichger and Dr Justin Roberts).
  • Teaching chemical criminalistics in University of Linkoping (February 2015 - £2200 and February 2016 - £2739).
  • Consultancy for PCL Ceramics, King’s Lynn. Ceramic Water Filter for performance Testing, 2011, £5500 with Dr Sarah Hall.
  • Short Course on Drugs and Toxicology to a team from Kuwait (14th-18th February 2011) with colleagues.
  • Felicitation by UNESCO associated schools cooperation council, 2018 for my work on Drugs Facilitated Sexual Assault topic in Nepal.
  • Second Best Poster Prize - Dawkins, L., Gautam, L., Bandey, H.L., and Ferguson, L. If only the walls could talk-can fingermarks provide the answers? 2nd International Conference by the European Division of the International Association of Human Identification, Interpol HQ, Lyon, France, 2016.
  • Third Poster Prize - Mansour, Y., Guy, G., and Gautam, L., Ketamine presumptive test as a new method in forensic analysis. FORREST Conference, 2013.
  • PVC Award - Mwenesongole, E., Gautam, L., Hall, S., and Emmett, T., Estimating community drug usage patterns by the analysis of wastewater. Salford Postgraduate Annual Research Conference, UK, 2011.
  • First Poster Prize - De Kat, D., and Gautam, L., The extraction and identification of GHB in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages using GC-MS. FORREST Conferences, 2010, UK.

Selected recent publications

  • Roberts, J.D., Willmott, A.G.B., Beasley, L., Boal, M., Davies, R., Martin, L., Chichger, H., Gautam, L., and Del Coso, J., 2021. The impact of decaffeinated green tea extract on fat oxidation, body composition and cardio-metabolic health in overweight, recreationally active individuals. Nutrients.13, 764. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13030764
  • Shil, A., Davies, C., Gautam, L., Roberts, J., and Chichger, H., 2021. Investigating the opposing effect of two different green tea supplements on oxidative stress, mitochondrial function, and cell viability in HepG2 cells. Journal of Dietary Supplements. https://doi.org/10.1080/19390211.2021.1894304
  • Davies, C., Gautam, L., Grela, A., and Morrissey, J., 2020. Variability associated with interpreting drugs within forensic hair analysis: A three‐stage interpretation. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 40(7):868-888. https://doi.org/10.1002/jat.3959
  • Aina, O., Gautam, L., Simkhada, P., and Hall, S., 2020. A Survey of Herbal Medicine Use and Non-utilization of Conventional Health Facilities in Ekiti State, Nigeria: Prevalence and Determinant, BMJ Open,10:e040769. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2020-040769.
  • Dawkins, J., Gautam, L., Bandey, H., Armitage, R., and Ferguson, L., 2020. The effect of paint type on the development of latent finger-marks on walls. Forensic Science International, 309:110186. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint. 2020.110186
  • Peng, Y., Gautam, L and Hall, S., 2019. The detection of drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals in drinking water using solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Chemosphere, 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.02.040
  • Grela, A., Gautam, L., and Cole M.D.,2018. A multifactorial critical appraisal of substances found in drug facilitated sexual assault cases. Forensic Science International, 10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.08.034.
  • Cole, M.D., Grela, A., and Gautam, L., 2018. Xanax: How does it work and what are the side effects? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/xanax-how-does-it-work-and-what-are-the-side-effects-94594

Recent presentations and conferences

  • Gautam, L., 2021. Forensic analysis of street drugs. The faculty development programme organised by Amity Institute of Forensic Sciences, Amity University, India.
  • Satyal, P., and Gautam, L., 2021. Joint presentation on developing and running a research project: concept design to impact evaluation. My part was focussed on research dissemination and impact generation as part of Research Management Training organised by Haryana University (CCS HAU), India.
  • Gautam, L., Davies, C., and Grela, A., 2020. Drinks spiking, myths, truths and advances in Forensic Science. Cambridge Science Festival, Cambridge, UK (public event).
  • Gautam, L., 2019. Investigating knowledge, perception and experience about drug facilitated sexual assault. United Kingdom and Ireland Association of Forensic Toxicologists (UKIAFT) Meeting, ARU, Cambridge, UK.
  • Gautam L., 2019. Making an impact that matters: research and public engagement on drug facilitated sexual assault investigation in Nepal. World DNA Day Conference, Biotechnology Society of Nepal.
  • Gautam, L., 2020. Nature and pattern of drug facilitated sexual assault cases in Nepal, Janta multiple Campus and Jaycees.
  • Gautam, L., 2020. Spiking of drinks and drug facilitated sexual assault, organised by Botswana International University of Science and Technology.
  • Gautam, L., Drink spiking and drug facilitated sexual assault, Amity University, India as part of one day international conference on the Role of Forensic Science and Law in Safety of Women & Children (A dialogue dedicated to the Mission Shakti: An initiative of U.P. Government, India).
  • Gautam, L., 2020. Raising awareness about drink spiking and drug facilitated sexual assault, organised by the European Division of international association for identification (EUIAI).
  • Gautam, L., Sullivan, A.B., and Aina, J., 2020. Are herbal medicines and products safe for consumption? Organised by ARU Discover (community engagement event).
  • Gautam, L. Exploring knowledge and perception about drug facilitated sexual assaults, Annual Forensic Science Conference, University of West London, and February 2020.
  • Grela, A., and Gautam, L. Drugs in drugs facilitated sexual assault. Second International Caparica Translational Forensics Conference, Portugal.
  • Gautam, L., Grela, A., Satyal, J., and Gajuryal, S., 2019. Understanding the nature of sexual assault cases with the focus on Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault in Nepal through a forensic lens. Social Science Baha international conference, Nepal.
  • Gautam, L., Grela, A., and Cole, M.D. 2018. Simultaneous detection of drugs associated with drug facilitated sexual assault using gas chromatography - mass spectrometry. The International Association of Forensic Toxicologist conference, Ghent, Belgium.
  • Gautam, L., 2018. Raising Awareness about Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault. A talk programme organised by the UNESCO Associated Schools Cooperation Council, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Gautam, L., 2018. Unique challenge: Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault. 16th Bigyan Chautari organised by Annapurna Research Centre Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Marshall, S., Tomova. B, Gautam, L., 2018. Method Optimisation for the Simultaneous Detection of Extractables and Leachables by GC-MS. Emerging Analytical Professionals Conference organised Royal Society of Chemistry, Knutsford. UK.
  • Facey, E., Tomova. B, Gautam, L., 2018. Forceful Degradation of Polymer Additives Analysed by GC-MS and HPLC-DAD. Emerging Analytical Professionals Conference organised Royal Society of Chemistry, Knutsford, UK.
  • Gautam, L. and Pathak, R. 2017. Usefulness of hair analysis in Forensic Science. 20th HairS’ conference, 7th September 2017, Dresden, Germany.
  • Gautam, L., 2017. Importance of Alternative Sample Analysis in Forensic Investigation of Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault. First International Forensic Conference, Kuwait.

Media experience