Prof Michael Cole FRSC

Dean, ARU Doctoral School

Professor of Forensic Science

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Life Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Forensic science and crime

Mike has over 30 years experience in teaching and research in forensic science with a strong emphasis on the analysis of controlled substances and forensic chemistry.


Mike graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1986 having read Natural Sciences. He then became the first PhD bursary student supported by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where he developed his interest in phytochemicals and natural products as potential agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Having worked with colleagues at both Birkbeck College and Imperial College, University of London, Mike obtained his PhD in Natural Product Chemistry in 1990.

Following a short spell in industry, Mike joined the Forensic Science Unit at the University of Strathclyde in 1991 as a short course tutor. In this position he developed CPD and research courses in forensic chemistry and delivered them as far afield as North and South America, Asia and many countries in Europe. Following permanent appointment at Strathclyde, and progressing through lecturing and senior lecturing posts, he became the Reader of Forensic Science and Director of the Forensic Science Unit in 2000.

In 2001, Mike joined Anglia Ruskin University as Professor of Forensic Science and Head of the Department of Forensic Science. Mike became Deputy Dean for Research and External Income in the Faculty of Science and Engineering in 2014 and was interim Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) from March, 2019 until September, 2019 supporting the development of REF2021 for ARU, which he continues to do.

Whilst continuing to teach and undertake research, Mike was appointed as Dean of the ARU Doctoral School in April 2020 and is working with colleagues towards an outstanding experience and excellent outcomes for our PGR candidates and supervisory teams

Research interests

  • Drug chemistry
  • Drug profiling and comparison
  • Drug toxicity
  • Development of analytical techniques for novel psychoactive substances
  • Fire and arson investigation

Mike has also contributed to a UK-IERI funded project around the development of mobile ad hoc networks.

Areas of research supervision

Mike has supervised a number doctoral candidates to completion. This has included candidates for Ph.D., Ph.D. by publication and D.Prof. in the UK and also in the USA, Canada, Finland, France, India, Kazakhstan, Poland, and Taiwan. The research areas include

  • the analysis, profiling and comparison of drugs, 
  • the analysis and comparison of glass, 
  • development of methods for arson investigation and 
  • the use of DNA in the identification drugs and of poisonous plants.

Mike’s most recent projects include working with colleagues at ARU and in Nepal on identifying new evidence types in the investigation of DFSA cases. Another ongoing project is with colleagues in the South African Police Service (SAPS), University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, RSA., Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Palapye, Botswana and the Botswanan Forensic Science Service on the identification and profiling of “Nyaope” and of “Tik”.

Closer to home Mike is working with colleagues at Eurofins and LGC on the differentiation of petrol samples using high field NMR. He is also working in collaboration with Cambridgeshire Constabulary testing the assumptions behind statistical clustering techniques used to relate batches of drugs to each other.

In addition Mike has acted as an external examiner for research degrees in the UK, India, South Africa and Switzerland.

Mike has won approximately £1.45M in research income funded by UK. European Union and International funding agencies.


B.Sc. (Hons.) Forensic Science

B.Sc. (Hons.) Crime and Investigative Studies.

Mike’s teaching areas include forensic and analytical chemistry, drug chemistry, the analysis of explosives, and fire investigation in attion to general biosciences. He has also developed parts of, and contributes to, the postgraduate research student training leading, in particular, on publishing and on generating impact.


BA (Hons) Cantab
PhD (London)

Memberships, editorial boards

Mike was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2018.  He is a member of peer review college of EPSRC and a member of the editorial board for the journal "Problems in Forensic Science". He is also a referee for the journals "Analytical Methods", "Acta Chromatographica", "Journal of Liquid Chromatography and Related Technologies" and "Neutotoxicity Research".

Mike is also an assessor for the Assessor Netherlands Register of Forensic Experts (Nederlands Register Gerechtelijk Deskundigen, NRGD).

Selected recent publications

Mthembi, P.M., Mwenesongole, E.M. and Cole, M.D., 2019. Chemical profiling of the street cocktail drug ‘nyaope’ in South Africa using GC–MS II: Stability studies of the cannabinoid, opiate and antiretroviral components during sample storage. Forensic science international, 300, pp.187-192. 
Mthembi, P.M., Mwenesongole, E.M. and Cole, M.D., 2018. Chemical profiling of the street cocktail drug ‘nyaope’in South Africa using GC–MS I: Stability studies of components of ‘nyaope’ in organic solvents. Forensic science international, 292, pp.115-124. 
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. 292,pp.50-60.

C. Kuleya and M.D. Cole (2018) Forensic Analysis of Piperazines. In “Chromatographic Techniques in the Forensic Analysis of Designer Drugs”. T. Kowalska, M. Sajewicz and J. Sherma (eds.). CRC Press. pp 329 – 340.

Aldmour, R., Yousef, S., Yaghi, M., Tapaswi, S., Pattanaik, K.K. and Cole, M., 2016. New cloud offloading algorithm for better energy consumption and process timeInternational Journal of System Assurance Engineering and Management, pp.1-4. 

Fakrudeen, M., Yousef, S., Tapaswi, S., Patnaik, K.K. and Cole, M., 2016. Voice performance analysis using voice codec by packet fragmentation and contention free periods in wireless networksInternational Journal of System Assurance Engineering and Management, pp.1-7.

Kushwah, R., Tapaswi, S., Kumar, A., Pattanaik, K.K., Yousef, S. and Cole, M., 2016. Gateway load balancing using multiple QoS parameters in a hybrid MANETWireless Networks, pp.1-12. 

Suraj, R., Tapaswi , S., Yousef, S., Pattanaik, K.K. and Cole, M. (2015) Mobility prediction in mobile ad hoc networks using a lightweight genetic algorithm. Wireless Networks pp 1- 10. DOI 10.1007/s11276-015-1059-0.

Turner, A., Gautam, L., Moore, C. and Cole. M. (2015) Investigating the terminology used to describe Ecstasy. Drugs and Alcohol Today 14, 235 – 244. DOI 10.1106/DAT-07-2014-0029.

Grela, A, Rachel, W., Cole, M., Zyss, T., Zieba, A. and Piekoszewski, W. (2015) Application of fatty acid and lipid measurements in neuropsychiatry. Clin. Chem. Lab. Med. DOI 10.1515/cclm-2015-0394.

Challis, D., Scruton, A., Cole, M. and Callan, M. (2015) A time-motion analysis of lightweight women’s judo in the 2010 world championships. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching 10, 479 – 486. DOI 10.1260/1747-9541.10.2-3.479

Gautam, L., Sharratt, S.D. and Cole, M.D. (2014) Drug facilitated sexual assault: detection and stability of benzodiazepines in spiked drinks using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry. PLoS ONE 9(2): e89031. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0089031.

Sanaei, A., Toulson, E.R. and Cole, M.D. (2014) Tuning and optimisation of an electronic network frequency extraction algorithm. Journal of the Audio Engineering Society 62, 25-36.

Kuleya, C., Hall, S., Gautam, L. and Cole, M.D. (2014) An optimised gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric method for the chemical characterisation of benzylpiperazine and 1-arylpiperazine based drugs. Analytical methods 6, 156-163. DOI 10.1039/C3AY41020J.

Abbott, S.C. and Cole, M.D. (2013) Vibration Arthrometry : A Critical Review. Critical Reviews in Biomedical Engineering 41, 237-256. DOI 10.1615/CritRevBiomedEng.2014010061.

Mwenesengole, E., Hall, S., Gautam, L., Waterhouse, J.S. and Cole, M. (2013) Simultaneous detection of controlled substances in waste water. Analytical methods 5, 3248-3254. DOI 10.1039/C3AY40655E.

Gautam, L., Shanmuganathan, A. and Cole, M.D. (2013) The forensic analysis of cathinones. Forensic Science Review. 25, 47 – 64.

Holman, S.W., Emmett, T.F. and Cole, M.D. (2012) A quantitative assessment of the chemical variation in food grade polyethylene cling film, a common wrapping material for illicit drugs, using attenuated total reflection-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Analytical Methods 4, 1667 – 1673. DOI 10.1039/C2AY05889H.

Recent presentations and conferences

Cole, M. D., Mwenesongole, E. and Mthembi, M. (2017) Factors affecting methodologies for the analysis and profiling of drugs of abuse – “Nyaope”. South African Police Service Conference. Pretoria, South Africa. Feb / March, 2017.

Mthembi, P.M., Mwenesongole, E.M. and Cole, M.D. (2019) Chemical Profiling of Nyaope. European Network of Forensic Science Institutes Working Group Drugs, Cyprus, May, 2019.

Media experience

Mike has contributed widely to the media including television, radio and the printed press. Recent published articles include :-

Xanax: how does it work and what are the side effects? Agatha Grela, Lata Gautam, Michael Cole. The Conversation. 11 April 2018.

Monkey Dust, Krokodil, Nyaope : why new drug concoctions keep appearing. Michael Cole. The Conversation. 24 August 2018.

Do drugs go off? What happens to medicines after their use-by dates. Michael Cole. The Conversation. February 7th, 2020.