Rhys goes under the spotlight to help demystify death

From watching Judge Judy back in the day, to embarking on a new role in the American city of Baltimore, forensic scientist Dr Rhys Williams has had an interesting career journey.

Whether his work has involved decomposed pigs, frozen birds found in an old freezer, or ancient Viking armoury, Rhys has seen it all. And if that has piqued your interest a little, Rhys will be sharing fuller insight into his work in a free talk at Stockton’s The Link in April.

Ahead of that, Rhys sat down with Talking Teesside to talk about what got him into forensic science.


What first attracted you to forensics? Honestly, it’s totally embarrassing; I didn’t know what I wanted to do so took inspiration from TV, like a truly responsible adult. And what TV show did I like – Bones? No… CSI?

Nope… Judge Judy. Yeah, I know.

I liked the idea of courtrooms, but also the solving and investigations leading up to it. So, I took a course that covered criminal investigations, law, forensics, and ‘forensic anthropology’ not knowing what it really consisted of, but I figured hey, it sounded cool. Fortunately, I enjoyed the subjects very much and had a knack for them.

Being able to bring some clarity and closure to people is an experience I’m genuinely honoured to have.


What does your work involve?  My job carries the usual day-to-day that you might expect, but because I specialise in forensic anthropology, I also get to do a whole heap of interesting and exciting things such as museum projects, bone work, human identification and other squeamish activities which I’m banned from talking about at the dinner table.


What’s your favourite CSI-related film or television show? To be honest, I kinda loathe CSI and forensics TV shows, especially Bones. Don’t get me started on Bones!

They’re very entertaining programmes but certainly a work of fiction, and I end up focusing on the conduct and inaccuracies rather than the actual television show. I much prefer shows like Luther. I definitely recommend that one!

How true is depiction of forensics/CSI on TV shows and films? The main thing is the work experience and expertise. The characters often have a wealth of unrelated specialities that you would need decades of education and training to achieve. The television shows also seem to have some rather novel and non-existent equipment sometimes!


What’s the strangest thing you’ve encountered during your work? Decomposing pigs in wheelie bins, a bunch of snakes and birds left in a freezer from the ’80s. One of the strangest things has to be someone offering their cremated Viking skeleton from the boot of their car via Facebook  – it’s now in a museum though, don’t worry!

What do enjoy most about your work? I love the exciting big projects sprinkled through the year, whilst also having good variation in my day-to-day activities.  There’s no scope for getting tired of the mundane here! Of course, excavations and public engagement are my top loves.


What are your future plans?    I’m actually preparing to depart from Teesside University and move to Loyola University Maryland, in America, to begin a new role as an Assistant Professor. I’m very much looking forward to years of frontline research in forensics and digital imaging, environmental investigations, and working with Baltimore Police, clandestine grave units and archaeological teams!

Hear Rhys share more insight into his work and what can be learned from skeletal remains using forensic anthropology, in the first of a new series of  Spotlight talks taking place across Teesside.  Book a free ticket.




Author: Michelle

Michelle is a former regional newspaper journalist now working as a Communications Co-ordinator at Teesside University. She’s happiest when listening to music and has a soft spot for indie-rock, house and 90s rave.