2011 Fulbright Queensland Scholarship — UCLA
“Maintaining the highest possible standards of fingerprint evidence is important for making sure that innocent people are not wrongly accused.”
Matthew Thompson, a PhD candidate at The University of Queensland, is the winner of the prestigious 2011 Fulbright Queensland Scholarship, sponsored by the Queensland Government and Universities.
“Everyday, law enforcement agencies identify thousands of fingerprint matches that can be used as evidence in convicting criminals,” Matthew said.
”Contrary to popular belief and TV shows like CSI, computers are not relied upon to match crime-scene fingerprints. Instead, human fingerprint experts decide whether a print belongs to a suspect or not.”
“But, despite its 100 year history, there have been few peer-reviewed studies directly examining the extent to which experts can correctly match fingerprints to one another. And mistakes made to date have resulted in innocent people being wrongly accused.”
Matthew’s Fulbright Scholarship will allow him to further his research on assessing inaccuracies in fingerprint identification, and collaborate with US law enforcement agencies.
He will carry out his research at the University of California, Los Angeles to determine how accurate fingerprint experts are, explore the psychology that affects how well they match fingerprints, and maximise the reliability of fingerprint evidence in the criminal justice system.
“I’ll work with fingerprint experts in the US to determine the factors—about the person and about the print—that will allow experts to make the most accurate matches,” Matthew said.
“I believe the outcomes of my research will improve the welfare of Australians and Americans by upholding the process of law, and help to prevent wrongful convictions and promote rightful ones.”
Matthew has a BInfTech and a BSc (First Class Honours) in Psychology from The University of Queensland. He has won awards and prizes including the Queensland Government Smart Futures PhD Scholarship, the NICTA Research Project Award, and the ATSE Young Science Ambassador Award. Matthew is also a keen photographer, blogger and musician.
The prestigious Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind, created by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright and the U.S. Government in 1946. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, it operates between the U.S. and 155 countries. In Australia, the scholarships are funded by the Australian and U.S. Governments and corporate partners and administered by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission in Canberra.
Matthew is one of 26 talented Australians to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar in 2011. Applications for Fulbright Scholarships in 2012 open on 1 June, visit www.fulbright.com.au
Host University: University of California, Los Angeles
Advisors: Jennifer Mnookin, Jason Tangen, Itiel Dror, Penelope Sanderson
Dates: April 2012 to April 2013
Queensland Government Smart Futures Scholarship
NICTA Research Project Award
Collaborators: Queensland Police Service
Official Media Release