“Where are they now?” WRDTC Alumni share their post-PhD experiences and achievements…
Vincent Hughes (Linguistics and Language Science Pathway, University of York)
My name is Vincent Hughes and I did a PhD in Linguistics at the University of York funded by the White Rose Social Science DTC between 2011 and 2014.
The focus of my research was in the area of forensic voice comparison. Forensic voice comparison cases generally involve a recording of an unknown offender (e.g. a covert drugs deal recorded via mobile phone) and a recording of a known suspect (almost always a police interview). Forensic speech experts are often asked to perform an analysis of these materials to help courts determine whether the defendant is the person speaking in the recording of the unknown offender or not. My thesis addressed issues with attempts to evaluate and quantify the strength of speech evidence in forensic voice comparison cases using the same numerical, probabilistic framework used for forensic DNA evidence. Upon completing my PhD, I spent a few months as a research assistant on various projects in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at York. During that time, we received funding from the AHRC for a large-scale research grant entitled ‘Voice and Identity: Source, Filter, Biometric’ and in February 2015 I started working on the project as a post-doc researcher. The project aims to identify the best features of the voice for identifying speakers in voice comparison casework. The project also brings together, for the first time, methods from linguistics (auditory and acoustic analysis) with those developed in engineering (automatic speaker recognition systems) to improve the overall validity and reliability of forensic speech evidence presented to courts. In January 2016, I became Lecturer in Forensic Speech Science at York and have continued working on the ‘Voice and Identity’ project as a co-investigator. I am also working on projects looking at the speaker-specific properties of hesitation markers (i.e. ums and uhs) in speech and continuing to develop my PhD research to examine how best to quantify voice evidence and present it to the courts.