Sophie Turfus

Dr Sophie Turfus BSc (Hons), MSC, PhD, FHEA

Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science

Key details

Dr Sophie C Turfus

Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science


Dr Sophie Turfus is a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science at the School of Science.  She is delighted to be contributing her specialism (toxicology) to the BSc Forensic Science.

She completed a BSc Hons Genetics at the University of York (2001-2004), involving a year’s study at York University (Canada). Her final year project involved RNA-induced silencing of genes involved in symbiotic relationships between legumes and rhizobia. She completed an MSc in Forensic Science at King’s College London (2005) where her MSc project was a collaboration between Cellmark (Culham, Oxfordshire), The Metropolitan Police Force, and King’s College London, and involved the development of a DNA profiling methods for the analysis of DNA obtained from fingerprint lifts collected from cold cases. Dr Turfus obtained her PhD in Forensic Science at the Drug Control Centre (King’s College London), graduating in 2010. The project involved developing methods of urinalysis to increase the retrospective detection of incapacitating drugs suspected in drug-facilitated crime. She spent 6 months of her PhD at City Hospital Birmingham, where she was involved in the analysis of forensic and clinical case samples.

From 2010 -2014, Dr Turfus was employed at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) in Melbourne, Australia, as a Forensic Toxicologist which involved the analysis of forensic samples and report writing. She also gained the status of “Approved Analyst” conducting testing and issuing tendered evidence in accordance with the Road Safety Act. Her time at the VIFM also involved a secondment to the post of Senior Research Officer. This involved a stint as an Adjunct Researcher with Monash University where she was involved in method development and many research projects involving drug detection in a number of biological matrices (such as blood, urine, hair and oral fluid).

Between 2014-2017, Dr Turfus worked at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, as Lecturer in Toxicology. She taught on a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, being module leader for many of the forensic science, toxicology and pharmacology modules. She contributed to the cross-faculty, inter-disciplinary module “Antidoping in Sports” and also developed the “Pharmacogenomics and Toxicogenomics” module. She was also a regular science fair judge at the American International School of Kingston (AISK), presented on pharmacogenetics at the Continuing Education Seminar for Pharmacists and was a panellist in the UWI/UNESCO Philosophy Day: “Ethics as a Guide to Right Action: The Case of Doping”. Dr Turfus was also Public Relations Officer for the Caribbean Association of Forensic Sciences, assisting with the organization of inaugural conference and session chairing, a member of the organizing committee for the Faculty of Medical Sciences Annual Research Conference, and a member of the Cannabis Research Group.

From 2018-2021, Dr Turfus worked as a Lecturer in Forensic Toxicology at the University of Huddersfield where she led the Forensic Toxicology specialism on the MSc Forensic Science course and supervised project students on this course, as well as undergraduate projects. Laboratory-based projects involved the development of methods to extract and analyse drugs from bloodstains on various materials, as well as other biological matrices such as hair and dental calculus from skeletal remains. Other projects involved in vitro studies on drug metabolism, and analysis of drugs in e-liquids, dietary supplements and on banknotes. She also co-supervised students with First4Lawyers (Huddersfield) and Forensic Testing Services (Mirfield).

Dr Turfus is a member of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT) and the London Toxicology Group (LTG) and enjoys participating in these conferences. She enjoys international collaborations with individuals from diverse backgrounds and has also assisted with programs at the ELTU (English language Teaching Unit) at the University of Leicester to speakers of other languages and has delivered teaching abroad.

Awards

  • Young Scientist’s Prize for Best Published Paper in 2009 awarded by TIAFT (The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists)
  • John Jackson Award 2009 for best poster awarded by LTG (London Toxicology Group)
  • My MSc research student (Keeley Dunn) awarded John Jackson Award 2019 for best poster by LTG

Recognition

Member of London Toxicology Group (LTG) and The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT)

Research / Scholarly interests

Dr Turfus’ underlying research interest is exploring detection methods in forensic toxicology, using chromatographic and mass spectrometric techniques. One area involves the detection of biomarkers that have a long window of detection after drug administration. This is especially important when low drug concentrations are present and long periods of time elapse prior to taking samples from a victim of crime in forensic cases.  Another interest involves the exploration of possible biomarkers arising from polyconsumption of drugs that confer advantages (both interpretive and analytical) compared with focussing on the parent drug in assays.

Dr Turfus also has an interest in exploring the demographics of drug and supplement consumption among vulnerable groups. One study involved the investigation of supplementation habits, knowledge and perceptions of doping in sports among young Jamaican athletes taking part in inter-school athletics championships (“CHAMPS”) -a training ground for the Olympics. Dr Turfus was also involved in the supervision of a project investigating self-reported drug use among service personnel in Nigeria.

Key funded projects

An investigation of supplementation habits, knowledge and perceptions of doping in sports among young athletes.

This project sought to obtain baseline information on young athletes’ knowledge and practices regarding supplements which was used to guide development of educational programmes of an anti-doping nature. The project involved determining the demographics, supplement-taking habits, establishing perceptions on supplementation and determining knowledge of anti-doping among impressionable young athletes being prepared for the world stage. Knowledge on anti-doping and supplementation was deemed to be poor, particularly among those individuals competing in track and field events, and the results have been used to guide best practice in educating athletes as to the risks of supplementation. The project was funded by the University of the West Indies and approved by the Ministry of Education in Jamaica.

The detection of biomarkers arising from polyconsumption of drugs using chromatographic and mass spectrometric approaches following in vitro and in vivo approaches.

In this study, in vitro metabolism studies were conducted using commonly-encountered drug combinations incubated with metabolic enzymes such as Cytochrome P450, Carboxylesterase enzymes, and human liver microsomes. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry was employed using product ion scanning, precursor ion scanning and selected reaction monitoring to determine new candidates for the detection of polyconsumption. Precursor ion scanning enabled screening for metabolites based on shared molecular characteristics with the parent drug while Time-of-flight mass spectrometry will confirm novel structures. The project is to be continued, where casework samples (blood and urine) will be selected where combinations of commonly-occurring drugs have been detected, and analysed to determine the prevalence of possible markers of poly-drug poisonings. It is hoped that useful metabolites will be identified that offer promise in determining poly-drug use.

Recent publications

Articles

Taylor, A., Dunn, K., and Turfus S. (2021) A review of nicotine‐containing electronic cigarettes—Trends in use, effects, contents, labelling accuracy and detection methods. Drug Testing and Analysis, 13 (2)  DOI:10.1002/dta.2998

Dunn, K., Taylor, A., and Turfus S. (2021) A review of cannabidiol-containing electronic liquids-Current regulations and labelling accuracy.  Drug Testing and Analysis, 13 (8), pp. 1490-1498 doi: 10.1002/dta.3102

Non-refereed research-based scholarly publications

Dunn, K.J., and Turfus, S.C. (2020) Detection of cannabinoids and quantification of

cannabidiol in electronic liquids. TIAFT Bulletin, 50 (4), pp. 23-28 (Original Research)

Book chapters

Turfus, S. and Rodda, L. (2020) High Performance Liquid Chromatography and Ultra‐High Performance Liquid Chromatography Including Liquid Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry. In: Wolstenholme, R., Jickells, S., and Forbes, S. (eds.) Analytical Techniques in Forensic Science. John Wiley & Sons Inc., Ch. 14.

Poster Presentations at Scientific Conferences

Dunn, K., Taylor, A. and Turfus, S. A Review of Cannabinoid and Synthetic Cannabinoid-Containing Electronic Liquids. In: London Toxicology Group: Poster Session 2020. Chamber of Shipping, London, 4 Dec 2020.

Taylor, A., Dunn, K., and Turfus, S. A Review of Nicotine-Containing Electronic Cigarettes – Trends in Use, Effects, Contents and Labelling Accuracy. In: London. Toxicology Group: Poster Session 2020. Chamber of Shipping, London, 4 Dec 2020.