The forensic scientist

Dictionary meaning of forensic science is the application of scientific methods and techniques to matters under investigation by a court of law. Forensic science represents a group of lab court wearing sleuths who solve some of most impossible crimes with not very much evidence at all. Most of the TV shows mislead people to believe that you have to be a mastermind or always have a miraculous result to be a forensic scientist. This is untrue. For a forensic scientist not every day is filled with miracles, although some days are.

Application of science in legal proceedings is called a forensic science. Hence, any type of science such as clinical laboratory science, medicine, dentistry, biology, chemistry and engineering can use title forensic. Many distinct disciplines that use forensic science as an umbrella term, aid in determination of court cases. The depiction of forensic scientists in TV shows are totally misleading and unlike shown in them, they are usually confined to a particular discipline and often to a specialty within that discipline.

Different specialties in forensic science include- criminalistics, engineering sciences, jurisprudence, odontolgy, pathology/biology, physical anthropology, psychiatry, behavioral sciences and toxicology. Forensic sciences can be divided in to 3 groups- medical, laboratory and field services. These are not exclusive divisions, and they may overlap between divisions. Also, while investigating a case many different disciplines may be involved depending upon the type of evidence found and situation of the case. Field science has to deal with investigations that have to deal with fire and explosion scenes and secret drug laboratories.

As a forensic scientist your job will be to provide impartial scientific evidence for use in courts of law to support the prosecution or defense in criminal or civil investigations. You will be primarily concerned with searching for and examining contact trace material associated with crime. This material can include- blood and other body fluid, hair, fibers from the clothes, paint and glass fragments, tyre marks, flammable substances used to start fire. Although, evidence is usually represented in writing as a formal statement of evidence or report, you may have to attend the court proceedings to give evidence in person.

Following are the responsibilities of a forensic scientist-

  1. Analyze samples of hair, body fluids, glass, paint, drugs etc in the laboratory.
  2. Apply techniques such as gas and high performance liquid chromatography, scanning electron microscopy, mass spectrometry and genetic fingerprinting.
  3. Sift and sort evidence, often held in miniscule quantities
  4. Record findings and collect trace evidence from scenes of crimes or accidents.
  5. Attend and examine scenes of crimes
  6. Liaise with team members and coordinate with outside agencies such as police
  7. Analyze and interpret results and computer data.
  8. Review and supervise work of assistants.
  9. Research and develop new forensic techniques.

Not all forensic scientists get involved in the crime scene. Some choose to stay in the laboratory.

Minimum education required is a bachelor’s degree in physical or applied science such as clinical laboratory science. Salaries for forensic scientists typically start at 20,000£ p.a. With experience, salaries can increase to between £25,000 and £35,000. Whereas, Salaries at senior levels can exceed £45,000,