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FORENSIC SCIENTIST A Unique But Challenging Profession


Forensic Scientist assist in the investigation of crimes by examining physical evidence, and applying the results of these scientific examinations to the courts of law. The results of examinations can determine what happened at the scene of a crime and who was there. This can help investigators with their work. The evidence can then appear later in court. Forensic science can be used to identify and incriminate suspects, by studying fingerprints, blood types, or DNA profiles for example. It is rare for a court case to hang off one single piece of evidence, although it is not uncommon for the majority of the case to rely on many pieces of forensic evidence that together are conclusive. There are different types of evidence. Some is circumstantial and some is conclusive.


Forensics is a highly specialized career and there are only a few employment opportunities in the occupation. The main employers of forensic scientists are State and Commonwealth Government health departments, and State and Federal police forces. Most forensic scientists have had extensive experience specializing in a particular scientific field such as microbiology, chemistry or physics, before moving into the forensic area. To become a forensic scientist usually requires the completion of a degree specializing in forensic science. You may also consider a range of other degrees in


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relevant areas of specialization, which may provide entry into various areas of forensic science. Relevant areas include areas include biology, botany, chemistry, physics, dentistry, or medicine


The work of a forensic scientist falls into three broad groups field (collecting the evidence), laboratory and medical (analyzing the evidence). There are many specialist fields with in forensic science, such as fingerprint examination, examination of shoe and tire impressions, vehicle examination, ballistics, and blood splatter analysis. Each specialist field in forensic science is based on common types of evidence often found at crime scenes. IT is also important to have trained people for crime scene searching and the photography and/or video recording or crime scenes, victims, and items of evidence. Some other tasks of a forensic scientist includes rechecking their own work or double-checking the work of a colleague. It is also important that a forensic scientist keeps up to date with the techniques in their specialty so they must spend time keeping up with the new literature, studying texts and attending seminars and conferences. Other duties include the training of new staff members and liaising with police, court personnel and others.


Forensic science is a science devoted to the using of scientific methods and procedures to gather objective information, which will be used to help solve a crime. While the procedures of forensic science can be useful in solving a crime it is important to remember the role of forensic science in the overall process of finding the guilty suspect. There are many suspects in criminal investigation. To find the guilty suspect, an investigator must ensure that the three criteria have been met motive, opportunity, and


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means. To assist the investigator in finding the suspect that meets all three of the above criteria. The forensic investigator has an important role. It is important that at a crime scene every effort is made to secure the site so that evidence is not destroyed or altered. The investigator could take photographs and collect fingerprints and samples such as hair, fibers, blood, soil and/or foreign objects from the crime scene and suspects. The job of the forensic investigator or forensic scientist will be to use science and technology to perform tests on the evidence collected.


Every crime scene contains evidence of the perpetrator of the crime. This is because when two bodies or objects come into contact, they mutually contaminate each other. Fragmentary evidence is any type of material left at or taken from a crime scene, or the result of contact between two surfaces such as shoes and the floor covering or soil. When a crime is committed, fragmentary evidence needs to be collected from the scene. A team of specialized police technicians go to the scene of the crime and seal it off. They both video record and take photographs of the crime scene, victim, and items of evidence. If necessary they undertake a firearms and ballistics examination. They check for shoe and tire mark impressions, examine any vehicles and check for fingerprints. Each item found as evidence is put into a sterilized container and labeled for later analysis at the laboratory.


Evidence arrives at the laboratory from the Crime Scene staff, or from the scientist. In addition, sometimes members of the police will find evidence and bring it to the laboratory for examination. The first task that is always done when an exhibit is received is to visually examine the exhibit and to record the relevant details. This can be


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done using notes, a sketch, photographs, or a cast of any impressions. Then the scientist subject the evidence to any relevant tests. Forensic examinations can take several forms. The main type is comparison between two objects, particles, substances or impressions. A forensic technique that is used regularly in old murder mystery novels.


The introduction of DNA analysis has completely changed the face of police investigation. Fingerprint identification is not an exact science, often the prints lifted are not very clear or complete and while each fingerprint is unique, a fingerprint match is not 100 percent accurate. A DNA match is considered unquestionable because there is such a negligible error margin. DNA matching is used for the detection of biological material such as blood, semen, and hair. These are compared to samples from victims and suspects using blood grouping and/or DNA profiling. DNA can be lifted from very small deposits, such as saliva on the back of a stamp through to a strand of hair left in a hairbrush. In the case of the officials sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center, this type of DNA matching is the only way they can identify some of the bodies that have been retrieved. The families of the missing people have been asked to provide hairbrushes, toothbrushes, drinking containers the victims might have used and other possible sources of DNA to help the scientists with their work.


Its important that the movement of a piece of evidence from the crime scene, through the laboratory and to the court room is well documented so there can be no accusation of corruption of the evidence is at any given time. Forensic scientists have the profound responsibility of conducting scientific tests whose results may have severe consequences for many people. A simple error in the laboratory could have a disastrous


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impact on many lives, which is why forensic laboratories need to be impeccable in every aspect of their operation. They must be clean, thoroughly organized, and secure. The results of the tests need to be written in summary form as a legal document. The judge must be satisfied that the analysis performed on the evidence were conducted to the highest possible standard and that the results are accurate and precise. A forensic scientist may also be required to attend court and answer any questions about the exhibit, the examination or the conclusions.


Works Cited


Almirall, Jose’ R. and Kenneth G. Furton. The Importance of Standards in Forensic


Science. Standardization News. April 15.


18 November 00. http//www.abc.net.au/forensic/whatisforensic.htm


18 November 00. http//www.abc.net.au/science/forensic/wannabe.htm


18 November 00. http//www.custommicro.com/jma/experts.htm


18 November 00. http//www.schoolnet.ca/vp-pv/fscience/e/stdinfo/bkgrdfor.htm


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