Wednesday, 22nd November 2017
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FORENSIC SCIENTIST

Forensic science uses biology, chemistry and mathematics to analyse physical evidence from different sources. Put simply, forensics is the use of science and its practices to assist in matters of law. As part of the justice sector, forensic scientists are most often associated with criminal investigations, but their expertise is also required to solve other questions involving paternity, insurance claims and other civil disputes.

Forensic scientists will work as a team, examining the physical evidence they are given, and delivering unbiased facts, found using their specialist techniques. Forensic examinations are very important and delicate procedures, which must be conducted with integrity, accuracy and competence. In criminal cases, the tiniest piece of evidence can link somebody as a suspect to a crime, and this must be analysed meticulously and accurately, so that the results are conclusive cannot be questioned.

There are three main areas of forensic science:

  • Chemistry - involving crimes with property, such as arson or burglary
  • Biology - which is used in crimes against people, and civil disputes such as paternity tests
  • Drugs and Toxicology - for use in post-mortems and testing blood and urine samples for drugs or alcohol

Other tasks of forensic scientists working across all areas are likely to include:

  • Testing human samples such as blood, hair and fingerprints
  • Analysing fibres and comparing various materials
  • DNA profiling and blood-grouping
  • Analysing fluids for traces of drugs, poisons, and other substances
  • Attending and examining crime scenes for evidence
  • Using electronic equipment to recover data from computers and phones
  • Providing expert advice on firearms, ballistics, splash patterns etc.
  • Researching and developing new technologies for use in the profession
  • Giving impartial and factual evidence in court
  • Writing detailed reports for presentation
  • Supervising assistant scientists in the laboratory

Careers in forensic science have become increasingly popular due to their portrayal in popular television drama. However, in reality, the job can be far more painstaking and involves a lot more scientific analysis than is portrayed on screen. The profession requires highly skilled scientists, with great accuracy and attention to detail, who have an interest in solving scientific problems. Employers are either non-departmental government bodies, such as the Forensic Science Service (FSS), Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) and Forensic Science Service Northern Ireland (FSNI) or private commercial companies.