If you enjoy watching popular television series of crime scene investigation such as CSI or X-Files, and dream of being their hero, then being a forensic scientist could be one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs you could have. A forensic scientist works in a laboratory setting most of the time, analyzing particular types of evidence and writing reports about it.
He or she is also the expert witness when testifying in the court of law. Sometimes, forensic scientists may be required to attend crime or other incident scenes to help reconstruct the crime or help in the recognition, collection and preservation of evidence within their specialty.
The roles of a forensic scientist include generation of physical evidence by criminal activity; collection and preservation of physical evidence; analysis of physical evidence and presentation of scientific testimony in court. Some of the main areas of forensic science are pathologist, toxicologist, anthropologist, entomologist, biologist, criminalist and odontologists.
Forensic pathologist is responsible for determining the cause of death' by performing autopsies on their suspects. These could be of natural causes, accidental causes, or due to suicide or homicide. They also act as an investigator by gathering clues and information about the suspect, such as the time and place of the death, what he or she was doing, and the health of the suspect. This information can prove valuable in determining the cause of death. The autopsy includes external examination of the body including clothing, as well as internal examination of the body organs and fluids.
Toxicology is the study of harmful effects of chemicals or drugs on living systems with close attention to the conditions under which they occur. Forensic toxicology is in interpretation of analytical, clinical, and environmental data as it applies to law and medicine. Toxicologists are also called upon to assists in determining the cause of unsafe driving or to assist medical examiners in determining the cause of death if the death is chemical or drug related. They also examine drugs that are being confiscated by the police.
Forensic anthropologists will apply the science of physical anthropology to the legal process and sometimes for humanitarian reasons. In instances like homicides, forensic science aids legal processes like identifying skeletal or badly decomposed human remains. In cases where there is a mass loss off lives, forensic science offers identification of the victims. Forensic anthropologists work to give identification to the remains through suggestion of age, sex, ancestry, stature and unique features of a decedent from the skeleton.
Forensic entomologists use insect evidence to uncover circumstances of a crime. An entomologist would be able to determine how long ago a person was killed by using insect evidence gathered around a corpse.
Forensic biologists are responsible for DNA testing and analysis. The forensic biologist takes the samples from the crime scene such as blood or sperm, and then compares the DNA fingerprint of the samples to samples from the suspects. If they match, they most likely came from the same person.
Forensic odontology is a specialized field of dentistry which usually deals with mass disaster victim identification, missing persons databases and identification and other legal issues. For example in identifying a mass grave, dental properties are influenced by diet of a region that in turn will produce an estimation of the origin of the individual. Forensic odontologists are qualified dentists who have undergone additional training and who provide expert evidence on dentistry.
Criminalists analyse, compare, identify and interpret physical evidence. The main role of a criminalist is to provide physical evidence to investigators, attorneys, judges or juries. Other sub-specialties in the field of forensic science include forensic herpetology (snake expert) and forensic archeology.
Forensic cyber-crime experts are also a quickly developing specialty which is in the field of computer detectives to trace evidence on computer systems and networks.