Forensic Scientist

Research and Development

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Scientific or AnalyticClerical & OrganisingSkill Level 5Skill Level 6

Forensic scientists apply scientific procedures and techniques to the examination of potential evidence that may assist in legal investigations. Forensic scientists use a range of techniques to Future Growth Strong examine and analyse materials and objects that are believed to be associated with a crime. They attend crime scenes, where they collect evidence, draw sketches and take notes. They analyse physical evidence such as fibres or other materials, and biological evidence such as hair, skin and body fluids. They often undertake biological analysis in order to detect the presence of poisons or drugs. Forensic scientists also write reports on their findings, and may be required to give evidence in court or to provide training to police staff in collecting evidence from crime scenes. Forensic scientists may be enlisted to help solve crimes that have occurred anywhere in Australia.

ANZSCO description: Forensic scientists collect, preserve, and analyse scientific evidence, which is used in courts of law as part of criminal and civil investigations.

Specialisations: Forensic Entomologist; Forensic Podiatry
, Forensic DentistryRoad Accident

A wide range of expertise is required for forensic investigations. A forensic scientist may specialise in chemistry, biochemistry, entomology, molecular biology, botany, pharmacology, toxicology, crime scene examination, firearms examination, fingerprint and document examination.

 

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A forensic scientist needs:

  • an interest in solving crimes
  • excellent analytical and interpretive skills
  • an eye for detail - good observation skills
  • good problem-solving skills
  • to be methodical in their work
  • excellent planning and organisation skills
  • good communication skills
  • able to remain unbiased in the examination of potential court evidence
  • meticulous and capable of clear, logical and lateral thinking
  • able to work as part of a team
  • initiative and motivation
  • perseverance

Duties and Tasks

Forensic scientists may perform the following tasks:Crime Scene Worksheet

  • identify illicit drugs
  • analyse drugs and poisons in human tissue and body fluids, including blood alcohol results
  • examine and compare materials such as fibres, paints, cosmetics, oils, fuels, plastics, glass, metals, soils and gunshot residues
  • examine human and animal biological material to be compared with victims and suspects using DNA profiling
  • conduct botanical identification of plant materials at trace levels and whole-plant identification (e.g. cannabis)
  • conduct document examinations, both physical (e.g. handwriting, typewriting) and chemical (e.g. analysis of inks and papers)
  • analyse computers and obtain data from electronic devices
  • examine crime scenes
  • identify firearms and ammunition (forensic ballistics)
  • detect, enhance, recover and identify latent fingerprints, footprints, tool marks, shoe marks, tyre marks and tracks
  • examine fire and explosion scenes to establish the origin and cause
  • improve the clarity of, and analyse, audio and video recordings
  • produce reports, appear in court and present scientific and/or opinion testimony accurately and in a manner which is readily understood by the court
  • make presentations to a wide variety of audiences on the work of forensic scientists
  • keep contact with, and provide advice to, police investigators, legal practitioners, scientists and pathologists across a broad range of disciplines.

Working conditions

Forensic scientists work in the offices and laboratories of government justice departments and law enforcement bodies. They also work out in the field attending crime scenes. They may be exposed to unpleasant or disturbing situations, and may be exposed to bodily fluids, firearms, explosives, or chemical hazards. Forensic scientists travel locally to attend crime scenes or court cases. They usually work regular hours, but may be called to crime scenes at any time of the day or night.

Tools and technologies

Forensic scientists use specialised analytical scientific equipment such as microscopes, drug detection kits, UV lights and fingerprinting kits. They also work with computer forensics investigation, analysis and presentation devices, which detect the molecular make-up of sample materials. They usually need to wear gloves and may need to wear other protective clothing such as masks or goggles, depending on the kind of materials they are working with. They also use laboratory instruments such as test tubes, pipettes, and portable meters to measure the pH (acid/alkaline level), conductivity, and dissolved oxygen and ion concentration of samples.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a forensic scientist, you usually need to study a degree in forensic investigation, forensic toxicology and biology or a related area, followed by a postgraduate course in forensic science.




Evidence BagForensic Scientist at work

Did You Know? 

Fingerprint

  • Every person in the world has a unique thumbprint.

  • A person has the same thumbprint all his life. Even though a person's hands grow, his thumbprints stay the same.

  • Even identical twins have different thumbprints.

  • Approximately 60% of people have loops, 35% have whorls, and 5% have arches.

  • Camel hair is the most common animal hair used to make fingerprint brushes. Now many brushes are made out of fiberglass.

    (Source: Fingerprint Basics; Did you know?)

Left Loop

Left Loop


Right Loop

Right Loop


Whorl

Whorl
Tented Arch

Tented Arch

(Image Source: Did you know?)

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