Forensic Scientist

Summary

Forensic scientists apply scientific procedures and techniques to the examination of potential evidence that may assist in legal investigations.

Duties & Tasks

Forensic scientists may perform the following tasks:

  • 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 (cannabis, for example)
  • conduct document examinations, both physical (such as handwriting and typewriting) and chemical (such as analysis of inks and papers)
  • analyse computers and obtain data from other electronic devices such as mobile phones
  • 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 that is readily understood by the court
  • make presentations to a variety of audiences on the work of forensic scientists
  • keep in contact with, and provide advice to, police investigators, legal practitioners, scientists and pathologists across a broad range of disciplines.

Working Conditions

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

Personal Requirements

  • 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
  • able to persevere
  • good observation skills.

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