Becoming a forensic scientist!
The field of forensic science is one which is rapidly increasing in the country South Africa today. Forensic science uses methods such as fingerprint analysis, firearm identification, document reconstruction and examination to provide concrete evidence that can be used in a court of law.
Forensic science can be divided into two main categories. The first is forensic biology, where the analysis of blood and physiological samples such as DNA typing are involved. This area also includes forensic botany, forensic anthropology and forensic entomology. The second main category is forensic chemistry. This involves the use of instrumental and chemical methods to analyse alcohol, drugs, fire and explosive residues, fibres, hair, paint, soil and other materials. This area also includes forensic toxicology, which deals with the analysis of drugs, alcohol and poisons from biological samples taken from living or deceased persons involved in the investigation.
Any person who might be interested in becoming a forensic scientist must have a strong background in the chemical, physical or biological sciences. Most employers prefer applicants who have had at least two years of specialized training in applied science or science-related technologies as well as applicants who have completed bachelor’s degrees in fields such as chemistry, forensic science or biology. People wishing to pursue this field should have strong communication skills, experience interpreting scientific results and they should be able to work well with others. They will be required to gather physical evidence from crime scenes. They will then analyse this data and have the opportunity help with various investigations relating to the evidence.
The University of the Freestate offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses under their Department of Genetics. Students completing this degree may choose to specialise in Conservation Genetics, Forensic Genetics, Population Genetics, Molecular Systematics, Cytotaxonomy, Behavioural Genetics or a combination of these areas.
The University of Cape Town offers a three year undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree specialising in Genetics, Microbiology or Biochemistry. These fall under the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the university. Colleges and educational premises such as Rosebank College in Johannesburg, close to 54 on Bath and other renowned Johannesburg hotels, will aid learners in acquiring the knowledge and experience they need to pursue this field.
This complex and fascinating subject allows graduates to be able to become involved in applying the science of biology to the law in order to help solve criminal cases and the like. The scientific information that is provided to the justice system by the forensic scientists allows informed and factual decisions to be made regarding a person’s innocence or lack thereof when involved in court cases. Forensic Science is a growing field, and it is one that promises to be continually challenging and rewarding for its participants.