Forensic Biology

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“Forensic biology related Frequently Asked Questions by expert members with job experience as Forensic Biology. These questions and answers will help you strengthen your technical skills, prepare for the new job interview and quickly revise your concepts”



68 Forensic Biology Questions And Answers

3⟩ Tell me what’s the most challenging thing about the job?

I’m not the first at the scene, the state folks are. The challenge on my part as a defense criminalist is to go back and look at the photos, look at the write-ups, the lab notes, and decide if they actually collected all the evidence they needed. A lot of what I do deals with the underbelly of society and it’s not necessarily fun to do that. I encounter bad stuff: mutilated bodies, child abuse, autopsies. Sometimes people say, “I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to see any more dead bodies.”

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5⟩ Do you enjoy what you do?

Absolutely. I have been a forensic scientist and thought it was the best job in the world. Now I am a CSI I think I have the best job in the world. It is very rewarding (tjhough not financially).

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6⟩ Tell me what is the working environment like?

The office is like any office - desks and computers.

Crime scenes vary. They can be very dirty, or contaminated with bodily fluids. The smells can be quite bad, but, in my opinion, are part of the scene - decomposing bodies, rotting food, unclean houses. You get used to it.

Heath and Safety is important, body fluids can be health hazards, hepatitus, general biological hazards, such as bacteria as well. Drug addicts may drop used needles, broken glass at a point of entry is sharp, exposed sharp objects such as nails, structural collapse in fire scenes, this list is endless (well, almost).

You may have to deal with unpleasant, or upset (emotional) people, both complainants and offenders.

Working with very young, or very old, victims can be upsetting, but you have to be able to rise above it to do a good job.

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9⟩ Tell me what would your current coworkers say about you?

They would say that I am very much about quality and that I take my work very seriously but I am also easy to get along with and humble in my tasks. I am not afraid to ask for help or get a second opinion because I always place the patient or result first but I am assertive enough to speak up if I think something has compromised a result. I know there is more than one way to get the same result and I learn from others techniques and try them to see what best fits for me as long as it does not violate policy.

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10⟩ Explain what type of highschool or community activites would help prepare for this career?

Photography and video courses would be of assistance - both media formats are used to record crime scenes for presentation in court, and also for briefing purposes for the investigating officers (so they do not have to enter the crime scene).

Science club - a background in science is always useful.

Public speaking - we give talks to interested parties, briefings to investigating officers, and have to stand up in court to answer questions from barristers and magistrates. This can be quite intimidating until you get used to being the centre of attention.

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11⟩ Tell me what are the services of a crime laboratory?

A crime laboratory usually includes five basic services:

☛ Physical Science unit: uses the principles of chemistry, physics, and geology to identify and compare physical evidence;

☛ Biology unit: applies knowledge of biological sciences in order to investigate blood samples, body fluids, hair and fiber samples;

☛ Firearms unit: investigates discharged bullets, cartridge cases, shotgun shells and ammunition;

☛ Document unit: provides the skills needed for handwriting analysis and other questioned document issues; and

☛ Photographic unit: applies specialized photographic techniques for recording and examining physical evidence.

Additional services may include toxicology, fingerprint analysis, voiceprint analysis, evidence collection and polygraph (lie detector) administration.

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13⟩ To you, what is forensic science?

On television shows like CSI they have criminalists interviewing and arresting people. In real life criminalists do not do that. In some states we can only use the evidence that has been collected by police officers, in other states there are teams that process crime scenes. The person who collects the evidence may not be the one who actually analyzes it. Each piece of evidence goes to its own specialty: DNA, firearms, drugs, toxicology or trace evidence.

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14⟩ Tell me which is the best institution to work at in your opinion? (FIB, CIA, etc)

"Best" is a relative term....

National labs (FBI) may require analysts to travel all over the country for testimony. If you have a family with small children, you may not want this. Additionally you may have to work with attorneys from all over the country - you may not obtain a rapport being able to work with any single attorney on a regular basis.

State labs have smaller jurisdictions, so the travel is less. However, the funding may be less than a national lab. Fewer attorneys; more chance for rapport.

County of city labs have a very small jurisdiction, so very little travel. Sometimes the courthouse is next door to the lab. These smaller labs may have fewer staff. This could be good if everyone works well together - may be bad if they don't. Also, with only a single jurisdiction you work with only a limited number of attorneys. Again, could be good if they work well with the lab; could be bad if they don't.

Then there are also private labs. These have their pros and cons vs government labs too. Private labs have to be financially stable; some may close or be bought out by other labs. Private labs also generally service any client in the country (or world) so you are back to similar issues as with national labs.

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17⟩ Explain me how do your soft skills help you to be a successful forensic science technician?

I know how to handle laboratory equipment, use proper pipetting, awareness of the specimen handling requirements including body fluids. At the U of M I handled non-human primate specimens which utilized very strict biohazard procedures to prevent the possibility of fatal encephalitis. I also had to be very organized and carefully handle research information so it went to the right place and not into the wrong hands. From the airlines to the military and healthcare I have handled numerous stressful and time critical situations as well as sensitive material and expensive technology. I feel that the BCA is a place that I am now ready to experience as well as appreciate for its unique testing specialties and well experienced staff. I know the training can be 2-3 years from what I've read and that I will be working with people who are not only skilled but enthusiastic about their jobs for that reason.

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18⟩ Explain what is most satisfying about forensic science?

What I enjoy most about forensic science is the problem solving. You look at the evidence to see what it’s telling you. How can you use the experts, scientific tests, and your own knowledge to answer questions and solve problems?

The forensic field is changing. Laboratories are being accredited and there are different standards. There are written procedures detailing how to do the analysis. You can’t just say, “I know how to use these instruments and I can figure it out.” The changes are driven by arguments that attorneys make. There’s a standardization for everything. They have to know how the procedure is done, what the normal range is. They want to read a result and know it’s the same, no matter which lab did the test.

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19⟩ Tell me what’s a typical day in the life of a forensic scientist?

Depends on the field of forensic science.

As a forensic biologist I tell people that "I cut up crusty underwear and move small amounts of water around." About half the day is spent in the lab looking at evidence and performing labwork. The other half of the day is documentation and analysis at the computer.

Lots of paperwork needs to be maintained... this is something that is often ignored when people consider going into forensic science. Again, since every case has the potential to go to court, lots of documentation needs to be maintained to prove to the court that the analysis was done according to validated protocols.

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20⟩ As you know what are the services of a crime laboratory?

It includes five basic services:

(1) Physical Science unit: uses the principles of chemistry, physics, and geology to identify and compare physical evidence.

(2) Biology unit: applies knowledge of biological sciences in order to investigate blood samples, body fluids, hair and fiber samples.

(3) Firearms unit: investigates discharged bullets, cartridge cases, shotgun shells and ammunition.

(4) Document unit: provides the skills needed for handwriting analysis and other questioned document issues.

(5) Photographic unit: applies specialized photographic techniques for recording and examining physical evidence. Additional services may include toxicology, fingerprint analysis, voiceprint analysis, evidence collection and polygraph (lie detector) administration.

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