Forensic scientist

What they do

Forensic scientists use a range of techniques to 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 Western Australia.

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.

How do I become one?

Education and training

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

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.