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Question & Answers: Forensic Sciences

Question

I am a grade 11 student studying in a CBSE curriculum school, and have opted for physics, chemistry, Maths and biology as my main subjects in 11th. I wish to take up a career in forensic sciences, but am largely unaware of the courses offered both in India and abroad. Also, colleges offering courses in this discipline are few. What are the various branches offered and the colleges offering this course in India and abroad?


Answer

CSI. Bones. Dexter. It seems that nearly every crime show these days involves forensic science, which has led to the increased popularity of forensic sciences among students. However, one has to be cautious about the ‘CSI effect’ and be mindful of the fact that forensics in real life demands a lot of hard work, time and patience and are far removed from the sensational cases and swift closures that one witnesses on television!


You have made a good start by choosing the right subjects in school. A good foundation in the core sciences such as Physics, Chemistry and Biology is essential along with Maths and Computer Science. A career option would be to study forensic science during your undergraduate years and then continue into an area of specialization. Another option would be to do a bachelor’s in a science-based subject such as Chemistry or Biology and then specialize in Forensics at the graduate level. Personally, I would recommend the latter as a broad-based undergraduate curriculum will provide you more options when you graduate, prove to be more beneficial in the long run should you choose to switch streams, and also provide a stronger base for your career.


Roles within this field are plenty and diverse and your career goals would determine the level and type of education you pursue. Some possible roles include Forensic Engineers, Digital Forensic Scientist, Toxicologist, Forensic Odontologist and so on. Each role has its unique requirements; for example, a Forensic Engineer requires an engineering degree whereas majoring in psychology and criminal justice would be best for a job in psychological profiling.


To enhance your job prospects look at internship opportunities by volunteering work in laboratories, hospitals or even with the police department. You will need to possess an inquisitive and analytical mind, a great deal of patience, and a logical and methodical approach.


In India, some of the colleges that offer this course at the Bachelor’s level are Amity University and Osmania University among several others. For specialization in this field, there are many universities that offer this course. In fact, many of the medical colleges in India also offer a postgraduate course in Forensic Science. Some of the prominent names are AIIMS, National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science (NICFS), Banaras Hindu University and University of Delhi.


If you wish to pursue this course in the US, ensure that you enroll at one of the programs featured in the list maintained by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). Some of the top schools for this course are UC Davis, Syracuse University, Michigan State University and Ohio University. Ohio University is known to have the nation’s oldest forensic chemistry program. You may have also heard about the ‘Body Farm’ – the Forensic Anthropology Facility at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville set up for the purpose of studying human decomposition and environmental factors influencing it.


In the UK, the gold standard for good universities would be the accreditation from the Forensic Science Society. Apart from the well-known universities such as UCL, Cambridge and Oxford, the University of Portsmouth and Staffordshire University also offer these programs. Staffordshire University has their own ‘crime scene house’ to provide students an opportunity to investigate simulated crime scenes in a realistic setting.


While choosing a college, it is important to make sure that the college has a strong program in science and also has good laboratory and training facilities. Also, ensure that you are well informed on the latest developments and technologies.


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