Like some of the bones that are its raison d'être, forensic science has a great deal of history. The science had its beginnings in the 8th century, when the Chinese used fingerprints to establish the identity of documents and clay sculptures. In the last century, however, the role of the forensic scientist in the judicial system has become increasingly important, particularly since a number of scientific methods—including DNA typing—have gained international recognition for their evidentiary value.

As a result, forensics has broadened to include specialists who started out in many different scientific backgrounds. They work in academic, private, or government laboratories where they contribute valuable information in assessing the remains of humans, whether for legal or humanitarian reasons. And because they often play high-profile roles in the criminal justice system, forensic scientists arm themselves with the most modern analytical techniques and instrumentation available.

What is not as widely appreciated, perhaps, is that forensic science also plays a significant role in wildlife protection. Whether it's stopping poaching and illegal trade in body parts from endangered species, identifying perpetrators of out-of-season hunting, or tracking the movement of migratory animals, forensic science is coming to the rescue of wildlife around the globe.

The qualifications you'll need for jobs in forensic science vary from a bachelor's degree in a natural science, such as chemistry, biology, geology, or physics, for entry-level forensic technician positions, to the master's or Ph.D. level for more senior laboratory and expert witness positions. Given the huge backlog of DNA evidence that has accumulated and is increasing by the day in the United States and elsewhere, the biggest demand for forensic scientists in the coming years is likely to be in DNA typing. However, the market exists for new graduates even in more traditional forensic science fields. Recent examples include the appeal for dozens of forensic science students to assist in the case involving the missing women in British Columbia, as well as the Chandra Levy case in the United States. This month's feature reflects the disciplinary diversity of forensic scientists, as well as their varied job responsibilities and educational backgrounds. It demonstrates, we hope, what a truly versatile bunch forensic scientists ar

Like some of the bones that are its raison d'être, forensic science has a great deal of history. The science had its beginnings in the 8th century, when the Chinese used fingerprints to establish the identity of documents and clay sculptures. In the last century, however, the role of the forensic scientist in the judicial system has become increasingly important, particularly since a number of scientific methods—including DNA typing—have gained international recognition for their evidentiary value.

As a result, forensics has broadened to include specialists who started out in many different scientific backgrounds. They work in academic, private, or government laboratories where they contribute valuable information in assessing the remains of humans, whether for legal or humanitarian reasons. And because they often play high-profile roles in the criminal justice system, forensic scientists arm themselves with the most modern analytical techniques and instrumentation available.

What is not as widely appreciated, perhaps, is that forensic science also plays a significant role in wildlife protection. Whether it's stopping poaching and illegal trade in body parts from endangered species, identifying perpetrators of out-of-season hunting, or tracking the movement of migratory animals, forensic science is coming to the rescue of wildlife around the globe.

The qualifications you'll need for jobs in forensic science vary from a bachelor's degree in a natural science, such as chemistry, biology, geology, or physics, for entry-level forensic technician positions, to the master's or Ph.D. level for more senior laboratory and expert witness positions. Given the huge backlog of DNA evidence that has accumulated and is increasing by the day in the United States and elsewhere, the biggest demand for forensic scientists in the coming years is likely to be in DNA typing. However, the market exists for new graduates even in more traditional forensic science fields. Recent examples include the appeal for dozens of forensic science students to assist in the case involving the missing women in British Columbia, as well as the Chandra Levy case in the United States. This month's feature reflects the disciplinary diversity of forensic scientists, as well as their varied job responsibilities and educational backgrounds. It demonstrates, we hope, what a truly versatile bunch forensic scientists are.

Forensic Anthropology

Heather Walsh-Haney, a graduate student at the University of Florida, describes what forensic anthropologists do as well as the skills you'd need to acquire to become an expert in the field.
Our UK editor, Elisabeth Pain, interviews Corinne Duhig, a freelance forensic anthropologist/archaeologist living and working in Cambridge.
In her second essay for this feature, Walsh-Haney provides a candid account of her own path toward an academic career in forensic anthropology.
As Director of the International Forensics Program for the non-profit association Physicians for Human Rights, Bill Haglund's mission is to document crimes against humanity, writes our CDC editor Jim Austin.

Forensic DNA Typing

After 6 months of temping and applying for a variety of jobs, writes Chloe Sellwood, Phillip Cheasley found that a job with the DNA Unit of the Forensic Science Service in London was just too interesting to resist, even if he was overqualified.

Forensics Education and Training

Zeno Geradts gives first hand career advice for young researchers interested in moving into forensics. Zeno graduated in Physics, receiving his PhD for research on optical pattern recognition only in mid June.
The University of Alabama's Master of Science in Forensic Sciences, write Ray Liu and Jason Linville, is a multidisciplinary program designed to prepare individuals for work in various forensic science and conventional analytical laboratories.

Ray Harris, director of Prince George's Community College in Maryland, discusses PGCC's comprehensive Forensic Science Program.
John Mathis, a graduate student at Ohio University, discusses his training in the field of forensic science.

Forensic Toxicology

After completing two successful postdoctoral fellowships in the field of neuroscience, Marc Pelletier discusses how his research career recently morphed into that of a forensic toxicologist.

Nuclear Forensics

Finland's Maria Wallenius has just completed her Ph.D. thesis at the Joint Research Centre's Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Wildlife Forensics

Carole Foy, a contract scientist whose speciality is DNA-based technologies, writes about a 1-year assignment building wildlife forensics databases for the Laboratory of the Government Chemist.
Lindsey Carmichael, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta, has long had a general interest in forensic science. But it is the application of DNA fingerprinting to her research in population structure and gene flow in arctic canids that intrigues her the most.
According to forensic geneticist Paul Wilson, the Wildlife Forensics DNA Laboratory at Trent University is one of the longest running wildlife forensics labs in Canada. In addition to producing DNA evidence used in wildlife infraction cases, the lab is also involved in conducting molecular genetics research for wildlife management and conservation.

Forensic Phonetics

After moving around a bit, Germany's Florian Glitza has settled on a job that combines his interests in language, law, and science.

Forensics Funding and Policy

GrantsNet guru Katie Cottingham reviews the funding situation for forensics research in the United States.
Gerard van der Peijl gives an overview of the current situation and trends in forensic science in the Netherlands focusing especially research and employment tendencies for young researchers.

Resources

If our feature articles weren't enough to whet your appetite for information on forensics careers, then try the extensive list of Web resources that the Next Wave Staff has compiled.