Crack the crime
Forensic scientists, sometimes called crime laboratory analysts, provide scientific information and expert opinion to judges, juries, and lawyers. They specialize in a particular area such as criminalistics (which includes DNA testing), engineering, forensic medicine, forensic odontology, forensic anthropology, forensic toxicology, questioned document examination, firearm and tool mark examination, fingerprint examination and so on.
Due to the sharp rise in the incidence of crime and fraud, there is an acute shortage of forensic scientists in the country. Opportunities exist in government organisations such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the CID, the Central Police Organisation (CPO), the crime cells of state police forces as well as in large private detective agencies.
Forensic experts essentially work in forensic labs to establish the link between the criminal and the crime by analyzing the physical evidence (hair, fibre, fingerprints, blood, semen, discharged bullets, etc.) obtained from the scene of the crime. They match voices, examine bullet injuries to determine the trajectory of the bullet, investigate signs of struggle before a victim was killed, conduct experiments with dummies to establish how the crime was committed and carefully reconstruct the scene of the crime to find vital clues.
Contrary to what you see in films, this is not a glamorous field. Instead, there’s a great deal of hard work involved. You may have to make endless appearances in court.
Even law graduates with a science background would find knowledge of forensic science very useful in framing their arguments and countering the opposition. However, autopsies can only be conducted by an MD in forensic medicine. They can also work as teachers in institutes that conduct courses in this subject.
Given that criminal evidence is accepted only from government laboratories in India, this is where the most of the career options in forensic science would lie. One could also join any of the four central forensic laboratories in Delhi, Calcutta, Chandigarh and Hyderabad.
To get a job in government laboratories, a candidate has to enroll in an employment exchange or clear a Public Services Commission exam.
Forensic scientists can also make their mark in law schools or corporate houses. In fact, realizing the value of forensics in security agencies, the National Resource Centre for Forensic Psychology, Gujarat, has been organizing training programmes in forensics for members of the judiciary, police and security personnel.
Apart from the technicalities of crime detection, one of the major lessons of the training is the importance of preserving evidence.
To be sure, in the field of crime investigation, as a forensic scientist you would be far from likely to walk away with the attention that investigating police officers draw. But you could be a very supportive member of the cast.
Educational qualification needed
One can do graduation in forensic science (B.Sc. Forensic Science). To take up a masters course you need to be a graduate preferably with a first division in Physics, chemistry, zoology, botany, biochemistry, microbiology, B.pharm, BDS or applied science. Most forensic science lab positions require at least a Bachelor's degree in physical science. Majors that are required depend on the area in forensic science you wish to go into. According to international standards drug analysts should have a degree heavy in chemistry, while DNA analysts should have an emphasis on molecular biology. The rules also lay down that if you want to work in forensic DNA analysis, you must have coursework in molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry and suggests that courses in statistical analysis would also be helpful.
A list of universities that offer degree in forensic science
- University of Madras, Chennai
In general, to be eligible for an M.Sc. Course in Forensic Sciences in any of the above universities, you should have a bachelor’s degree, preferably with a first division in physics, chemistry, zoology, or botany. You can find out about the details of admission to this course from your local state university. Once you have done the M.Sc. successfully you can even go for a Ph.D. in Forensic Sciences. In your M.Sc. Course you can choose a field of specialization such as forensic ballistics, forensic entomology, forensic botany and so on.