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Forensic Scientists Definition: Forensic comes from the Latin word forensis, meaning public. The modern definition of forensic means to be suitable for the courts. Thus, forensic science is any science used for the purpose of law. What is a Forensic Scientist?

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  • Forensic comes from the Latin word forensis, meaning public. The modern definition of forensic means to be suitable for the courts.
  • Thus, forensic science is any science used for the purpose of law.
what is a forensic scientist
What is a Forensic Scientist?
  • When this scientist applies his/her knowledge to assist juries, judges, and attorneys in criminal and civil cases, he/she is now a forensic scientist.
  • A forensic scientist is first a scientist.
what do forensic scientists do
What do Forensic Scientists do?
  • Forensic scientists perform chemical and physical tests on evidence submitted by police officers to resolve legal issues.
what do forensic scientists do5
What do Forensic Scientists do?

Analyze evidence from the police

Provide testimony in court

Prepare reports describing their results

There are many areas of forensic science and you can specialize in any of them.

early forensic science
Early Forensic Science
  • Can you guess when the first reported use of forensic science occurred?

Somewhere between 287 B.C. and 212 B.C.

early forensic science7
Early Forensic Science
  • How do you prove that a crown is made of gold?
  • In this case, by examining the principles of water displacement and density, Archimedes was able to prove that a crown was not made of gold, (as was claimed).
forensic science
Forensic Science
  • However, forensics is still a relatively new area of science.
  • It was not until the beginning of the 1800’s that hair, blood, and fingerprints were frequently used as evidence to convict someone of a crime.
forensics in the media
Forensics in the Media
  • The books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, used forensic science for his investigative methods.
  • Do you recognize the profile of this man?
forensics in the media10
Forensics in the Media
  • Need a hint?
  • “It’s elementary Dear Watson!”
  • If you guessed Sherlock Holmes, pat yourself on the back!
sherlock holmes
Sherlock Holmes
  • Do you think Sherlock Holmes was a real person?
sherlock holmes12
Sherlock Holmes
  • Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on his professor in medical school, surgeon and forensic detective Joseph Bell.
joseph bell
Joseph Bell
  • Bell taught the importance of close observation in making a diagnosis.
  • He would often pick a stranger and, by observing him, deduce his occupation and recent activities.
  • These skills made him a pioneer in forensic science.
name that show
Name that Show!
  • What is the name of a popular TV show that depicts a glamorized version of 21st Century forensic scientists?

Crime Scene Investigation: CSI

There were other crime scene shows prior to CSI. In the 70’s “Quincy” was another show about a medical examiner –detective.

csi effect
“CSI” Effect
  • The “CSI” effect is where the popularity of forensic based TV shows has raised crime victim’s and jury’s expectations of forensic evidence.
  • Although the technology seen on these shows are used in crime labs, they take much more time and detail in real life.
so you want to be a forensic scientist
So you want to be a Forensic Scientist?


  • A bachelor’s degree-preferably in science
  • Some forensic sciences require advanced degrees
  • Good speaking and note-taking skills
  • Ability to write a science report that a non-science person can understand!
  • Criminalists are the most common form of forensic scientists. They analyze, identify and interpret a broad range of physical evidence.
  • Using chemicals and various instruments, they discover useful information for an investigation or trial.
  • For example, they might find that a bullet was shot from a particular gun, or blood at a crime scene was the suspects.
  • The most important task of a criminalist is to interpret the results of the tests they run to determine the truth.
  • This requires an understanding of human nature, of laws of science, and how they interact.
wildlife forensic scientist
Wildlife Forensic Scientist
  • In wildlife forensics, the major difference is the victim is an animal.
  • These scientists must identify what species the evidence came from to determine if poaching or hunting violations had occurred.
wildlife forensic scientist21
Wildlife Forensic Scientist
  • What types of items do you think they would try to collect and analyze?
wildlife forensic scientist22
Wildlife Forensic Scientist
  • animal skins, blood samples, sea turtle oil, fur coats, feathers, meat products, carved ivory objects, etc.
becoming a criminalist
Becoming A Criminalist
  • A bachelor’s degree is required at a minimum, with a master’s degree preferred.
  • You do not have to major in biology or chemistry, but you do have to take at least 24 hours of math and science.
forensic pathologists
Forensic Pathologists
  • Pathology is the study of disease.
  • Forensic pathologists perform autopsies to determine the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding a person’s death.
  • They investigate not only violent deaths, but also sudden deaths, deaths in police custody, and death during surgery.
forensic pathologists25
Forensic Pathologists
  • They also may visit the scene of the death to discover what happened at the time of death, what the person was doing at the time, and the person’s medical history. 
  • A forensic pathologist collects evidence from the body and sends it to a criminalist to analyze.
forensic pathologists26
Forensic Pathologists
  • Forensic pathology plays an important role in public health and disease prevention.
  • They can recognize when a disease is occurring in an area and discover faulty consumer products that may lead to injury or death.

There is a need for pathologists!! If you can get through med school and you like to work on your own, this field is less competitive to start a career in.

becoming a forensic pathologist
Becoming a Forensic Pathologist
  • Then a pathology residency of 3-4 years is required, and a one year fellowship in forensic pathology.
  • All forensic pathologists are medical doctors. This means they must take four years of college and four years of medical school.
forensic anthropologists
Forensic Anthropologists
  • Forensic anthropologists are called in to identify recovered skeletons and bones and decipher many clues about the person, such as sex, age, and health.
forensic anthropologists29
Forensic Anthropologists
  • Some make facial reproductions, where they model how a face may have appeared when the only evidence is a skull.
  • They can also work with pathologists to determine the cause of death, and by examining insect remains, can determine time elapsed since death.
forensic anthropologists30
Forensic Anthropologists
  • Forensic Anthropologists must have a Ph.D. in anthropology specializing in skeletal biology.
  • What makes forensic anthropologists stand out is they must know about issues affecting contemporary human populations.
forensic anthropologists31
Forensic Anthropologists
  • Can you think of an instance when a forensic anthropologist would have been called in the last few years?
  • Need a hint?

Forensic anthropologists were called in to help identify the remains of loved ones.

Image taken from:

forensic engineers
Forensic Engineers
  • Forensic Engineers use the science of engineering for the purpose of the law, mostly in civil suits but sometimes in criminal cases.
  • Common questions they answer include:
    • How did the fire start?
    • Why did the plane crash?
    • How did this car accident happen?
forensic psychiatrist
Forensic Psychiatrist
  • Forensic Psychiatrists are doctors that perform assessments of mental illness to determine innocence by reason of mental illness.
  • They spend a lot of time with lawyers and judges and are trained to give expert testimony in the courts.
document examiner
Document Examiner
  • Document examiners investigate documents and related material, such as ink, paper, or ribbons from a typewriter.
  • They answer questions such as:
    • Is this a true signature?
    • Are there any additions on this check?
    • Is this document a forgery?
  • Toxicology is the study of harmful effects of chemicals or drugs on living systems.
forensic toxicologists
Forensic Toxicologists
  • Forensic toxicologists answer the question, "Did prescription or illegal drugs and/or alcohol lead or contribute to the person's death or intoxication?"
  • This is accomplished by performing chemistry tests on body fluid and tissue samples and interpreting the findings.
forensic dentists
Forensic Dentists
  • Forensic dentists are called to identify human remains of natural disasters, terrorist activities, and missing/unknown persons.
  • They also analyze bite marks in cases of rape, assault, or homicide, and can compare this evidence to dental evidence from a suspect through digital imaging.
forensic specialists
Forensic Specialists
  • Speech scientist- analyzing voice patterns
  • Artist/sculptor- facial reconstruction
  • Ballistics analyst- wound interpretation
  • Marine scientist- investigation of crimes against the environment
  • Computer analyst- unearth details of crime through computer technology
summing it up
Summing it Up
  • So if you have a love of science and you would like to use it for the good of society and public safety, forensic science could be a career for you!