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17 Things Forensic Scientists Want You To Know

Looking through a bucket of vomit for traces of semen is a thankless task.

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1. Most of a forensic scientist's time is spent in the lab.

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So much evidence, so little time.

2. Or writing reports and doing admin.

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Nobody can escape from paperwork.

3. We don't cut up dead bodies.

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Autopsies are done by the forensic pathologist, who will then write up a report that gets passed to a forensic scientist.

4. We don't spend a ton of time at crime scenes.

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Scenes of crime officers, known as socos, are specially trained police officers who spend their days at crime scenes, looking for any evidence and carefully packing it up.

5. It's all a lot less glamorous than it looks on TV.

There's no point dressing up when you might be elbow-deep in vomit by lunchtime.
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There's no point dressing up when you might be elbow-deep in vomit by lunchtime.

6. And most analyses definitely take longer than an hour to run.

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DNA results can take weeks. But it's OK – there's plenty of other work to be getting on with.

7. It can be pretty gruesome work sometimes.

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Looking through a bucket of vomit for traces of semen is a thankless task.

8. And sometimes it can get very tedious.

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You might spend an entire afternoon "taping" an item of clothing for fibres that you can analyse later, or hunting through a hoover bag for some very specific material.

9. Forensic scientists don't tend to do ALL THE THINGS.

Instagram: @shollyy / Via UC Davis's Forensic Science Program & Forensic Science Student Organization

On TV forensic scientists tend to be masters of all. But in reality people specialise in one area – such as textiles, toxicology, bodily fluids, or ballistics.

10. You need to be a pretty good communicator.

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You have to explain complex science and important conclusions to different groups of people and in written reports.

11. All evidence is sent back to the police after we're done with it.

These used to be held by the forensics provider, but now once a case is over all of the exhibits and anything recovered from them for analysis are returned to the police force.
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These used to be held by the forensics provider, but now once a case is over all of the exhibits and anything recovered from them for analysis are returned to the police force.

12. Despite what TV would have you believe, DNA will not solve every single case.

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Yes, it can be very useful, but it's not the be-all and end-all.

13. We can’t examine a bit of paint and say exactly which car it came from.

14. We can't always say with certainty the exact circumstances leading to a piece of evidence.

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No matter how much we want to be able to.

15. Testifying in court can be extremely nerve-racking.

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It's such a huge responsibility.

16. But it's also pretty exhilarating at the same time.

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It's an honour to be in such a position.

17. And when your work helps someone, it means all that time and effort was worth it.

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It doesn't get better than knowing you could help get to the bottom of a case, or even save an innocent person from jail.

With thanks to Dr Kelly Sheridan, senior lecturer in forensic science at Northumbria University.