Forensic Scientists' prime function is to provide
evidence to support criminal investigations.
The major break through in Forensic Science came
20 years ago when scientists started to use DNA (Deoxyribonucleic
Acid) profiling techniques.
This meant Forensic Scientists could provide police
with often conclusive evidence, by matching blood, hair and semen.
The tragic murder of Sarah Payne was eventually solved by police
with the help of Forensic Scientists.
They matched the DNA sequence of a single strand
of Sarah's hair found on a sweatshirt discovered in murderer Roy
In total, 22 fibres that were found on five articles
in Whiting's van were identical to ones found on Sarah's head and
More recently advances in DNA technology have led
to crime being solved by matching DNA in human faeces.
A man in Birmingham who killed a 66-year-old women
was caught after Forensic scientists used DNA technology to identify
him from excrement that was left at the scene by the murderer in
Alan Braithwaite, one of the lecturers working
on the new Forensic Science course at The Nottingham Trent University,
and a former Forensic Scientist is probably best placed to answer
basic forensic questions.
He first started as a Forensic Scientist in Nottingham
in the 1960s. He is now the head of analytical and environmental
chemistry at Nottingham Trent University.
Braithwaite, Forensic Science lecturer
first attracted you to Forensic Science?
I was first attracted because I was able to develop analytical
techniques. The importance of analytical techniques has become
increasingly important. When I became first involved in Forensic
Science in the 60’s it was a real challenge.
realistic are television crime drama’s like Cracker and CSI?
The programmes you see on television are glossed over in
terms of reality and detail, because they are entertainment.
I don’t watch them, I find them a bit dull. Forensic science
is 90% routine sampling and 5-10% helping to solve crime by
analysing circumstantial evidence, but it is the 5-10% that
makes it worthwhile.
process’s do you go through in order to help police solve a
There is a specific process which Forensic Scientists and the
police have to follow, first and foremost, samples must be taken
from the scene of the crime and it is important that these aren’t
contaminated. We often refer to the ‘Locard’ rule. He used to
say ‘every contact leaves a trace.’ For example if someone has
broken in through a window in a burglary we would look for prints
on paint and wood particles as well as shoe prints and blood.
It is then a case of taking a series of samples and trying to
match them to circumstantial evidence, using analytical instrumentation.
average how many people become involved on the forensic side
of cracking crime?
It’s a team game. The relationship between the scenes of crime
officers and the Forensic Scientists is very important as they
work very closely. There is usually an overseeing officer with
a team of specialists working below them. For example, Forensic
Scientists who specialise in explosives, drugs, fibres or metrology.
you ever helped solve a crime?
I have assisted in doing so. I have been involved in murder
cases and provided evidence for certain cases, as well as GBH
cases, and road traffic accidents, but it was a long time ago.
Need 'A' level science i.e. chemistry etc. 2:1 degree in Science
is usually standard.
Starting salary for a graduate is around 20k with top positions
Very flexible, depends on cases and when they arise. Certainly
isn’t a 9-5 job.
Forensic Scientists can branch out into various fields, including
Management, Marketing, working for local authorities and teaching.
Is being a forensic scientist as
easy as it appears on TV?