Within the broader context of crime scene investigation, forensic biologists play the role of collecting and analyzing biological evidence in order to decipher exactly what happened at the scene of the crime, and who was involved (Forensic Biologist, n.d.; Forensic Science, n.d.). Much of the evidence collected by forensic biologists consists of both ecological and biological matter, including but not limited to: dirt, blood, teeth, insects, fingerprints, and saliva (A Simplified Guide To Forensic Science, n.d.; Forensic Biologist, n.d.). These samples undergo extensive laboratory testing, which requires expertise in the proper handling of highly advanced and delicate technologies (Forensic Biologist, n.d.). In addition to participating in heavy amounts of lab work, forensic biologists are also expected to prepare reports of their findings and are sometimes requested to appear in court in order to further discuss these findings (Forensic Biologist, n.d.; Forensic Science, n.d.).
Nearly every strand of hair, semblance of a footprint, and notch in the pavement left at the scene of a crime has the potential to be the critical point of affirmation that changes everything. Because of this, forensic biologists must arrive at the scene ready to collect any number of diverse traces of evidence to add to the forensic casebook. Tools of the trade include blood collection kits, sifting screens, glass vials, forensic light sources, brushes, and cameras (Equipment Needed for Crime Scene Investigation, n.d.). Back at the lab, equipment utilized to examine the evidence includes microscopes, centrifuges, chemical developers, and x-ray fluorescence (A Simplified Guide To Forensic Science, n.d.).
Obviously, most of the aforementioned tools are not mere household items that virtually anyone knows how to use; mastering the tools and techniques utilized regularly in the field of forensic biology requires extensive training. Choosing to pursue a career in forensic biology is as serious and committed a decision as with any other scientific discipline, involving the intensive study of difficult concepts and scientific processes. Those practicing in the field of forensic biology generally have a four-year degree in one or more of the following areas: general biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, forensic science, forensic chemistry, or forensic biology (Forensic Biologist, n.d.; Forensic Science, n.d.). A number of certificate programs are available to those who already have a basic education in science, or are already working in a related field and would like to break into forensic biology specifically (Forensic Science, n.d.). Certificates typically take one year to complete, either concurrently with the pursuit of a bachelor's degree, or in the years following (Forensic Science, n.d.).
Of course, due to primetime television, forensic biology is certainly in vogue these days—one reason why I'm personally interested in the field. People sit back and view a sleek, abridged version of the processes that take place in crime laboratories, and see it simply for its entertainment value (and often its gross-out factor). However, for me, there is a certain appeal to fully understanding these processes in all of their complexity, and possessing the knowledge that allows me to tell my fellow viewers what the people in the lab coats are doing and why.
Another explanation for my personal attraction to forensic biology has a lot to do with my interest in narrative. As an extremely detail-oriented person, I am drawn to the idea that even the most seemingly insignificant components of a crime scene potentially hold the key to an entire investigation. The forensic biologist is the person who comes in and sees what others might fail to see and, furthermore, attributes relevance to minute biological evidence. This reinforces the importance of detail. Possessing a keen eye for detail is of the utmost importance in this profession, just as it is in the process of composing a story. A crime scene is a narrative waiting to be unearthed, and it is incredibly rewarding to have the skills to do so.
A Simplified Guide To Forensic Science. (n.d.). Forensic Science Simplified. Retrieved from http://www.forensicsciencesimplified.org/
Equipment Needed for Crime Scene Investigation. (n.d.). National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/investigations/crime-scene/guides/Pages/equipment-csi.aspx
Forensic Biologist. (n.d.). ExploreHealthCareers.org. Retrieved from http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/Career/128/Forensic_Biologist#Tab=Overview
Forensic Science. (n.d.). forensicscience.org. Retrieved from http://www.forensicscience.org/