Planning on pursuing the Forensic Science Certificate at UT? 

Pursuing a career in forensic science or a related field is a big commitment. Not only does it require pursuing a challenging academic path but working in a field where what you do affects the lives of many. Working in forensic science means committing yourself to the pursuit of justice for all. This requires drive, acute attention to detail, an inquisitive and collaborative spirit, compassion and strong communication skills.

What is forensic science?

Forensic science involves the evaluating of physical evidence from a crime scene or space/location related to a crime. This may involve analyzing thinge such as fingerprints, blood, semen, firearms, saliva, drugs, and may involve reconstructing skeletal bones. It may also involve analyzing data on a device such as a computer, camera or cell phone or examining documents or financial accounts. In addition, forensic scientists write reports, preserve evidence, testify in court, and discuss evidence collection with attorneys and law enforcement personnel. (As defined at http://www.criminaljusticeusa.com)

How can I prepare for this field while in high school?

If you want to start getting ready for this career during high school, you can begin by doing the following, as outlined on the College Board career website:

  1. Taking as many math and science courses as possible
  2. Developing public speaking skills by participating in activities such as Debate Team or Drama/Theater
  3. Practice writing detailed notes and keeping an organized notebook and lab books
  4. Visiting or interning at a courthouse and watching legal cases
  5. Developing and honing your writing skills

How Do I Join?

There is no need to apply for the Forensic Science Certificate as part of your admissions application. Once admitted to UT, you can simply inform your academic advisor anytime after New Student Orientation that you wish to pursue the Forensic Science Certificate as part of your academic curriculum at UT Austin. Your academic advisor can then guide you on how to get started. 

Learn more about applying to UT Austin as a College of Natural Sciences student: https://cns.utexas.edu/students/future

Learn about applying to other colleges at UT Austin: http://bealonghorn.utexas.edu

Debunking 5 Myths about working in Forensic Science

Since the popularity of shows like Dexter and CSI and its spinoffs, the interest in the field of Forensic Science has grown by leaps and bounds. Students connect with that CSI agent on television and believe that is what they want to do as a career. However, when viewing these shows on television it can be unclear as to what it would really mean to work in the field and what it takes to get there. With this often comes internalizing certain “myths” about the field of forensic science in terms of what your options are and what working in forensics really entails. Here we debunk five of them from these sites' lists http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com and http://work.chron.com:

Crime Scene Investigators are forensic scientists.

As per http://work.chron.com, these are two different distinct roles within the forensic science field. Forensic scientists usually have an academic science background, while crime scene investigators often start their careers in some branch of law enforcement. Forensic scientists need at least an undergraduate degree in science, with most majoring in biology, chemistry or forensic science. Crime scene investigators, on the other hand, are far less likely to have formal academic credentials. Some have associate degrees in criminal justice, while others start out as uniformed police officers and receive their training at the police academy.

Crime scene investigators primarily collect evidence, spending much of their time visiting and analyzing crime scenes. They tour the entire scene, searching for potential clues and then collecting and documenting all evidence. They also take direction from detectives on the scene regarding what evidence to gather. Forensic scientists work with evidence after it’s been collected. For example, they might test a piece of a suspect’s clothing in search of traces of the victim’s blood.

Crime scene investigators never know what kind of environment they’ll be working in. They may spend one day outdoors in extreme heat, and the next day processing a scene at a public place such as a convenience store. Though they’re based at a police department or crime lab, they spend much of their workday at crime scenes. Forensic scientists work almost exclusively in the laboratory.

 

Forensic Science professionals primarily work on murder cases.

Unlike what you see on television, the majority of cases that a forensics science professional would be working on are deaths related to accidents or natural causes or other crimes, NOT homicides. The percentage of murder cases you work would also depend on the murder rate in the department you are working in.

As a forensic science professional I would get to interrogate suspects and present them with the irrefutable evidence I have after running tests in my lab.

Typically as an individual in working in forensic science, you would not be interrogating suspects, but rather you would provide your findings to the police or lawyers who then interact with the suspects. You would be allowed to present your findings in course via testimony or your reports will be presented as evidence.

Working in Forensic Science would allow me to work in high tech labs and use the latest technology.

Actually most labs are fairly small and do not have all of the equipment they would need to run whatever tests they deem necessary. It will really depend on the level of funding one’s particular department has. Sometimes certain tests have to be sent out to outside departments or labs that do have the appropriate equipment.

Toxicology and DNA testing can render results within minutes or hours.

In actuality it can take days, weeks and sometimes months for results to come back. In addition, there is not always enough evidence to identify or convict a specific suspect so many cases go unsolved or a suspect is found not guilty in a court. Cases sometimes can take years of work before they are resolved.