Through books on Sherlock Holmes and TV shows like CSI, forensic science is well known around the world. Akshina Mehta scans through the study and career options in India in Forensic Science.
We’ve all heard the story of Amelia Earhart vanishing off the face of the earth mysteriously. Her existence disintegrated into the sky along with her co-pilot and aircraft over 75 years ago while flying over the Pacific Ocean. However, there is a school of thought claiming that she and her co-pilot survived the crash and died as castaways on a desolate island. How did they come to such a conclusion? Well, a team of forensic scientists found a bone fragment on the island of Nikumaroro that could possibly belong to Earhart. By comparing the DNA from the bone to samples from postage stamps that Earhart stuck on envelopes using saliva, forensic scientists attempted to solve one of mankind’s most intriguing mysteries.
What is Forensic Science?
Forensic science essentially entails working back from a crime scene to arrive at a convincing explanation of the crime, including identifying the victim, perpetrator, weapon, etc. Forensic scientists gather samples from the crime scene to help piece together the crime.
Forensic anthropologists are experts in the field of osteology who study bone samples from the crime scene to determine the age, sex, race, etc of the victim. By analysing the bone structure, they can even assist in identifying the murder weapon.
A forensic chemist is a scientist who runs tests on the samples obtained from the crime scene which plays a pivotal role in explaining the crime. They are often required to testify in court to expound their findings.
Forensic Entomology: Forensic entomology is the use of the insects and their arthropod relatives that inhabit decomposing remains to help determine the time of death in homicide cases. These bugs are also indicative of the type of surroundings the victim was kept in and for how long.
Forensic odontologists are specially trained dentists who study bite marks and teeth samples to aid victim or perpetrator identification and help the investigation. They ideally work out of hospitals or clinics and are called in when their expertise is required.
This job entails reproducing the crime scene to jog the memory of some of the witnesses and also to get an understanding of how the crime took place. Reconstruction professionals reconstruct the anatomy of the victim by using computer graphics.
Forensic toxicologists study samples from the victim to detect the presence of toxins, poison or other lethal compounds. From these tests, they can conclusively determine the cause of death in cases of toxaemia and poisoning.
At the undergraduate level, one can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science which is a three-year programme available in private and government institutes. It is also available with Honours in a few institutes in the country. A minimum of 10+2 is required to be eligible for the course. In certain institutes, a minimum 50% grade is required in PCB/PCM to be eligible for admission.
Essentially, the course structure would include an overall study of forensics including subjects on DNA fingerprinting, blood analysis, anthropology and crime scene investigation to name a few.
The top universities in India to pursue forensic science are:
- Amity University (Noida, Uttar Pradesh)
- Dr Hari Singh Gour University (Sagar, Madhya Pradesh)
- Dr Babasahed Ambedkar Marathwada University
- Raja Bahadur Venkat Rama Reddy Women’s College (Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh)
- Teerthanker Mahaveer University (Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh)
It is advisable to pursue a master’s or PhD after a bachelor’s degree. These degrees can allow you to specialise in a particular field of forensic science.
After completing a degree in forensic science, it may be difficult to find a job immediately. It is advisable to work as a trainee or forensic laboratory technician to begin your career if you are unable to find a fulltime job. Some universities that accept graduates for trainee programs are:
- Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science, New Delhi
- University of Lucknow
- Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science, Delhi
- Dr Hari Singh Gour Vishwa Vidyalaya, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh
- University of Delhi
- Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad
Most of the jobs for forensic scientists are in the government sector, particularly in law enforcement agencies such as police, legal system and the investigative services of the central and state governments. To find a job in the public sector, it is important to keep a track of advertisements in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) announcements. A major chunk of trained forensic scientists is hired by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). A forensic scientist can also teach in institutes that impart education in forensic science.
India has a scarcity of forensic scientists. It is a burgeoning field and will take some time to develop. If you are keen on the forensic sciences and intend on pursuing it as a career, keep in mind that it is a promising field, just waiting to bear fruit.