In our last NYSF Connect Webinar of the year, Beyond Clinical Medicine, we were inundated with participant questions. While we were unable to answer the question below due to time restraints, Dr Alana Phillips kindly sent through a response.
Alana, would you mind going into your forensic biologist background a little more? I’m considering it as a potential future career due to its mix of medicine and law!
It has been many years since I practised as a forensic biologist. It was the first job that I had following the completion of my PhD (keeping in mind that none of my degrees – undergraduate or postgraduate – were specific to forensic biology. I believe there are now specific courses for forensic biology that you can undertake that will potentially give you an advantage).
As a forensic biologist, I was a member of a team of scientists responsible for examining, screening, and assessing evidence for DNA profiling analysis and entry onto the Australian and State DNA databases.
My main responsibilities included:
- Screening items for the presence of body fluids (blood, saliva, trace evidence)
- Assessing the suitability of hairs for nuclear DNA testing
- Interpreting DNA profiles
- Uploading DNA profiles onto forensic databases
- Liaison between the laboratory and law enforcement and legal authorities
- This role did not include collecting the evidence from crime scenes (that was done by the police who delivered the evidence to the laboratory).
For the more experienced forensic biologists, the role also included going to court to present evidence. The training for this was more on-the-job training, as opposed to related to a specific degree.
It depends on the role of the forensic biologist and the state and territory in which they work as to what the specifics of the job are. For example, in Melbourne, some of the forensic biologists go to the crime scene to collect the evidence, bring it back to the lab and analyse it. However, I am uncertain as to how the role has evolved over the years since I have worked in this space.
I hope this helps and provides you with some insight.
Dr Alana Phillips