INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS INTERESTED IN THE

FORENSIC SCIENCES

By Dr. Dana Austin, Forensic Anthropologist for the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office and UTA Adjunct Assistant Professor in Anthropology

Students that have a general interest in “anything forensic” have to begin by identifying the area of forensics that they are likely to pursue.  Many get their idea of what forensics is by watching fictional and non-fictional television shows.  The fictional shows present a distorted view that one person can work in multiple fields at the same time.  For example, a “CSI” investigator may do a crime scene technician’s job by processing a scene for evidence, a laboratory technician’s job by analyzing evidence found at a crime scene and a detective’s job by interviewing subjects of interest.

Those interested in law enforcement careers such as crime scene analysis and detective work are encouraged to contact the Criminal Justice Program (http://www.uta.edu/criminology) and review local police hiring websites (e.g., http://www.arlingtonpd.org).

Firstly, anyone interested in pursuing a career in one of the forensic fields must be a person with personal honesty and integrity.  Personal background checks can include drug testing, history of drug use, criminal history, personal associations, polygraph exam, driving record, past work history and credit history.

The educational recommendations and the expected career path are listed in a comprehensive document created by a technical working group for the education and training in forensic science sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij).  The information on education and training in the forensic sciences found on the following site is a must-read resource for anyone considering a career in the forensic sciences:  http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/203099.htm.

The webpage for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, http://www.aafs.org, is full of useful resources and links.  Each of the disciplines covered under the AAFS are outlined and the scope of the work, the education and training required and career opportunities are discussed in a realistic fashion.  The AAFS website also includes job postings which give an idea who is hiring, how much salaries can range, and the education that is required.  Another valuable resource through the AAFS is the Young Forensic Scientists Forum for encouraging emerging young scientists.

http://www.forensicsciencesfoundation.org/career_paths/careers.htm

Note from Suzanne Baldon, Forensic Artist and UTA Lecturer in Anthropology

Forensic art can sometimes be used as an enhancement for a career in law enforcement.  Forensic art is a subdiscipline of the International Association for Identification and career involving identification such as fingerprint examination, photography, and digital evidence examiners are additional subdisciplines.  You can learn about careers using identification techniques:  http://www.THEIAI.org/.

There are many talented and able artists in this group, who work in fields of law enforcement, archaeology, and historical applications using sculpture, computerized reconstruction, and a combination of technologies.  I tell my students that hands-on practices will enable them to perceive concepts that they study.  In “Animals in Translation,” Temple Grandin mentioned that her engineering students practice drafting by hand in order to comprehend the forms with which they work on the computer. 

Bob Powers is with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office in Phoenix, AZ, a wonderful artist, and an officer in the International Association for Identification.  Here is his contact info:  Detective Bob Powers CFA, Forensic Artist/ Homicide Investigator, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, 102 W. Madison St., Phoenix, Az. 85003, (602) 876-4820, email: b_powers@mcso.maricopa.gov

Here is my website where you’ll find several examples of my forensic and fine art:  http://www.baldonart.com

Karen T. Taylor and Betty Pat. Gatliff are my respected teachers and mentors for forensic art.  We use Karen’s book, “Forensic Art and Illustration,” as the textbook for the Forensic Art class I teach in the spring semesters at UTA.  This book is a comprehensive guide for methods of forensic art and contains a chapter by Betty Pat. on the clay reconstruction techniques.  Betty Pat. is a retired medical illustrator with the FFA and Karen has an academic and applied background in fine art.  For many years, she was the forensic artist for the Department of Public Safety in Austin, but is now in private practice:  http://www.karenttaylor.com/Both she and Betty Pat. teach forensic art workshops on a regular basis and have updated schedules posted on this website.

Lois Gibson is another extraordinary artist who was in the 2005 Guiness Book of World Records for number of hits on her forensic art cases.  She works for the Houston, TX, Police Department and her website is http://www.loisgibson.com

Wesley Neville is yet another wonderful forensic artist with a website http://www.forensicartist.com/.  Perhaps these examples will get you started.