It’s an investigation thriller. The hero is examining the crime scene. You’re desperately waiting for that nail-biting twist. Suddenly, someone wearing a white coat enters the scene. He takes out a lens from his bag and examines each corner of the room. Yes, he found something. He takes out another piece of equipment from his bag and picks up something from the floor. The camera zooms in. It’s a strand of hair. He carefully puts it inside a cover and keeps it in his bag.
You must be wondering who the guy in the white coat is. He is surely someone of great authority. How else can he get inside a crime scene just like that? Let me clear all those doubts.
That guy must be a forensic expert. Someone who collects, analyzes, preserves and interprets evidence related to an investigation with the use of science and technology. Yes, someone who works with the cops. How does that sound? If that excites you, I can tell you more about them.
What is forensic science?
“Forensic science is the application of natural sciences to matters of the law. In practice, forensic science draws upon physics, chemistry, biology, and other scientific principles and methods. Forensic science is concerned with the recognition, identification, individualization, and evaluation of physical evidence. Forensic scientists present their findings as expert witnesses in the court of law.”
-Midwest Forensics Resource Center, the U.S. Dept. of Energy
Forensic science is the study of scientific methods and technology used to collect and analyze evidence during a criminal investigation or a judicial proceeding. This academic field applies natural sciences to matters related to law. It is a multidisciplinary field that combines knowledge from various academic disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, engineering, etc to come up with tools and techniques that can be used to collect evidence during an investigation.
Forensic science in India: Who is a forensic scientist?
Now, let us talk about those guys in the white coat. As you already know, they are forensic experts/scientists. A forensic scientist is a practitioner of forensic science. He or she is actually a scientist who works in the field of criminology to help the law enforcers, investigation agencies or the judiciary to understand and analyze scientific evidence.
They play a major role during the investigation and judicial proceedings. Forensic scientists collect and analyze scientific evidence that can be used during a criminal investigation or judicial procedure. They visit crime scenes, extracts evidence such as fingerprints or other material evidence. Some of them work inside a laboratory and analyses the evidence using scientific tests and chemicals.
If you have a few hours to surf the web, I would recommend you to look at a few cases where forensic scientists made a major impact during the court proceedings. Examples are the best way to explain what they do. And I’m sure you’ll find plenty of them.
Forensic science in India: specializations
There are plenty of things forensic scientists do. But can one person do everything? Maybe. But in most cases, forensic scientists specialize in different things. Some roam around with law enforcers, some stay inside the laboratory, some collect evidence, some analyses them. So, I believe it is important to talk about a few of the major specializations available in forensic science.
Crime scene investigation
How about getting to examine a crime scene, collecting evidence from there and analyzing it? Crime scene investigation is the specialization that will let you do that. This involves the collection of evidence, preservation of evidence, interpretation, etc. Forensic scientists who are specialized in crime scene investigation will usually work with law enforcement agencies.
Forensic laboratory analysis
This specialization is all about learning how to analyze the material evidence related to a crime. The students who take up this specialization will learn about the chemicals and equipment used in a laboratory setting to analyze or interpret the evidence. And it’s obvious where they spend most of their time. In a forensic laboratory.
If you don’t mind a mix up of psychology and forensic science, forensic psychology is an interesting specialization available in this field. It deals with the interaction between human behavior, the legal system, and criminology. Forensic psychologists examine the accused or witnesses to determine if they are mentally fit to appear for the trial.
Forensic archeology and anthropology
Ever heard of cases where a cremated human body is dug up to be examined again? This has more to do with forensic archeology or anthropology. Forensic anthropologists identify and examine human remains, usually in medical or legal situations. They employ archaeological methods to assist in the excavation of human remains and trace the genealogy.
Wildlife forensic specialist
Till now, we spoke about the experts who deal with humans and human bodies. What about animals then? Wildlife forensic specialists deal with the collection of evidence and its interpretation in cases of crimes related to animals. Such crimes can range from poaching to animal trafficking.
Forensic toxicologists identify and analyze illegal drugs and other poisonous substances. They study the toxicity level of such substances and also their impact on the normal functioning of the human body.
Someone has died. The police suspect an unnatural death. Then, the next step is to send the body for postmortem. A forensic scientist who specializes in pathology does this and determines the time, cause and manner of death.
It is actually a branch of dentistry. Those who take up this route are called Forensic odontologists and they collect and analyze dental evidence to track DNA related information.
Forensic serologists study blood serum or other body fluids that are considered as evidence of a crime. Through the use of various tests and equipment, they identify the blood group or do DNA fingerprinting to provide a breakthrough to the case.
How to become a forensic scientist?
Now, let’s look at the academic pathway to become a forensic scientist. The first step lies at the HSE level. As forensic scientists mostly deal with science and technology, you need to take up science stream for your HSE. Getting out of there with an impressive academic record will help you with admissions for further studies.
Undergraduate program/ BSc forensic science in India
The next step is obviously your undergraduate program. Enrolling for forensic science programs is always the best choice. But unfortunately, the number of colleges that offer BSc forensic science programs in India is only a handful. Few of the institutions that offer BSc forensic science programs are Indira Gandhi Institute Of Medical Sciences, Patna, Manipal University, Manipal, University Of Technology, Jaipur, etc.
There is nothing to worry about. You can proceed with any BSc degree and later take up forensic science courses for your postgraduate or diploma programs. Of course, many reputed colleges abroad offer BSc programs. Give it a try if you can afford that. Some of the reputed foreign universities that offer BSc forensic science courses are the University of Canterbury, London Metropolitan University, De Montfort University, etc.
BSc forensic science in India
BSc forensic science is a 3-year undergraduate program in India. The admission to BSc forensic science programs in most universities is based on your HSE academic scores. Some universities might even conduct national level entrance tests for admission. The admission requirements in most foreign institutions will be a bit tougher. You will have to meet all the requirements prescribed by the particular university or the country. Check the official websites of those universities to get more details about the course and admission requirements.
The subjects covered during the program are Inorganic Chemistry, Basic Physics, Introduction to Forensic Science & Criminalities, Fundamentals of Biology, Law for Forensic Scientists, Instrumentation & Investigation Techniques, Fundamentals of Math & Statistics, Fundamentals of Computer Science, Environmental Studies, etc.
If your intention is to learn forensic science than make a career out of it, many institutions offer one-year diploma programs in forensic science. This will help you gain a basic understanding of the subject. But if you are to go deeper into the subject, doing BSc or MSc programs in forensic science will become necessary.
Postgraduate Diploma/ MSc forensic science in India
Let’s say you’re done with your BSc program. You can either go for an MSc program or a post-graduate diploma program in forensic science. Let’s start with MSc forensic science. It is a two-year program spread across 4 semesters. The course intends to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to practice as forensic scientists.
Unlike BSc forensic science, MSc program allows you to choose your specialization. The syllabus covers subjects such as Police and Crime Investigative Agencies, Fundamentals of Fingerprint Examination, General Forensic Tools and Techniques, Fundamentals of Questioned Document Examination, Crime Scene Investigation, Fundamentals of Forensic Ballistics, Forensic Criminology and Law, etc. The minimum eligibility requirement to apply for the course is to have a bachelors degree in science stream. The admissions are mostly based on your past academic records. A few reputed universities conduct national level entrance tests for admissions to the course.
Where to study Msc Forensic science in India?
If you decide to enroll in BSc or MSc Forensic science, it is important that you choose the best institution. When you come out of your college and start seeking a job, the reputation of your institution plays a significant part.
Since forensic science is a highly specialized course, not every institution can provide you the necessary resources. So, students put in more effort to find the right place to study. If you are looking for the best places to study, then some of the leading institutions for MSc Forensic science in India are the following.
- Gujarat Forensic Sciences University, Gandhi Nagar
- Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
- Manipal University, Manipal
- Osmania University, Hyderabad
- Government Institute Of Forensic Science, Aurangabad
- Amity University, Gurgaon
Scope of forensic science in India
The evolution of forensic science as an academic field has made a major impact on crime and attempts to deal with it. The stream is really vast and the program can open up a pool of opportunities. You can get hired by both government and private institutions. Forensic scientists usually work in research institutions, crime investigation, forensic consultancy, government institutions, private forensic labs, law enforcement agencies, investigation agencies, judicial institutions, etc. This profession is usually well paid and presents a lot of scope for growth.
Forensic science is all about using science and technology to deal with crime and investigation of crime. It is an evolving academic field that offers plenty of opportunities for skilled professionals. A forensic scientist usually works closely with the law enforcement agency and the judicial system in collecting evidence and solving cases. One can become a forensic scientist by taking up BSc or MSc in forensic science. We hope the illustrated analysis has powered up your insights and widened your perspectives about forensic science in India. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions.