Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I am an identical twin!
Tell us about your career journey so far.
I always knew I wanted to work in forensics but that it was a very competitive field to obtain a job in. On completing my Forensic Science undergraduate degree in Dundee, I contacted every forensic company I could find in the UK about a job!
I finally got offered a job as a Casework Administrator at one of the largest forensic service providers in the UK and even though this wasn’t the exact role I was looking for, I knew it could open a lot of doors, so I accepted and moved from Aberdeenshire to Oxford.
After a year, I successfully obtained a job as a Forensic Examiner at the company and gained experience in blood pattern analysis. I then wanted to return to Scotland which resulted in moving from being a practitioner to an educator in forensic science which allows me to share my passion with the next generation of forensic scientists!
What was your favourite subject in school and why?
I really enjoyed biology at school as I loved being in the laboratory carrying out experiments, understanding reactions and how things in nature worked.
My biology teacher was very creative and made up songs to remember processes like photosynthesis which I loved! I also really liked psychology, especially the aspect of problem solving and discussions with my classmates on the outcomes of psychology experiments.
What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?
For any role in forensic science the main skills that are essential are attention to detail and problem-solving skills as during a forensic examination you are required to find tiny amounts of evidence or evaluate what a forensic result means in an objective way.
Chemistry and / or biology are key subjects needed for a job in this field as these are the basis for most concepts in forensic science.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
My favourite thing about my job is the fact I get to share my passion of forensic science with the next generation of forensic scientists.
I love being in the laboratory or the classroom teaching students about my favourite areas of forensic science such as crime scene investigation or blood pattern analysis and see them get just as excited about it as me! It is very rewarding watching my students develop the skills and understanding required for a future in forensic science.
What is a normal day in your role like?
As a forensic examiner, a normal day involved examining items in the laboratory for blood or other types of evidence, taking notes on my findings and doing relevant diagrams to illustrate what I had found. This would involve following procedures and using equipment such as a microscope to examine the item and find all the possible evidence present. I examined all sorts of items, from pieces of clothing to weapons and even things like a wheely bin!
Now I get to teach these skills in my current role, so if I am not in the laboratory or classroom teaching the key concepts of forensic biology, I am working on developing lecture and practical materials to ensure my students understand how to be an effective forensic scientist. As a teacher I have to mark assignments and exams and I also get to supervise research projects every year which aim to support current forensic practice and develop new techniques and ideas in the industry.
And what does your job title mean?
As a Teaching Associate I am part of the teaching team within the Centre of Forensic Science at the University of Strathclyde. My role is very similar to that of a lecturer in that I deliver lectures and practical sessions to Masters level students in my areas of expertise of forensic science.
I have the added benefit of being a forensic practitioner which means I can use my knowledge and experience of working for a forensic service provider to create reflective and accurate content for the course.
Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?
Most of forensic science is about searching for and examining evidence and then interpreting it to see what it can tell us. You could have a look at your own fingerprints by dipping your finger in some paint or an ink pad and pressing down on to a piece of paper to see the different fingerprint patterns you have and the different characteristics.
Or you could develop invisible fingerprints by creating a cool chemical reaction using superglue and this technique is used by all forensic service providers to find fingerprints on things like drinks cans or credit cards.