Science is the foundation of the world we live in. The study of the three core subjects of Biology, Physics, and Chemistry allows scientists to understand the different reactions and processes that make things happen and to discover new and exciting ways to advance human knowledge.
Not everyone has an easy time with science and biology, but many others view these subjects as perfectly logical and have no problem understanding the theories behind the practice.
Some of the interesting fields in which you can use the study of biology would be marine biology, wildlife biology, bioengineering and forensics.
Forensic biology takes our knowledge of the human body and uses it to find links between potential criminal or civil suspects and the criminal activity they are thought to be connected to.
In this article, we will discover the ins and outs of forensic biology, why you might be interested in studying it, and which courses you should consider if you want to start a successful career in the field.
What is Forensic Biology all about?
Although not completely accurate, we can see portrayals of forensic biology and the work that is done by scientists in popular TV shows, such as:
- Forensic Files
- Forensic Investigators: Australia's True Crimes
- Law & Order
In these shows you can often see forensic scientists analysing biological evidence from crime scenes, using special equipment and technology to help with the identification of suspects. This is essentially what forensic biology is: The application of biology and its theories to aid law enforcement to solve crimes.
Commonly this involves DNA analysis, but there are many other ways that biologists can help with investigations. From identifying poisons to analysing blades of grass found on a suspects boot.
Here are a few areas in which a forensic scientist can specialise:
- Ballistics - A scientist who works in ballistics will analyse the use of firearms in a situation. This could be recovering a bullet and discovering which type of gun fired it or working out the trajectory of the bullet to discover where it was shot from.
- Finger Prints - Unique human fingerprints left at the scene of a crime or on an object of interest can help scientists with the identification of suspects.
- DNA Analysis - DNA found at scenes of criminal activity can play a key role in the identification of suspects. Blood, hair, and saliva are all examples of biological evidence which can provide DNA samples for scientists to study.
- Odontology - In particular cases involving human remains which can't be identified through other means, forensic scientists can use dental records to confirm a victims identity. Enamel last a lot longer and through tougher circumstances than the rest of the human body, so is sometimes the only evidence left to work with.
- Entomology - Scientists who work in this field are known as forensic pathologists. They mainly perform autopsies to determine the cause of death in victims of a crime or unexplained deaths.
This is just a small number of the specialist fields to do with forensic biology, there are many more that you can discover when you start taking biology lessons and continue to study forensics.
What are the Benefits of Studying Forensic Biology?
It is a good idea to do a bit of research before committing to study a years long degree course at university, just to make sure that you know what you are getting into and what positive outcomes you can expect upon completion of your studies.
That being said, let's take a look at some benefits of studying forensic biology:
- An Interesting Choice of Careers - Upon completion of your studies you are free to start a career in forensic biology that can take you from the laboratory analysing DNA, to working as a crime scene examiner in Australia or an international setting. You could also take your degree to practice in many other fields, like research science, or education.
- Learn New Skills - Throughout your study of forensic biology you shall pick up many useful skills that come with working in a scientific field. Problem-solving skills, knowledge of how to use specialist laboratory equipment, and excellent attention to detail.
- An ever Evolving Career - As a forensic biologist you will be the first to work with cutting edge technology that has been developed specifically to help with the analysis of evidence. The work you do in the laboratory can help other scientists in their research to develop new equipment and processes that you can apply to your future work.
Forensic science promises a stable and well-paying career, as well as a challenging and exciting environment that could see you working in any city in Australia, from Melbourne to Perth.
The results of your work can help to change peoples lives, bringing justice to those in need, and helping bring closure to families.
Taking a Look at Forensic Biology Courses in Australia
If you wish to take your studies of biology to a university level, there are many higher education establishments in Australia that can accommodate your academic goals.
Well regarded universities can be found in every major city of Australia, and many of these offer a course in forensic biology or science that can help you realise your goal of working in forensics professionally.
If we were to list every university that offers academic courses, like a bachelor degree, in forensic science, it would be a very long list.
So here are just a few of the best courses available for Australian and international students who wish to study forensic biology and crime scene investigation:
- Deakin University - Deakin is located in Geelong, Victoria. It is a well-regarded university for technological studies, as well as nursing and forensics. They offer a Bachelor Degree of Forensic Science, a course lasting 3 years that equips you with the skills you need to analyse, interpret, and present evidence from crime scenes, including taking your evidence to court and proving your findings to a jury. You can also undertake an honours year within this degree course, and Deakin also offers a Bachelor of Criminology alongside it.
- University of Technology Sydney - Based in Ultimo, Sydney, UTS offers a Bachelor of Forensic Science to both domestic and international students. Within this course you can choose your major, be it Biology, Chemistry, CSI, or Digital Forensics. Your choice of major may help determine the field of forensics you start a career in, and each offers a variety of positions; Criminalist, Toxicologist, DNA Specialist, Forensic Anthropologist, Trace Evidence Specialist, to name a few. UTS also offers a number of other biological courses, such as a bachelor degree in bioengineering.
- Griffith University - Griffith University can be found in Queensland, with several campuses spread between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Again they offer a 3 year bachelor degree in forensic science in which you can major in either chemistry or molecular biology.
To reiterate, this is just a small sample of the academic institutes that offer courses and degrees in forensic science. Be sure to research available courses thoroughly to ensure that you pick the degree that sounds most appealing and interesting to you, and has a career outcome that you would enjoy.
Forensics isn't the only option when looking to take your love of biology to university, you might consider looking at microbiology as well.
Use the Skills you Learn to Kickstart a Successful Career
Unfortunately, crime is a part of daily life in all parts of the world, including Australia. Because of this, graduate students from forensic science courses are often quick to be employed into stable and well-paying careers.
CSI is one such career that many forensic graduates can choose to work in upon completion of their studies at university, the average wage for Crime Scene Investigators in Australia sits at about $70,000.
However, this isn't the only option available to students of forensic biology. The jobs available in the forensic industry can be split into four categories:
- Field Sciences
- Laboratory Sciences
- Forensic Medicine
- Digital Evidence
Field Sciences includes on the scene evidence analysis, such as CSI, and fingerprint examination, whilst laboratory sciences include DNA analysis, as well as toxicology and analysis of illicit drugs.
Forensic Medicine encompasses pathology, psychiatry, anthropology, odontology, and much more. This involves post mortems to determine causes of death, as well as looking at the mental health of criminals. Forensic anthropologists can analyse human remains to determine things like age, race, and gender, sometimes from just partial bone fragments.
Digital evidence uses forensic procedures to draw information for computers, phones, and hard drives to provide evidence in cases ranging from cyberbullying to international drug gangs or terrorists.
With this in mind, here are a few of the job titles that you could hold one day after you have concluded your studies in forensic science:
- Fingerprint Analyst
- DNA Analyst
- Forensic Investigator
- Forensic Pathologist
- Computer/Digital Evidence Analyst
- CSI Officer
Wherever you decide to take your knowledge in forensic biology, you can be sure that there is a rewarding and exciting career waiting for you.
With transferrable skills, you also have options of moving into other fields of biology if that interests you. Education is another pathway you could take, teaching at a school or university and sharing your wisdom with fresh students.
With so many options of where to take your career, forensic science is clearly an excellent choice of study which will leave you with the knowledge and experience to make a difference in law and order in Australia.
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