Gathering and understanding evidence at crime scenes or during investigations is a vital component of the criminal and civil justice systems. A forensic scientist helps make sense of evidence that is collected and applies that knowledge to individual cases. The stakes of such important work are high, so it is important that forensic scientists have certain characteristics to do their jobs properly.
They Must Keep Their Composure
Crime scenes can be grisly. Even if the forensic scientist is not directly dealing with a crime scene investigation, there might still be gruesome evidence to analyze, and the mere knowledge of the crimes being perpetrated can be stressful. No matter the circumstances, a forensic scientist must maintain composure at all times. An important characteristic of a forensic scientist is the ability to remain rational, calm and professional under high-stress, high-pressure and potentially disturbing conditions.
They Must be Good Communicators
Forensic scientists work with police officers, lawyers, judges and other personnel in the justice system. Part of their job is distilling forensic findings into reports their colleagues can understand and use. Forensic scientists are often called to give court testimonials as expert witnesses, so they must also be able to represent the evidence to juries in a clear, understandable manner. It is so important, in fact, that new forensic scientists called to give testimony often participate in mock court settings to practice relaying their scientific findings in layman's terms.
They Need Analytical Minds
Like all scientists, forensic scientists should have a natural curiosity about their work. This helps them stay engaged with their work, and plays into other traits needed for success: analysis and precision. Forensic scientists manage a lot of seemingly unrelated data and must pull all the information together into a scenario that makes sense and, most importantly, is accurate. This is not a position where mistakes are taken lightly, and forensic scientists bear the responsibility for their findings. They must analyze all evidence carefully and be sure every detail has been attended to before presenting their findings.
They Need Personal Integrity
As members of the legal system, forensic scientists follow a chain of hierarchy in terms of who sees their findings and ultimately acts upon them. Contamination of evidence can alter the course of an entire investigation, so it is vital that forensic scientists follow strict procedures on who receives their reports and with whom they discuss their findings. The handling of the evidence itself is also crucial. The forensic scientist must present an honest, objective analysis of the evidence. Scientists who would manipulate data, skew results or introduce false evidence might find themselves not only jobless, but facing criminal charges themselves.
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