From the Editor: If you have a chemistry degree and are inspired by Sherlock Holmes and wish to be a part of CSI’s adventures, then forensic chemistry is your dream come true! Read on to find about more about this exciting field.
Few processes are more important to society than solving crimes, both to protect the public from criminals and to protect the innocent from unjust punishment. The application of chemistry and its subfield, forensic toxicology, is a highly paid and coveted job. A forensic chemist assists in the identification of unknown materials found at a crime scene and is instrumental in solving mysteries. On an average day, forensic chemists apply knowledge from diverse disciplines such as chemistry, biology, materials science, and genetics to analyze evidence found at crime scenes or in the bodies of crime suspects.
Specialists in this field have a wide array of methods and instruments including high-performance liquid chromatography, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, atomic absorption spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and thin layer chromatography, to help them find the answers. The techniques and instrumentation chosen depend on the type of sample or substance to be examined. A forensic chemist’s skill is of utmost importance due to the destructive nature of some instruments and the number of possible unknown substances that can be found at a scene.
Excellent experimental technique and a strong background in instrumentation and quantitative/qualitative analysis are the main technical skills used in this field. Being detail oriented is crucial for a forensic scientist, since the slightest detail can make a huge difference in the interpretation of a sample. Critical thinking skills and problem solving skills are required to interpret the results of chemical tests and help determine exactly what happened at the crime scene. All these skills are incredibly important, to reach logical conclusions about potential crimes. Successful analysis of evidence plays a crucial role in securing justice for the public.
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