A quick A-Z guide
to the forensic specialties
Through the course of
their career the Forensic Psychologist, particularly those involved with criminal
investigations, will cross the paths of several other forensic investigators.
A working knowledge of each of these disciplines is essential to the professional
investigator. Below I have defined a number of the key specialists involved
in criminal investigations.
- Forensic Anthropologists
- The forensic anthropologist examines the victims bones to determine a number
of key facts. Information such as gender, age, looks, previous trauma,
and disease can all be found. The forensic anthropologist is often of
key relevance to the identification of remains. They use a number of
means, including molecular DNA analysis.
- Forensic Artist - the
forensic artist provides an elaborate sketch of the offender. This process
is undertaken via the information from an eyewitness. Many investigators
now use computer programs to develop offender renditions.
- Ballistics Experts -
ballistic experts focus on the functioning of firearms. Via microscopic
analysis they can match up bullets with a particular weapon. They also
provide key information about the projectiles path.
- Forensic Chemists -
the forensic chemist studies the molecular aspects of the crime scene.
They can match fibers, paint, and dyes to particular objects. They will
identify relevant chemicals and particles.
- Dactyloscopy - this
is the scientific analysis of fingerprints. Fingerprint experts have
been involved with law enforcement for almost a hundred years. Recent
advances in dactyloscopy have continued to make fingerprint analysis of key
importance (i.e., new methods pull fingerprints off underwater surfaces, skin,
- Forensic Dentists/Odontologists
- these experts serve a identification function. Via the analysis of
a corpses teeth and previous dental records they can make a positive identification.
They also will analyze bite patterns so that they can identify who was eating
a particular meal or even who bit somebody.
- Forensic Entomologists
- the entomologist studies insects. A number of pieces of key information
can be discovered from this analysis. The rate of body decay via insects
can directly correlate to time of death. The presence of certain insects
can identify previous dump sites, etc.
- Forensic Geologists
- the forensic geologist can determine where a person or object has been by
analyzing soil samples. Soil can be found on a pair of shoes, tire treads,
or a body. They can be matched up with common soil types to predict
quite specifically where the object/person has been.
- Forensic Linguists -
the forensic linguist analyses either the spoken or written word. They
can identify whether a message was presented by the same individual, what
the individuals underlying intent is, the individuals educational and cultural
background, as well as the presence of pathology.
- Forensic Pathologist
- the forensic pathologist analyzes the remains of a body. They attempt
to determine the cause and time of death via autopsy.
- Forensic Photographer
- the crime scene photographer attempts to record every component of the crime
scene via photograph. They depict the scene from multiple angles, using
multi-functional cameras, and through the consistent evaluation of size and
- Forensic Sculptors -
like the forensic artist, the sculptor attempts to create an image of either
an offender or a victim. The sculptor's goal is to create a three dimensional
version of the image.
- Forensic Serologist
- the serologist studies blood and other bodily fluids for identification
purposes. The serologist is often involved in DNA fingerprinting (the
identification of an individual based on body cells).
By Michael W. Decaire