Forensic Nexus Q/A Session with a forensic consultant who specializes in DNA profiling and blood pattern analysis

Forensic Nexus would like to introduce you to Ms. Sue Carney of Manchester, UK who is a forensic consultant qualified in the area of DNA profiling and body fluids, including blood pattern analysis. She has a special interest in the forensic investigation of sexual offenses and cold cases. Sue is also a BSI trained auditor and quality systems expert.

Ms. Carney kindly agreed to being interviewed by Forensic Nexus to share her career path. We asked her the following questions:

Where do you work as a forensic scientist?

Until recently (end of March 2011), I worked for The Forensic Science Service (FSS) at their laboratory in Chorley, Lancashire, UK. The FSS employs approximately 1500 people and is the leading forensic provider in the UK.

I worked in the sexual offenses team at Chorley, focusing primarily on the forensic investigation of rape and sexual assault cases. My workday was split between office based and laboratory work.

Following closure of the Chorley lab in March, I have established Ethos Forensics, under which I now operate as a freelance forensic consultant.

 

What is your typical work day like?

Whilst working at the FSS there was no typical day. This was one of the best things about the job! Each day brought a new challenge: An unusual case circumstance, an unexpected test result, court attendance, provision of training and mentoring for junior colleagues, as well as the usual duties which include interpretation of results, statement writing, telephone updates to investigating officers and the like. Timescales were always tight and the biggest challenge was prioritizing the new tasks each new day presented.

I am also a qualified auditor and spent much of my time implementing internal audits of the FSS against its documented quality procedures.

 

What inspired you to pursue this career?

Learning about DNA at school provided my inspiration. I was fascinated by this complex molecule and the elegant system in which it interacts to provide and control complex information within a cell.

I continued my studies of DNA at university and in a post graduate environment, before applying for the FSS fast-track forensic scientist training programme.

 

What is your academic background?

I have a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Genetics and Microbiology (1994) and a Master of Philosophy degree in Biochemistry and Applied Molecular Biology (1997.)

From there I have a little industrial experience, with a focus on training provision, before taking up post with the FSS in 2001.

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Giving training and court attendance. I enjoy any opportunity to explain forensic science in terms that can be understood by the non-scientist. This is vital in a court scenario. Expert testimony should be concise and free from scientific jargon, to enable a jury to understand the significance and the limitations of the forensic evidence, in order to make an informed decision on their verdict.

 

What suggestions do you have for students that are interested in pursuing a career in your profession?

Firstly, hone your communication skills! Both written and verbal communication are absolute essentials for the forensic scientist. Your reports and statements should be accurate both scientifically and grammatically.

Secondly, be very aware of the limitations of your area of expertise. Do not offer an expert opinion in an area of expertise that is not your own.

 

Have we covered all bases? Any further questions come to mind while reading Ms. Carney’s story? Please feel free to submit questions by commenting on this post and we will direct them to Ms. Carney and post her responses.

Forensic Nexus would like to thank Ms. Carney for her participation. She has also agreed to offer mentorship to individuals seeking career advisement.

 

Contact us at info@forensicnexus.com for more information about mentorship.

 

Every Monday we will be spotlighting forensic professionals. To contribute your story, please visit this page

 

Till next week!

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