Mark Williford kindly agreed to being interviewed by Forensic Nexus to share his career path. We asked him the following questions:
Where do you work as a Forensic Scientist?
I am not a scientist but an examiner with the Firearms Identification Unit for the City of Philadelphia. I’ve been assigned to the Crime Laboratory currently called the Forensic Science Bureau since 1996.
What is your typical work day like?
My typical day consist of inventorying, examining and analyzing ballistics evidence related to crimes involving firearms in the City of Philadelphia. The crimes investigated are generally inconjunction with aggravated assaults, homicides and police shootings which have been broadcast on local news or cases where a crime or incident is suspicious (suicide(s), accidental discharges, etc..). At some point in examining evidence, where fired cartridge casings or bullet specimens have been recovered and submitted for analysis, I am required to examine the evidence on a comparison microscope to ascertain relationship(s) between the firearm and the evidence.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
My true desire in life as a young man was actually to become a lawyer. Due to financial issues that prevented me from attending college, I subsequently pursued a career in law enforcement which allowed me to fulfill my desire by other means. During my tenure as a Police Officer, I was able to work in the elite Crime Scene Unit and Firearms Identification Unit, where through education, training and practice, I became qualified as an expert in both of the forensic disciplines.
What is your academic background?
My academic background is quite basic based on my professional achievements. I attended Girard College where I graduated with a general education diploma. I have attended several local community colleges where I obtained continued education credits and certifications. I have traveled to Quantico VA, where I was chosen to participate in training with the FBI.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job is the ability to help the silent speak. My job is very important in the aspect of determining guilt or innocence. There is a certain charge bestowed all scientist, examiners and investigators, to gather facts and allow the evidence to speak truths about an incident. At the end of the day, when a case is completed the ironic nature of my job is that it all starts over again with a new case. I enjoy teaching and mentoring students and those who are intrigued by the CSI effect and all those variables attached to the nostalgia of what I do.
What suggestions do you have for students that are interested in pursuing a career in your profession?
I would suggest to any person interested in pursuing a career in forensics is to get involved by educating yourself about what is forensic science. There are so many disciplines under the umbrella of forensics, but you have to find your niche. I would suggest finding a mentor, professional and or an organization that can help you explore your ideas and assist you in building a career in this field.
Have we covered all bases? Any further questions come to mind while reading Mr. Williford’s story? Please feel free to submit questions by commenting on this post and we will direct them to Mr. Williford and post his responses.
Forensic Nexus would like to thank Mr. Williford for his participation. He has also agreed to offer mentorship to individuals seeking career advisement.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about mentorship.
Every Monday we will be spotlighting forensic professionals. To contribute your story, please visit this link.
Till next week!