A Scientist known as forensic DNA analyst are tasked with gathering biological data as part of a criminal inquiry. Law enforcement may use information from forensic DNA analysts’ DNA analyses to identify a victim or a perpetrator.
DNA, which can be found in hair, blood, tissue, and body fluids, is akin to a person’s unique biological signature. Using a biological sample, forensic DNA analysts can isolate a person’s DNA and compare it to DNA from other samples they have gathered as well as data from a national DNA database to finally identify the DNA sample.
Positioning a suspect at a crime scene is utilized to strengthen the case. It can even be used to find a victim’s DNA on a suspect’s belongings, vehicle, or house. The expertise of a forensic DNA analyzer is frequently essential to a crime scene investigation since the findings are precise, unmistakable, and admissible in court.
DNA analysts are educated experts who analyze DNA samples to support the identification of a person. They frequently do their duties at crime labs where prospective culprits are identified using DNA. They compare the identification of the sample to other recognized DNA samples after testing various DNA samples.
They can give law enforcement a certain identity when a match is made. DNA analyzers may work at hospitals, police stations, privately held forensic labs, forensic crime labs, or forensic crime laboratories. Most DNA analysts are employed by regional governments. DNA analyzers are required to have a formal education and relevant professional experience.
The Job of a Forensic DNA Analyst
In forensic crime labs, forensic DNA analysts perform analyses on samples collected from crime scenes. While some forensic DNA analyzers work for privately owned forensic laboratories, the majority of them are employed by local, state, or federal law enforcement or governmental organizations.
Work as a forensic DNA analyst involves performing a variety of specialized DNA assays, such as fluorescence DNA analysis, PCR amplification, and DNA purification. Forensic DNA analyzers organize and examine DNA evidence using special laboratory techniques and stringent protocols. Since the test results may be used as evidence in court, all findings must be recorded and disclosed.
To support the conclusions of their DNA studies, these experts may also be required to testify in court as experts.
Jobs as a forensic DNA analyst involve:
- Must adhere to all laboratory safety procedures and other norms and regulations.
- Interpret and analyze data
- Determine the issues that can impair test performance and fix them.
- Engage in forensic casework to communicate with investigators
- Implement and follow programs for quality assurance.
- When necessary, testify in court
- Reviewing quality control and safety procedures with peers
The Educational Path for Forensic DNA Analysts
Forensic DNA analysts must have a formal education through a four-year degree in:
- Molecular genetics
- Molecular biology
- Forensic science
Microbiology, biochemistry, immunology, and infectious illnesses are among the topics covered in these programs’ coursework, which places a heavy emphasis on lab work. Candidates for forensic DNA analyst roles must have good written and spoken communication skills since these laboratory experts must be able to discuss their findings and deliver expert testimony in a court of law.
The following are just a few examples of undergraduate degrees someone may choose to pursue employment as a forensic DNA analyst:
- Bachelor of Science in Biology, DNA Analysis Methods
- Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences
- Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
- Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology
Most jobs in this profession need at least two years of full-time experience working with forensic cases, and many firms impose graduate-level education requirements in molecular biology, genetics, statistics, and biochemistry as a requirement for employment.
People who are interested in working as forensic DNA analyzers frequently enroll in the following graduate programs:
- Master of Science in Forensic Science
- Master of Science in Forensic and Conservation Genetics
- Master of Science in Forensic Analysis
- Master of Science in Molecular Biology
- Master of Science in Human and Molecular Genetics
- Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences
- Master of Science in Medical Genetics
- Master of Science in Analytical and Forensic Science
Licensure, Certification, and Continuing Education
Although certification and licensing are not often mandated for DNA analyzers, there are several options accessible to individuals who desire voluntary certification. Credential requirements can differ from one jurisdiction to another. The following organizations offer certification for DNA analysts.
- American Board of Criminalistics (ABC)
- International Association for Identification (IAI)
- American Board of Medico legal Death Investigators (ABMDI)
- American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)
- American Board of Forensic Document Examiners (ABFDE)
- Board of Forensic Document Examiners (BDFE)
- International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences
- American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO)
The aforementioned organizations each provide a range of certificates. The ABC is the organization that certifies DNA analysts the most frequently. They provide certification at the diplomate, fellow, and affiliate levels. The analyst must fulfill the prerequisites and pass the relevant certification examinations to be qualified for these credentials. For instance, a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience in this industry are prerequisites for the diplomate.
DNA analyzers must regularly stay up-to-date on new methods and technology, which necessitates that they go to conferences and pursue continuous education. Most certifications are only good for a few years. The analysts must also finish continuing education requirements to keep certifications.
Whenever body fluid-containing crime scene evidence is discovered, a DNA analyzer is contacted. A DNA analyzer extracts the DNA from the supplied sample using a specific extraction method, then employs chemicals and equipment to determine the fluid’s source. Frequently, DNA samples from suspects are also checked for comparison. Since DNA analysis is used as evidence in court proceedings, thorough documentation about the testing procedure, sample handling, storage, and quality control are required.
Sometimes, DNA experts are called to testify in court regarding the findings and are subjected to cross-examination about probable testing factors by the other side. DNA analysts typically spend the daytime hours in a lab. On rare occasions, they may be asked to assist at a crime scene or work on the weekends and holidays.
Job Duties of DNA Analyst
The majority of an analyst’s time is spent cataloging and examining DNA evidence in a lab. Since the results of the analysis might be used in court to establish the guilt or innocence of suspects, analysts are required to adhere to stringent regulations for the custody of the evidence, testing techniques, and reporting criteria. Every stage of the process, including when the sample was received, the sample’s quality, the tests run, and the test findings, must be recorded and reported. As expert witnesses in court, analysts are frequently called to testify about the results of a particular DNA analysis.
Analysts also carry out routine upkeep and quality control inspections in the lab. They keep up with each piece of equipment, look for deterioration, and order replacements as necessary. Analysts frequently conduct peer evaluations of one other’s findings to ensure that each analysis is carried out correctly. Retesting samples and double-checking the findings reports are two examples of this.
Day in the Life of a DNA Analyst
We have all seen crime dramas on TV when a DNA analyst is doing a test to either confirm or deny paternity, to assist in the investigation of rape or simply to offer evidence in a criminal case. Although it may be a television program for our amusement, it still closely resembles a DNA analyst’s typical workday. The majority of their time is spent in laboratories performing DNA analysis, cataloging, and documentation.
DNA analysts frequently have to appear in court to testify about their findings because numerous DNA tests are used to determine whether a suspect is guilty or innocent. DNA analyzers are required to abide by stringent rules and norms involving testing practices, evidence custody, and reporting requirements because their testimonies are utilized in legal proceedings. The analysts are required to record each step of the process.
- Time of test
- Sample Quality
- Number of samples
- Type of test performed
- Everyone who handled the sample
- Test results
The DNA analyst’s duties also include checking that all testing equipment is operating properly and doing regular maintenance on it. The analyst must order new components or ask for replacement equipment if they get worn or damaged.
DNA analyzers, often known as forensic biologists, play a significant role in the criminal justice system. As soon as a crime is reported, they get to work. Until the DNA analyst arrives to collect all potentially relevant DNA, people are typically instructed not to touch anything at the crime site. They return to their labs with the samples, where they get to work. Different DNA samples, including those from hair follicles, blood, saliva, or other physiological fluids, are recognized by DNA analysts. DNA experts are frequently asked to examine DNA samples to establish paternity.
DNA analyzers perform lab and field work as well as give testimony in courtroom proceedings to judges and juries on the outcomes of their work. DNA analysts often work a standard 9 to 5 shift, however, they can be compelled to work nights or weekends if it will help solve a crime.
In the same category as forensic science technicians, who examine evidence to connect suspects to specific crimes or crime scenes, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes DNA analyzers. The Bureau projects a 17% increase in employment for forensic science technicians from 2016 to 2026. Government officials require additional forensic science specialists, such as DNA analyzers, to aid in crime-solving as the number of crimes rises every year. By the year 2026, there should be an increase in the employment of forensic science technicians of about 2,600. Salary Information for Forensic DNA Examiners
The average yearly wage for biological technologists, as of May 2010, was $39,020, with the top 10% making more than $62,890, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS also said that forensic science technicians earned an average yearly pay of $51,570 during that time, with the top 10 percent earning more than $82,990. Between 2010 and 2010, both professions are anticipated to expand at a pace of roughly 19 percent, which is about average for all occupations.
The average pay for forensic DNA analysts may be better highlighted by looking at recent job advertisements. The following income ranges for forensic DNA analysts are shown in the most recent job listings:
- Private Indiana laboratory: $55,000
- County medical examiner’s office in Pennsylvania: $35,820-$59,880
- County sheriff’s office in Colorado: $81,840
- Public safety department in Utah, city: $41,548–$77,568
- Local criminal laboratory in Louisiana: $53,002
Forensic DNA Analysts’ Resources
Forensic DNA analyzers frequently join trade organizations to:
- Keep up to date with the most recent forensic science and DNA analysis methodologies, techniques, and procedures.
- Encourage the sharing of knowledge on research and new advancements in the field
- Keep up with the most recent legal developments involving DNA analysis.
- Establish a network with other
- Industry experts and pursue formal education and additional training
- Participate in annual events and guest talks.
Through the following organizations, DNA analysts can access a multitude of information and networking opportunities:
- Forensic DNA analysts and administrators association
- Association of Crime Analysts International and
- the American Academy of Forensic Sciences