A Glimpse into Forensics: How can biology help us catch crime?

Crime scenes, murder weapons, fingerprints: the world of forensic science is not unbeknownst to the world, with many references to this field being made through media and publicity. But, what do forensic scientists actually do, and how does human biology allow them to do it? This is a key question that many members of the general public will be unable to answer, and to resolve this issue, it is important to understand: What is forensic science?

Forensic science is a field of data science that involves utilising key pieces of physical evidence from crime scenes in order to identify possible suspects in a crime investigation. Some pieces of evidence that are typically used by forensic scientists involve strands of hair, drops of blood, footprints and even fingerprints. DNA is then extracted from all viable pieces of evidence, and then processed so that they can be stained, viewed and processed to identify people who were present at the crime scene, and further aid the police investigation.

DNA is very important in the forensic field. It is essentially the genetic code that makes up a person’s physical characteristics, known as phenotypes. Forensic scientists carry out a process known as DNA fingerprinting with the evidence that they collect. To begin,the DNA is extracted from the evidence, and combined with proteins known as restriction enzymes, which cut the DNA into smaller segments so that they can be easily processed. The DNA segments are then sorted and stained with a bromide dye, and this is then exposed to x-ray light. This exposure process will leave a bar code like sample of DNA, that can be compared with the known DNA samples of potential suspects in the investigation, helping to identify the owners of particular pieces of evidence – this will eventually be used by the police to identify the criminal.

While forensics may not seem very important at first glance, it is important to note that scientists play a major part in the law enforcement process. Without forensic science and their use of DNA fingerprinting, police officers would not be able to narrow down their list of suspects. The mapping of DNA samples to specific people involved in the investigation is extremely important so that the police has a clearer, more visual idea of what happened at a particular crime scene, and the discovery of important things such as traces of foreign substances within blood samples helps to progress the case greatly

Overall, forensic science is an understated role, and teaches us all an important lesson – that science can be used in many different ways, and it is of paramount importance that we realise the vast role it plays in helping us in our daily lives.

Twisha Sai Ravuri

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