Forensic investigation uses science to examine evidence and solve crimes. Members of the forensic team use different scientific disciplines to develop different kinds of evidence to present in court. Determining who committed a crime is a team effort between investigators and scientists. Together, they work to reveal the whole story of the crime, who committed it, how they did it, when, where, and why the crime was committed.
Pathology is a branch of medicine that determines the nature and course of a disease by analyzing body tissues and fluids. Anatomic pathologists perform autopsies and analyze tissue material taken from patients. Clinical pathologists diagnose disease by measure chemicals and cells in blood, bone marrow, urine, and other bodily materials.
The medical examiner is usually the first forensic specialist to investigate a crime. The ME decides on the need for an autopsy, and investigates all deaths from violence, accidents, suicides, or suspicious circumstances. The medical examiner is a pathologist.
Pharmacology is a branch of science that studies the interaction of chemical substances and living tissues.
The pharmacologist studies how chemicals are absorbed by the body, how they affect the body, where they act within the body, and how they are metabolized and excreted.
Toxicology is the science of poisons, how they act on the living body, and how they are detected postmortem.
The toxicologist often works with the pharmacologist to find and examine poisonous substances or drugs in bodily fluids and tissues. The toxicologist is also a chemist, and the two disciplines often work together on the Forensics Team as the Chemistry/Toxicology Unit or Chem/Tox.
Serology is the study of bodily fluids in humans and animals.
In the 1970’s, identified elements in blood and body secretions that allowed them to match a sample found at a crime scene to a small number of people. Later, scientists developed a way to extract DNA from human cells and link it to a specific person.
A Forensic Psychiatrist or Psychologist compiles information about a case into a description of a possible suspect.
This psychological profile, or offender profile, predicts the suspect’s race, religion, ethnic background, family, education, and motivation for committing the crime.