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Current Trends in Forensic Science

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  • 0:04 What Is Forensic Science?
  • 1:25 Current & Future Trends
  • 3:25 Issues & Errors in Forensics
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Forensic science is incredibly helpful to investigators who are solving crimes, but it's not considered flawless. This lesson will look at current and future trends in forensics, and discuss problems that still need to be managed.

What Is Forensic Science?

On a Friday evening in November 2010, the sense of peacefulness that enveloped the small town of Brembate di Sopra in Italy was forever altered. The 13-year-old daughter of a surveyor disappeared on her way home from gymnastics class. It was cold, and it was snowing. Despite a large search, Yara Gambirasio's body was not located until about three months later. In 2012, it was DNA collected from the back of a stamp that would help detectives identify the father of the perpetrator. Eventually they were also able to locate his mother, and finally, the killer himself, who was a near 100% match to the DNA recovered from Yara's body.

Forensic science is a type of science concerned with the law and solving crimes. Forensic science can help with the identification and exoneration of suspects that are thought to be involved in criminal matters. There are several different types of examinations that are conducted by forensic scientists, including:

  • DNA profile extractions
  • Testing of body fluids
  • Hair sample testing
  • Fingerprint and footprint analysis
  • Testing of weapons

Forensic science and testing is a field that continues to evolve and advance. Let's look at some of the cutting edge technologies that are currently being used.

Current & Future Trends

Critical advances continue to be made in the field of forensics. Some current trends and techniques being investigated include:

DNA phenotyping: This new use of DNA focuses on compiling an actual composite of a suspect without knowing who exactly the suspect is. DNA phenotyping focuses on the genetic profile that is extracted from DNA and uses this profile to compile a visual image of what a suspect might look like. This technique is still in its infancy, but it is predicted to be a useful tool in the future.

Steam thermography: This technique is expected to improve upon the current technique of spraying a chemical called luminol to reveal blood stains not visible to the naked eye. Utilizing steam thermography, forensic investigators use a hand-held steamer in combination with heat-related imaging to reveal even minute amounts of blood.

Frontal x-rays: Taking x-rays of the frontal sinus cavity can help investigators determine the age of juvenile remains or juveniles that are found and need to be identified.

Bacterial oral decomposition: By taking the bacteria present in the mouth of a deceased subject, forensic investigators are able to establish a more accurate time of death.

3-D fingerprinting is a new, cost-effective technique that scans a 3-D fingerprint image rather than relying on the old-fashioned ink print on paper. Investigators believe that creating a 3-D fingerprint database will facilitate the identification and matching of fingerprints in the future and make the process more reliable.

Omnichrome photography: Using alternative light sources, this type of photography allows forensic examiners to locate bruising on the body before it is visible to the human eye.

Video comparator: This equipment allows forensic examiners to detect writing on paper that might not be immediately visible upon inspection.

Issue & Errors in Forensics

Although forensic science offers investigators an abundance of tools and techniques to assist them in solving crimes, it doesn't come without its flaws. Let's take DNA testing, for example. Many people assume that DNA testing is virtually foolproof, and it can be, but only under ideal conditions. The flaws with forensic evidence, or errors in its processing, result primarily from human intervention.

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