A career in forensics
Forensics! Most of the knowledge we glean on the subject is usually from a novel or a television show. DNA, skeletal remains, fingerprinting – the words conjure up adventure and excitement. It's a fascinating world and the reality is almost as intriguing as the one we see on shows such as “Bones” and “CSI”, “minus the glamour and the short time within which they solve cases,” says 23-year-old forensic trainee Samira Kuhn. “There is a lot more paperwork and things don't fall into place as easily as they make it seem on TV.”
Samira Kuhn, Tejaswi Reddy, Vani Sachdev and Priyanka Shylendra are trainees at Truth Labs in Hyderabad. A non-profit, non-government, private forensic lab with branches all over India, this is where the girls are learning the ins and outs of their chosen profession.
A DNA fingerprinting expert is what 23-year-old Tejaswi sees herself as in the future. While Tejaswi did her Masters in Forensic Science abroad, 23-year-old Vani did hers in India. They are both aware of the large gulf between the teaching methods in India and abroad. “In India not enough importance is given to field work and practical work,” says Vani who also wishes to specialise in DNA fingerprinting. “Whereas students abroad are taken on digs and gain on-site experience.” However, the trainees all agree that Truth Labs serves in providing them with practical experience.
They also come across interesting cases to work on, such as analysing documents where a former Indian Prime Minister's signature was forged and even a case where a fertility clinic botched up by losing a sperm sample and used someone else's sample instead. People are free to come to the lab with any problem they might have. “It's very satisfying to solve cases and provide justice to people who come into our facility,” says 24-year-old Priyanka whose interest lies in document analysis. “There was a case where a maid claimed that her child was fathered by her boss and hoped to get money off him, but through analysis of blood group and DNA we found that she was lying.” Truth Labs also handles cases sent by courts and the police as well.
Though institutions like Truth Labs exist, the trainees still feel the scope of some fields of forensics in India is still far behind, especially forensic anthropology which Samira studied as her Masters in the UK. “No one cares about a bag of bones,” says Samira. “But in mass disaster situations like the earthquake in Haiti all you need is a bone in order to profile the victim.”
Samira will probably have to go abroad to further hone her skills. But she and the others would much prefer working in India if the opportunities existed. Dr. Gandhi, the founder of Truth Labs, says that these young trainees will be the leading lights in forensics in the years to come.
But for now they are still trying to make their way and find their path in the field of forensics.SUVASINI SRIDHARAN