What Advice Do You Have For Those Just Starting Out in Forensics?

Maybe you’ve just graduated and are looking for your first job in forensics, or maybe you’re just starting work as an analyst. Either way, trying to find your footing can be tough. That’s why we’ve asked our ISHI 30 speakers to share some pearls of wisdom for those just starting out in the field of forensics. Do you have tips to add? Join the conversation on our social media pages!





I think the best advice I can give to someone who is just starting out in forensics is the knowledge that forensics is not easy. It is not as portrayed on TV.  DNA is not always the answer and sometimes a case will remain unsolved.  I think one should trust his or her instincts concerning what is possible in terms of DNA testing.  He or she will also hopefully not forget, when processing hundreds of samples in a career, that there is a victim behind the samples and often a family who is desperate for answers.  This enables the work to be about science serving justice, our mission at the OCME.

Lisa Mertz, OCME



Work hard, be humble, and take chances.  I know that might sound a bit cliché, but hard work always pays off.  In the past decade (since I finished my undergraduate degree), I left my small town in Canada and have moved about a dozen times; whether it was for a job, my Master’s degree, an internship, another job, my PhD, or now back “home” in my position as a tenure-stream faculty member at the University of Toronto. With every move (every risk), there was an opportunity for something incredible, and each venture opened the door to bigger and better possibilities!  The job market can be volatile, and the world is a very competitive place – so, if you have the courage and the flexibility to do so, go after the things in life that you really want.  You will not be sorry!  Worst-case scenario, you can always go back home (or back to where it is you came from). My journey has definitely been unique, but I am thankful every day for the decisions and risks that led me to where I am today!

Nicole Novroski, University of Toronto



I would tell a new analyst that nothing is permanent. Change in this field is to be expected, and change for people who are by nature really good at repetition can be uncomfortable. Don’t become too attached to anything in this field. You will surely have to let it go to make room for what better serves the progress.

Brittney Chilton, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Science Division




For someone starting out in the field of forensics as a scientist, it is important to remember that in forensic science, any decision that is made can impact someone’s life. Therefore, if you are ever uncertain or do not know something, it is important to ask and learn from your peers and mentors. It is equally as important to have your work peer-reviewed by another scientist.

Kevin Cheng, Institute of Environmental and Science Research (ESR)




You have to stand out from the crowd. In forensic science, jobs are very scarce and competitive. I am also a big believer in embracing opportunities when they present themselves. Some of the opportunities I have had in my career have been game-changers! And you should do something you are passionate about; so keep trying new things until you discover what that is!

Jodie Ward, University of Technology Sydney and NSW Health Pathology