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Forensic Science
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Floor Dussel

I started the Master’s programme Forensic Science in September 2018. Before starting this Master’s, I followed the Bachelor’s programme Molecular Life Sciences at Utrecht University (in my case, a combination of courses at the departments of Biology, Chemistry and Informatics). Applying my knowledge from these various disciplines within the interdisciplinary field of Forensic Science seemed like a perfect next step for me.

I expected the Master’s to teach me how to apply critical thinking and scientific knowledge to case examples, or by doing research into new forensic techniques. This is definitely part of what you get taught in this Master’s, but there is much more to the courses. As a student, you are taken through every step in the process from the crime scene to the courtroom. A good example of this would be the classes during the 5th block of the first year. During the course Chain of Evidence (CoE) we went through a case from the crime scene to the courtroom, while in Criminal Law and Expert Evidence (CLEE) we got taught about different judicial systems and various convictions and defences that can be used in a case.

Throughout the week we would have lectures, guest lectures, exercise classes and time scheduled with our groups to work on group assignments. I really enjoyed the reasoning we had to use in the classes for CLEE, where we applied the theory to case examples during the interactive lectures. CoE included a lot of group work; In exercise classes and outside of class we met with our group to get ready for the moot court at the end of the course. We prepared ourselves to be experts in glass and DNA evidence and had to present the evidence we analysed in front of a real judge, prosecutor, defence attorney and DNA expert. In my group, we spent a lot of time next to the classes to prepare for this moot court, to be able to answer their questions truthfully and to avoid making fallacies in our answers (which can lead to wrongful conclusions by non-experts). In the interactive classes I learned to ask more questions, the moot court has made me better at presenting and taught me to be more confident in front of a group.

Currently, I am doing my research project at TNO, where I am looking into the use of portable NIR spectroscopy and chemometrics for detection and identification of bulk explosive substances pre-explosion. During this project I am learning a lot about setting up research, for example by writing a research proposal and making a project planning (and adjusting it!). I have to do a lot of individual work, which is different from the many group assignments in the courses. Despite the fact that I have supervision on this project, I am the only one with the complete overview. This is teaching me to be more independent, but also to ask questions when necessary.

After I finish this internship, I hope to start a job in or related to forensic science (because I am still very enthusiastic about the forensic field!). Since I have been educated very interdisciplinary (in both Bachelor’s and Master’s), I would like to work in a job where this is a beneficial skill to have. Combined with my enthusiasm for forensic reasoning, making sense of situations and solving problems, I could see myself working close to forensic investigations at the Dutch Police or being an advisor on forensic science in the courtroom.