I started the Master in Forensic Science in 2012 after completing my Bachelor in Mathematics. Though I liked the formality and rigor of theoretical mathematics, in the end I preferred to apply math to solve specific practical problems. When I found out about the Master I was immediately enthusiastic; I never knew such a Master existed, it combined many different disciplines and covered a variety of exciting subjects. The last decades statistics and probability theory have become increasingly important in forensic science, and it seemed intriguing to be able to contribute to such a rapidly expanding field.
I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) as my final research project. During this internship I occupied myself with the probabilistic interpretation of traces that can be found on adhesive tapes. Perpetrators often use adhesive tapes in crimes, for example to tie together the wrists of a victim or to bind together parts of an improvised explosive device. As tape is so adhesive many different traces can be found on tape during forensic examination, such as DNA, fibers and fingerprints. The internship therefore involved contact with a number of different departments at the NFI, making it very interdisciplinary. The mathematical part of the project involved developing Bayesian networks, which are probabilistic tools that can help the forensic expert in determining the evidential value of traces.
In 2016, I started as a PhD student at Utrecht University, where I continue my work on Bayesian networks. Among others, I work on developing tools for the automated construction of Bayesian networks for use in actual criminal investigations. In my work, I still use the skills I learned during the Master and my research project on a day-to-day basis.
My advice to students of the Master Forensic Science is to start as early as possible with finding a research project; I found the research project to be the most crucial part of the Master, as you meet many interesting people and it can be a real stepping stone in your career. Furthermore, as digital forensics is an ever-increasing field, it is also worthwhile to learn some programming skills; not only are these skills useful for digital forensic, these will come in handy for any type of job.