Angela Erickson, a forensic scientist-DNA analyst with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office Crime Lab, talks about her work. She discusses why she became a forensic scientist, what a typical workday is like, and how her role fits into the bigger healthcare picture.
Q: What's a typical workday like for you?
We examine evidence from criminal cases for body fluids: semen or saliva from a sexual assault and blood from other assaults. We also examine knives and other tools for touch-DNA. We use a detergent that breaks down the cells and proteins in the body fluids and leaves the DNA. Then we copy the DNA to have enough for testing, and run it through a machine that yields the DNA profile. Those are our results. We then compare those DNA profiles to the known DNA that police have collected from suspects and victims to see if they match. We testify in court if necessary.
Q: How does your role fit into the bigger criminal justice picture?
Forensics means the application of science to law. I have specific biology training and all of the results are based specifically on the science, which is important. By analyzing evidence, we are part of puzzling a crime together with investigators, attorneys, victims and witnesses.
Q: Who do you interact with during the course of the day?
We interact with detectives mostly and our other co-workers, people in the crime scene section who bring evidence back, other forensic scientists, the digital evidence staff and attorneys.
Q: Why did you become a forensic scientist?
I became interested in forensic science in high school watching the Discovery Channel. I spoke with professionals in the field and thought it was a very interesting career. I really wanted to be in a service job, serving the community, and it's very rewarding knowing that you're helping solve crime.
Q: What do you like about your work?
I really like doing lab work and solving puzzles, which is essentially what you're doing. It's challenging.