An Interview with Corey Scott
“I chose to study forensic science because I have always wanted to get involved with the court system. I want to help people who have been affected by tragedy to move on by finding resolutions to their issues. Forensic science allows me to continue my education while keeping up with recent technology and helping people make peace through justice.”
Corey Scott is in his third year of study at University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut. He expects to graduate with a double major in 2013. Corey is concurrently earning his Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science and his Bachelor of Science in Biology, which is a pre-med program.
Corey plans to continue his education through the doctorate level. He cautions students to look beyond the way that forensics is portrayed on television. In reality, the field requires rigorous analytical and scientific thought.
In your own words, what is forensic science?
Forensic science is the application of the principles of science and technology to civil cases and the criminal justice system. Forensic scientists assist various law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and internationally. Since the field is constantly evolving, students who choose to study forensic science can expect a career full of continuing education, because they will always have to update their training to stay current with new technology.
Why did you choose to study forensic science?
I chose to study forensic science because I have always wanted to get involved with the court system. I want to help people who have been affected by tragedy to move on by finding resolutions to their issues. Forensic science allows me to continue my education while keeping up with recent technology and helping people make peace through justice.
When you first considered studying forensic science what were your expectations?
When I first thought about studying forensic science, I initially expected to learn about the criminal justice system and how it works, which I have learned. But I didn’t expect to be learning as much math as I have in my program. A lot of people see the way that forensic science and its practitioners are portrayed on television and they don’t realize that people in this field are actually using analytic science. They think that all of the answers are logically laid out, when it is actually quite the opposite.
What do you find most and least enjoyable about studying forensic science?
I anticipate that the most enjoyable aspect of forensic science will be the rewarding feeling that you get if you help solve a big case or conduct research on a new pharmaceutical drug. However, big career moments like that don’t happen overnight. You literally have to be a student your whole life. But even though you have to put in a lot of effort, the work is fulfilling.
However, I don’t love everything about my degree program. It requires students to be very well rounded, while I would prefer to focus on science. But it is not enough to simply declare that you are a forensic science major. You still need to take a lot of math classes and learn about the humanities.
What kinds of classes have you taken in your forensic science program?
In my forensic science program, most of the classes we take are in the realm of math and science. For example, I have taken classes like advanced calculus, organic chemistry and genetics. There is also a whole series of classes that are specific to forensics, such as forensic biology, forensic toxicology, crime scene investigation and criminal justice. And since this program is very grounded in practical, hands-on skills, most of our homework involves independent research and lab reports.
Which of these classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?
I think that my organic and analytical chemistry classes, as well as my course in forensic biology, will benefit me the most because they cover topics like DNA and bodily fluid identification, which are important to crime scene investigation. Another important class is public speaking, since forensic scientists are frequently called upon to provide court testimony.
What classes do you feel will be least useful?
It seems like my core classes will be least applicable to my future career. For instance, I have a hard time seeing where general world history fits into forensic science. I would rather focus on something that relates back to my field, like the history of criminal justice.
What resources do you use to help you succeed in your studies?
I use resources like my University of New Haven’s Center for Learning Resources, where peer and professional tutors, including professors, can help students with difficult classes and concepts. We also have a library that provides us with access to a forensic database, scientific journals and scholarly articles.
Have you done an internship in your field?
Yes, there is a significant internship requirement in order to graduate, and I completed mine in the area of crime scene reconstruction. I learned techniques for fingerprint detection, firearms identification and discovering trace evidence. My particular job was to assist with the evidence collection and processing, which involved a lot of lab work.
I will also be researching blood stain pattern analysis this summer, which means that I will investigate which blood stains occurred first at a crime scene with multiple blood types. Before I take the second internship, I have to take a 1-credit class about professional ethics and proper ways to dress, speak and act.
What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in a forensic science program and what traits would hinder success?
To be successful in this program, you have to be self-determined and intelligent. A lot of people think of intelligence as though it means reading a question and being able to answer it, but in this field you need to be able to think critically and independently to come up with your own conclusions. You can’t rely on someone to get your work done for you.
On the other hand, if you have poor time management skills, you will not succeed in this program. You usually have 3 labs and 3 lectures per day in addition to the core curriculum requirements. That means you may not get the ultimate college experience with this major, because it is incredibly time consuming. You have to be self-driven.
What is your weekly schedule?
In addition to my normal class schedule, I am working in the lab between 12 and 16 hours per week. On a typical day, I will wake up and spend 4 hours in the lab, then work on writing my lab reports until my lectures, which usually start mid-afternoon. I get home around 6:00 p.m., but then I have to study until about midnight. It makes for a very full day.
How do you manage your course load? What study tips would you give to a prospective student?
I would tell students to remember to work and study steadily throughout the semester rather than attempting to cram the night before the test. It is true that homework doesn’t count for much, and most of your grades will be based on your performance on exams. It is for your own lifelong benefit to do your homework and integrate the information into your learning in as many ways as you can. Any science major should learn how to study ahead of time or else this program will eat you alive.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I am planning to continue my education after I graduate, because this field requires a person to have at least a masters degree and some experience in order to get a job. I want to get my masters degree in a physical science like microbiology, genetics or physics so that I will have that background to inform my investigations and lend credence to my court testimony. Eventually, I hope that my future employer will help pay for my PhD.
Now that you have completed 3 years of your forensic science program, if you could go back to high school, what would you do differently?
If I could go back to high school, I would focus more on science and math. During my junior and senior years, I slacked off and took easy classes, but that just made college harder for me. I would suggest that seniors take the intense math and science classes while they are in high school. This will make their later academic pursuits much easier.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying forensic science?
The main piece of advice that I would offer to people who are curious about forensic science is to take the time to look into the reality of the field. If television shows like CSI are interesting to you, see what the job actually entails by talking to someone in the field. Then you will learn about the intense academic requirements and the analytical thinking skills that you will need to develop.