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Careers and education

Helpful information for students and people interested in forensic science.

Work placements

Tertiary students are able to undertake formal work placements required for their university qualifications.

Who should apply

  • Registrars studying anatomical pathology
  • 4th and 5th year medical students studying pathology at the University of Adelaide
  • Students studying an appropriate degree which requires a placement. FSSA routinely places students stying a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Medical Science, Bachelor of Computer Science and Bachelor of Business.

How to apply

Students should contact their university faculty for information about placements. FSSA do not take students looking for work experience.

Fellowships

Australian organisations can apply to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for a Australia Fellowship. The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia recently hosted Dr Crystal Tarinvanue , Pathologist, Vila Central Hospital, Vanuatu, through this scheme.

Email:
forensicadministration [at] sa.gov.au (subject: Enquiry%20about%20fellowship%20with%20FSSA)

Exchanges

FSSA encourages exchanges with other forensic agencies.

Email:
forensicadministration [at] sa.gov.au (subject: Enquiry%20about%20exchange%20with%20FSSA)

Watch Australian Awards Scholarships - Bhutan Forensics (video)

Interviews for school projects

We are not normally able to meet the high number of requests we have for interviews for school projects. This page can help students find out more about forensic science.

About forensic work

There are four main types of work at FSSA.

Pathology

Our pathology section conducts post mortem examinations when they are requested by the State Coroner.

More about our work in pathology

Determining the cause of death

Forensic pathologists conduct autopsies, or post-mortem examinations to determine the cause of death. Find out more about autopsies.

Assist in determining the circumstances of death

We coordinate the investigation of samples collected from the autopsy. This includes:

  • samples of blood, urine, liver, stomach contents and vitreous fluid to test for drugs or poisons
  • tissue samples to identify disease
  • trace evidence - eg DNA, unexplained hair or fibres - collected from the body to help confirm the circumstances of death, identify persons of interest or reveal their connection to the deceased.

Histopathology

We examine tissue samples taken at post mortem that have been prepared for microscopy.

Forensic anthropology

We examine bones and other material for information on sex, age, height and race if people cannot be identified through traditional means  - visual identification, fingerprints, dental records or DNA.

Pathology video

Learn more about pathology and watch Follow your interest in forensics: pathology (video).

Biology

Our biology section detects and identifies biological material on items collected from a crime scene - eg  clothing, weapons or personal items.

More about our work in biology

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence

Evidence from a crime can link a suspect or victim to a crime scene or another person. Evidence recovery technicians swab evidence to obtain DNA profiles.

DNA is a complex chemical that is present in most cells. DNA profiles provide information that can help distinguish between individuals, match people to crime scene samples or reveal the identity of a deceased person.

Forensic DNA analysis

Swabs are usually processed using robotics. DNA is removed from the cell, quantified and small amounts of DNA amplified using a method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Criminal DNA reporting

Police can request a comparison of a suspect's DNA sample with crime scene samples.

DNA database reporting

DNA profiles can be uploaded to a local and national DNA database and searched against other DNA profiles. Matches in the database can provide investigative leads for police. Many suspects are identified in this way.

Evidence recovery

Biological and physical evidence collected from crime scenes or persons of interest is recovered and examined. This includes traces of blood, saliva and other body fluids for DNA profiling. Other forms of evidence may include drug residues or glass fragments.

Evidence examiners also analyse and interpret bloodstain patterns on clothing and weapons. They interpret damage to textiles, such as clothing, to determine if the damage was:

  •  recent
  •  cut or torn
  •  if a particular weapon was used.

Biology video

Learn more about biology and watch Follow your interest in forensics: biology (video).

Toxicology

Our toxicology section analyses blood and tissue samples for:

  •  unexplained deaths
  •  driving offences
  •  criminal offences committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
More about our work in toxicology

Coronial toxicology

Samples collected at autopsy including blood, urine, liver tissue and stomach content can be submitted to the toxicology laboratory for comprehensive drug screening.

The cause of death may not have been determined at autopsy or it may be important to demonstrate the person’s state of mind just prior to death - eg was the person under the influence of drugs or taking their medication?

Human performance toxicology

This service analyses biological samples (blood, urine and saliva) taken from living people:

Criminal toxicology - refers to the serious crimes of homicide, assault and sexual assault.

Drugs in driving - a drug testing service undertaken for the police and the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.

Toxicology video

Learn more about toxicology and watch Follow your interest in forensics: toxicology (video).

Chemistry

The chemistry section comprises of three separate forensic disciplines that provide analytical services: illicit drugs, trace evidence and document examination.

More about our work in chemistry

Illicit drugs

We analyse suspected illicit drug items:

  • analysts examine and provide expert opinion on cannabis crops
  • a chemist will attend clandestine drug laboratory crime scenes to provide evidence to police, and categorise and sample chemicals for laboratory analysis.

We also report on illicit drug trends, and issue alerts when  illicit drugs that pose an increased acute health risks are detected.

Trace evidence

We examine and compare or identify non-biological trace evidence from a crime scene, vehicle collision, suspect or victim.

  • Glass analysis - compares the physical and optical properties (and sometimes the elemental composition) of known and questioned glass.
  • Paint - colour, texture, layer structure, organic composition, ultra-violet (UV) and inorganic composition.
  • Gunshot residue (GSR) - a scanning electron microscope, X-ray detection (SEM-EDS) and an automated search facility is used to identify the form and  composition of GSR particles.
  • Ignitable liquid residues (ILR) - identifies volatile chemicals, often in fire debris, to determine is an accelerant was used to start a fire.
  • Explosives - identify pre or post-blast residues or substances.
  • Fibres - identify of fabrics, carpets and ropes.
  • Miscellaneous chemicals - physical or chemical analysis of unknown materials to identify them or compare them - this can include personal defence sprays, vehicle light filament examinations and tyre examinations.

Document examination

We examine handwriting and signatures to determine who wrote them. This includes if a document has been altered by examining the ink, any erasures, obliterated entries or page substitutions.

Chemistry video

Learn more about chemistry and watch Follow your interest in forensics: chemistry (video).

More information

Visit tools and resources to view FSSA videos, publications and web links.