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Whodunnit? A Look at Modern Forensic Science Techniques

by Alexandra Fuhs

Hi everyone! This article is the start to our Forensics Week, where we will be diving deep into the forensic sciences and will explore how they are used in the real world! This article, written by writer Alexandra Fuhs, focuses on some techniques used by Forensic Specialists in the real world, and is the first installment in our Forensic Series. Happy Reading!

Technology serves a key role in our lives, even in finding what ended them. Specifically, forensic equipment is used to process samples and evidence such as drugs, bodily fluids, and fingerprints. In this case, biology and chemistry are combined with mathematics and engineering to develop and apply these techniques. Some, like DNA fingerprinting and drug testing are widely known, whereas others are rarer.

Alternative light photography

One of these rare but highly effective techniques includes alternative light photography. Alternative light photography is used to detect whether a body is damaged before the damage is even shown on the skin. The camera uses blue light and orange filters to see bruising below the skin’s surface and ultraviolet light to enhance bruises, blood, and marks. This provides an accurate representation of injuries and, accordingly, potential evidence.

Facial reconstruction

Forensic facial reconstruction is the process of recreating an individual’s face from their skeletal remains. This is accomplished through a combination of artistry and anatomy. There are generally two types of reconstruction: two-dimensional and three-dimensional. 2D reconstruction is based on photographs and uses computer programs like CARES (Computer Assisted Recovery Enhancement System) and FACES (Forensic Anthropology Computer Enhancement System) which digitize radiographs and images of the skull. 3D reconstruction uses clay, plastic, or wax on a replica of the victim’s skull. It requires the use of tissue depth markers to represent different soft tissue depths.

Forensic facial reconstruction is generally rapid, non-invasive, and can be used for both crimes and archaeological research purposes. Visual identification for the victim’s family becomes easier, and with new technologies like computerized modeling, the models are becoming more accurate and useful for forensic scientists.

Drug analysis

Drug analysis is the testing of a controlled substance to determine its composition. The two types of testing are known as presumptive and confirmatory. Presumptive testing can be conducted in the field or at a lab and is generally less precise but serves as a quick overview of whether a substance is a controlled narcotic. This type usually uses a colorimetric test, which turns a certain color if a substance is a drug.

Confirmatory tests are done in a lab and are far more technical and precise. One type is mass spectrometry, which measures the molecular mass of ions to determine the exact makeup of the compound. For plant drugs such as marijuana, a forensic chemist is able to perform a macroscopic examination to identify characteristics consistent with the suspected drug, such as the type of plant wall and stem. Another common technique is Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrophotometry, which obtains an infrared spectrum of the transmission of a fuel or gas sample, revealing the specific molecular groups.

We hope you enjoyed reading the first article for our Forensics' week! if you enjoyed this article, see if you can put this knowledge to the test with Arushi's Murder Mystery article, linked here.

As always, if you would like to be a writer, or have any questions about the Writing Committee, please feel free to comment down below, or email

Thanks for reading and remember to stay tuned for more articles in our Forensics Week!

Happy Reading,

Alexandra and the Writing Committee :)

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