Forensic Scientist

Forensic Scientist

LIsa Black

Cape Coral, FL

Female, 49

I spent the five happiest years of my life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office I analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now I'm a certified latent print examiner and CSI for a police department in Florida. I also write a series of forensic suspense novels, turning the day job into fiction. My books have been translated into six languages.

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Last Answer on October 17, 2017

Best Rated

What are the hours you work at your work?

Asked by Nikkie about 4 years ago

Right now I'm working 12 hour shifts, from 6 am to 6 pm, working out to 80 hours over 2 weeks. At the coroner's office I worked 7:30 to 4:30 and 8-12 on every other Saturday. When I started here at the police department we did 7:30-4:30 M-F. Then we went to, on opposite weeks, having one person work 10 am - 9 pm M-Th. Now there are more people so my 'shift partner' works noon to midnight. That way someone needs to be on overtime call only from midnight to 6 am. So in other words the hours will be determined by where you work, how many forensic people you have, how big the agency is and how determined they are to keep overtime to a minimum.

Do fingerprints contain DNA? And if so, then isn't fingerprinting kind of obsolete, since you can just test the DNA instead of the print?

Asked by Sascha over 4 years ago

The skin cells sloughed off and left in a fingerprint contain DNA, but there's no guarantee that there will be a sufficient amount to obtain a DNA profile so it's a risk to go straight to DNA testing instead of developing the fingerprint. Besides, identical twins will have the same DNA but different fingerprints.

I was wondering if I sent you a picture of a bone can tell me if its human or animal?

Asked by dee about 4 years ago

I can try. I'm not an anthropologist, but we do have a field guide here showing the skeletons of many mammals and birds. We used to have a lot of 'found bones' calls at my agency--the area had a great deal of construction going on in the area and the digging would often turn up bones.

I'm working on a thriller novel. Can a person frame someone else by setting up their own suicide to look like murder by using the other person's gun in the other person's house?

Asked by goodcraic2i6n about 4 years ago

Let me get this straight--so Alex frames Bert by shooting himself (Alex) in Bert's house with Bert's gun? Kind of a drastic way to get back at someone, but certainly possible. Yes, initially it would not look good for Bert at all. However--and this is always the problem with trying to frame someone--what is Bert doing while this is happening? Alex can't be sure that Bert won't be getting a traffic ticket or stuck in an all-day meeting and therefore have an unbreakable alibi? The gun and the condition of the wound would have to be consistent with suicide (unless you do some Agatha Christie rubber-band type of arrangement) but that would not make it impossible for it to be homicide. Alex's fingerprints might be on the gun but that wouldn't rule out a murder (and it's so rare to get a fingerprint off a gun that he might decide not to worry about it). Please don't have Bert, upon discovery of the body, engage in the time honored but still silly tradition of picking up the murder weapon and then saying "I have no idea why I did that..." Human beings have an instinctive revulsion against touching anything associated with a dead body.

Does a neighbor see Alex enter Bert's house when Bert's not home? Is there any sign of forced entry? In other words, forensically there may not be much to say one way or the other--and that's very often true. Forensics will establish facts, but those facts might not be helpful. Forensically we can say Alex died of a gunshot wound from this gun, has gunshot residue on his hands (not suprising since he was in close proximity to a gunshot) and has no other wounds to indicate a struggle. That's about it. Deciding whether it's suicide or murder would likely spring from more traditional investigations--what was Alex doing there, did he know where the gun is, where was Bert, did Bert have a history of violence, did Alex have a history of mental instability, etc. etc.

I hope that helps!

what college did you go to?

Asked by Nikkie about 4 years ago

I have a bachelor's in biology from Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio.

What made you want to become a Forensic scientist?

Asked by Nikkie about 4 years ago

I loved mysteries but didn't want to be a cop. I don't really want to deal with people under stress on a daily basis. This job has enough variety to be interesting but enough routine to keep the homebody in me comfortable.

What was your most challenging case?

Asked by bob almost 4 years ago

That's a tough one, because unlike television I don't take it personally whether the case is resolved or not. Again unlike TV, I'm not in charge of the case, the detective is. I'm just a cog. I also don't deal with family or witnesses so I'm sort of emotionally once-removed from the trauma. So the most frustrating cases are those in which I can't find anything that helps. Say the victim and the suspect live in the same house so that any fingerprints or DNA of the suspect is to be expected and doesn't prove anything. Or we have no suspects and fingerprints and DNA at the scene don't match anyone in our system so that's not helping either. So then the most satisfying cases are those in which I find and analyze a piece of evidence that can tell us with certainty who was present or what occurred where. But either way I don't take it personally. I can't control what's there, only what I do with it. Sometimes you're lucky and sometimes you're not.