After my undergraduate degree in science, specialising in microbiology at Trinity College, Dublin, I took two years off, travelling in New Zealand and earning money for my MSc. I had to get a bank loan to do the course because as an Irish student studying in England I wasn't eligible for any scholarships.
The theme of the course is "crime scene to court" and there are two semesters with four units each, as well as a three-month research project. In the first semester we covered forensic principles, such as crime scene analysis and crimes against the person including things like DNA analysis and blood-splatter patterns. Blood-splatter patterns can produce important information about a crime, such as the nature of the force used and the number of impacts administered, and I'm going to focus on this for my research project. We also studied accident analysis and investigation, which meant looking at hazards in chemical plants, train disasters and fires. Finally there was a lab unit in which we learnt how to analyse fingerprints, hair and fibre, and how to write court reports.
I've found accident analysis the most challenging. I didn't really expect it as a unit on a forensic science course. But the crimes against the person unit interested me the most. It's so broad and there is such a range of crimes, such as murder, rape and assault.
The course is great in that it gears students for the workplace and we learn about all aspects of an investigation. We had two mock trials last term and we have also had mock crime scenes in which we wear crime suits - white protective overalls. The course is quite intense, but then you expect that at Masters level. I live in the halls of residence and it's good not having the distractions I would have at home. I have no time to read novels now, and I don't even have a television.
I hope to end up working on crime scenes, but I need more lab experience first. Most forensic scientists work for private and government laboratories, though some join the police force. I don't find the work worrying, although I think it would be distressing when I first start out. But at the end of the day my purpose will be to collect evidence so as to find out what events took place at a crime scene and ultimately uncover the truth.