Case study

Forensic facial mapping expert — Shelina

Shelina combines her work in facial mapping with part-time study for a PhD, while also training to become an expert witness. Find out how she got into this interesting field

How did you get a job in forensic science?

After completing a four-year Masters degree in forensic and medical science (MSci) at the University of Bradford, I joined the mass of students searching for a job and was lucky to find a vacancy close to home.

I have been working at Acumé Forensic for more than three years and recently returned to the University of Bradford to study for a PhD in facial anthropometry and racial/ethnicity classification. I am currently working full time and studying part time at the Centre of Visual Computing, alongside Professor Hassan Ugail.

Was your forensic science degree essential for the job?

Studying forensic and medical science has given me a broad perspective in the field of forensic science and its associated disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, toxicology and haematology. All these topics were offered as modules to students studying the course and complemented one another really well.

Although my area of expertise is in facial mapping, which requires knowledge about soft tissue morphology and anthropometric landmarks, I feel that the medical science aspect of my degree has served as an added bonus to my work.

What's a typical day like as a forensic expert?

There's no typical day at work for me. One minute I can be working on a facial mapping report, and the next I can be called on by an investigating officer to review CCTV material of a recent event.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My passion for forensic science is the most enjoyable part of my job. I consider myself blessed to be able to get up every morning full of the same enthusiasm I did when I first started my job.

Difficult and stressful times are part of the journey as a forensic expert but they will be worth it in the coming years.

What are the challenges?

Working in the legal sector is full of challenges in terms of time constraints and meeting deadlines. My work consists not only of rising to such challenges, but also travelling nationwide (including Scotland and Ireland) to give expert evidence at Crown Court and magistrates' courts.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

At the moment my days are busy and everything seems to revolve around work and study. However, in the future I hope to have reached a less chaotic place. I see myself in the same discipline in five years' time, working alongside recognised experts to advance the field of facial mapping and identification.

What advice can you give to others?

In retrospect I think studying for a Masters was a great choice and my advice to any budding forensic scientists is to follow your dreams and remain optimistic. Moreover, a strong work ethic and good time management skills are beneficial.

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