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Studying Forensic Science in Scotland

Last Updated on October 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Originally published October 18, 2017

By UC Staff

UTEP Communications

This summer I participated in a forensic science/criminal justice program at Glasgow Caledonian University in Glasgow, Scotland, and it was amazing. The opportunity to study aboard was great, but to experience the food, culture and work environment of another country made the experience unbelievable.

Luz Porras
Luz Porras and two other students in Glasgow Caledonian University in Glasgow, Scotland.

Our work days were split mostly between the labs and classrooms. In the labs, we analyzed fingerprints, drugs, hair, fiber and DNA. In the classrooms, we learned about ballistics, chemistry analysis, the law and the criminal justice system. Our professor always encouraged us to ask questions and was determined to help. In fact, everyone we dealt with seemed willing to help.

Our cohort was separated into four groups of five. Each team focused on a separate task at a crime scene created by our supervisors. We treated these scenarios as if they were the real thing, so we would put on our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) before we got to the scene of the alleged crime. Our team leader was the supervisor who chose our role: two evidence collectors, a photographer and the person who kept the crime scene log. It was drilled into us that we needed to work as a team to be successful. This meant that we needed to communicate and follow the procedures that we learned from our professors. It helped that I had been an intern with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Crime Records Evidence Forensics Section. I already had experience with how to collect evidence and process a crime scene. My team scored well on that task.

Our research-related field trips included visits to a morgue, courthouse, fire house, women’s jail, and a command center of Police Scotland, the country’s national police force. I attended a murder trial and saw a medical examiner on the witness stand. One of the attorneys asked a lot of questions about DNA. I thought the questions were meant to confuse her, but she remained calm.

One of the biggest surprises to me on this trip was that the living conditions in the jail reminded me of apartment life. The inmates had the opportunity to continue their educations while behind bars. Some learned how to read while others took classes to learn how to cook or paint.

This experience made me more knowledgeable about forensic science and more aware of the importance of teamwork, patience and communication. I also know that I must continue to work hard to achieve my goals.