Forensic Science - Multidisciplinary Approach

  • Katz E
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The word forensic originates from the Latin word forensis, which means: public, to the forum or public discussion. A modern definition of forensic is: relating to, used in, or suitable to a court of law [1]. Any science used for the purpose of law is a forensic science. Forensic sciences [2-4] concern the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems and they are vital tools in any legal proceeding. The forensic sciences, including forensic chemistry [5-8], forensic biology [9,10], forensic anthropology [11], forensic medicine [12], forensic materials science [13,14], forensic engineering [15], computational forensics [16], etc., are broadly used to resolve civil disputes, to justly enforce criminal laws and government regulations, and to protect public health. While novel methods used in natural sciences might have some allowance for limited reproducibility and questionable interpretations, adaptation to forensic science, requires absolute reproducibility and non-variability in terms of the results interpretation: evidence is not only a scientific, but legal issue. It should be kept in mind that forensic analysis is strongly regulated by the legal constraints which affect both the work implementation and the results. Forensic science is in a unique position among all other scientific fields because of its important social impact. Indeed, forensic science is at the intersection of the natural sciences and law in civil and criminal cases. Therefore, methods used in forensic science require not only rigorous scientific standards, but also high ethical standards, providing interpretation of obtained results without any possibility of variable interpretation and without allowing for any personal bias. Analysis of substances, including hardly detectable traces, should be performed using non-destructive techniques to preserve evidence for future analysis in case of any dispute. In some sub-areas of forensic science, for example, in botanical forensics [17], simple observation of plant samples collected at the crime scene could be sufficient to reach important conclusions, while in other forensic sciences, such as forensic chemistry, sophisticated instrumental analytical methods are required [18]. Forensic science applications are commonly associated with fingerprints analysis [19] and DNA typing [20], both of which are aimed at identification of crime victims or criminals. However, forensic science methods are going beyond these well-known applications and often include various physical and chemical analytical methods. Numerous analytical methods such as various spectroscopy techniques and electrochemistry have been borrowed from chemistry and physics, and have tremendously developed many subareas of forensic science. Modern developments are based on multidisciplinary approaches involving not only physical techniques, but also computational methods. Compiling various databases (e.g., fingerprints) in electronic digital libraries and their rapid screening, analysis and comparison are extremely important for forensic purposes. Computerized facial recognition, for example, is needed for automatic search of suspects in public areas equipped with video surveillance facilities. This could be important not only for finding crime suspects, but also for crime prevention and homeland security and anti-terrorism security measures. Vibrational spectroscopy (based on IR absorption and Raman scattering) [21], Figure 1, internal reflection spectroscopy [22], mass-spectrometry [23] and electrochemistry [24,25] have been applied for forensic analysis of human or animal hair, fiber, paint and ink analysis, analysis of a variety of human body fluids, detection of gunshot residues, Figure 2, controlled substances (e.g., illicit drugs), explosives and other chemical and biological agents. Spectral analysis of objects found at the crime scene can be extended to hyperspectral imaging (HSI) to obtain both spatial and spectral information from a sample [26]. This technique enables investigators to analyze the chemical composition of traces and simultaneously visualize their spatial distribution. HSI offers significant potential for the detection, visualization, identification and age estimation of forensic traces, also allowing for forensic analysis of document forgery [27]. Biomolecular analytical methods, including DNA analysis, proteomics, metabolomics, biomolecular computing, in vivo imaging, etc., have high importance in forensic science, but their use is not exactly the same as in medicine, thus requiring special adaptation to the needs of forensic science. Analysis of various biomarkers found in biofluids at a crime scene, particularly through the use of multi-enzyme biocatalytic reactions, is rapidly progressing towards practical applications [28-30]. The approach, borrowed from unconventional enzyme-based computing [31,32] and originally applied to biomedical analysis [33], demonstrates promising perspectives for novel forensic serology applications. Analytical applications toward rapid identification based on personal characteristics are feasible as a result of this study. New tools (e.g., Katz E, et al., J Forensic Leg Investig Sci 2015, 1: 004 Abstract The present short review paper is summarizing recent developments in forensic science, particularly emphasizing a multidisciplinary approach to analytical problems, which includes chemistry, biology, physics and engineering subareas.




Katz, E. (2015). Forensic Science - Multidisciplinary Approach. Forensic, Legal & Investigative Sciences, 1(1), 1–3.

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