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Hilary Arsenault

Part of Women in STEM

Job Title: Research Assistant, Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee.
Area of Science: Forensic Science- Forensic Biology- Transfer and Persistence of DNA.

Introduce yourself - who are you and what is your job?

Hi there! My name is Hilary. When I was a kid going through school, I really enjoyed science. As I got older, I became more interested in biology over all the other sciences. Reading crime novels and watching forensic themed TV shows sparked my interest in forensic science and from there I decided I was going to study forensic science. I studied hard for 5 years at university learning about many different areas in forensic science. After this, I decided that I wanted to work as a forensic biologist and spent my last year of studies specialising in forensic biology. I now work as a research assistant at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Dundee. As a research assistant I get to design and carry out experiments to try to answer specific scientific questions.

What do you research, why and how does this help people?

As a forensic biologist I mostly do research on DNA. DNA is the code that carries all the information that controls how you will look and how your body will function. As a researcher I spend my time trying to understand how DNA moves and how long it can last when it is outside the body. I do this job in the hope that my research will provide helpful information to the police, the court and other forensic biologist whose job it is to interpret DNA evidence when it is collected from a crime scene.

Tell us about your career journey so far

I am at the beginning of my career as a researcher. The first research job I had after I finished my education was at a cancer research institute. There, I used my knowledge of DNA on the DNA sequencing platform where it was my job to use very advanced machines to get the code of a person’s DNA. I would give that code to my fellow researchers who would read the code and used it to understand what job that piece of DNA did in the human body. I left the job at the cancer research institute and moved countries to work in my current job as a research assistant. My interest in my current area of research was first sparked by some of the work I did in my last year of university. My job as a research assistant is a great opportunity for me to continue doing the kind of research I find very exciting and interesting while advancing my career in forensic science.

What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?

Forensic science is a term that is used to refer to a lot of different jobs with many different sets of skills. Different levels of education and training are required depending on the job you want to do within forensic science. To become a forensic biologist, in high school, you need to take a wide variety of different classes. Classes such as biology, chemistry, physics, English and maths. I then studied at university. Many people that work in research, like I do, often hold some sort of advanced degree (MSc or PhD). I have found in the field of forensic science it is easier to get a job with an advanced degree. If you choose to continue with your forensic education at this higher level, you will need to apply to a graduate level university program. I chose forensic science as my subject of study from the beginning of my studies. However, to work in forensic science this is not required. May people will study a subject and use their knowledge of that subject to work in the area of forensic science.

Hilary Arsenault
Hilary Arsenault Research Assistant, Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, School of Science & Engineering, University of Dundee
Forensic Science Activities
Forensic Science Activities
Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science
Leverhulme Trust

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