Monday, August 07, 2006

Lately, I've been missing being in university. Those 3 years at Staffordshire University studying Forensic Science were some of the best years of my life. I think it was the first time in my life I actually enjoyed studying and excelled in almost every subject.

Currently, my work consists of mostly fire investigation. Sometimes we do get some vehicle investigation jobs, but most of the time this too involves fire. I actually miss working in the lab at university. I don't enjoy it all the time but some days I can just sit there and watch the auto-sampler work on the GC-MS. I don't think I'd want to work in a lab forever, but I do have ambitions of at least doing some research at Ph.D. level. It'd be cool to continue what I did in university but I think some other person at the university is doing it now.

I've always been fascinated with fingerprint analysis, which was why I chose that as the topic of my Final Year Project. Actually, it was something to do with cyanoacrylate fuming. This is the use of superglue to develop latent fingeprints. In simple terms, the superglue is heated and the vapours created react with the amino acids, fatty acids and proteins in the fingerprints. Our fingers secrete oils and sweat and all that stuff which is left in the fingerprint and the reaction between the superglue vapour and these chemicals results in a whitish residue which takes the form of the fingerprint.

Once it's developed, there are ways of enhancing the print but usually on a dark surface, you can just photograph it straight. Anyway, my project was aimed at using superglue fuming for large areas, but unfortunately, the analysis section took longer than expected and I couldn't really do the whole room fuming. This was not helped by the fact that nobody really wanted their rooms fumed leaving white residues over everything.

So what I did get done was actually find a way to sample the air for traces of cyanoacrylate. This would help in determining the level of cyanoacrylate in the air at different times after fuming. In a room situation, it'll determine when you can safely enter the area. Well, the best that I can hope for is that my experiments and results become useful for someone else continuing research in this area. I know it's not anything groundbreaking and all but I spent a lot of time on the project and hopefully it'll help some other student in their projects.

Since I'm already working investigating fires, I was thinking of combining some research with fire investigation. It'll be a best of both worlds thing. I knew of another student in my year who did fingerprint development on items covered with soot. That must have been fascinating, but then it has been done before, so I will have to think up of something when I actually try and apply for a Ph.D. post.

It'll be a couple of years more till I actually decide to do a Ph.D. Right now I need as much work experience as I can get. I've got a great mentor (John Horswell) here at my company. He's got his name on a book and quite a few journal articles and has loads of experience in Forensic Science. So, before I even entered the company I knew I was going to be able to learn a lot from him. There're always stories to tell and since both of us come from a Forensic Science background, we actually speak the same language. It is refreshing 'cos I don't think I have any friends in Malaysia doing Forensic Science and I find that it never comes up in conversations. Sometimes I envy those people working in the finance industry talking about their job and other stuff I can't comprehend.

Anyway, I'm just ranting. Right now I'm happy being a wedding photographer and forensic scientist. It's nice to be doing what you enjoy most but it does get tiring when you have to edit photos in your free time intead of spending it with the family. I try to balance it but my wife still complains. So my solution is to just make her a part of my photography business. That way we can divide duties and spend more time together.

I did a wedding on Saturday and this time I gave her more photographic duties. Before, she helped out with posing, album design and equipment management & security (aka bag minder), but this time she had a camera and was shooting away. The results are quite good since it gave different views of the same moment (I can't be in 2 places at 1 time). I think it will help out when we actually design the album later.

I may post a picture or 2 in a future post and probably discuss about it, but for now, I really have to end this long post. I need to learn how to write an ending to a post instead of doing this all the time. Maybe I should add a 'to be continued' thingy at the end of every post.




Blogger Maine said...

First year dah dapat mentor! I got a mentor after 6 years and another after 9 years, he left the company a month ago. Yes, it's great to have someone to talk your left to right brain and leave you feeling spent over conversations that always bring you to another level.

I learnt something new about finger prints today.

12:45 AM  
Blogger Point44 said...

Good to hear you learnt something. Fingerprint analysis is a fascinating science and if you want to borrow any books from my forensic library please feel free to do so. MUAHAHAHA.

I agree with you that having someone to stimulate your brain is great. Although personally, I myself have limits to my interest in forensic science. After a day doing forensic work I don't really want to watch those shows like CSI, Medical Investigation, Forensic Case Files etc. I find that I need an avenue to get away from all this. And for now it's wedding photography.

Right now the only subject that I have yet to find someone to talk to is zombie movies. My passion for zombie movies has been around for a long time. In fact, on the day little Dian was born I left my wife at the hospital to watch Land of the Dead.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Frances said...

When handling a fire investigation, sometimes things don't always go by the book and you need to think out of the box to actually arrive at a conclusion.

11:37 AM  

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