Scientific competency sounds like a relatively simple idea. When I hear the term scientific competency, the first thing that comes to mind is having a strong knowledge of the science: be it, understanding biological processes like cellular respiration, or being able to predict chemical reactions based on starting materials, or applying the concepts of quantum physics. When I was accepted to Cedar Crest College, I wanted to get an undergraduate degree in genetic engineering while studying forensic science and then come back as a part of the Forensic Science Master’s degree program. I have been successful in reaching that goal, but along the way, my understanding of scientific competency has changed.
When I began my career at Cedar Crest College, I was concerned with learning the information and laboratory skills that would make me a qualified candidate for a job in a forensic science laboratory after I graduated. When I thought about my future job, I knew that it would be important for me to understand how to use various instruments, how to troubleshoot problems with those instruments, and how to interpret data. I learned many of these skills during my time as an undergraduate in the forensic science program; as a graduate student I have continued to develop those skills. But one thing I didn’t think so much about at the beginning of my journey was my ability to communicate the scientific concepts that I was using in the laboratory to other people.
The Master of Science in Forensic Science program at Cedar Crest College provides us with endless opportunities to improve our communication skills. In a majority of our classes, we have the opportunity to present. This may be reading a scientific article or researching a topic, like Facial Reconstruction or Low Copy Number DNA, and explaining it to the class. We are also encouraged to present our research at various professional conferences including NEAFS and AAFS. Students also participate in a moot court experience that allows them to analyze mock evidence and then to testify as if a part of a real trial. This is something that provides valuable experience for any student of the forensic sciences, since courtroom testimony is a very important part of the job of a forensic scientist.
Throughout my time as a student in the Master of Science in Forensic Science program I have not only gained valuable laboratory skills that will leave me highly qualified when I enter the job market, but I became much more confident in my ability to communicate my scientific knowledge to anyone, with or without a strong scientific background. As a result of my time at Cedar Crest College, I have developed my scientific knowledge, research and laboratory skills, and communication skills which are core skills for scientific competency.