Interview with Postgraduate Researcher Winsome Lee

winsome-lee

What is the focus of your research at the University of Leicester?

My research focus, namely for my dissertation is a comparative study of the forensic science progression in Hong Kong over a 40 years time frame. Hong Kong is where I have been brought up, and forensic science in the city is always covered with the mysterious veil. In 1965, we had our first forensic case. Till today, more than 40 years have passed by, it will be essential to evaluate how much we had progress.

Other than the dissertation research, since my focus is on forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology, I am also doing different excavation field schools, projects,  and osteology related research with other institutions.

Why is this research important to the field of forensic science and what do you hope to achieve by carrying out this research?

Technology and forensic techniques develop in a pace that we would never catch up with. However, due to constraints, not much comparative studies have been done, as an evaluation of the progress and development of the field, on the one hand. Sadly, funding is usually not entirely willing to sponsor studies of this sort, as they are hoping for new discovery most of the time, which likely lead to over generalization of ideas. Given the fact that forensics subjects heavily to experiences and contexts. Therefore, comparative study of forensic science is something that the profession needs yet tends to be overseen usually. On the other hand, a historical comparative study like the captioned one above, shows the same model over different time frames. It allows us to see the approach or policy from a macro level, namely environmental and political factors. In hope of this research, the government and the law enforcement will make improvements of their policies and models in order to facilitate the growth and application of forensic science in Hong Kong.

What does life as a postgraduate researcher entail?

Grad school life, as we all know, is tough. It is the kind of life that you have a full plate and always do not know where to start with. A lot of time management is involved, especially when I am also working alongside the study. People say you can use the senior year of undergraduate as a postgraduate tryout, I find this mostly correct! Also, other than studying, you are constantly looking for research and publication opportunities. Every time, when we are struggling, my pals and I keep asking ourselves, “why would we do this to ourselves.” But the sense of achievement is never better when you have accomplished something and survived a semester after another.

What are your plans for after you have completed your research?

After completing the existing project in the University of Leicester, I would be looking for PhD opportunities in either bioarchaeology, or biological anthropology.

Also, I have several real life forensic projects with police and other authorities ongoing and lined up. I am all excited and looking forward to all these amazing opportunities ahead!

Do you have any advice for students hoping to pursue a position in forensic research?

Keep your mind open!

First of all, forensic science itself is a relatively broad profession. Some of my friends switched from one discipline to another after trying out things, from forensic anthropology to law, from forensic pathology to forensic photography. You never know until you have tried. So first thing will be, to grasp as many opportunities as you can, then decide.

Once you made your choice, you also have to remember that forensic scientist is a relatively narrow yet competitive profession. What I mean is that, there is only certain demand in the authorities or law enforcement for forensic experts. If no one retires, you probably will not get a job. So it is always beneficial to have a broader, or second profession focus besides forensics.

Also, it is also very important to know that not every forensic scientist is good with doing research. Some are good with applying what we have learned, rather than doing research and making new discoveries. Be open minded, and do not get frustrated! Keep in mind that, either way we are making remarkable contribution.

Follow Winsome’s blog “Traces in Bones” here.

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Interview with Forensic Accountant Sundaraparipurnan Narayanan

SN FA

What is your current job role and what does this involve?

I handle the forensic service line for SKP Business Consulting LLP, in India. I advise clients/corporates on fraud management/prevention strategy in the nature of setting up an in-house fraud control unit or support with operational fraud matrices in the nature of fraud analytics or fraud risk assessments, and assist in ethics or compliance investigations. With the increase in fraud, corporates are increasingly setting up in-house fraud control units to manage the risk of frauds. This includes defining the roles & responsibilities of the unit, exhibiting independence, developing a robust concern handling process and measuring effectiveness of the operations at appropriate intervals. Operational fraud management includes supporting corporates with fraud risk assessments and specific dashboards on fraud control. Supporting ethics and compliance investigations is primarily focussed towards gathering evidence from digital and documentary sources and conducting interviews of identified individuals (employees and third parties) with reference to the issue in question.

What kind of education/training do you need to work in this area?

You need to have an eye for details and you need to develop the capability of noticing inconsistencies and identifying patterns. These are enablers in this field. At the base, for the given nature of job, one should have a strong background in accounting and internal controls. Certified Fraud Examiner is a certification offered by ACFE, a non-profit working towards enhancing education relating to fraud. This certification helps resources to understand the essentials better.

How did you end up working in forensic accounting?

I was influenced by the way my mentor (Mr. Shanmuga Sundaram) worked on internal audit/internal control reviews, where he was able to spot complex frauds based on his unorthodox approach. Over time I realized that I had an interest in fraud investigations and wanted to explore that as a career. I joined Ernst & Young in their fraud investigation service line to learn and over a period the work experience supported by subsidiary reading has helped me in this field.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of this kind of work?

Gathering evidence is always challenging. In one of the reviews that I led, the issue in question was on the fraudulent manipulation of IT application data at the backend. The review involved gathering of specific traces of evidence from the logs and identifying inconsistencies. It also required exploring newer tools/techniques including wireshark attack or specific backup protocols to ensure that evidence was secured for subsequent analysis. These measures helped in concluding the investigation.

Similarly in another review, the instance of fraudulent conduct was identified in Japan. Investigation in Japan with known language constraints was challenging. We had to conduct interviews of the suspects with translators around.

How do you think this field of work could be improved?

Currently the technology is maturing in this field with digital forensics and analytics becoming more prominent than before. I believe that technological influence can change the playing field for the service in the decade to come. A move from service to solutions on fraud management also will be a game changer in the years to come.

Finally, do you have any advice for those seeking a career in forensic accounting?

My 3 points of suggestions to people joining forensic accounting are:

  1. Remember you are not a super human. You can gather only those evidences that are available, extractable and representable at the court of law. Hence be clear with the evidence that you can gather.
  2. Spend time learning. Learning gives a broader perspective of gathering evidence.
  3. Embrace technology. It will help you, add value to the field of work over time and bring in a change.

If you’re a forensic scientist (academic or industry) or a crime scene investigator and would like to be part of this series of interviews, get in touch by emailing locardslabblog[at]gmail.com.

This is Part 6 of our series of interviews with forensic professionals.

Interview Series Part 1 – Interview with Forensic Identification Scientist Alexandre Beaudoin

Interview Series Part 2 – Interview with Forensic Expert Robert Green OBE

Interview Series Part 3 – Interview with Forensic Expert & Consultant Gareth Bryon

Interview Series Part 4 – Interview with Forensic Identification Specialist Donna Brandelli

Interview Series Part 5 – Interview with Forensic Video Analyst David Spreadborough