Dr. Tracy Rogers is a world renowned expert in Forensic Anthropology and the director of the Forensic Science Program at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
On Thursday, February 23rd at 7pm, Dr. Rogers will be teaching an exclusive workshop Forensic Science 101: Body Identification where we will be exploring the processes of real investigators.
We got a chance to talk to Dr. Rogers about science, investigations, and if tv science gets it right.
What inspired you to become a forensic anthropologist?
I was always interested in a career that involved helping people, and initially thought about medicine or psychology. First year university opened many more possibilities for me - jobs I didn't even know existed. Forensic Science was not as high profile then as it is now, but I did find anthropology and specifically the study of human skeletal remains. Back then the focus was on archaeology, but my Master's supervisor did some consulting for the Hamilton Police service. As soon as I found out about forensic anthropology I knew I had found my future. The combination of studying the human skeleton with the ultimate goal of helping people find answers, identify loved ones, and hopefully achieve justice was a perfect fit.
What is your favourite thing about your work?
It is always interesting, challenging, and has a practical application . Whether I am teaching a class of high achieving 4th year university students, explaining forensic anthropology to 11 year olds, recovering human remains, or researching how bone changes with age, there is always something new for me to learn and I know at some point that knowledge and skill set will be put to good use.
Which do you prefer, lab work or field work?
Both, but for different reasons. The field is where it all begins. The information obtained in the field is the basis for everything that follows in a forensic case. I like to be in the field in order to ensure I see and learn everything I can about the case, and to ensure the deceased is taken care of properly, no matter what condition their remains are in. Lab work is where the pieces start to come together. In a case, the field or scene tells me about the last few hours or days of an individual's life. In the lab/morgue, I can learn more about the rest of their life and who they were - health, injuries, sex, age, ancestry, unique features, etc.
Who are your favourite scientists or anthropologists?
Anyone working on something new - a new approach, a new perspective, pushing the boundaries of what is possible (staying within the limits of ethical research). One of my first role models, though, was my supervisor, Dr. Shelley Saunders, from McMaster University.
What percentage of CSI is true?
That is a difficult question to answer because sometimes whole episodes might be almost entirely correct in terms of the techniques they seem to use or approaches followed, but completely wrong when it comes to whose job it is to do which type of task. Sometimes timelines are sped up, analyses produce results that are simply not possible with current technologies, etc. The producers of CSI are looking for a good story, whereas real forensic scientists are looking for the true story - what we can demonstrate to be true, based on the evidence we have, and the limits or scope of the methodologies used to analyze it.
Learn more about the fascinating world of forensics with Dr. Rogers on February 23rd. Get your spot now at this link.