Forensic scientist skills – fingerprints!

What is a forensic scientist and what skills do they need?

Forensic scientist skills - fingerprinting
Image: Fingerprint morphology
Creative Commons BY SA.

Content Authors:

Dr Mark Fowler


College, University, Specialist

OER Features:

A set of 11 photographs showing the morphology of the fingerprint.

Forensic scientist training photographs


OER Description:

Part of Forensic Science degrees and courses at university and an essential part of training for the forensic scientist will be the understanding finger prints – that is the patterns and impressions left by human fingers and thumbs. The morphology of the finger comprises of a series of ridges called friction ridges which are formed by the epidermis of the skin.

The epidermis is formed from a stratified squamous epithelium which is keratinized – that is – it contains a tough protein to make the skin barrier impenetrable and tough. The complex patterns of the friction ridges mean that practically no two finger prints are identical; therefore they are useful identifiers of individuals who may have been present at the scene of a crime. The identification of fingerprints is known as dactyloscopy, and learning how to identify prints and use them to provide robust crime scene evidence is an important part of the job of a forensic scientist.

At the scene of a crime, finger prints may be left naturally by sweat and or oil that might have been released from glands in the skin, or more often powders and inks are applied to highlight the appearance of the prints. The series of photographs in this resource contain high power photographs of the surface of the skin and you might be amazed to see how the ridges form the surface. Other images illustrate the important components of the finger print itself that are used by the forensic scientist as part of their investigations.