Most of us are familiar with forensics and crime scenes from TV, but the intersection of crime, science and law is real life for Trent University graduate Tamara Newell-Bell ’15 (Lady Eaton College).
A crime scene specialist with Peel Regional Police since April 2021, Tamara has collected, documented and processed forensic evidence at close to 200 crime scenes. Her work includes locating and preserving fingerprints as well as collecting DNA evidence from blood, saliva and other bodily fluid samples, all skills she acquired and refined through two degrees at Trent University.
“Being able to apply the theoretical knowledge and practical experience that I received at Trent in a real-life environment really is a dream come true,” says Tamara, a graduate of Trent’s competitive Master of Science in Forensic Science and undergraduate Forensic Science B.Sc. programs. “The techniques and methods of examination that were taught, and the practical crime scene courses, reflect what is used in the field. That allowed me to do my job well from the get-go, and I have located and developed fingerprints which have led to criminal charges being laid.”
Following the clues to realize her dream
For Tamara, the pursuit of a career in forensic science started even before coming to Trent for her undergraduate degree. While she admits this professional path was “very daunting,” Tamara says her plans started to fall into place when she made the decision to attend Trent.
“My passion for forensics was amplified and fostered throughout my time at Trent,” says Tamara, who attained her Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science and Biology in 2019 before moving on to her masters. “I was won over by the smaller class sizes, the scholarship opportunities and especially the hands-on learning offered by the Forensic program through the Crime Scene House (since replaced by the state-of-the-art Forensics Crime Scene Facility).”
One particular experience at Trent that was especially valuable to helping Tamara gain skills and attain her career goal was a fourth-year research thesis project. The one-year research practicum was focused on the intersection of bloodstain pattern analysis and spectroscopy, and helped her dive deeper into a specific topic of forensic science and hone practical skills.
Her thesis also led to her co-authoring a scientific publication on the subject alongside her mentors Dr. Aaron Shafer and Dr. Theresa Stotesberry, who she credits for her success at Trent, and for imparting wise words about a future in forensics.
“I know my career will always involve the intersection of science and law,” says Tamara. “Even though forensics is my bread and butter, I will be a lifelong learner. Trent taught me that and they were right.”