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YVONNE SIM (b.1988), CRYSTAL TAN (b.1988)

FORENSIC SCIENTISTS

When forensic scientists Yvonne Sim and Crystal Tan walk into a classroom, they tell students that their jobs are not quite as glamorous as what they see on television. Popular procedural shows like Crime Scene Investigation have conditioned the public into thinking that it is all about cool cases, impossibly quick turnaround times and sophisticated equipment. “They think you can solve crime in a day. We share with them that actually you also need to do things like research and paperwork,” says Yvonne with a laugh.

The pair work at The Forensic Experts Group, where they process evidence, through scientific techniques, for both private and public clients. Both graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2011 with degrees in Chemistry and Biological Chemistry. Since 2015, they have also been giving forensic education talks and workshops in schools.
Under the company’s education arm, they have published two books that are part of the
Discover Forensics Series which teaches aspiring investigators about elements of the job such as how to analyse evidence – including blood, soil, handwriting and fibres – and look for clues.

Published by Marshall Cavendish, these books are pitched at upper primary to lower secondary students. As forensic scientists, their job is less about uncovering the truth as it is about examining the evidence “wholly objectively”. But they do agree that forensic science can help make visible what is invisible to the untrained eye, which might point towards the truth. “That’s why people sometimes say that physical evidence is the silent witness of crime,” says Crystal.

Another important quality they emphasise to students is the need for a strong sense of
personal ethics. “The thing is that in school, people like to focus on academic performance. But we tell them that’s just one aspect of it. At the end of the day, you can have all the certificates and the qualifications, but if you are morally rotten, then there’s no point,” says Crystal.

Nodding, Yvonne adds: “Yes, having character is really important.”