Kirsty Atkinson

"I loved being able to learn in a professional and stimulating environment"
About my career

Forensics has always fascinated me, ever since I was a child. The idea that the slightest fibre or residue can be identified and traced and become significant evidence drew me in. I came to study at Manchester Metropolitan University as a mature student, where I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Biology and Forensic Science.

In my third year at MMU, I really got into the forensic biology and DNA side of things. Rather than focus on the collection of evidence at the scene to build a case, I became more interested in what happens to samples when they reach the lab. I then went on to further study a Masters at UCLan followed by an MPhil at the University of Chester. After completing my degrees, I began my career with Key Forensic Services.

My initial role as a DNA Analyst was purely lab-based, which isn’t for everyone, but I loved it. I have since been promoted to Reporting Manager, which is more office-based. The role involves casework management from initial receipt of exhibits at the lab, the extensive lab-process, and all the way through to issuing the results to the Police.

Every day I get to use the technical DNA skills and practical lab skills I learnt throughout my degree. I work through caseloads of routine samples, running tests and procedures to provide DNA data. Every so often, I will get an urgent case from the police who will blue-light samples to the lab.

I listen to the news in a completely different way now. I’ll hear about a murder driving in to work and two hours later, samples from the crime scene are on my desk. I might be swabbing drinks cans or cutting up cigarette ends for traces of saliva, for example. I then manage these samples through the DNA process, when the results are brought to me for final interpretation. The police will tell us if they are successful and if they are, it’s an amazing feeling to know that in doing your job you have directly contributed to catching and convicting criminals.

My top tip for students is…

Don’t give up. Every new application is a new opportunity and treat each one with a fresh approach. Rewrite your CV and covering letter to show how you fulfil the criteria laid out in the application.

I’m inspired by…

Dr Neil Cresswell – he was always available to help with advice and guidance.

Why I love Manchester Met

Being able to learn in a professional and stimulating environment.