Stephanie (Steph) Opperman grew up on the wild West Coast of Scotland.
She was set on studying marine biology until a career advisor at school suggested she leave her options open and consider a broader biology-based degree.
An undergraduate degree in Biological and Biomedical sciences led Steph to take some papers on genetics and DNA and then an MSc in Forensic Science
“For my MSc placement,” she explains, “I spent four months with the research department of the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, England. This really opened my eyes to the opportunities within forensics.”
From a job in genetic research with the Medical Research Council in Oxford, England, Steph worked her way up to DNA reporting for casework, then trained as a casework examiner, carrying out item examinations, primarily for body fluids but also looking at hairs, damage and other physical evidence for criminal cases. In 2015, she applied for a senior scientist position with the Forensic Biology team across the other side of the world at ESR.
Now, on a daily basis, Steph carries out DNA analysis, interprets DNA results, carries out statistical calculations and writes reports and statements for court.
“I love the variety of my job,” she says. “I love that the casework aspect is never the same day to day – there is always a variety of casework circumstances and results. I love the problem-solving aspect of my job. I have always been a bit of a puzzle nerd. I love the Bayesian Networks/Evaluative Reporting path that I have been on for the last few years. And I love the team of like-minded individuals that I get to work with every day.”