Things Every Young Forensic Scientist Should Know-The Do’s and Don’ts of Working in a Lab

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Jennifer Curnow, the YFSF BYOP Chair, currently works as a Latent Fingerprint Technician for Oak Ridge Associated Universities. She has compiled a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for working in a lab.


  • Follow the personal protective equipment (PPE) policies: wear safety glasses, lab coat, gloves, long pants, closed-toed shoes;
  • Follow all procedures and policies of your lab;
  • If you see ways to increase efficiency, inform your supervisor;
  • Work in a detail-oriented manner;
  • Maintain evidence integrity – chain of custody;
  • Remember: any and all notes can be subpoenaed;
  • Change gloves frequently;
  • Keep your laboratory area clean;
  • Wash your hands frequently; and,
  • Avoid contamination.


  • Deviate from the standard operating protocols (SOPs);
  • Take short cuts even if you think it’s more efficient;
  • Skip steps in order to meet deadlines;
  • Initiate changes without the organization’s permission;
  • Drink or eat in the laboratory; and,
  • Touch your face or skin.

These are all general guidelines that are important in any lab. The specific lab for which you work may have additional guidelines that you should also follow.

Jennifer Curnow, MS