Forensic engineers use their mathematical expertise to examine failed devices and determine why they did not work properly.
Anything man made can fail, and in the event that it does, a forensic engineer is the one who would be called to figure out why. Anything from a bomb to a bridge to a blender is capable of a critical malfunction that could result in endangerment, injury, or death of people in the vicinity. That means lawsuits, redesigns, and two essential questions: what went wrong, and how can we fix it?
Forensic engineering work may include...
- Testifying in court on
- Appearing at the scene of a failure
- Examining wreckage and debris for clues to the cause of failure
- Gathering evidence
- Redeveloping components of failed designs
- Risk analysis
- Involvement with repair and reconstruction
- Documenting the process thoroughly in an official report
The word of a forensic engineer can turn the course of a civil suit on its head by disproving a manufacturing fault or proving a device was tampered with. Regardless of the outcome, it is an engineer's duty to provide an unbiased scientific opinion to the court.
Qualified forensic engineers may find themselves working in all sorts of environments, from design labs to construction sites. Often the situations they work in relate to their chosen specialty as engineers; for instance, a structural engineer would be called in to investigate a collapsed building, but not a malfunctioning boat engine. The specific discipline is typically chosen at the undergraduate level, after a student has built a solid foundation in math and sciences.
You'll need a bachelor's degree to land any sort of engineering role, and then there are two exams to pass: the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which can be taken upon the completion of undergraduate degree, and the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, which an engineer needs four years of professional experience to qualify for. Both exams contain specifics relating to a prospective engineer's chosen materials. After passing the second exam, one obtains an engineering license which allows them to practice.
Some research-oriented engineers will opt for graduate degrees to gain further specialized expertise in their discipline, which increases the credibility of their expertise. Many people who gravitate towards careers in engineering do so because they like figuring out how things work; for someone who also enjoys a bit of mystery, forensic engineering might prove an exciting career.
For more information, please follow the links below:
- National Academy of Forensic Engineers
- Members of the Society of Forensic Engineers and Scientists
- Investigative Engineers Association
- International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences