Meet Chrystal Bell: Crime Scene Forensic ScientistDecember 11, 2009
The episode starts with a man in a restaurant who inadvertently flashes the gun at his waist as he grabs his wallet. The camera zooms in for a close-up of an eye, which reflects that gun. The next shot shows the same man flashing a knowing smile, and in the next he is lying on the ground. Dead.
Crime Scene Investigation, the CBS hit series that first aired in 2000, is just one of the many crime shows out there today giving fans a Hollywood take on the life of a forensic scientist. Chrystal Bell, a 2002–03 Career Development Grant recipient, might also have some idea of this life, because she’s been working as a forensic scientist since 2004.
Chrystal first got interested in the field after seeing a job listing for a position at the state crime lab. “When I read it, I thought, ‘Yes! This is what I’ve been looking for all along,'” Chrystal explained. She said the position appealed to her fascination with “science, death, crime, and puzzles.”
The AAUW grant helped Chrystal find her way down this path. “More than anything, this grant gave me the confidence to make the leap into this field,” she said. According to Chrystal, the grant helped her focus more on what she needed to do to be successful.
Success for Chrystal means working as a team to help solve violent crimes. “If I can help answer questions and figure out what happened, then I feel like I’ve done my job,” explained Chrystal.
The increase in Hollywood attention to the crime scene field has had an interesting effect, according to Chrystal. “It’s difficult for people to separate fact from fiction, so it makes the terrain very interesting when it comes to public opinion about criminal cases.”
Recently Chrystal participated in a documentary forensic show that captured the story of a case Chrystal was working on. “Lights, camera, production crews — it was all a little overwhelming, but the experience allowed me to see that the aftermath of a tragic and sad event had some good come out of it. Hearing and seeing the families of all who were involved was a special moment for me,” said Chrystal.
Another way Chrystal is helping to keep forensic science real is by telling her community about the field. She has given presentations to high school science students, at a local science museum, and at her neighborhood community center. On a more personal level, Chrystal is also looking forward to sharing her passion for biology with her newborn daughter.