Trust your gut.

by Micaela Louise Swart

At the end of last year, upon the completion of my undergraduate degree, I was faced with an incredibly difficult decision. The decision was whether to pursue my honours degree in Medical Microbiology, or in Biomedical Forensic Science.

You see, I had majored in Medical Microbiology during my undergrad and was actually pretty good at it, so that was a comfortable option for me. The thought of studying Medical Microbiology however did not excite me like Forensics did. I guess I have the same reason for wanting to study forensic science as most other students – because of CSI and those other intriguing true crime documentaries. My boyfriend never understood my love for those shows. My longing to study forensic science went deeper than that though. I wanted to contribute to the medico-legal system of South Africa. I wanted to seek justice for families, and help them find some level of closure. I wanted to be part of something greater.

I made an effort to speak to individuals from the SAPS Forensic Laboratories to obtain any valuable advice or information about the forensics field. They warned me about the lack of resources and other issues experienced in their labs, as well as the lack of growth opportunities at SAPS specifically. Some even tried to steer me away from forensics as a career choice because of their negative experiences. This made me doubt whether forensic science was the route for me to pursue.

I spoke to my family and friends about the decision that had to be made, and asked for their thoughts and guidance. Hearing their perspectives was so incredibly helpful, as they are all in the working world. They expressed that my voice and body language changed when speaking about forensics, like something lit up inside of me. They knew that forensics was the path for me, and deep down, I knew it too. I guess the difficulty rested in whether I wanted to pick the safe, comfortable option, or the one that I was truly passionate about, but came with more uncertainties. After much debate with those in my life, going backwards and forwards with myself, as well as writing pros-and-cons lists, I decided to trust my gut.  I decided to choose something that I was going to look forward to studying every day, even if I didn’t know what the future held for that particular field.

Now, looking back, I realise that Medical Microbiology has not once crossed my mind since my first day of honours in Biomedical Forensic Science. This year has been life changing. I’ve been privileged enough to be supervised by one of the most knowledgeable individuals I’ve ever come across; I’ve formed some of the healthiest friendships I’ve ever had; I’ve been shown patience, encouragement, love and understanding by my small but incredibly supportive department. Truth is, I’ve enjoyed this year so much that I’ve decided to pursue my MSc in Biomedical Forensic Science. I guess you could say my gut was right.

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