Little details and big pictures

ONE OF MY JOB PERKS is the opportunity to speak with people who are proud of the work they do. I often talk to forensic-science professionals who share the nuances and accomplishments that make their everyday work extraordinary: a discovery of some consistency that was hiding in the minute details of a series of complex cases, for example, or an innovation that simply must be shared with the rest of the forensic community.

Other times, I talk with people who have set out to create changes that affect the entire system: big, sweeping accomplishments at an administrative level.

For this issue’s featured interview (Page 14), I spoke with Joe Minor, the technical DNA manager with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Minor played a significant role in reducing the backlog of unanalyzed DNA at the TBI’s three laboratories over several years. Through the help of grants from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), tight organization, and a lot of hard work, the TBI successfully reduced its backlog and increased overall throughput. Today, the TBI’s laboratories boast some of the fastest turnaround times for DNA analysis in the country.

During our conversation, Minor shared with me the administrative achievement that has affected the way a state laboratory does its work and serves its community. But he also expressed pride in everyday, case-by-case accomplishments.

This is the kind of attitude that I find so often among people in the forensic community. They are able to focus on improving the big picture while drawing motivation from the little details.

And, perhaps, when a person spends so much time with the little details, an opportunity to gain a new perspective on the big picture lends added meaning to everyday work.

Laboratory managers and administrators who recognize the intricate balance between little details and big pictures may truly be onto something. When Minor read off a list of DNA “wins” that his laboratory had achieved, I asked him if he is required to keep track of that information as part of the grant program with the NIJ. He said that the information does go to the NIJ. But then he told me that tracking success stories also helps the forensic scientists at Tennessee’s three state laboratories take stock of and share their accomplishments.

“It is good to share that kind of information, because you enjoy the success that everyone had in solving these cases,” said Minor.

Pride in those accomplishments is something that should be shared.

Kristi Mayo, editor
Evidence Technology Magazine

"Little details and big pictures," written by Kristi Mayo
September-October 2009 (Volume 7, Number 5)
Evidence Technology Magazine
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