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What is a Serologist?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 17, 2024
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A serologist is a medical scientist who specializes in blood serum analysis. He is often associated with forensic investigations related to criminal inquiries, but may also be instrumental in medical diagnostic procedures. His job may require him to accompany law enforcement to crime scenes as well as spend significant time involved in laboratory testing procedures.

Besides law enforcement agencies and medical groups, serologists are often employed by crime labs and military branches. This job is also frequently performed by other scientific professionals. These customarily include medical examiners, biologists, forensic technicians, toxicologists and criminalists.

The serum, which is the liquid part of blood that has no clotting agents, is commonly analyzed along with other clear bodily fluids produced by serous membranes. Some serological tests are regularly performed on saliva as well as semen, which both have vague similarities to blood serum. A victim of a violent crime may have traces of saliva on his body that can be used for analysis, and semen testing is often valuable in identifying rapists.

A clinical serologist normally tests the substance to determine its type, if it is Rh positive or negative and if there are any discernible antibodies or antigens. If he discovers particular antibodies, this frequently indicates the presence of a certain disease. Abnormal antibodies in the blood can also suggest problems with a person’s autoimmune system.

If the serologist works in the field of forensics, his analysis generally has a different focus. He is regularly asked to extract DNA from the blood to identify either a crime victim or a perpetrator. In some cases, the blood is tested to determine if it came from a human or an animal. His expert testimony on these factors is commonly requested at criminal trials.

In addition to testing crime and accident scene blood, a forensic serologist is frequently an expert in blood spatter analysis as well. Specialists in this field can provide important information to police investigators regarding the height of the assailant, the direction from which the assault came and the distance between the attacker and the victim. A serologist can also typically determine the victim’s time of death through blood analysis.

Most serologist jobs require a bachelor’s degree in science, but exceptions are sometimes made for those with extensive experience in related fields. A bachelor of arts degree is also occasionally acceptable if it is accompanied by a master’s degree. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in forensic serology that include a combination of laboratory and classroom instruction. Some applicants who show exceptional abilities or have related work experience are hired while in the process of completing their formal education.

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