Sonia achieved a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) from the University of Sydney. After then qualifying in accountancy and working for a while as an Accountant, she returned to science and studied Analytical Chemistry within the Forensic Science Centre at the University of Technology Sydney. She gained a First Class Honours degree with a thesis on FTIR chemical imaging of fingerprints developed with novel cyanoacrylates.
Sonia joined us from the NSW Police Force where she was a Crime Scene Officer within the Forensic Services Group. In that role she undertook a wide range of fingerprint analysis, scene appraisal and evidence retrieval activities. Since joining us in 2018, Sonia has been involved in a range of fire investigations including domestic and commercial buildings, road and off-road vehicles and specialist machinery. She has completed our in-house training program, and also studied in the UK on the world-renowned Gardiner Associates Training and Research Joint Services Advanced Practical training course. There she reached the level required for UK Skills for Justice Level 5 Certification.
In April 2019 she attended the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) annual International Training Conference in Jacksonville, USA to further her knowledge and skills with internationally recognised investigators and instructors. Sonia has been qualified by the IAAI as a Fire Investigation Technician (IAAI-FIT) and is Australia’s first IAAI accredited Evidence Collection Technician (IAAI-ECT). In 2019 she graduated with a Graduate Certificate in Fire Investigation from Charles Sturt University with Merit and is currently studying towards a Masters in Fire Safety Engineering at Western Sydney University.
Sonia has been an office holder in the Australia and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (NSW Branch) since 2012. She is actively involved in the NSW Association of Fire Investigators as a committee member, and more recently as Senior Vice President. She also sits on the IAAI Ethical Practices and Grievances Committee.
What inspired you to enter the fire and explosion investigation industry?
When I returned to study forensics at university after starting a career in Accounting I was drawn to the fire and explosion investigation industry when I was able to study the subject directly. I was drawn to the fact that it involved essentially solving a puzzle. A big black dirty puzzle. All other aspects of forensics appeared to focus on one aspect only, whereas fire and explosion investigation involved a wide array of scenarios from evidence collection to examining evidence to forming an opinion as to what actually happened. I saw in as a unique area of forensics and a challenge.
Can you tell us about the most interesting or rewarding case you’ve investigated?
There are no two cases that are the same and they are all rewarding and interesting in their own ways. The cases that are most rewarding are those where I am able to bring some closure to an insured who’s life has been turned upside down.
What is your main area of interest or speciality, and why is this area important to you?
My main specialty area is fire safety engineering. This area is important as it provides an understanding as the measures that are required by law to prevent a fire or minimise loss to life which can affect the path a fire takes in a building. As a result, it can assist in determining origin and cause of a fire.
What do you most enjoy about working in the fire and explosion investigation industry?
I love that every job is different and every job is a challenge. You never know what you will have until you get on scene.
What do you believe sets Fire Forensics apart from other investigation companies?
Fire Forensics prides itself on quality and integrity. The focus is on doing the job right and thoroughly in order to produce an end product that helps our clients. No jobs are rushed and no short cuts are taken. We are also strongly encouraged to continually improve our knowledge in any and all areas where required. No-one will ever know everything there is to know given the variety of our work and we will be constantly learning throughout our entire careers. As such, we are supported in the pursuit of knowledge, be it in the form of formal education such as university degrees, or more informal courses and conferences, or via the experience of others.
Can you share your proudest career moment?
Every time I get a positive comment regarding my work. Given how sensitive some of the people we deal with are, being told thank you at the end of the day means everything. Especially when I can make things a little easier for them.
What are you most looking forward to achieving with Fire Forensics in 2021?
Continuing learning through attending more scenes, continuing study of fire safety engineering, teaching at UTS and helping to expand and improve the business.
What are your favourite things to do during your down-time?