Date of Birth: 20th Dec 1944
What institutions did she attend?
- St Madeleine Government Primary School, Trinidad
- Naparima Girls’ High School, Trinidad
- Naparima College, Trinidad
- University of Toronto, Canada- BSc in Chemistry
- The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, Trinidad- Diploma in Management Studies
- University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland- MSc in Forensic Science
- Medals of Merit for outstanding work in Chemistry, Naparima Girls’ High School and Naparima College
- Vice President of the Council of Caribbean Forensic Laboratory Heads
She is an avid fan of cricket and football. In 2006, she went to Germany to support the Soca Warriors at the World Cup. She also enjoys travelling and has visited many parts of the world, including Russia, Cuba and Alaska, USA.
A theatre buff, she often attends local productions.
Caribbean Women in STI
Yolanda Thompson came under the spotlight as an expert witness in several high profile criminal cases in Trinidad and Tobago. She was the first woman to become the director of the Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Science Centre and to head a national forensic laboratory in the Caribbean. In this role, she introduced some key measures that strengthened the operations of the centre and the local justice system. The most challenging was the introduction of DNA testing and the use of DNA evidence in criminal cases, which the DNA Act of 2007 allows. It took almost 10 years to be enacted.
Other career achievements were the computerisation of the centre’s records of information on crime exhibits and the amendment of the Evidence Act to allow persons other than scientific officers to receive incoming exhibits. These changes reduced the turn-over time of reports from the centre. She also led an important five-year study of the occurrence of each of the blood types in the population of Trinidad and Tobago. Its results help in the interpretation of physical evidence in forensic cases.
Ms Thompson started out in her professional life as a chemist in the Chemistry/Food and Drugs Division, Ministry of Health where she analysed food, drugs, industrial materials and forensic exhibits. Within a few years, she felt the need to upgrade her skills in forensics and successfully applied for a scholarship to read for a master’s degree in the field.
The division did all forensic work until 1983, when that function and all personnel were transferred to the newly constructed national forensic science centre. Ms Thompson went on to receive further training in the forensic application of DNA-typing methods at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, USA, and in the interpretation of DNA evidence in casework with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the University of Ottawa, Canada. She was also certified in international standards used for quality assurance in laboratories, and was a member of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors and the Forensic Society of England. After 14 years as a scientific officer, she was promoted to deputy director in 1995 and then director in 1996. Following her retirement from the centre in 2004, she served as Forensic Advisor to the Ministry of National Security for three years.
Yolanda Thompson was born on 20th December, 1944 in St Madeleine, Trinidad. Growing up, she was an avid reader of detective novels, Agatha Christie being her favourite author. As a result, she was a frequent visitor to the Carnegie Library in San Fernando. These detective books sparked her interest in crime solving. Many areas of chemistry and biology can be used in solving crimes. For example, during a murder investigation, a suspect may claim that the blood present on his or her clothing came from a cut on his or her hand, and that the blood present on a kitchen knife was from beef that was being chopped. Forensic tests could prove whether or not the blood is that of the suspect or of another person or an animal. Being able to provide this kind of information to police gives her a sense of satisfaction, knowing that her work could help bring a perpetrator to justice.
Her favourite quote is, “Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
What is a forensic scientist?
Forensic scientists investigate crime scenes for evidence that could lead to the apprehension and conviction of the
perpetrator(s). They play an important role in assisting police detectives in solving crimes, reconstructing crime scenes, and collecting and preserving evidence such as fingerprints, tissue samples, chemical substances, physical materials and ballistics evidence. They use a range of scientific methods and modern equipment to run tests on samples and do their analyses. They interpret their findings to identify and classify the evidence collected. They also testify as expert witnesses at trials.
Areas of Specialisation
- Forensic anthropology
- Forensic chemistry
- Forensic DNA analysis
- Forensic entomology
- Forensic dentistry
- Forensic pathology
- Forensic toxicology
- Trace evidence analysis
What do I need to study?
At CSEC and CAPE: Biology, Chemistry, Computer, Mathematics
An associate degree in applied science at the minimum, but a degree in chemistry, biology or forensic science is
What skills and traits do I need?
- Inductive reasoning
- Critical thinking
- Information ordering
- An eye for detail and the ability to identify patterns in details
- Skill in interpreting scientific results
- Ability to control emotions
- Teamwork skills
Famous Forensic Scientists
- Henry Lee
- Clea Koff
- Edmund Locard
- Michael Baden
- Khunying Pornthip Rojanasunand