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Sue Black

Sue BlackProfessor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, University of Dundee

Interview location: Wellcome Building, Dundee University
Interview date: 19th September 2007

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Sue Black is one of very few forensic anthropologists in the UK.  She grew up on the west coast of Scotland where her parents managed a hotel.  An incident when she was a child gave her an abiding abhorrence for rats and had a critical influence on her life and career.  Black studied anatomy at university but, unable to countenance a research project using rodents, turned instead to studying human bones.  She is today a leading authority in this field.  

To be able to dissect a human body, to be able to look underneath the skin, is the most fascinating thing.  It's a real privilege.An expert at Disaster Victim Identification, Black has worked for the International War Crimes Tribunal in Kosovo, the United Nations in Sierra Leone, and the UK government in Iraq and in Thailand following the 2004 tsunami. Her interview is studded with all sorts of stories and human detail – both fascinating and humorous -- about her extraordinary experiences.  “To work in forensics you need to have a clinical detachment, because you're there to retrieve evidence, you're not there to give an opinion... If you do become affected by it you become inefficient in your objectivity.”  She is at the forefront of a training programme for UK special forces who are deployed in such situations.

Sue Black lives with her family in Aberdeenshire, and admits it is sometimes hard to balance what is often a dangerous, though compulsively interesting job with the responsibilities of motherhood.
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