Core Curriculum

These core courses cover essential topics in forensic science providing necessary training for students to work in a forensic laboratory. Many courses include laboratory or other hands-on components.

An overview of the legal, ethical, and practical issues of forensic science and its impact on the justice system.  The course covers the traditional and emerging admissibility standards involving forensic science evidence. The various roles law enforcement, attorneys and forensic scientists and the ethics and professional standards for the practice of criminalistics in various forensic disciplines is discussed.

This combination hands-on and lecture-based course provides students with an in-depth review of crime scene assessment and management. Students learn methods for identifying, documenting, collecting and packaging physical evidence from various types of crime scenes. Techniques such as crime scene sketching, photography and pattern evidence collection are also covered.

This lecture-base course introduces students to the biological aspects of forensic evidence including biochemical and physical attributes of blood and other body fluids, and the common methods of body fluid identification utilized in forensic laboratories are discussed. Other topics include thorough evidence examination, screening, documentation and report writing.

This course provides an introduction to forensic chemistry and exposes students to chemical principles and instrumental techniques associated with the field, with particular emphasis on the analysis of controlled substances and forensic toxicology. A relevant review of organic and analytical chemistry is included.

This lecture-based course provides an overview of the principles and concepts on the basis of trace evidence analysis. Students learn proper techniques for the collection, preservation, identification and comparison of items such as glass, paint, hairs and fibers, using standard methods and instruments.

This course discusses the theory and application of human genetics and molecular biology to the testing of biological evidence. DNA structure and organization of the human genome and types of genetic variation occurring in humans is covered. Other topics include the history of DNA analysis and current PCR-based methods for testing of autosomal STR loci, Y chromosome STR loci and mitochondrial DNA. Lecture material also covers commonly encountered artifacts in PCR testing, DNA profile interpretation and statistical analysis of results.

This interactive course builds on material discussed in Criminal Law and Ethics regarding the criminal trial process, the role of the forensic witness and the presentation of scientific testimony and physical evidence in court. Students present testimony as well as critique the performance of others in a mock court setting. Instructors utilize reports and projects prepared in other courses to provide the subject matter for the students’ testimony. Prerequisite: Criminal Law and Ethics.

This lecture-based course gives an overview of the pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and toxicology of common drugs of interest to the forensic toxicologist, with emphasis on applying the principles of pharmacokinetics to the interpretation of drug blood and urine levels. Students develop an understanding of how drugs (including ethanol) interact with the biology and physiology of the human body and acquire knowledge of the chemical structure of common drugs.
Prerequisite: Forensic Chemistry

Students register for this course in preparation of a research-based thesis project. With direction from a thesis research committee, the student investigates his/her thesis topic, develops a research plan including an outline of the project, becomes familiar with quality control and quality assurance issues and begins data collection. Throughout the semester students are required to attend instructional and discussion sessions and must attend a minimum of ten designated professional/scientific seminars. Prerequisite: Active involvement in the Master’s research project and a designated Principal Investigator.

Students complete an independent program of research that is incorporated into a thesis of publishable quality, states a hypothesis or scientific question and presents the findings to support the stated proposition. Thesis topics are developed in conjunction with a research committee consisting of faculty members and/or other qualified individuals. Students register for this course during the semester in which the student anticipates graduation from the program. Prerequisite: Directed Research and Professionalism in Biomedical Forensic Sciences.