Forensics Chemistry: Its Impact on the Education of Recent Generations of Undergraduate Students
Room: Plaza Ballroom A
Organizers: Lawrence Kaplan
During the past 25 years, forensic science has emerged as an ideal field to introduce many topics in the chemical (and related physical and biological) sciences to undergraduate students. The Forensic Science workshop, offered for the past decade, under the auspices of the National Science Foundation supported Center for Workshops in the Chemical Sciences has been very successful in introducing more than 250 college and university professors to the world of forensic science as a pedagogical vehicle.
Developments in CCD technology resulted in a range of affordable and portable analytical instruments which are suitable for forensic field work and are attractive for undergraduate teaching laboratory. With orientation towards forensic chemistry, we suggest shifting emphasis of analytical chemistry curriculum towards qualitative identification of chemical compounds. Here we discuss our experience with application of several techniques in undergraduate laboratory: (1) CCD-based miniature camera/microscope for evidence recording as a part of lab equipment in traditional analytical chemistry.
We will present the developments related to forensics at Fairfield University based on what we learned at the CWCS Forensic Science workshop in 2007. After attending the workshop, we developed the course, Introduction to Forensic Science (CH007). It is a one-semester integrated lecture and laboratory course for non-science majors. This course provides an introduction to the scientific techniques used for the analysis of physical evidence encountered at crime scenes. The lecture part of the course focuses on exploring the underlying chemical principles behind the techniques.
At least three broad positive effects of forensic science on undergraduate chemistry students can be easily delineated.
Color laser printers and copiers are now common enough that they are used on a regular basis by many of us. This pervasive usage has also allowed these devices to be the source of questionable and even illegal activity. Most manufacturers
The presenting author attended a CWCS forensic workshop at Williams College in Summer 2002. This experience directly resulted in the funding of a NSF-CCLI (A&I) proposal. The funding allowed the purchase of new equipment and the full implementation of a new upper-level course (Forensic Chemistry Laboratory). This course covers many of the topics presented at the CWCS workshop, but at a level suitable for senior-level forensic chemistry students. Among the many laboratory activities in the new course, students perform STR analysis of their own DNA, drug analysis, and arson analysis.
Forensic chemistry education: What do crime laboratory directors want from universities graduating the next generation of forensic scientists?
Crime lab directors seek to hire bachelor and masters graduates with strong science (chemistry, biochemistry, biology) backgrounds who are detailed orientated, know how to solve problems, are articulate, can work and think independently, and who possess profession integrity. Universities offering degrees in forensic science may wish to consider accreditation under The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Forensic Science Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) an accrediting program which sets standards for forensic science academic degree programs.
Forensic chemistry is an ideal place to encourage forensic science to become more rigorous, objective, and quantitative as a profession. A reasonable definition of forensic chemistry emphasizes the application of analytical chemistry to problems of forensic and legal concern. Accordingly, forensic chemistry must be a rigorous measurement science. A strong, relevant, and competitive forensic chemistry education integrates metrology, quality assurance, analytical thinking, and extensive quantitative skills.
First and foremost, the objective of a basic forensic science course is to present the techniques, skills, and limitations of the modern crime laboratory to a student who has no background in the forensic sciences. No prior knowledge about scientific principles or techniques can be assumed on the part of the student. He or she is introduced to those areas of chemistry and biology relating to the analysis of physical evidence with a minimum of scientific terminology and equations.
The National Academy of Sciences Forensic Sciences Report and forensic science education: Is a midcourse correction needed?
In recent years, the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) has been accrediting forensic science education programs using guidelines and standards developed by a technical working group on forensic science education. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences released a report on forensic science after a two year study by a committee. This report calls for some sweeping changes in how forensic science is or should be conducted. If forensic science education is to remain relevant to the field, then some adjustments should be made to curricula.
Since attending the CWCS Advanced Forensic Science Workshop in June of 2008, the training I received from this workshop has been implemented at Mount Saint Mary College in a variety of ways.
As a result of attending the CWCS Forensic Workshop, a forensic chemistry course at Tennessee Technological University was developed. The course is taught at the junior/senior level with organic chemistry and quantitative analysis as prerequisites. The laboratory portion of the course emphasizes the application of instrumentation to forensic problems and requires students to apply techniques introduced in previous chemistry courses, such as preparation of standards and statistical analysis of data.