Tal Simmons, Ph.D.
Professor, chair and graduate program director

Catherine Connon, Ph.D.
Instructor and undergraduate program director

forensicscience.vcu.edu

The Department of Forensic Science offers programs leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The Bachelor of Science is for students who plan a career or graduate study in the forensic sciences. The forensic science program provides students with fundamental learning in forensic laboratory analyses and crime scene investigation, with academic emphasis in biology, chemistry and criminal justice. The program offers three concentrations: forensic biology, forensic chemistry and physical evidence. Students will select one of the three concentrations prior to the second semester of their sophomore year. The B.S. in Forensic Science supplies students with the necessary skills for professional careers in forensic laboratories, public and private, basic research laboratories, clinical laboratories, and/or to pursue graduate studies. Students also will be prepared to pursue advanced degrees in the physical sciences, biological sciences, forensic science, law, allied health and medicine, to name a few.

The Master of Science in Forensic Science prepares students for careers as forensic scientists in government and private laboratories. Students receive in-depth exposure to specializations within the field, including drug analysis, DNA analysis, trace evidence, criminalistics and legal issues.

For more information visit forensicscience.vcu.edu.

 
 
 

Forensic science

FRSC   505. Forensic Entomology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Focuses on the proper techniques in the taxonomic identification of forensic insects and proper methods of postmortem interval determinations. Students will be responsible for the identification of insects, a reference collection of specimens and the processing of a mock crime scene for entomological evidence.

FRSC   520. Forensic Fire Investigation. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: FRSC   375, FRSC   670 or equivalent. Examines the specialized field of forensic fire investigation including on-scene investigation, fire theory, accelerant-assisted burn patterns and expert-witness testimony.

FRSC   565. Scientific Crime Scene Investigation. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and/or laboratory hours. 3 credits. Presents the theory and techniques of scientific crime scene investigation including: recognition, documentation, collection and enhancement of physical evidence. A comprehensive introduction to the use of physical evidence for crime scene reconstruction is presented.

FRSC   566. Advanced Crime Scene Investigation. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: FRSC   309, FRSC   565 or equivalent. An advanced study of the methods and techniques of crime scene investigation with an emphasis on crime scene reconstruction by the use of physical evidence. Course will include extensive practical applications with mock crime scenes.

FRSC   570. Forensic Science Seminar. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. Must be repeated a minimum of three times for three credits. A seminar course featuring presentations by faculty, crime laboratory staff, students and visiting lecturers. Instruction includes discussions of research and developments and current topics in various forensic science disciplines and related fields.

FRSC   591. Topics in Forensic Science. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable lecture hours. 1-3 credits; maximum of 6 credits for all forensic science topic courses may be applied to major. Prerequisite: graduate standing in the forensic science program or permission of instructor required for enrollment. A study in selected topics in forensic science. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics to be offered each semester and additional prerequisites.

FRSC   644. Forensic Toxicology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Lecture and demonstrations in which common poisons and groups of poisons are discussed as to detection, diagnosis and treatment of poisoning. Demonstrations include basic principles of analytical toxicology, forensic science and courtroom testimony. Crosslisted as: PHTX   644.

FRSC   661. Analysis of Pattern Evidence. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: FRSC   673 and FRSZ 673L or equivalents. Covers topics in pattern evidence analysis including analysis of latent prints, impression evidence and bloodstain pattern analysis as applied to forensic casework. The course covers both the theoretical and practical aspects, using lectures and laboratory exercises focusing on the collection, analysis and interpretation of pattern evidence.

FRSC   662. Firearm and Toolmark Identification. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: FRSC   673 and FRSZ 673L or equivalents. Covers topics in firearm and toolmark identification as applied to forensic casework. The course covers both the theoretical and practical aspects, using lectures and laboratory exercises.

FRSC   663. Forensic Medicine. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Covers the fundamentals of forensic medicine including topics such as forensic death investigations, postmortem changes, time-of-death determinations, identification of unknown human remains and the forensic pathology of natural and traumatic deaths in adults and children. The characteristics and diagnosis of various types of trauma as well as the characteristics of common natural diseases that cause sudden death will be presented.

FRSC   670. Forensic Evidence and Criminal Procedure. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Presents the law of criminal procedure and rules of evidence as applied to forensic science. Explores issues of scientific versus legal burdens of proof, legal terminology and trial procedure.

FRSC   671. Instrumentation in Forensic Chemistry. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Theory and applications of chromatography, mass spectrometry and spectroscopy as used in modern crime laboratories. Instruction will focus on instrumental analysis as applied to drug analysis, toxicology, fire debris identification and general trace evidence examination.

FRSC   672. Advanced Drug Analysis. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and/or laboratory hours. 3 credits. Isolation and identification of abused drugs emphasizing the analysis of unknowns, problems encountered in analysis and chain of custody issues.

FRSC   673. Forensic Microscopy. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture hours. 2 credits. Establishes the foundation for the theory of microscopy. The knowledge acquired in this course can be applied to forensic disciplines such as firearms examinations, forensic biology, controlled substances, questioned documents and trace evidence.

FRSC   675. Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and/or laboratory hours. 2 credits. Presents the theory and methodology used for the examination and identification of body fluid stains and determination of species. Provides students an introduction to the theory and methodology of forensic DNA analysis as well as forensic DNA quality control issues. Instruction will focus on molecular biology techniques as they are applied in a forensic DNA crime laboratory setting.

FRSC   676. Advanced Forensic DNA Analysis. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Focuses on the specific principles and modern procedures used for analysis of forensic nuclear and mitochondrial DNA evidence. Other topics include current research and development for forensic DNA instrumentation and applications, statistical interpretation of results and case report writing. Students gain individualized, hands-on experience with DNA procedures and instrumentation in the laboratory exercises. Students will process mock forensic casework.

FRSC   677. Professional Practices and Expert Testimony. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: must have successfully completed a minimum of 18 credit hours in the forensic science master's degree program. Topics related to professional practices in the forensic science field will be covered, including ethics, bias, quality assurance, laboratory management and professional development. Individual and group activities relating to these topics will be completed. Additionally, this course will examine forensic expert testimony in the courtroom, communication of scientific findings to a general audience, trial preparation and cross-examination in moot court format.

FRSC   680. Forensic Psychiatry. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Guilty mind requirements in criminal law. Competency to stand trial, insanity defense, mental disorder and crime. Behavioral profiling of serial murders and sex offenders. Issues in the use of clinical and statistical prediction methods in criminal justice. Crosslisted as: CRJS   680.

FRSC   681. Analysis of Fire Debris and Explosives. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: FRSC   671, FRSC   673 and FRSZ 673L or equivalents. Presents the collection, analysis and interpretation of fire debris and explosives as they are applied in forensic casework. Covers the theoretical and practical aspects. Laboratory exercises include hands-on instruction with appropriate instrumentation and techniques, including stereomicroscopy, gas chromatography, GC-MS, thin layer chromatography, HPLC and FT-IR.

FRSC   682. Forensic Analysis of Paint and Polymers. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 5 lecture/laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: FRSC   671, FRSC   673 and FRSZ 673L or equivalents. Covers topics in paint and polymer analysis including collection, classification and analysis of paint and fiber evidence as applied to forensic casework. The course covers the theoretical and practical aspects, using lectures and laboratory exercises. Laboratory exercises include hands-on instruction with appropriate instrumentation and techniques, including stereomicroscopy, microchemical testing, fluorescence molecular tomography, fluorescence microscopy, FT-IR and polarizing light microscopy.

FRSC   692. Forensic Science Independent Study. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits. Maximum credit for all independent study applicable to degree is 6 credits. The amount of credit must be determined, and written permission of instructor and program director must be obtained prior to registration. This course is designed to provide an opportunity for independent laboratory research in an area of forensic science or related scientific discipline. The end products of this experience will include an oral presentation at a campus seminar and a written report.

FRSC   693. Current Topics in Forensic Science. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. May be repeated for credit. A course designed to develop skills in reading journal manuscripts and delivering oral presentations in conjunction with an in-depth study of a current topic in forensic science. Student will conduct library research, present talks and lead discussions on the selected topic. See the Schedule of Classes for specific current topics course to be offered each semester and prerequisites.

FRSC   793. Directed Research in Forensic Science. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable laboratory hours. 1-3 credits. Prerequisite: must have successfully completed a minimum of 18 credit hours in the forensic science master's degree program or have permission of the instructor. Students must apply to the program director for this directed research experience one semester in advance of enrollment. A capstone course in which students will conduct independent, original laboratory research in a forensic specialization area of interest, while also gaining practical experience in crime laboratory practices and methods. This laboratory research experience will culminate in a presentation of the project results at a campus seminar and/or professional conference, and a written technical report of publishable quality. A minimum of 300 hours of laboratory research and a minimum of 3 credits are required for graduation.

Forensic science laboratory

FRSZ   673. Forensic Microscopy Laboratory. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 3 laboratory hours. 1 credit. Establishes the foundation for the application and methodology of microscopy. The knowledge acquired in this course can be applied to forensic disciplines such as firearms examinations, forensic biology, controlled substances, questioned documents and trace evidence. The course consists of laboratory exercises and demonstrations.

FRSZ   675. Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis Laboratory. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 3 laboratory hours. 1 credit. Presents the chemical, immunological and microscopic laboratory techniques commonly used for the examination and identification of body fluid stains and determination of species. Provides working knowledge and hands-on practice with basic forensic DNA procedures, including DNA extractions, quantitation, PCR amplification analysis/genotyping. Instruction focuses on molecular biology techniques as applied in a forensic DNA laboratory.