The physical evidence concentration requires an additional 31 credits in chemistry, criminal justice, forensic science and elective credits beyond the core requirements and is offered for those students who are interested in graduate study or careers in latent fingerprint examination, the analysis of impression evidence, as well as firearm and toolmark analyses. Students also will be prepared for work in private analytical laboratories.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will know and know how to do the following:

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the laws of criminal procedure and rules of evidence
  • Demonstrate proper crime scene investigation and reconstruction
  • Demonstrate ethical and professional duties and responsibilities of the forensic scientist
  • Be able to apply basic principles and laboratory procedures of physics and chemistry to forensic science
  • Demonstrate capabilities, use, potential and limitations of forensic laboratory theory and techniques
 

Special requirements

The forensic science program requires a minimum of 120 credits including completion of the College of Humanities and Sciences general education requirements, 46-48 forensic science core program credits and 33 (forensic biology), 30 (forensic chemistry) or 30 (physical evidence) concentration-specific credits.

For the physical evidence concentration, students must complete five credits of 300- to 500-level forensic science or natural science elective coursework, with a minimum of one laboratory course. Additionally, a minimum of 10 additional credit hours of advanced study (200- to 500-level) in an area of specialization must be taken. It is recommended that these credits be CRJS, BIOL, PHYS, MATH or CHEM courses. FRSC 202 is not applicable for the major.

Degree requirements for Forensic Science, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) with a physical evidence concentration

General education requirements

University Core Education Curriculum (minimum 21 credits)
UNIV 111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IFocused Inquiry I3
UNIV 112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IIFocused Inquiry II3
UNIV 200Inquiry and the Craft of Argument3
Approved humanities/fine arts3
Approved natural/physical sciences3-4
Approved quantitative literacy3-4
Approved social/behavioral sciences3-4
Total Hours21-24
Additional College of Humanities and Sciences requirements (11-23 credits)
HUMS 202Choices in a Consumer Society1
Approved H&S diverse and global communities3
Approved H&S human, social and political behavior (fulfills University Core social/behavioral sciences)
Approved H&S literature and civilization (fulfills University Core humanities/fine arts)
Approved H&S science and technology (fulfills University Core natural/physical sciences)
Approved H&S general education electives6-8
Experiential fine arts 11-3
Foreign language through the 102 level (by course or placement)0-8
Total Hours11-23
1

Course offered by the School of the Arts

Collateral requirements

Required courses3 - 10
Calculus with Analytic Geometry (fulfills University Core quantitative literacy)
Critical Thinking About Moral Problems (fulfills H&S literature and civilization)
Basic Practice of Statistics
Total Hours3-10

Major requirements

Students must receive a minimum grade of C in all of the following courses. If a course is a prerequisite for another course, a minimum grade of C must be obtained in the prerequisite course before proceeding to the subsequent course.

BIOL 151
BIOZ 151
Introduction to Biological Sciences I
and Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory I
4
CHEM 101
CHEZ 101
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory I
4
CHEM 102
CHEZ 102
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory II
4
CHEM 301
CHEZ 301
Organic Chemistry
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory I
5
CHEM 302
CHEZ 302
Organic Chemistry
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory II
5
CHEM 309
CHEZ 309
Quantitative Analysis
and Quantitative Analysis Laboratory
5
CHEM 320Inorganic Chemistry I3
FRSC 300Survey of Forensic Science3
FRSC 309Scientific Crime Scene Investigation3
FRSC 365Forensic Microscopy4
FRSC 375Forensic Evidence, Law and Criminal Procedure3
FRSC 385Forensic Serology3
FRSC 410Forensic Pattern Evidence3
FRSC 412Forensic Analysis of Firearms and Toolmarks3
FRSC 490Professional Practices in Forensic Science3
FRSC 566Advanced Crime Scene Investigation3
PHYS 201General Physics4-5
or PHYS 207 University Physics I
PHYS 202General Physics4-5
or PHYS 208 University Physics II
STAT 314Applications of Statistics4
Total Hours70-72

Concentration electives

Students must receive a minimum grade of C in all of their concentration electives. If a course is a prerequisite for another course, a minimum grade of C must be obtained in the prerequisite course before proceeding to the subsequent course.

Select six credits in BIOL/BIOZ, CHEM/CHEZ, CRJS, FRSC/FRSZ, MATH or PHYS (200- to 500-level)6
Total Hours6

Open electives

Select zero to nine open elective credits0-9
Total Hours0-9

Total minimum requirement 120 credits

What follows is a sample plan that meets the prescribed requirements within a four-year course of study at VCU. Please contact your adviser before beginning course work toward a degree.

Freshman year
Fall semesterHours
BIOL 151
BIOZ 151
Introduction to Biological Sciences I
and Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory I
4
CHEM 101
CHEZ 101
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory I
4
UNIV 111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I Focused Inquiry I 3
Approved H&S diverse and global communities course 3
Experiential fine arts course 1-3
 Term Hours: 15-17
Spring semester
CHEM 102
CHEZ 102
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory II
4
HUMS 202 Choices in a Consumer Society 1
MATH 200 Calculus with Analytic Geometry 4
STAT 210 Basic Practice of Statistics 3
UNIV 112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II Focused Inquiry II 3
 Term Hours: 15
Sophomore year
Fall semester
CHEM 301
CHEZ 301
Organic Chemistry
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory I
5
CHEM 309
CHEZ 309
Quantitative Analysis
and Quantitative Analysis Laboratory
5
STAT 314 Applications of Statistics 4
UNIV 200 Inquiry and the Craft of Argument 3
 Term Hours: 17
Spring semester
CHEM 302
CHEZ 302
Organic Chemistry
and Organic Chemistry Laboratory II
5
FRSC 300 Survey of Forensic Science 3
BIOL/BIOZ, CHEM/CHEZ, CRJS, FRSC/FRSZ, MATH or PHYS (200- to 500-level) 3
Approved H&S human, social and political behavior course 3-4
 Term Hours: 14-15
Junior year
Fall semester
FRSC 309 Scientific Crime Scene Investigation 3
FRSC 365 Forensic Microscopy 4
PHYS 201
General Physics
or University Physics I
4-5
Foreign language (101-level) or open electives 4
 Term Hours: 15-16
Spring semester
FRSC 385 Forensic Serology 3
PHYS 202
General Physics
or University Physics II
4-5
Approved H&S science and technology course 3-4
Foreign language (102-level) or open electives 4
 Term Hours: 14-16
Senior year
Fall semester
CHEM 320 Inorganic Chemistry I 3
FRSC 375 Forensic Evidence, Law and Criminal Procedure 3
FRSC 410 Forensic Pattern Evidence 3
PHIL 201 Critical Thinking About Moral Problems 3
Approved H&S General Education elective 3-4
 Term Hours: 15-16
Spring semester
FRSC 412 Forensic Analysis of Firearms and Toolmarks 3
FRSC 490 Professional Practices in Forensic Science 3
FRSC 566 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation 3
Approved H&S General Education elective 3-4
BIOL/BIOZ, CHEM/CHEZ, CRJS, FRSC/FRSZ, MATH or PHYS (200- to 500-level) 3
 Term Hours: 15-16
 Total Hours: 120-128
 

FRSC 202. Crime and Science. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Introduces the scientific theory, concepts and practices used in any physical science by relating them to the analysis of physical evidence performed in forensic laboratories and the fundamentals of crime scene investigation, and their relationship to the criminal justice system and criminal investigations. Not applicable for credit toward B.S. in Forensic Science.

FRSC 300. Survey of Forensic Science. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL 151 and BIOZ 151, each with a minimum grade of C. Pre- or corequisites: CHEM 301 and CHEZ 301, and UNIV 200 or HONR 200. Enrollment restricted to forensic science majors or by permission of instructor. Introduces the theory, concepts and practices used in the analysis of physical evidence performed in crime laboratories, and the fundamentals of crime scene investigation. Also introduces ethical and quality assurance issues of crucial importance in modern crime laboratories.

FRSC 309. Scientific Crime Scene Investigation. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture/laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 301 and either FRSC 300 or FRSC 350, each with a minimum grade of C. Enrollment restricted to forensic science majors or by permission of instructor. Provides scientific theory of crime scene investigation and crime scene reconstruction and basic knowledge of proper crime scene protocol and evidence processing techniques. Includes the processes for documentation, collecting and preserving physical evidence.

FRSC 310. Forensic Anthropology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: ANTH 210 with a minimum grade of C. A comprehensive overview of forensic anthropology including its development and the theory and methodology on which it is based. Crosslisted as: ANTH 310.

FRSC 325. Forensic Medicine. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: FRSC 300, CHEM 301 and CHEZ 301, each with a minimum grade of C. Enrollment restricted to forensic science majors or by permission of instructor. An investigation of topics in death scene investigations as well as autopsy findings associated with natural and unnatural deaths.

FRSC 365. Forensic Microscopy. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 4 lecture/laboratory hours. 4 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 301 and either FRSC 300 or FRSC 350, each with a minimum grade of C. An in-depth course in the theory and practical application of microscopy to the examination, identification and individualization of physical evidence submitted to forensic laboratories.

FRSC 375. Forensic Evidence, Law and Criminal Procedure. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Pre- or co-requisites: FRSC 300 or FRSC 350. Open only to forensic science majors or by permission of instructor. The law of criminal procedure and rules of evidence as applied to forensic science. Topics will include scientific versus legal burdens of proof, legal terminology and trial procedure.

FRSC 385. Forensic Serology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 301 and either FRSC 300 or FRSC 350, each with a minimum grade of C. Examines the application of basic chemical, biological, immunological and microscopic laboratory techniques to the examination and identification of body-fluid stains, including both presumptive and/or confirmatory identification of blood, semen, saliva, urine and feces. Applies methods that are used in forensic laboratories to identify the species of origin and includes a review of advanced methods for automated serological analysis. Laboratory exercises will supplement lectures to give students practical knowledge of the laboratory procedures.

FRSC 391. Topics in Forensic Science. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; 1-3 lecture hours. 1-3 credits. Maximum total of 6 credits for all forensic science topics courses may be applied to the major. Prerequisites: CHEM 301 and either FRSC 300 or FRSC 350, each with a minimum grade of C. 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 400. Forensic Chemistry. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 409 and CHEZ 409; and either FRSC 300 or FRSC 350, each with a minimum grade of C. Provides an understanding of presumptive and confirmatory chemical analyses used in a forensic laboratory for the characterization and identification of physical evidence, such as accelerants and explosives, paints and polymers, suspected drug substances, and toxicology. Chemical analyses as pertaining to firearms, toolmarks and glass will also be explored.

FRSC 410. Forensic Pattern Evidence. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture/laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: FRSC 309 with a minimum grade of C. Enrollment restricted to forensic science majors or by permission of instructor. Covers topics in pattern evidence analysis including analysis of latent prints and impression evidence of footwear and tire treadmarks as applied to forensic casework. Covers both the theoretical and practical aspects using lectures and laboratory exercises focusing on the visualization, examination and interpretation of pattern evidence.

FRSC 412. Forensic Analysis of Firearms and Toolmarks. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture/laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: FRSC 365 with a minimum grade of C. Enrollment restricted to forensic science majors or by permission of instructor. An investigation of topics in firearms and toolmark examination for forensic applications. Covers both theoretical and practical aspects using lectures and laboratory exercises.

FRSC 438. Forensic Molecular Biology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 302, CHEZ 302, and BIOL 310 or equivalent, each with a minimum grade of C. Provides an understanding of molecular biology testing methodologies as applied to analysis of forensic samples. Current topics in forensic DNA analysis will include quality assurance, DNA databanking, contemporary research and population genetics. Crosslisted as: BIOL 438.

FRSC 445. Forensic Toxicology. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 301, CHEM 302 and CHEZ 301, each with a minimum grade of C. Provides a comprehensive overview of the basic principles of toxicology and the practical aspects of forensic toxicology. Students will learn to define the toxic agents most commonly resulting in legal problems in U.S. society and also the process by which the U.S. judicial system is aided by scientific investigation. Crosslisted as: PATH 445.

FRSC 490. Professional Practices in Forensic Science. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 301; FRSC 300 or FRSC 350; and one additional forensic science course, each with a minimum grade of C. Enrollment restricted to seniors in forensic science with at least 85 credit hours toward the degree. An examination and evaluation of historical and current issues in the scientific analysis of physical evidence in criminal investigations. Individual and group activities relating to professional practices (ethics, quality control and testimony) of forensic scientists.

FRSC 492. Forensic Science Independent Study. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits. Prerequisites: CHEM 301; and FRSC 300 or FRSC 350, each with a minimum grade of C. Enrollment restricted to forensic science majors with junior or senior standing and a minimum GPA of 2.5. A determination of the amount of credit and the written permission of both the instructor and the program director must be procured prior to registration for the course.

FRSC 493. Forensic Science Internship. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 credits. May be taken only once. Prerequisites: 27 forensic science core program credits and at least a 2.75 GPA. Open only to forensic science majors with senior standing. An application is required in advance of admission with permission of the internship coordinator. Through placement in an approved organization, the student will obtain a broader, more practical knowledge of forensic science and its applications. Written progress and final reports are required. Graded as pass/fail.