Bachelor of Science
Forensic science involves the utilization of the natural, physical, and social sciences in the multidisciplinary investigation of matters related to society and the law. Activities of relevance to forensic science range from the location, documentation, and collection of physical evidence at the crime scene to the analysis and interpretation of that evidence in the laboratory.
Many diverse fields are included in the forensic sciences. The Applied Forensic Sciences program offers courses leading to the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Applied Forensic Sciences with concentrations in Criminalistics/Forensic Biology, Forensic Anthropology, and Forensic Chemistry. Students seeking the Applied Forensic Sciences Bachelor of Science degree are required to take the courses and credits in the curriculum, as outlined below. Credits from short courses and seminars (1-2 credits) at other universities and research institutions may be used to complete credit requirements following approval by the program chairperson and dean of the college.
The Mercyhurst University Department of Applied Forensic Sciences offers a multi-disciplinary major dedicated to educating students in matters related to science, forensic science, society and the law. Students receive a solid natural science education, bolstered by the thematic forensic science courses.
The program advances the student’s knowledge of science-based forensic fields of study by advocating critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Classroom learning is strengthened by strong, hands-on components of many courses. The Applied Forensic Sciences Department stresses the importance of reasonable and ethical behavior within the field of forensic science to all members of the department.
Program Student Learning Outcomes
Criminalistics and Forensic Biology
Criminalists and forensic biologists are typically called upon to locate, document, preserve, analyze, and interpret evidence, and to testify in court. Some evidence encountered includes identification of fingerprints and ballistics, interpretation of biological materials such as hairs, fibers, paints, polymers, soil, glass and other trace materials. Methods for collection and preservation of human biological evidence and processing indoor crime scenes are discussed.
Forensic Anthropologists are often called upon to comprehensively analyze human skeletal remains from a variety of crime scenes, ranging from surface scatters to mass fatalities. The skills of physical anthropology and archaeology are paramount to the training of competent forensic anthropologists and the program uniquely prepares students for graduate studies in biological, physical and forensic anthropology.
The Mercyhurst undergraduate program is the only top program in the United States with a Forensic Anthropology concentration. The department includes a board-certified Forensic Anthropologist and a board-certified Forensic Odontologist and conducts approximately one hundred forensic cases a year. Upperclassmen are provided opportunities to work with both faculty and forensic anthropology master’s students on a number of these cases both in the field and in the laboratory. This concentration prepares students for advanced studies in anthropology, death investigation positions and positions in medical examiner’s offices.
Forensic chemists analyze the chemical aspects of evidence that is collected from crime scenes, but rarely conduct investigative work themselves. Their typical job responsibilities include identifying and characterizing physical and biological evidence as part of the larger process of solving a crime. Evidence analyzed may include hair, paint, gunshot residue, inks, fibers, fire debris, explosives, drug residue, and blood.
Applied Forensic Sciences Bachelor of Science Requirements
The Applied Forensic Sciences program offers courses leading to the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Applied Forensic Sciences with concentrations in Criminalistics/Forensic Biology, Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Chemistry. Students seeking the Applied Forensic Sciences, Bachelor of Science degree are required to take the courses and credits in the curriculum as outlined below. Credits from short courses and seminars (1-2 credits) at other universities and research institutions may be used to complete credit requirements following approval by the Program Chairperson and Academic Dean of the College.
Students must maintain a grade point average of 2.75 overall and in the major. No required courses in the major may be taken on a Pass-Fail basis. Students who earn a grade less than a C in a required major course must repeat the course. Only a Pass (PA) will be accepted in the repeated course. Only two courses in the major may be repeated, either the same course or two different courses. No third repeat of any kind will be accepted. The necessity to repeat a third course will result in disenrollment from the program.
All prerequisites must be met before continuing in the course curriculum sequence. Alteration of the course prerequisites will only be made by special permission of the Department Chairperson. The Department Chairperson shall conduct an annual review of the academic progress of all students enrolled in the program. All students in the program will also undergo a review by the department faculty at the completion of their sophomore level in their area of concentration. Students must successfully complete the Sophomore Review to continue their studies in the Applied Forensic Sciences Department.
Continuance in the Applied Forensic Sciences program is based on the following criteria:
If a student does not pass the Sophomore Review, the student will not be allowed to enroll in any further courses required for programs administered by the Applied Forensic Sciences Department. The Sophomore Review is encouraged to ensure that the students initiate personal assessments of their academic and career goals through a dialogue with the Applied Forensic Sciences Department faculty.
Students eligible for Sophomore Review in the Forensic Anthropology concentration must have completed or be in the process of completing the following courses: Physical Anthropology/Lab, General Chemistry II/Lab and Calculus I. Students eligible for Sophomore Review in the Criminalistics/Forensic Biology and Forensic Chemistry concentrations must have completed, or be in the process of completing the following courses: Cell Biology/Lab, Organic Chemistry II/ Lab and Calculus I.
Students whose GPA falls below 2.75 will be placed on probation or dis-enrolled from the program, depending on the outcome of the Sophomore Review.
Training and working in the forensic science field requires a high level of security and confidentiality. Professional conduct and confidentiality is expected of all students as to information received in the classroom, as well as information received and any evidentiary materials handled in the laboratory facilities. Communicating confidential information inappropriately, carelessly, or negligently is considered a breach of confidentiality and may result in disciplinary review and action as set forth by the Applied Forensic Sciences Department.
Students must be aware that future employment often requires intensive background investigations and drug testing. Any conduct deemed significantly unethical, illegal or unprofessional may result in that student failing to achieve employment in the field, regardless of his/her academic record.
Applied Forensic Sciences Concentrations
Students should choose one concentration of study by the middle of their sophomore year.
This course is a continuation of General Physics I; calculus skills are required. Topics include: waves, electricity and magnetism, light and optics, and thermodynamics. Problem solving and the relationships between physics and the fields of biology, biochemistry, and chemistry continue to be emphasized.
MATH 171, PHYS 201
This is a calculus-based course that is designed for natural science and mathematics majors, (biology, biochemistry, chemistry, earth-space science education, mathematics). The role of physics in other scientific fields will be emphasized as classical mechanics is covered. This portion of the General Physics series will deal strictly with mechanics; topics include: motion in one-, two- and three-dimensions, the laws of motion, work, potential energy, kinetic energy, conservation of energy, linear and rotational motion, and the prediction of motion based on initial conditions.
Any student who has completed Calculus I should take Calculus II to obtain a complete study of the calculus of one variable. Topics follow the early transcendentals path, included are the integral, anti-derivatives, the Fundamental Theorem, integration techniques, interesting applications of integration, an introduction to differential equations, series, sequences.
This is the initial course in a sequence of courses on the fundamental ideas of the calculus of one variable intended for science and mathematics majors. It is here that truly significant applications of mathematics begin. Topics follow the early transcendentals path, included are functions, continuity, limits, derivatives, maxima and minima and antiderivatives and an introduction to integration. Prerequisite: MATH 118 or MATH Placement score of at least 70.
Course will focus on the proper collection and documentation of physical evidence according to the current laws and court proceedings. Discussion will also include new court rulings regarding evidence and expert witness activities.
This course is an introduction to morphometrics and will cover the statistical techniques most commonly employed in Forensic Science and Anthropology. Topics will include correlation, regression techniques, EDA, ANOVA, ANCOVA, Factor and Principal Components Analysis and Discriminant Function Analysis.
MATH-109 MATH-170 FRSC-150
An introduction to the field and laboratory methods involving identification, examination, comparison and analysis of forensic evidence including fingerprints, ballistics, blood spatter, hair and fiber, questioned documents, footwear and tire prints and impressions, as well as the various methods of crime scene documentation.
This course will cover the evidentiary aspect of crime scene investigations including the location, documentation, recovery, and laboratory analysis and interpretation of evidence including: blood, semen, DNA, hair, fibers, ballistics, fingerprints, impressions, questioned documents and fire origins. Microscopy, chemical and biological analytical techniques will be stressed.
The laboratory component to the introductory course will allow the student hands-on activities in regard to identification, collection, processing and analysis of evidence as presented in the classroom lectures, as well as the courtroom presentation.
Course will cover the basics of the multidisciplinary fields of forensic science from crime scene investigation through the laboratory analysis of evidence. The role of the forensic scientist as an expert witness, ethics in the criminal justice system and professional practice of forensic science will also be discussed.
CHEM 121, BIO 146, MATH 170.
Experimental techniques corequisite to CHEM 240. Crystallization, distillation and other methods used for the isolation and purification of organic compounds. Corequisite: CHEM 240. 1 credit.
Introduction to the physiological and molecular techniques and methodologies for studying cells, organelles and macromolecules in relation to cellular activities and maintenance of life.
Introduction to the biology of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, including the structure and function of membranes and organelles, especially mitochondria and chloroplasts. Also included are studies of the molecular structure and function of DNA, with emphasis on the organization of the eukaryotic genome, transcription and translation.
This course provides an in-depth experience in analytical chemistry by providing students with complete working knowledge of modern analytical instrumentation. Topics include: atomic and molecular spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, chromatography, light scattering, electrochemical analysis, surface analysis, and thermal analysis. Topics are placed into modern context by exploring ongoing research in current scientific journals. A strong background in chemistry and physics is required.
Experimental work corequisite to CHEM 331 with a focus on basic biochemical techniques including molecular cloning, bioinformatics, and protein overexpression and purification.
Principles of the structure and function of biological molecules, including carbohydrates, lipids, membranes, proteins and enzymes, along with an overview of intermediary metabolism and introduction to carbohydrate metabolism through the study of glycolysis.
Experimental lab work that provides hands-on knowledge of topics and techniques covered in CHEM 230, including the statistical analysis and formal reporting of gathered data.
CHEM 131, 132
This course provides a foundation in analytical chemistry through the systematic study of steps in the analytical process. Topics include: statistical analysis, equilibria, electrochemistry, chemical separations and spectroscopy.
CHEM 131, CHEM 132
Four (4) Additional Elective Courses, One with Lab (13 credits)
Lecture and laboratory course will cover basics of processing the fatal fire scene from identifying the source and paths of fire, documentation of accelerants, collecting evidence such as explosive residues and photographic documentation. Seniors only.
FRSC-242 AND FRSC-320 or permission
This course is intended to examine the forensic application of death investigations, utilizing techniques and methodologies introduced in prior Forensic Science courses. The focus of the course will be on examining important similarities and distinctions among homicide investigations and various other manners of death: suicide, natural, accidental and equivocal deaths. The course will concentrate on the scene examination, documentation of the death scene, exploring the various analyses of time since death, and when appropriate, post-mortem interval and investigative protocols and procedures.
FRSC-320 or permission
This course will address chemical concepts and practices from a forensic science perspective. Aspects of analytical chemistry will cover chemical details of presumptive testing, instrumentation, and proper statistical treatment of collected data. Students will learn the fundamental principles behind the analysis of chemical and physical evidence for drugs, combustion, polymers, paints and coatings while applying these principles to toxicological information.
The course will provide an overview of forensic investigative techniques used to process various types of indoor crime scenes. Evidence identification, collection, preservation and submission protocols, proper use of standards, chain of custody issues, and crime scene reconstruction techniques will be discussed in the course. In addition, the role of the crime scene technician as an expert witness will be explored.
The course is an introduction to basic techniques of crime scene photography. Includes discussion of cameras, digital images, lighting, photographic protocol, images as physical evidence and courtroom presentation.
This course will focus on thermodynamic and kinetic methods utilized to predict and describe change. The laws of thermodynamics as they pertain to physical change and chemical reactions will be studied in depth and with mathematical rigor. In the kinetics portion of the course, chemical reaction rates and molecular reaction dynamics will be studied.
CHEM-131 MATH-170 PHYS-202
Experimental work corequisite to CHEM 338 with a focus on protein characterization via kinetic, immunological and spectroscopic methods.
A comprehensive survey of the pathways and regulation of intermediary metabolism. Topics include anabolic and catabolic aspects of carbohydrate, lipid, protein and nucleotide metabolism, photosynthesis and respiration, and the integration and regulation of mammalian metabolism.
The Department Chair may consider other courses for elective approval