CJA 214 - Introduction to Forensic Science
This course is an introduction to forensic science, crime scene investigations, physical evidence, and legal aspects of evidence, and is designed for all students interested in forensic science. The student will learn how to process crime scenes, the types of physical evidence that may be encountered, and how evidence is analyzed in the laboratory. Emphasis will placed on the interpretation of analytical test results as the as they relate to the limitations of the evidence itself, how the evidence was collected, the case context, and other factors. The student will have hands-on laboratory exercises in analyzing and comparing physical evidence. Critical thinking and the application of the scientific method will be emphasized in all laboratory exercises. Class concepts will be reinforced with actual case examples whenever possible. Lab included.
Upon successful completion of this course, the student should be able to:
1. Gather, comprehend, and communicate scientific and technical information in order to explore ideas, models and solutions and generate further questions: Learn and perform crime scene processing/reconstruction and analysis of various kinds of physical evidence based on tests performed; how to interpret the results of tests and develop analytical schemes for further hypothesis development.
2. Apply scientific and technical modes of inquiry, individually and collaboratively, to critically evaluate existing or alternative explanations, solve problems, and make evidence-based decisions in an ethical manner: Analyze crime scenes and various physical evidence types according to the scientific method: developing hypothesis, testing hypothesis, evaluating results, re-defining hypothesis if needed. Critical thinking ability is required to make appropriate hypothesis.
3. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of scientific studies and critically examine the influence of scientific and technical knowledge on human society and the environment: Current events in forensic science are presented with an emphasis on instances when the science was misinterpreted or inappropriately applied. Some post-conviction release cases and instances where forensic science has been both well used and poorly used are discussed, along with how this impacts society's impression of forensic science as a whole.
4. Analyze the development, scope, and limitations of fundamental scientific concepts, models, theories, and methods: The history of forensic analytical techniques, and how they developed, is presented with each lecture of the various types of physical evidence. Whether or not those techniques have withstood the tests of time and remain currently in use in modern forensic laboratories is discussed.
5. Engage students in problem-solving and investigation, through the application of scientific and mathematical methods and concepts, and by using evidence to create and test models and draw conclusions. The goal should be to develop analytical thinking that includes evaluation, synthesis, and creative insight: Analyze crime scenes and various physical evidence types according to the scientific method: developing hypothesis, testing hypothesis, evaluating results, re-defining hypothesis if needed. Critical thinking ability is required to make appropriate hypothesis and creative thinking required to determine what tests or experiments are needed to prove or disprove the hypothesis.
6. Examine relationships with other subject areas, including the ethical application of science in human society, and the relevance of science to everyday life: Forensic science is an integral part of the criminal justice system as a whole. Forensic science may be appropriately or inappropriately used and/or interpreted. How society perceives forensic science, and crime and criminal behavior in general, is linked to their perception of forensic science and how it can be used (or abused) in the criminal justice system. This is most accessible to citizens through media portrayals of crime TV shows but may be apparent elsewhere in everyday life depending on personal experience.
7. Engage students in collaborative, hands-on and/or real-life activities that develop scientific reasoning and the capacity to apply mathematics, and that allow students to experience the exhilaration of discovery, and: About half of the classes incorporate a hands-on laboratory that relate directly to the type of physical evidence covered in the lecture. They require the students to apply the techniques they were taught, use basic math, measuring, and calculator skills, and are designed for students to have success.
8. Engage students in the design of algorithms and computer programs that solve problems.
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