Director: Virginia M. Maxwell, Associate Professor, D.Phil., Oxford University
Forensic science is a broad, interdisciplinary field in which the natural sciences are employed to analyze and evaluate physical evidence in matters of the law. The interdisciplinary forensic science program has three concentrations: criminalistics, fire science, and advanced investigation. In addition to the M.S. degree programs, professional certificates are offered in all the specialties for those who want certification in a second track. The criminalistics concentration provides an advanced technical background for those wishing to enter the criminalistics field as professional laboratory examiners. The fire science concentration provides advanced training in arson scene investigation, laboratory analysis of arson-related evidence, and related aspects of arson and fire investigation. The advanced investigation concentration provides advanced training in forensic sciences and in investigation techniques and is designed for students interested in applying forensic science to investigations, forensic identification, crime scene processing, and related work.
The program and courses stress not only up-to-date analytical and scientific methods but also a broad understanding of the concepts underlying the forensic sciences. Degree programs in forensic science require a sequence of core courses, followed by concentration courses, and a flexible offering of electives designed to meet individual interests. Degree requirements can be fulfilled in five trimesters.
Because admissions criteria differ, at the time of initial application students must specify which concentration they plan to pursue. Students who later decide to change concentrations may be required to re-apply.
For admission to the criminalistics concentration, students must have an undergraduate degree in a natural science (chemistry, biology, or physics) or forensic science from an accredited institution. Applicants should have taken at least one year of general chemistry with lab, one year of organic chemistry with lab, and one semester of instrumental analysis or analytical chemistry with lab. A semester of biochemistry with lab and a year of physics with lab are highly recommended.
For criminalistics concentration applicants planning to pursue forensic biology, recommended undergraduate course work includes biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, statistics, and population genetics, or other subjects that provide foundation knowledge for forensic DNA analysis. Applications are strengthened by an overall undergraduate average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) and grades of B or better in science and mathematics courses. Applicants for the criminalistics concentration are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test and submit their scores to Graduate Admissions as part of their application. Applications are strengthened by verbal scores falling at or above the 50th percentile and by quantitative/analytical scores falling at or above the 70th percentile.
For admission to the advanced investigation or fire science concentration students must have earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution. The degree need not be in the natural sciences, and the GRE is not required. Applications are strengthened by natural science course work and by an overall undergraduate average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). It is highly recommended that students have undertaken at least one year of a natural science as part of their degree.
Applications must be accompanied by two letters of recommendation. Letters should come from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic skills, performance, and promise. Typically, such recommenders are current or former professors and/or employers. Applications should be accompanied by a short (no more than one page) statement that addresses the basis of the applicant’s interest in forensic science as well as personal and professional goals and how completion of this degree program is expected to further those goals.
Admission to the forensic science program is granted for the fall trimester only. The application deadline for the forensic science program is March 1 for the following fall trimester. Applicants may expect an admissions decision about the middle of March in the year for which they have applied.