Forensic Science

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www.forensics.psu.edu

A forensic scientist is a scientist who usually works in a laboratory setting analyzing particular types of evidence, writing reports, and testifying in courts as an expert witness. Therefore, the Forensic Science undergraduate major at Penn State has been designed to blend scientific theory and forensic practice. This program will provide undergraduate students with a solid foundation in the sciences while providing them with a diverse academic experience that will train them to be excellent communicators capable of meeting the unique demands of this profession.

The Forensic Science undergraduate major has been structured to expose students to several disciplines related to forensic investigation, ranging from crime scene investigation to diverse laboratory analyses. Therefore, we have created a rigorous set of courses that will expose our students to the many different roles they might take on as a professional scientist in the field. For example, forensic scientists may attend crime or other incident scenes to help reconstruct the crime, or help in the recognition, collection, and preservation of evidence within their specialty. A forensic anthropologist may be called upon to collect skeletal remains found in the woods. A forensic chemist may be asked to help in the processing of a clandestine drug laboratory. A trace evidence examiner may be asked to collect hairs and fibers and other trace elements from a homicide scene. Usually the crime-scene component of a forensic scientist's job is a relatively minor part of the duties. Many forensic scientists work in forensic science (crime) laboratories. In the United States, there are more than 4,000 crime laboratories administered by the federal, state, or local governments or private industry. Most crime laboratories employ scientists in the areas of forensic chemistry (drugs, toxicology, trace evidence, explosives, fires, etc.) forensic biology (mainly DNA and body fluids and tissues), and criminalistics (fingerprints, questioned documents, firearms, and toolmarks).

Graduates of this major could pursue employment as a scientist in a federal, state, or private forensic laboratory or with insurance companies, homeland security agencies, or the judicial community. Graduates could also choose to pursue graduate study in forensics; specializing in forensic science, forensic medicine, or areas such as forensic psychology, anthropology, pathology, odontology, entomology, or toxicology.

 

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