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The Eberly College of Science

Hands-On Learning

A student performs microcrystal tests on evidence

Penn State Forensic Science offers an immersive, hands-on experience for both graduate and undergraduate students. Laboratory course work is conducted by students, often in the form of mock cases, to teach instruments and techniques used in modern crime labs, as well as forensic documentation. Research conducted by both grads and undergrads takes advantage of the wide array of instruments, techniques, and resources available to our students.

Forensic Biology

Students learn to process biological evidence samples such as hair, blood, semen, saliva, urine, etc.

Hands-on skills learned include microscopy, pipetting, slide preparations, staining, presumptive and confirmatory color tests, DNA extraction and amplification.

Trace and Impression Evidence

Students learn to process fingerprint and shoeprint impressions, toolmarks and firearms impressions, as well as trace evidence such as glass, soil, minerals, hair, fibers, and gunshot residue.

Hands-on skills learned include stereo light microscopy, polarized light microscopy, hair/fiber and bullet/cartridge case comparison microscopy, spot tests and microchemistry, and automated gunshot residue (GSR) analysis.

Crime Scene Investigation

Students learn to process crime scenes and properly collect evidence including fingerprints, shoeprints, blood, trace, firearms, and more.

Hands-on skills learned include crime scene management; DSLR photography; use of alternative light sources; finding, enhancing, and collecting impressions; bloodstain pattern analysis; and firearms trajectory and gunshot residue analysis. Coursework for the CSI lab includes multiple mock crime scenes in our Crime Scene Cottage facilities, we well as other campus locations.

Forensic Chemistry

Students learn to process paint, fibers, drugs of abuse and alcohol, explosives and smokeless powders, and more.

Hands-on skills learned include High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS), Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), Attenuated Total Reflectance/Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR/IR), Solid-phase microextraction (SPME), benchtop and micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). 

Forensic Molecular Biology/DNA

Students learn to process DNA evidence through DNA extraction, quantification, amplification, analysis, and interpretation of single source, mixed, and Y-chromosome samples

Hands-on skills learned include DNA extraction techniques, real-time qPCR using the thermal cycler, STR analysis using capillary electrophoresis (CE), traditional Sanger and massive parallel sequencing (MPS), and DNA mixture interpretation software and statistical analysis. 

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photos of students in forensic science labs