New Baccalaureate Forensic Science Technology Degree Introduced

Alfred State College has been granted authority by the State University of New York and the NYS Education Department to offer a new bachelor of science degree in forensic science technology, which will begin accepting students for the fall 2008 semester. 

The college's long-sought BS in forensic science technology is designed to allow students to enter the world of criminal investigation through scientific evidence.  The objective of the program is to provide students with a practical, unique, and technically pertinent set of skills and knowledge which allow them to be effective and desired workers in both field and laboratory settings, connected, but not exclusive, to a variety of forensic investigations. The proposed training is expected to provide competent workers in the area of technical forensics, and it is expected that graduates will be highly attractive to any employer involved in chemical, medical, environmental, and/or biological laboratory efforts. The program is uniquely focused on hands-on, experiential, and methods-rich training in the "nuts and bolts" of forensics investigation -- a characteristic that has long been the trademark and strength of technical training at Alfred State College.

The program provides a strong foundation in the critical basic sciences underlying forensic applications: general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and college physics, as well as a full year of mathematics, and a semester each of genetics and microbiology.

Alfred State's biological sciences (AAS) curriculum relates most directly to the forensic science technology (BS) degree program and will provide two-year biological sciences students with an option of continuation at Alfred State for completion of the specialized four-year degree. With careful selection of technical electives, all courses taken in the biological sciences degree program will apply toward the baccalaureate degree.  New students may enter the forensic science technology program, or may complete the biological sciences AAS degree prior to completing the baccalaureate degree in this new program.  The liberal arts and sciences - math & science (AA) degree is also related to the baccalaureate program.  Students who select the requisite, lower-division, mathematics and sciences courses will have an option of completion of the forensic science technology (BS) degree within two years of earning the associate's degree. 

The proposed four-year forensics science technology program will rotate students through several intensive and connected suites of applications designed to provide critical technical training in forensic technology:

  1. chemical methods including modern chemical instrumentation, classical (wet chemical) analysis, and  biochemical methods of chemical analysis;
  2. modern methods of genetic analysis;
  3. methods of physical evidence collection and analysis specific to hair, fiber, glass, firearms, and soil coupled with pertinent principles of  crime scene investigation;
  4. methods of chemical evidence analysis specific to controlled substance identification; and
  5. methods of collection and analysis associated with biological samples, e.g., semen, blood, urine, teeth, bones

Additionally, students will be trained in methods of effective technical writing and speaking since many forensic workers serve in the role of expert witness. A successful graduate of this program will be able to design and carry out laboratory and field analyses associated with collection, separation, and identification of a wide range of  physical samples concomitant to a crime scene; analysis and identification of  trace amounts of chemicals commonly encountered in forensic investigations; analysis of genetic materials taken from criminal investigations, e.g. DNA and proteins; and analysis and identification of human and animal samples, e.g. blood, urine, semen, bones, and teeth.

In addition to the above technical skills, a successful student in this program will be able to work effectively and proactively as part of larger investigative team; lucidly and clearly explain both in oral and written form, the methods, results and reasoning behind technical conclusions garnered from the various analyses described above; and synthesize the results of disparate analytical investigations of materials taken from a crime scene into a coherent whole.

Internship sites will be established in forensic laboratories location in western New York (NYS Police Western Regional Crime Laboratory - Olean; Monroe County Forensic Laboratory; Niagara County Forensic Laboratory; and Erie County Forensic Laboratory).

The forensic science technology degree program prepares graduates for post-baccalaureate or graduate work as well as employment immediately after graduation.  Those choosing post-baccalaureate training will be recommended to the Northeast Regional Forensic Institute in Albany.  Some graduates may pursue an MS degree immediately in order to pursue a forensic specialty and future careers in research or careers in comprehensive forensic science laboratories.

Forensic science technicians work primarily for state and local governments.  Careers outside of forensic science laboratories are limited but include such fields as: forensic anthropology, engineering, pathology, psychology, and toxicology. 

To be considered for admission, applicants must have graduated from an approved high school or possess a high school equivalency diploma.  Admission to the forensic science technology degree program requires successful completion of high school math A and math B; chemistry; and physics.  Standardized test scores (ACT or SAT) results are required.

Although the program is designed to grant the baccalaureate degree, it provides a programmatic ladder for students who have begun studies in an associate degree program in biological sciences and other science-oriented, associate degree programs.   

Jamestown Community College has entered into an articulation agreement for AS graduates of its liberal arts & sciences: math & science program to be guaranteed admission into Alfred State's forensic science technology program.  Students who complete at least 54 credits from the list of courses included in the agreement will be able to earn the bachelor's degree within four semesters of full-time equivalent study at Alfred State College. 

Forensic science (often shortened to forensics) is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to the legal system. This may be in relation to a crime or to a civil action. "Forensic" comes from the Latin word "forensis" meaning forum. During the time of the Romans, a criminal charge meant presenting the case before a group of public individuals. Both the person accused of the crime and the accuser would give speeches based on their side of the story. The individual with the best argumentation and delivery would determine the outcome of the case. Basically, the person with the best forensic skills would win.

Criminalistics is the application of various sciences to answer questions relating to examination and comparison of biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence (such as fingerprints, footwear impressions, and tire tracks), controlled substances, ballistics (firearm examination), and other evidence in criminal investigations. Typically, evidence is processed in a crime lab. Forensic odontology is the study of the uniqueness of the teeth. Forensic pathology is a field in which the principles of medicine and pathology are applied to determine a cause of death or injury in the context of a legal inquiry.  Forensic toxicology is the study of the effect of drugs and poisons on/in the human body.

Popular television series focusing on crime detection, including Bones, Law & Order, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Silent Witness, and Waking the Dead, depict glamorized versions of the activities of 21st century forensic scientists. These related TV shows have changed individuals' expectations of forensic science, an influence termed the "CSI effect."