CHEM 14
Forensic Science Winter 2023

Class Details

Forensic science is the application of scientific principles to criminal and civil laws within a criminal justice system with the goal toward the establishment of guilt or innocence. This Winter Study course is designed to introduce some of the specialized fields of forensic science, to learn the principles of science and technology upon which they are based, and to apply them to a number of suspicious situations and criminal cases. During two 2-hour class sessions per week, we will examine physical, chemical, and biological items of evidence. The forensic analysis of substances such as glass, ink, bullets, fabric/fibers and drugs will be understood in the context of basic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and organic chemistry. The methods used for the analysis for alcohol and drugs and for the characterization of blood and other body fluids will be discussed in the context of the principles of biochemistry, toxicology, pharmacology, and serology. A variety of well-known historic cases stimulate the exploration of these scientific areas. These include: the John and Robert Kennedy assassinations, the Jeffrey MacDonald case (Fatal Vision), the Wayne Williams case, the deaths of celebrities Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, and Janis Joplin, the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the Casey Anthony case, the Tylenol poisonings, and the identity of Anastasia. Two 3-hour laboratory sessions per week will involve an analysis of evidence and provide an appreciation for the work of a crime lab. Experiments provide an opportunity to learn forensic techniques such as chromatography (for ink and drug analysis), spectroscopy (for alcohol and drug analysis), comparison microscopy (for bullet identification) and a variety of other experimental procedures such as fingerprinting. Outside of class, background reading for the content and preparation for the experimental work is expected.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 14
Expected: NA
Class#: 1069
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Short paper and final project or presentation
Prerequisites: Organic chemistry, CHEM 251/255 or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: Sophomores first, then juniors and then seniors
Unit Notes: Professor Kaplan taught biochemistry and forensic science for 48 years at Williams. He taught a forensic science workshop for 20 years under the sponsorship of the NSF. He is a member of the American and British Academies of Forensic Science.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
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