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Forensic Science at Penn State

The Forensic Science Program offers an exciting and innovative curriculum that gives students advanced, hands-on training in crime laboratory methodologies and crime scene investigation techniques. State-of-the-art crime laboratories and crime scene training facilities are used to teach students the practices of modern forensics. 

Applying Science to Matters of the Law

Forensic Science is defined as the application of science to matters of the law. Our program provides a rigorous and comprehensive education in science and math that sets the foundation for our forensic science and criminalistics courses. Students learn to apply the principles of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics, calculus, trigonometry, and statistics to real-world, real-life situations that might be encountered in a crime lab or at a crime scene. Courses in crime scene investigation, trace and impression evidence, forensic biology and serology, forensic DNA and molecular biology, and forensic chemistry provide students with intensive lectures and hands-on labs that will prepare them for work in the field. 

Biology or Chemistry Options

Our program is designed to provide a strong general criminalistics education to all students, but allows room for students to individualize their education experience towards specific degree and career goals. We offer two degree options – biology or chemistry – for students to choose from. Toward the end of sophomore year, students choose an option to help tailor their degree.

The biology option provides a deeper understanding of and hands-on lab experience in serology, biochemistry, and forensic molecular biology, with particular emphasis on forensic DNA analysis.

The chemistry option provides a deeper understanding of and hands-on lab experience in analytical, physical, and inorganic chemistry. Those selecting the chemistry option can learn more in-depth about the forensic analysis of controlled substances, trace evidence, fire debris, ignitable liquids, and firearms and gunshot residue.

Students also select additional electives that further help tailor their degree towards their specific interests and needs. Some of the areas in which we offer electives are anthropology, biology, genetics, toxicology, criminal justice, criminology, chemistry, entomology, and psychology.

Dedicated and Knowledgeable Faculty and Staff

Forensic Science classes are taught by our world-class faculty and staff. All faculty members have years of experience working in the field as bench scientists in the lab or as crime scene investigators – and the benefits of that experience are passed on to students. Faculty and staff will help students find internships and job opportunities, and many will allow undergraduate students to help with research projects – or conduct their own research – to enrich the student’s Penn State experience.

A Top Forensic Science Program

The Penn State Forensic Science Program is nationally recognized as a top program within the forensics community. We are one of 38 undergraduate programs accredited by the Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Our undergrads conduct award-winning research and present their findings at conference and meetings all over the world. After graduation, our students go on to earn additional degrees in forensic and other sciences, go to professional schools for careers as doctors or lawyers, and find work as criminalists or general scientists in labs and agencies of all kinds.

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