Forensic Sciences

As part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ natural, mathematical and biomedical sciences programs, the forensic sciences program provides an understanding of the integration of forensic disciplines with the investigation of criminal activity, along with an overview of the analytical methods, procedures, equipment and data used by forensic specialists. Coursework emphasizes the identification and analysis of evidence as well as the interpretation and reporting of the results.

The Master of Forensic Sciences program offers the following concentrations: forensic chemistry, forensic toxicology, and forensic molecular biology. A Master of Science degree is available in two fields of study: crime scene investigation and high technology crime investigation. The program’s location in Washington, D.C. provides students with opportunities to interact with federal, state and local agencies. The Master of Science in the field of high technology crime investigation is offered at the Graduate Education Center in Arlington, VA.

A graduate certificate is offered in forensic investigations.

Professors W.F. Rowe, M.S. Schanfield, E.A. Vincze, V. Weedn (Chair)

Associate Professors N.T. Lappas, E.M. Robinson, M. Moini

Assistant Professors D. Podini, I. Marginean

Professorial Lecturers J.G. Jackson, H. Deadman, M.R. Parker,  E. Bernard, D. Barghaan, L. Zarwell, E. Toomer, J. Doyle, S. Brazelle, C. Davis, K. Clarke, N. Galbreth, H. Elliott, O. Carroll, H. Cox, K. Gerber, M. Keller, M. Mack, C. McGovern,

Explanation of Course Numbers

  • Courses in the 1000s are primarily introductory undergraduate courses
  • Those in the 2000–4000s are upper-division undergraduate courses that can also be taken for graduate credit with permission and additional work
  • Those in the 6000s and 8000s are for master’s, doctoral, and professional-level students
  • The 6000s are open to advanced undergraduate students with approval of the instructor and the dean or advising office

Note: FORS 2118 Introduction to Computer Systems for Security Professionals and FORS 2119 Introduction to Network Systems for Security Professionals are available only to students conditionally admitted to programs offered by the Department of Forensic Sciences; credit does not apply to any degree programs at GW. FORS 2118 Introduction to Computer Systems for Security Professionals, FORS 2119 Introduction to Network Systems for Security Professionals, and FORS 6259 Computer Related LawFORS 6291 Computer Forensics III: Advanced Techniques are offered off campus only.

FORS 2104. Introduction to Forensic Sciences. 3 Credits.

Topics in the application of science to the criminal justice system, including personal identification, analysis of drugs, forms of trace evidence, identification of biological fluids, forensic pathology, and forensic toxicology. Prerequisites: two semesters of a laboratory science other than astronomy and permission of instructor.   (Fall and spring).

FORS 2104W. Intro to the Forensic Sciences. 3 Credits.

FORS 2118. Introduction to Computer Systems for Security Professionals. 3 Credits.

Aspects of computer systems and software that directly relate to media analysis, i.e., storage, memory, the structure of file systems, and system peripherals that may contain evidence. Laboratory fee.

FORS 2119. Introduction to Network Systems for Security Professionals. 3 Credits.

Aspects of network tools, administrative tools, network protocols, and fundamentals of TCP/IP that can be used to carry out a network-based attack. Development of a working knowledge of how information is processed and can be intercepted on the Internet/Intranet. Laboratory fee.

FORS 2190. Topics in Forensic Science. 3 Credits.

Prerequisite: Any combination of two courses from BISC 1005BISC 1006 or CHEM 1003CHEM 1004 and junior standing.

FORS 6201. Forensic Biology. 3 Credits.

Principles of the forensic analysis of blood and other biological materials. Specific procedures and techniques used in forensic biology and serology. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6202. Instrumental Analysis. 3 Credits.

Principles and application of various instrumental methods to the examination of physical evidence, including chromatographic and spectroscopic techniques and mass spectrometry. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6203. Examination of Questioned Documents. 3 Credits.

Theory and principles of handwriting and handprinting, duplicating processes, paper manufacture and fiber analysis; studies of paper and methods of examining questioned documents. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6204. Firearms and Toolmark Identification. 3 Credits.

Methods for identifying firearms, bullet cartridge casings, toolmarks, gunshot residue, obliterated serial numbers, tire marks, and footprints. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6206. Trace Evidence Analysis. 3 Credits.

Principles that govern the analysis of trace evidence, including recovery, transference, interpretation, and comparison. Assessment of evidentiary value, reporting, and court testimony. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6207. Photography in the Forensic Sciences. 3 Credits.

Basic use of forensic photography, including selection and use of equipment, photographs as evidence, close-up work, and common misconceptions. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6213. Elements of of Forensic Sciences. 3 Credits.

FORS 6223. Criminal Law III: Moot Court. 3 Credits.

Students prepare and present direct testimony and are cross-examined by an experienced trial attorney in simulated courtroom setting. Class discussions of problems, techniques. Lectures on discovery, admissibility of scientific evidence, chain of custody, use of notes, etc. Prerequisite: FORS 6221.

FORS 6231. Principles of Toxicology. 3 Credits.

Concepts of toxicology, including its historical development and modern applications, drug disposition, mechanisms of toxicity; factors that influence toxicity and toxicity evaluation.

FORS 6232. Analytical Toxicology. 3 Credits.

Principles and procedures used in the isolation, identification, and quantitation of drugs of abuse from human samples. Prerequisite: FORS 6202 or permission of instructor.

FORS 6234. Medicinal Chemistry I. 3 Credits.

Theory and principles of classification, synthesis, and structure activity relationships of drugs. Discussion of the complex chemical events that take place between administration of a drug and its action on the user, with emphasis on drugs of abuse.

FORS 6235. Medicinal Chemistry II. 3 Credits.

Chemical, pharmacological, toxicological, and pathological characteristics of commonly abused drugs, including ethanol, barbiturates, narcotics, stimulants, and hallucinogens.

FORS 6236. Forensic Toxicology I. 3 Credits.

Biological, chemical, and pharmacological principles that underlie forensic toxicology. Prerequisite: FORS 6235 or permission of instructor.

FORS 6237. Forensic Toxicology II. 3 Credits.

Lectures, student seminars, and projects dealing with topics of current interest in forensic toxicology. Prerequisite: FORS 6236 or permission of instructor.

FORS 6238. Forensic Chemistry I. 3 Credits.

Examination of glass and soils. Laboratory exercises include refractive index measurements using immersion methods; polarized light observations of minerals; x-ray diffraction analysis of minerals; and classical chemical and physical methods of analysis. Prerequisite: FORS 6202 or permission of instructor. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6239. Forensic Chemistry II. 3 Credits.

Examination of arson accelerants, textile fibers, plastics, and paints. Laboratory exercises include infrared spectrometry and pyrolysis–gas–liquid chromatography of polymeric materials, as well as classical chemical and physical methods of analysis. Prerequisite: FORS 6238 or permission of instructor. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6240. Forensic Drug Analysis. 3 Credits.

Examination of dosage forms of drugs. Laboratory exercises include color spot tests, crystal tests, infrared spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6241. Forensic Molecular Biology I. 3 Credits.

Techniques of molecular biology applied to the collection, examination, analysis, and interpretation of biological evidence.

FORS 6242. Forensic Molecular Biology II. 3 Credits.

Advanced methods of forensic molecular biology. Laboratory examinations and classifications of dried blood and other biological materials through a variety of nuclear and mitochondrial markers. Laboratory fee. Prerequisite: FORS 6241 and permission of instructor.

FORS 6243. Forensic Molecular Biology III. 3 Credits.

FORS 6246. Human Genetic Variation. 3 Credits.

The genetic variation in human populations as a framework for measurement and analysis of genetic diversity and evolutionary process. Consideration of the possible roles of cultural change leading to adaptive/selective events. Same as ANTH 6406.

FORS 6247. Population Genetics. 3 Credits.

Origin, maintenance, and possible significance of genetic variation in populations. Selection, genetic drift, and population structure are emphasized. Both theoretical and applied aspects of population genetics are discussed. Same as BISC 6228.

FORS 6250. Crime Scene Investigation for Lab Personnel. 3 Credits.

A condensed offering of the subject matter of FORS 6251FORS 6252. FORS 6250 cannot be taken for credit toward the crime scene investigation concentration. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6251. Crime Scene Investigation I–II. 3 Credits.

Examination, analysis, and reconstruction of crime scenes. Principles from biology, chemistry, and physics applied to identification, documentation, preservation, and collection of physical evidence. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6252. Crime Scene Investigation I2II. 3 Credits.

Continuation of FORS 6251. Examination, analysis, and reconstruction of crime scenes. Principles from biology, chemistry, and physics applied to identification, documentation, preservation, and collection of physical evidence. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6254. Forensic Psychiatry. 3 Credits.

Introduction to the constructs of dynamic psychiatry, psychiatric treatment, and the nomenclature of mental disorders. Consideration of expert testimony, direct examination, and cross-examination in hospitalization and criminal cases.

FORS 6255. Investigation of Child Abuse. 3 Credits.

This course integrates medical, scientific, psychological, sociological and legal information for investigators and professionals involved in the field of child abuse. Special emphasis will be placed on the application of research-supported data to situations involving the murder, abuse and exploitation of children.

FORS 6256. Forensic Pathology. 3 Credits.

Terminology and scientific techniques used in medico-legal investigations, sudden or unexpected deaths, homicides, suicides, accidental deaths, and trauma.

FORS 6257. Medicolegal Death Investigation. 3 Credits.

Medical, scientific, sociological, and legal methodologies applied to forensic investigations. Aspects of death scene analysis by a medical examiner, including autopsy procedures, unidentified remains, child death investigations, and mass disaster investigations. Prerequisite: FORS 6256 and permission of instructor. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6259. Computer Related Law. 3 Credits.

A problem-oriented course that focuses on applying the holdings of cases and analysis of statutes to different criminal fact patterns. The course is designed to examine criminal law, criminal procedures, and evidence as it relates to computer crime and the collection/analysis of digital evidence. Open only to students enrolled in off-campus forensic sciences programs.

FORS 6260. Security Case Law. 3 Credits.

Negligence and liability, international torts, compensatory and punitive damages, and contract law. The exercise of security functions by private individuals and organizations.

FORS 6261. Security Management. 3 Credits.

An overview of the factors that shape modern security management: technology, law, ethics and societal changes. The course focuses on risk assessment and the necessity to identify, analyze, and counter threat.

FORS 6264. Protection of Information Systems. 3 Credits.

An overview of the types of information assets that need protection from loss. Basic techniques covered include: effective protection of automated information, including backup, disaster management, and intrusion detection.

FORS 6271. Forensic Psychology. 3 Credits.

Application of principles of psychology in civil and criminal proceedings: determining criminal responsibility, competence to stand trial, and testamentary capacity; jury selection.

FORS 6273. RschMethods for SecurityProfs. 3 Credits.

FORS 6277. Computer Forensics I: Investigation and Data Gathering. 3 Credits.

Techniques used to conduct computer crime investigations and gather probative evidence to secure conviction under federal law. The role of the high-technology crime investigator as expert witness. Open only to students enrolled in the department or by approval of the program director. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6278. Computer Forensics II: Evidence and Analysis. 3 Credits.

Threats to, and vulnerabilities of, computer systems and how to minimize them. Prerequisite: FORS 6277. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6279. Incidence Response: Understanding and Identifying Network-Based Attacks. 3 Credits.

Computer network operations and network-based computer crime. Fraud schemes related to electronic commerce, theft of sensitive computer information, compromise of computer networks, and identity theft. Elements of proof of network-based crime are discussed. Prerequisite: FORS 6277 or approval of program director. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6280. Advanced Incidence Response: Investigating Network-Based Attacks. 3 Credits.

Detecting and responding to network- and host-based intruders, integrating intrusion detection systems into network topologies, identifying methods hackers use to break into network systems, analyzing network traffic and detecting attacks, and creating an effective response strategy. Prerequisite: FORS 6279. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6283. Steganography and Electronic Watermarking. 3 Credits.

Digital data hiding techniques. Investigation of data hiding and labeling techniques, attacks against steganography and watermarked information; countermeasures to such attacks. Open only to students enrolled in the department or by approval of the program director. Laboratory fee. Prerequisite: FORS 6277, FORS 6278.

FORS 6284. Security Mgt Capstone Course. 3 Credits.

FORS 6285. High-Technology Crime Investigation Capstone Course. 3 Credits.

For students in the final semester of the high-technology crime investigation program only. Simulation of a computer forensic investigation: developing an investigation plan, securing the crime scene, analyzing evidence, preparing the case for court, and testifying in a moot court situation. Laboratory fee.

FORS 6287. Project Management for Security Professionals. 3 Credits.

FORS 6288. The Investigative Process for Computer Forensics. 3 Credits.

In-depth examination of the investigative process for computer-related crime in both criminal and civil sectors. Topics include identification and validation of information sources, development and handling of informants, interview and interrogation techniques, and managing the investigative process.

FORS 6290. Selected Topics. 3 Credits.

Current issues in research, investigation, and law.

FORS 6291. Computer Forensics III: Advanced Techniques. 3 Credits.

Further examination of methods and techniques used to conduct and report high-technology crime investigations. Open only to students enrolled in the department or by approval of the program director. Laboratory fee. Prerequisite: FORS 6278.

FORS 6292. Graduate Seminar. 1 Credit.

Students in designated forensic sciences degree programs must register for this course in their first semester and again after completion of the required independent research project.

FORS 6295. Research. 1-12 Credits.

Research on problems approved by the department, under the supervision of an appropriate member of the program faculty. Admission by permission only.

FORS 6298. Forensic Sciences Practicum. 1-3 Credits.

Internship experience in a forensic science laboratory or criminal justice agency, under the supervision of an appropriate member of the program faculty. Students must preregister for this course. Admission by permission only.

FORS 6998. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.

FORS 6999. Thesis Research. 3 Credits.