About BIOL 086 A

Covers crime scene investigation, methods of evidence collection and analysis, cause of death, and DNA identification in the context of biases that can influence the processing, interpretation, and use of evidence in the US court system.


Open to Degree and CDE students

Section Description

Forensic science is a rapidly changing field that blends expertise in a wide range of natural sciences, social sciences, and the law to better represent the rights of all members of our society. In this course, we will look at crime scene investigation, methods of evidence collection, and analysis of evidence both classical (fingerprints, blood spatter) and modern (DNA profiles and match statistics). In the process, we will consider the roles and responsibilities of the many members of an investigative team as evidence is collected, analyzed, interpreted, and presented, moving from the crime scene to the courtroom. Included in our discussions will be conversations around sources of bias and error that can lead to wrongful convictions, and the roles of regulation and tradition in admissibility of different kinds of evidence and testimony.

Section Expectation

This is an active learning class, where in you will analyze cases building from relatively straight-forward cases to highly complex cases being argued by the Innocence Project. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to work with your peers to produce logical analyses of evidence and arguments used by both prosecution and defense, identify sources of bias and error, and develop and present your own opinions grounded in the facts presented and in your understanding of forensic biology processes and policies. Learning Objectives: By the end of the semester, you will be able to: 1. Trace the path of a forensic investigation from the crime scene to the courtroom, indicating points at which bias could influence outcome. 2. Describe how bias (racism, confirmation bias, need for closure bias) may impact the collection, analysis, or interpretation of evidence 3. Evaluate the quality of forensic evidence using the concepts of reliability, validity, precision and accuracy. 4. Explain court admissibility standards and their impact on classic (i.e. fingerprint, blood spatter, eyewitness) and modern (i.e. DNA) evidence. 5. Examine court or media reports of a criminal case, and identify points where legal error or bias may have influenced arrest or prosecution of a suspect.


Your final grade will be based upon a combination of group and individual work. In groups, you will do 7 case studies and a capstone project. Individually, you will write weekly reflections, complete on-line quizzes, and write a final essay proposing a policy change that could reduce the bases in forensic sciences. Attendance will be monitored through iClickers on days without case studies.

Course Dates



Lafayette Hall L207 (View Campus Map)


to on Tuesday and Thursday

Important Dates

Note: These dates may change before registration begins.

Note: These dates may not be accurate for select courses during the Summer Session.

Last Day to Add
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Last Day to Withdraw with 50% Refund
Last Day to Withdraw with 25% Refund
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