• Home
  • learning center forensics

Forensics

Forensic science (or forensics) is the application of scientific knowledge to answer questions of interest in within the legal system. This interdisciplinary field uses scientific techniques from diverse fields like Biotechnology, Toxicology, Chemistry, and Physics to characterize physical evidence found at the scene of a crime.

Overview

Forensic science has its roots in antiquity. For hundreds of years, researches devised forensic strategies to distinguish between guilt and innocence. In the early 1800’s, the chemist James March devised a test to determine whether samples contained the common poison arsenic. By the end of the 19th century, the Scottish physician Henry Faulds recognize the potential of using human fingerprints as a method of identification. Modern forensics labs analyze crime scene evidence using innovative techniques such as DNA fingerprinting, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, and trace chemical analysis. While many forensics labs use state of the art technology, forensic scientists still use classical techniques to examine the physical evidence found at a crime scene.

Forensic scientists perform all stages of evidence collection and analysis. Samples are carefully collected to prevent contamination or sample degradation. Each sample is labeled and sealed in a tamper-proof evidence bag before being removed from the crime scene. Throughout the process, they keep careful notes documenting chain of custody and all tests performed. After analyzing the evidence, forensic scientists act as witnesses at trials by providing detailed reports and expert testimony.

It is important to point out that a forensic match provides compelling evidence that the suspect was present at the crime scene. However, the evidence does not prove that the suspect committed a crime. It cannot prove when a suspect was at the crime scene or intent. Many other lines of evidence need to come together to build a case.

Edvotek Livestream Demonstrations

Edvotek® YouTube Livestream - Do You Have What It Takes to Solve a Crime: Forensic Blood Typing with Edvotek - Dr. Danielle Snowflack analyzes crime scene evidence using forensic tests for blood. In addition to discussing the science of blood testing, she introduces some helpful hints for creating a crime scene in your classroom and for integrating critical thinking and literacy skills. This lesson reinforces important concepts in biology while exposing students to an interesting STEM career.


Edvotek® YouTube Live Stream - DNA Evidence in the Forensic Science Laboratory - There’s a break-in at the lab! Your students become crime scene investigators as they inspect evidence and use forensic tools like DNA fingerprinting to catch a criminal! In this informational live stream, Dr. Danielle Snowflack discusses the ways that DNA evidence is used in the forensic science laboratory to solve crimes. We’ll provide tips and tricks for creating a realistic crime scene scenario in your classroom. In the process of performing the experiment, students learn about heredity, biotechnology techniques, and utilize critical thinking and literacy skills.

Lesson Plans

Left at the Scene of the Crime: An Introduction to Forensic Science - In this Forensic Science lesson, students explore many different aspects of a crime scene investigation. First, students utilize critical reading skills through the interpretation of a “Police Report.” Next, students will analyze simulated crime scene and suspect samples using the Kastle-Meyer test, Blood Group Typing, and Agarose Gel Electrophoresis. The results will be presented as a Forensic Science report in the “court of law.” After performing this investigation, your students will have experience with data collection, critical analysis of results, and scientific inquiry. This will help them to transform advanced topics in genetics and biotechnology into a concrete scientific understanding.

Presentations

These short courses couple theory with active experimentation to help you update your skills and knowledge in various areas of biotechnology.

Left at the Scence of the Crime: High School Forensics - Help! The principal has been attacked in the art room! Your students become forensic scientists as they walk into a crime scene. Inspect the location of the crime using blood spatter analysis and then catch the criminal with DNA fingerprinting. This exciting workshop will include ways to incorporate biotechnology and gel electrophoresis into your classroom.

Additional Resources

Instructional Videos - For the visual learner:


Troubleshooting Guide - Frequently asked questions, common mistakes, and how to course correct your experiment:
Printable Word Puzzles
Printable Coloring Pages