Forensic Science

Department/Program: Forensic Science

Master of Forensic Science (MFS) and Master of Science in Forensic Science (MSFS)

The MFS degree and MSFS degree prepare students to be leaders in the field of forensic science as law enforcement professionals, crime scene investigators, or forensic laboratory specialists. The MSFS program is accredited by the Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).

Admissions Prerequisites

To be considered for admission to the Forensic Science Master degree programs, students must meet admission requirements outlined on the Forensic Science Program pages.

Track-Specific Prerequisites

Students also must have completed track-specific prerequisites to specialize in one of the three program tracks:

  • Behavioral Science (MFS)
  • Investigative Science (MFS)
  • Forensic Biology/Chemistry (MSFS)

    The Nebraska Wesleyan Graduate Forensic Science Program does not currently qualify international students for a student visa into the United States. Approval is pending for the 2014 program.

    See application page for transfer of credit policy, class schedule, and application information.

    Undergraduate Opportunities

    The Forensic Science Pre-professional Program offers current NWU undergraduates an opportunity to apply to the Forensic Science Program during their junior year. Accepted pre-professional students can begin taking graduate courses while completing their undergraduate coursework. Relevant credits will apply to both degrees. This approach allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in their chosen discipline and a master’s degree in forensic science within roughly five and a half years.

    NWU also offers an undergraduate minor in forensic science. The 19-credit minor is available to all students and isn’t a prerequisite for entrance into Nebraska Wesleyan’s graduate program in forensic science. Completing a forensic science minor does not guarantee a student’s admittance into the graduate program.

    Forensic Science Seminars

    Nebraska Wesleyan University also offers the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in forensic science conveniently and affordably.

    The Forensic Science Seminars help prepare students to be leaders in the field of forensic science as law enforcement professionals, crime scene investigators, or forensic laboratory specialists. Courses provide college credit. Recent seminars have covered these topics:

    • Firearm evidence analysis
    • Interviewing
    • Fire scene investigations
    • Crime scene imaging
    • Expert witness testimony
    • Forensic linguistics

    See Forensic Science Seminars page or for additional information, contact Denise L. Polson at dpolson@nebrwesleyan.edu or 402.465.2329.

    Courses

    Introduction to Forensic Science and its application, stressing a multi-disciplinary approach and the interface of science with ethics and the legal system. Crime scene investigation, evidence collection, questioned documents, the collection and analysis of body fluids and DNA, firearms and tool marks, and crime scene reconstuction will be included.

    This course number corresponds to the "exploratory" level of experiential learning required in the Archway liberal education curriculum. Experiential learning is a process through which students expand, deepen, integrate, and apply knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom or laboratory. All experiential learning credit assumes the student is intentional about the experience, is adequately prepared for it, is taking initiative, making decisions, and assuming responsibility, and will reflect meaningfully on the learning that takes place. Instructors or sponsors are expected to create experiential learning opportunities that are authentic, and to monitor and assess the activities. The student must complete at least 20 hours of experiential learning.
    Prerequisite(s): Instructor Permission.

    This course allows students to participate at a meaningful level in an internship with a public official, political figure, public agency, campaign or interest group and to use that experience as the basis for an academic paper.
    Pass/Fail only.
    Prerequisite(s): Permission of the department chair.

    This course introduces the participant to forensic science paradigms, crime scene investigation and evidence recognition. Collection, documentation and processing evidence are addressed. The course will include an introduction to crime scene photography. Students will be oriented in professional values, concepts, and ethics.
    Prerequisite(s): Junior or Senior status in Criminal Justice Adult Undergraduate Program.

    The course introduces the participant to the forensic science paradigms regarding evidence processing, including lab practices, statistical evaluation of the evidence, and scene reconstruction.
    Prerequisite(s): Junior or Senior status in Criminal Justice Adult Undergraduate Program and FORSC 4050 Fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation.

    In the course, the elements of violent crimes will be reviewed, as well as criminal procedure, constitutional and statutory limitations of criminal investigation, and the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. The requirements of conviction, or burden of proof (criminal vs. civil standards), and rules and policies pertaining to evidence will be studied.
    Prerequisite(s): Junior or Senior status in the Criminal Justice Adult Undergraduate Program.

    This course provides an overview of death investigation. The specialties of forensic pathology, forensic odontology, forensic anthropology, and forensic entomology are introduced and the expectations of the death investigator regarding the specialist outlined. Forensic science technique related to identifying the victim(s), establishing time of death, cause and manner of death, postmortem interval, and presumptive and confirmed identifications are presented.
    Prerequisite(s): Junior or Senior status in the Criminal Justice Adult Undergraduate Program.

    The intent of this course is to introduce the students to the basics of statistics and research design. With respect to design issues, special attention will be paid to the "rules of evidence" for the analysis of cause-and-effect relationships and the important differences among experimental, quasi-experimental, and concomitant measurement studies. With respect to data analytic issues, primary attention will be given to the family of least-squares techniques that includes analysis of variance and multiple linear regression. Emphasis will be on the pragmatics of hypothesis testing, data analysis, and the communication of findings.

    This class is an introduction to the basic theory of digital photography and imaging as documentation. Students will learn how to use and control a digital SLR camera, flash, studio lights and other techniques to produce images. The computer and imaging software will be used to generate images for print and electronic display. Subject matter, form and content will also be emphasized in the production of images. The course also includes specific emphasis accurately describing and presenting a scene or details visually and verbally.

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    As film cameras become extinct, effective digital imaging is an ever-important skill set to develop. This class introduces students to court-approved techniques for digital imaging enhancements of crime scene photography utilizing Adobe Photoshop. The students take an image from a crime scene or lab analysis, then enhance or clarify the image, and will be able to explain how and why that clarification was compelted without altering the image. They are given several examples and are expected to enhance those images with little or no guidance after the lecture. The students are then tested on knowledge gained through lecture and the practical exercise.

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    Threat assessment refers to the determination of risk posed by individuals or groups against specified targets or institutions. The course examines the types of threats commonly encountered in law enforcement situations and the characteristics of approach (i.e., individuals likely to engage in threatening or disruptive face-to-face contact) vs. non-approach situations. The course examines the information used to process these risk determinations. The course will also examine the way we view and perceive threats including stalking, workplace, and school violence.

    See department for course description

    See department for course description

    This course focuses on preparing the student to act as an expert witness in a civil or criminal trial. Expert witnesses are called to testify due to their expertise and experience in a specific subject, such as DNA analysis, scene investigation, psychology, or many other fields. Many of these subjects can be difficult to present to a lay audience, such as a jury, in a limited amount of time. This course will show students how to best prepare in order to present themselves, their credentials, and their testimony in a professional manner, and how to anticipate questions from opposing council. The students will be given preparation techniques, familiarization with trial procedures, and will participate in a mock trial exercise.

    This course number corresponds to the "intensive" level of experiential learning required in the Archway liberal education curriculum. Experiential learning is a process through which students expand, deepen, integrate, and apply knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom or laboratory. All experiential credit assumes the student is intentional about the experience, is adequately prepared for it, is taking initiative, making decisions, and assuming responsibility, and will reflect meaningfully on the learning that takes place. Instructors or sponsors are expected to create experiential learning opportunities that are authentic, and to monitor and assess the activities. The student must complete at least 40 hours of experiential learning.
    Prerequisite(s): Instructor Permission.

    This course introduces the participant to forensic science paradigms, crime scene investigation and evidence recognition. Collection, documentation and processing evidence are addressed. The course will include an introduction to crime scene photography. Students will be oriented in professional values, concepts, and ethics.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Forensic Science graduate program.

    This course introduces the participant to forensic science paradigms, crime scene investigation and evidence recognition. Collection, documentation and processing evidence are addressed. The course will inclu de an introduction to crime scene photography. Students will be oriented in professional values, concepts, and ethics.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Pre-Professional program.

    The course introduces the participant to the forensic science paradigms regarding evidence processing, including lab practices, statistical evaluation of the evidence, and scene reconstruction.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5050 Fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation.

    he course introduces the participant to the forensic science paradigms regarding evidence processing, including lab practices, statistical evaluation of the evidence, and scene reconstruction.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5050X Fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation.

    In the course, the elements of violent crimes will be reviewed, as well as criminal procedure, constitutional and statutory limitations of criminal investigation, and the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. The requirements of conviction, or burden of proof (criminal vs. civil standards), and rules and policies pertaining to evidence will be studied.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Forensic Science graduate program.

    In the course, the elements of violent crimes will be reviewed, as well as criminal procedure, constitutional and statutory limitations of criminal investigation, and the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. The requirements of conviction, or burden of proof (criminal vs. civil standards), and rules and policies pertaining to evidence will be studied.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Pre-Professional program.

    This course provides an overview of death investigation. The specialties of forensic pathology, forensic odontology, forensic anthropology, and forensic entomology are introduced and the expectations of the death investigator regarding the specialist outlined. Forensic science technique related to identifying the victim(s), establishing time of death, cause and manner of death, postmortem interval, and presumptive and confirmed identifications are presented.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Forensic Science graduation program.

    This course provides an overview of death investigation. The specialties of forensic pathology, forensic odontology, forensic anthropology, and forensic entomology are introduced and the expectations of the death investigator regarding the specialist outlined. Forensic science technique related to identifying the victim(s), establishing time of death, cause and manner of death, postmortem interval, and presumptive and confirmed identifications are presented.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Pre Professional Program.

    In this course, the participants will develop a summary of salient facts in a case investigation reconstruction. The summary will include a timeline of the crime event and subsequent investigation, an index of physical evidence with results of forensic analyses citing potential for additional testing due to new technology, a listing of witnesses, suspects and persons of interest with suggestions for further interviews and new investigative leads.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Forensic Science graduation program.

    In this course, the participants will develop a summary of salient facts in a case investigation reconstruction. The summary will include a timeline of the crime event and subsequent investigation, an index of physical evidence with results of forensic analyses citing potential for additional testing due to new technology, a listing of witnesses, suspents and persons of interest with suggestions for further interviews and new investigative leads.
    Prerequisite(s): Admittance to the Pre Professional program.

    The intent of this course is to introduce the students to the basics of statistics and research design. With respect to design issues, special attention will be paid to the "rules of evidence" for the analysis of cause-and-effect relationships and the important differences among experimental, quasi-experimental, and concomitant measurement studies. With respect to data analytic issues, primary attention will be given to the family of least-squares techniques that includes analysis of variance and multiple linear regression. Emphasis will be on the pragmatics of hypothesis testing, data analysis, and the communication of findings.

    This course focuses on recognizing, protecting, and preserving all prospective physical evidence at a crime scene. Crime scene reconstruction involving the use of the scientific method and classical logic will be discussed. Students will learn about crime scene photography methods, making impressions from imprints, collecting fingerprints and trace evidence, and analyzing and interpreting blood spatter evidence through lectures and hands-on experiences.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5050 Fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation, FORSC 5060 Fundamentals of Evidence Processing, FORSC 5070 Criminal Law and the Law of Evidence, FORSC 5080 Medicolegal Death Investigation, FORSC 5090 Cold Case Homicide Investigation, and FORSC 5970 Internship with grades "B-" or better.

    This course presents the student with a crime to investigate from beginning to end. Students are assigned to groups that include representatives from the behavioral sciences, biology/chemistry, and investigative sciences tracks. Each team will be assigned a case to work for the duration of the course. This will include processing the scene, processing and evaluating evidence, developing victim and offender profiles, following up on leads, and seeing the case through to completion in a moot grand jury.
    Prerequisite(s): Satisfactory completion of FORSC 5050 Fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation, FORSC 5060 Fundamentals of Evidence Processing, FORSC 5070 Criminal Law and the Law of Evidence, FORSC 5080 Medicolegal Death Investigation, FORSC 5090 Cold Case Homicide Investigation, and FORSC 5970 Internship.

    The course examines the issues involved in examining documents. Students will be introduced to questioned document examination techniques, handwriting analysis techniques, forensic discourse analysis, forensic linguistics, and the application of logic and language to forensic narrative analysis.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5150 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation or FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with grades of "B-" or better.

    This course covers the basic concepts of friction ridge identification through lectures and practical exercises designed to provide students with the fundamental knowledge of the friction ridge detail individualization. Aspects of friction skin examination will be explored and the challenges associated with the science will be discussed. Students will gain knowledge of the basic fingerprint pattern recognition, three levels of detail and the ACE-V methodology as the basis of the examination process. Aspects of the individualization of friction ridges, and how the concepts and methods apply to other impression evidence will also be discussed.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5150 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation or FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with grades of B- or better.

    This course examines the various forensic investigatory topics treated during the course of the MFS program, together with expansion of a few topics not examined in detail during the program, all in the context of the forensic investigation of criminal wrongdoing, and in the environment created by the National Research Council report to Congress in 2009. The use of scientific method as such, and as part of the ethical requirements for good investigation, forms the framework for intellectually examining the totality of a crime scene investigation.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5150 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation or FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with grades of "B-" or better.

    Forensic psychology is a growing and popular field of inquiry. Forensic psychology is the application of psychological insights, concepts, and skills to the understanding and functioning of the legal and criminal justice system. Students will examine the interaction between theories and applications of psychology and the practice of civil and criminal law. Insanity, malpractice, competency, civil commitment, violence, jury selection, and expert-witness testimony will be discussed.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5150 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation or FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with grades of "B-" or better; Abnormal Psychology, Social Psychology, and Personality Psychology, or permission of the instructor.

    This course focuses on the repeat offender, most notably the serial murderer. This course will also include an examination of a variety of violent and nonviolent repeat offender crimes (i.e., serial rape, stalking, "peepers"). The course will concentrate on the nature of the repeat offender and the personality characteristics that tend to be associated with this type of criminal.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5150 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation or FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with grades of "B-" or better; Abnormal Psychology, Social Psychology, and Personality Psychology, or permission of the instructor.

    Behavior analysis has become a very important aspect of criminal investigation. This course will provide students with a combined theoretical and practical approach to criminal analysis. Several paradigms will be discussed, including those developed by the FBI and Behavioral Evidence Analysis. Students will be also be introduced to a variety of investigative techniques including statement analysis. Emphasis will be on understanding the offender, but understanding the victim will also be explored.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5150 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation or FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with grades of "B-" or better; Abnormal Psychology; Social Psychology; Personality Psychology; or permission of the instructor.

    This course will provide the student with an introduction to the discipline of threat assessment. This will be accomplished through exposure to the principles of threat assessment, numerous categories of threatening behavior and by studying examples of threatening incidents. This course will briefly cover a broad spectrum of topics in the threat assessment and management field. Topics to be covered include threat assessment theory, behavioral assessment, stalking, workplace violence, school violence, incident intervention, interviewing and threat management.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5150 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation or FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with grades of "B-" or better; Abnormal Psychology, Social Psychology, and Personality Psychology, or permission of the instructor.

    This course will explore the place of analytical chemical concepts and instrumentation in the robust and dependable identification and quantification of those biological and chemical compounds that are of interest for forensic investigations. The use of statistical techniques, including Bayesian statistics, are examined in the forensic context. Forensic evidence collection and chain-of-custody requirements are examined. Laboratory exercises include familiarization with chromatographic and mass-spectrometric techniques and instruments.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5050 Fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation, FORSC 5060 Fundamentals of Evidence Processing, FORSC 5070 Criminal Law and the Law of Evidence, FORSC 5080 Medicolegal Death Investigation, FORSC 5090 Cold Case Homicide Investigation, and FORSC 5970 Internship, with grades of "B-" or better in each course.

    Forensic serology has remained one of the most important areas in the crime laboratory because of the significant information which the analysis of blood and body fluids can provide in examining what has happened at a crime scene. Course content includes the biology and biochemistry of blood and other body fluids, as well as various presumptive and confirmatory laboratory testing methods. The broader context of collection of trace evidence and the analysis of such evidence is also provided. Laboratory exercises provide experience in evidence collection, packaging, laboratory analyses, interpretation, and testimony.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation with a grade of "B-" or better, or permission of the instructor.

    In recent years, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology has become important to individualize crime scene evidence. This course explores the structure of DNA and RNA, the technology of DNA profiling, testing of forensic DNA samples, and understanding the results and discerning the relevant information in a forensic context. The statistical examiniation of profiling results is combined with a study of human genetics. Laboratory exercises provide experience in handling of evidence under chain-of-custody rules, search for and analysis of bodily fluids on evidentiary items, DNA-profiling of the evidence, calculation of statistical significance, and finally - testimony.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation and FORSC 5410 Forensic Biology with grades of "B-" or better; Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry, or permission of the instructor.

    This course will explore the use of modern chemical techniques in the identification and quantification of chemical compounds of interest, in or on objects of forensic importance. These include the classified groups of substances as defined in the Controlled Substance Act, various deadly substances, and substances appearing at fire and arson scenes. Techniques for the investigation of illegal clandestine laboratories will be studied. In laboratory exercises students will be introduced to presumptive and confimatory tests, utilizing laboratory techniques from simple color tests to chromatographic and mass spectrometric analyses.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5400 Analytical Science as Bases for Investigation and FORSC 5410 Forensic Biology, or permission of the instructor.

    This class is an introduction to the basic theory of digital photography and imaging as documentation. Students will learn how to use and control a digital SLR camera, flash, studio lights and other techniques to produce images. The computer and imaging software will be used to generate images for print and electronic display. Subject matter, form and content will also be emphasized in the production of images. Graduate level students will be held to a higher standard and will complete a research project in addition to the regular classroom assignments, quizzes and projects.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    As film cameras become extinct, effective digital imaging is an ever-important skill set to develop. This class introduces students to court-approved techniques for digital imaging enhancements of crime scene photography utilizing Adobe Photoshop. The students take an image from a crime scene or lab analysis, then enhance or clarify the image, and will be able to explain how and why that clarification was compelted without altering the image. They are given several examples and are expected to enhance those images with little or no guidance after the lecture. The students are then tested on knowledge gained through lecture and the practical exercise.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    See department for course description.

    Threat assessment refers to the determination of risk posed by individuals or groups against specified targets or institutions. The course examines the types of threats commonly encountered in law enforcement situations and the characteristics of approach (i.e., individuals likely to engage in threatening or disruptive face-to-face contact) vs. non-approach situations. The course examines the information used to process these risk determinations. The course will also examine the way we view and perceive threats including stalking, workplace, and school violence.

    This course will examine the issues involved in interviewing. Students will be introduced to kinesic techniques, non-verbal communication, cognitive interviewing techniques, the process of taking a statement, as well as statement and content analysis, polygraph and voice analysis, and interrogation techniques.

    See department for course description.

    This course focuses on preparing the student to act as an expert witness in a civil or criminal trial. Expert witnesses are called to testify due to their expertise and experience in a specific subject, such as DNA analysis, scene investigation, psychology, or many other fields. Many of these subjects can be difficult to present to a lay audience, such as a jury, in a limited amount of time. This course will show students how to best prepare in order to present themselves, their credentials, and their testimony in a professional manner, and how to anticipate questions from opposing council. The students will be given preparation techniques, familiarization with trial procedures, and will participate in a mock trial exercise.

    An opportunity for a student to engage in supervised reading of specialzed literature not covered in other coures.
    Prerequisite(s): Permission of the instructor or program director.

    An opportunity for a student to engage in an individually arranged research project supervised by a member of the faculty. Independent study may not duplicate courses described in the catalog.
    Prerequisite(s): Permission of the instructor or program director.

    An opportunity for a student to engage in an individual arranged project supervised by a member of the faculty or other approved expert in the field. Special projects are intended to broaden study opportunities beyond what is offered, not duplicate courses offered in the catalog.
    Prerequisite(s): Permission of the instructor of program director.

    The internship consists of 90 contact hours in a medical examiner's or coroner's office. The student will participate in the activities of the office and observe a minimum of six autopsies. The course will allow the student to put into practice the theoretical material learned in the prerequisite courses. The student will turn in a reflective essay about their internship. This will be a synopsis of what the student learned over the course of the internship. The paper will discuss what materials learned during the master's program were reinforced by the internship and what procedures differed from what was learned in the program.
    Prerequisite(s): FORSC 5050 Fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation, FORSC 5060 Fundamentals of Evidence Processing, FORSC 5070 Criminal Law and the Law of Evidence, and FORSC 5080 Medicolegal Death Investigation with grades of "B-" or better; proof of completion of the three-shot Hepatitis B series of inoculations (should be completed prior to registration of course; instructor may accept proof that inoculations are in process, with the understanding that they will be completed when student leaves for internship). A current tetanus is recommended. Some internship sites may require a recent TB test and/or other additional requirements.

    An opportunity for a student to engage in an individually arranged internship in an area closely aligned with his/her interests and goals. Students will also engage in a final research project in an area of interest to them. Students will split the internship time and research time, as agreed upon through a contract with the program director. One of the requirements for graduation is a formal presentation of the research project. This presentation may occur at a local, regional, nation, or international conference. The most likely place the presentation will occur is in front of program students, faculty, and interested community member at the annual Nebraska Wesleyan University Forensic Science Symposium. May not be repeated.
    Prerequisite(s): Permission of the instructor of program director and completion of two courses in chosen track.

    An opportunity for a student to engage in an individually arranged internship in an area closely aligned with his/her interests and goals. Students will also engage in a final research project in an area of interest to them. Students will split the internship time and research time, as agreed upon through a contract with the program director. One of the requirements for graduation is a formal presentation of the research project. This presentation may occur at a local, regional, nation, or international conference. The most likely place the presentation will occur is in front of program students, faculty, and interested community member at the annual Nebraska Wesleyan University Forensic Science Symposium. May not be repeated.
    Prerequisite(s): Permission of the instructor of program director and completion of two courses in chosen track.