The Forensic Science Project

Group Activities
Background & Theory
NJCCCS/Skill Levels



    Forensic science can be defined as the application of science to the law. In criminal cases forensic scientists are often involved in the search for and examination of physical traces which might be useful for establishing or excluding an association between someone suspected of committing a crime and the scene of the crime or victim. Due to a crime scene’s diverse characteristics, forensic science can be considered a combination of both a social science and a physical science. Some of the sciences that are useful during a crime scene investigation may include physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and criminal justice.   

    Studying forensic science can be fun and interesting. It is a way to attain higher level thinking skills as well as acquire scientific knowledge. However, studying forensic science is a lengthy and difficult process and due to the involvement of many subject areas, it takes collaborative efforts to extract the needed crime scene information.

Learning Forensic Science in Secondary Schools
The lack of background knowledge, insufficient funding, and highly technical equipment have kept secondary schools away from introducing forensic science as part of mainstream science curriculum. In order for high school students to acquire a knowledge base centered on forensic science, it is necessary that classes teach advance levels of biology, chemistry, and physics. Also, it would be ideal to include series of law enforcement related classes on topics such as criminal investigations, latent fingerprint development, firearms identification, and questioned documents.

Recently, the availability of forensic activity kits and simple methods of analyzing mock evidence have helped to build forensic science projects in secondary schools.

Bergen County Technical Schools is now in the fifth year of the Tech-Prep Grant: Engineering, Science, and Technology Program which has focused on engineering for the life sciences. The course work is based on Biotechnology with additional exposure to Biology, Physics, and Chemistry.

Forensic science allows for extensive research skills including highly sophisticated experiments, analytical and logical thinking, and data collection. Therefore, this project is for students who might consider pursuing their career not only in forensic science, but in biotechnology engineering as well.

By the end of this project, students should be able to answer the following questions:

bulletWhat kinds of techniques are available for forensic scientists and/or investigators?
bulletHow does biology, biotechnology, chemistry, and physics play role in crime scene investigation?
bulletWhat types of information are important to determine a perpetrator?
bulletWhat are antibodies, antigens, and DNA electrophoresis?
bulletWhat are the drawbacks of using scientific method in forensic science?  Are facts always reliable anytime and anywhere?

Students are responsible to perform series of activities to determine the perpetrator among suspects.  Each activity is designed with laboratory experiments, so they can get a feel of being a real forensic scientist.  Prior to each activity, students will learn course related theories and lessons.  Since integrating the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) programs into the high school curricula is an important task, instructor should closely follow objectives of each activity under guideline of New Jersey Core Content Curriculum Standards.  Once students master the background theories and concepts, then they may carry out each activity to solve the given problem.  Students gaining analytical thinking and keen observation skills through this project are others goals of the educators.  Most of the background information is provided in this project, but it is encouraged that students seek other information, which may be lacking from the Background/Theory page, from reliable sources.

 Project Length

    The project length depends on students’ prior knowledge regarding biology and biotechnology, chemistry, physics etc. The instructor should deliver concepts of DNA and how biotechnology is implemented in real world application. Therefore, total project length is dependent upon the number of activities the teacher chooses to perform with the class. For specific activity length, please refer to individual group activity.

*. Since many project participants are restricted to schools that had an approved engineering/pre-engineering Classification of Institution Program (CIP) code, any topics related social science won’t be covered in this project.  However, it will be discretion made by individual instructors upon modification and implementation of this project into their school.

Introduction | Student | Teacher | Group Activities | Background & Theory | NJCCCS/Skill Levels | Assessment | Participants

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Last updated: 06/03/04.