Forensic Science

A forensic scientist is first a scientist. When he applies his scientific knowledge to assist juries, attorneys, and judges in understanding science, he is a forensic scientist. Forensic scientists are thinkers, good with details, good with putting pieces of a puzzle together, and curious. Some scientists work in laboratories and some also go out to places where crimes are committed (crime scenes). Others teach in colleges and universities.
-American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS)

Our department provides a first-rate education in chemistry that will prepare you for a wide variety of career opportunities. We offer forensic options in both our undergraduate (B.S./B.A.) and graduate (M.N.S.) degree programs. Unlike some institutions, we do not offer a degree strictly in forensic chemistry or forensic science, in large part because we agree with the statement by the AAFS that one must first be a scientist before he can be a forensic scientist. An informal survey of Midwest crime laboratory directors revealed that the majority of them would prefer a student with a solid background in one of the physical sciences—biology, chemistry, or physics—to one who had received a smattering of training in each of these areas in a forensic science degree program. You will leave our program with just that—a strong scientific foundation as a chemist that will enable you to enter into a number of different fields, including forensic chemistry.

Students interested in forensic science who enter our degree program will not only receive extensive training and education in chemistry, but will have the opportunity to enrich their degree program with a number of courses and opportunities geared specifically towards particular areas of interest within the forensic sciences. For example, students have the opportunity to take such courses as Forensic Chemistry, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminalistics, Microscopy, Blood and Fluids, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Statistical Analysis for Forensic Science, and Introduction to Toxicology, to name a few. In addition, research opportunities in forensic science are available. Students involved in research often have the opportunity to coauthor papers or attend professional meetings, such as American Chemical Society (ACS), American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), and Missouri Academy of Science (MAS) meetings. Our forensic chemistry teaching labs were equipped with many of the tools and instruments used by today’s forensic professionals through a $700,000 grant from the federal government that was administered by the National Institute of Justice.

Our students have a number of options available to them after graduation. Most of our graduates go on to seek and gain employment as forensic scientists in local, state, regional, or federal crime laboratories, such as the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory Division, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Still others choose employment in the chemical industry with companies such as Pfizer, Colgate-Palmolive, and Eli Lilly to name a few. Other students prefer to apply for advanced graduate or professional schools, such as Ph.D. programs in chemistry or toxicology or medical school. The educational foundation you receive in our department will position you to attain any of these goals and to be successful in your chosen field.

For more general information on what it takes to become a forensic scientist, what sort of educational background you will need, and what it is like to be a forensic scientist, we recommend the following resources:


Rhodes Hall 201
Department of Chemistry
One University Plaza, MS 6400
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701