Study Forensic Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY
Forensic Science has become one of the most popular areas of study in the United States today. Because of the media coverage given to major criminal cases such as the O.J. Simpson trial, the Scott Peterson trial and the JonBenet Ramsey murder, and due to the popularity of many TV programs such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, NCIS, Criminal Intent: Special Victims’ Unit, and movies as well as books, newspaper, etc., the public has become enthralled with Criminalistics, the branch of forensic science dealing with criminal matters.
Forensic Science is actually an interdisciplinary science that utilizes the principles and techniques of the basic sciences, biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, to solve problems related to the law, both criminal and civil. Forensic scientists often go to crime scenes, identify, document, collect, package, and transport physical evidence to the laboratory where a thorough scientific analysis takes place. The analysis can potentially reveal information that will help the criminalist reconstruct the events leading up to and during the commission of the crime. This information can often be used to include or exclude a suspect. Indeed, certain kinds of analyses can provide the police with a suspect when no suspect could be developed through routine police investigation. Because anything can become physical evidence, the criminalist must learn to handle all sorts of trace evidence, (evidence left in very small quantities), such as soil, hair, paint chips, fibers, pollen, glass, and other substances. The criminalist must also know how to process and analyze blood, semen, saliva, documents, explosives, ballistics evidence, tool mark impressions, bite marks, shoeprint, footprint and tire track impressions, accelerants used in arson crimes, drugs (both legal and illegal), poisons, etc.
Following the analysis, a report is written and the expert scientist then presents the report with its conclusions to the prosecutor. The criminalist will ultimately testify in a court of law if so requested. As an expert, the criminalist is the only type of witness that can provide an opinion during testimony. Of course, that opinion must be based on a solid scientific foundation and must not be an opinion of guilt or innocence of the defendant. The forensic scientist is therefore the bridge between the crime scene, the laboratory, the police, and the judicial system. The forensic scientist must not only be academically knowledgeable about the subject matter, but must also be proficient at applying this knowledge by testing physical evidence and in developing factual information for the triers of fact, the judge and jury.
At John Jay College a student can obtain the B.S. and M.S. degrees in forensic science and the Ph.D. degree in Criminal Justice, which has a track in forensic science. The first two years of the baccalaureate program requires coursework in General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus. The second two years consists of coursework in biochemistry, physical chemistry, instrumental analysis, criminalistics and toxicology. The program consists of three tracks: Criminalistics, Toxicology, and Molecular Biology. There is a requirement for an internship that allows the student the opportunity to see what a criminalist does in a functioning crime laboratory. For more information, consult the John Jay College Web Site: http://www.jjay.cuny.edu.#
Lawrence Kobilinsky, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biology and Immunology and Science Advisor to President Jeremy Travis. He serves as a mentor to graduate students, supervising their thesis research projects. He is also President of the Council of Forensic Science Educators, an international group of forensic science professors.