MFS in Forensic Molecular Biology

 

Three women working in a chemistry lab

 

The Master of Forensic Sciences in Forensic Molecular Biology (FMB) prepares students to work in crime laboratories as DNA analysts and technical leaders. Students pursuing the FEPAC-accredited degree learn to apply rigorous research and analysis skills to synthesize, interpret and understand crime scene evidence. Using state-of-the-art lab facilities, students learn chemical, physical, immunological and microscopic methods, and the theoretical and practical aspects of advanced methods, such as DNA extraction and data interpretation.

In their coursework, students might find themselves identifying body fluids at recreated crime scenes or participating in mock court cases. This simulated first-hand experience develops the ability to collect, protect and preserve evidence, as well serve as an expert witness in testimony.

 


"We were able to go through the analysis as if we were real analysts on this case. Once we analyzed the data, we were able to put it through a [simulated DNA] database."

Sathya Prakash Harihar

MS '20


Program Objectives

Graduates develop the knowledge and skills needed to work in a crime forensic laboratory. Specifically, graduates will:

  • Obtain hands-on physical evidence analysis experience, such as the design, development and validation of forensic DNA analysis
  • Improve critical thinking skills to evaluate forensic evidence and scientific literature
  • Develop presentation and writing skills for research, report writing and courtroom testimony
  • Understand the breadth of forensic science disciplines and their application to criminal justice
  • Comprehend the legal and ethical principles of forensic science

 


Focus Areas

Students choose from required and elective courses in five subject areas:

Students combine disciplines to examine and identify body fluid stains at a crime scene and in the laboratory.

Students learn methods of DNA extraction, quantitation, and amplification (of short tandem repeat markers and mitochondrial DNA), fragment analysis, DNA sequencing, data interpretation, mixture deconvolution and skills to evaluate population genetics.

Students combine classic investigative examination techniques (such as fingerprinting, firearm and toolmark examination and document examination) with leading approaches used to examine trace evidence (such as glass, soil, paint, hairs and fibers and forensic drug analysis). Students learn the principles of forensic pathology, crime scene investigation and forensic science laboratory management.

Students learn to prepare and present evidence, how to qualify and prepare expert witnesses and how to testify as an expert witness or present findings in a legal setting.

Students participate in mock cases to establish professional protocols necessary to receive evidence, maintain the chain of custody, analyze the evidence, calculate the statistical significance of a match, issue a report and return the evidence intact. Mock cases include methodology to identify and determine the nature of body fluids, extract, quantify and type the DNA, interpret the data and present it accurately.


Application Requirements

In addition to the Columbian College’s graduate admissions requirements, applicants must meet two requirements to apply for the MFS in Forensic Molecular Biology program:

  • Applicant must have a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences from an accredited college or university.
  • Applicant must meet the FBI standards for a forensic DNA technical leader. The applicant must show 12 credits of completed coursework in certain areas before beginning the program. These courses must be taken as part of the undergraduate curriculum or before registering for graduate classes:
    • Biochemistry
    • Genetics
    • Molecular biology and/or molecular genetics and statistics and/or population genetics

 


Classroom Case Study

Julie Weil, an advocate for sexual assault survivors, speaks at a podium.

Forensics Class Meets the Real Victim in DNA Case Study

GW Forensics Molecular Biology students solved a case and learned about the survivor who was spurred to activism by a horrific crime.

Course Requirements

In addition to the requirements, students must also conduct an approved, independent research project. The project must enhance critical thinking, improve troubleshooting ability, and deepen forensic molecular biology knowledge.

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

37 credits, including 31 credits in required courses and 6 credits in elective courses selected in consultation with the advisor. Successful completion of an independent study project and a master's comprehensive examination also is required.

Required
FORS 6004Fundamentals of Forensic Science I
FORS 6005Fundamentals of Forensic Science II
FORS 6020Ethics, Professional Responsibility, and Quality Assurance
FORS 6201Forensic Biology
FORS 6224Criminal Law for Forensic Scientists
FORS 6225Statistics for Forensic Scientists
FORS 6241Forensic Molecular Biology I
FORS 6242Forensic Molecular Biology II
FORS 6243Forensic Molecular Biology III
FORS 6247Population Genetics
FORS 6292Graduate Seminar (taken twice) *
Electives
Six additional credits selected in consultation with the departmental advisor
Other requirements
Successful completion of an independent research project is required.
Successful completion of a master’s comprehensive examination is required.
*Students must register for FORS 6292 in their first semester and again after or during the completion of the required independent research project.