Forensic science isn’t for the squamish, unless you are investigating computer or engineering forensics. Researchers across multiple disciplines use forensic science to find evidence in criminal court cases and law enforcement investigations. These efforts include medical autopsies, bodily fluids analysis, dental examinations, and DNA analysis.
Student and Professional Forensic Science Organizations
Students can locate funding for their forensic science degree by applying to merit-based scholarships through honors societies. Forensic scientists and academic researchers can participate in national conferences, network, and find career opportunities through professional societies. Many career-based organizations also provide members with continuing education training and access to exclusive publications.
- Alpha Phi Sigma – This is the national honors society for students in criminal justice fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels. APS was founded in 1941 at Washington State University by Dr. Vivian Leonard. This honors society provides students with five different scholarship opportunities annually. The APS official newsletter, “The Docket,” is available as a free PDF download, and recognizes noteworthy professionals and chapter achievements.
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences – This is a multidisciplinary professional organization dedicated to forensic sciences. The AAFS was founded in 1948 in Colorado, and it has grown to a membership of over 6,260 professionals. The AAFS posts their national meetings schedules four years in advance, so that members can plan ahead to attend conferences across the United States. This organization has compiled a helpful guide of accredited undergraduate and graduate forensic programs within the U.S. and worldwide.
- Association for Women in Forensic Science – This nonprofit is dedicated to the advancement of female students within forensic science studies. They host programs and workshops throughout the year to educate students about available career specializations, such as forensic chemistry, forensic serology, arson investigation, and toxicology. The AWFS also hosts several annual conferences across the U.S., such as “Murder at the Mutter Museum” and “The Morgue The Merrier.”
- Society of Forensic Toxicologists – SOFT was founded in 1970 in Long Island, New York. You can find meticulous notes about their last four decades of conferences by checking out the “Past Meetings” section of their website. SOFT has different membership levels for students, current professionals, and retired members of the forensic toxicology community. Members gain access to an exclusive SOFT publication known as ToxTalk. Students can access public SOFT reference information on designer drugs and drug-related crimes.
- American Board of Criminalistics – The ABC is comprised of multiple organizations, including the California Association of Criminalistics, the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists, and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. The ABC oversees professional certifications at the diplomate, fellow, and affiliate levels. Students can also find free study guides at the ABC website for common ABC credential exams, such as the forensic science assessment test (FSAT) and the molecular biology certification exam.
Open Forensic Science Courseware
Forensic science students and professionals are in luck – the National Institute of Justice posts dozens of criminal justice and forensics courses online, which can be accessed for free. This is one of the few academic and professional fields with such a wealth of educational resources collected by the federal government. Prominent schools like MIT and UNC also post open courses for your personal development. Keep in mind that these courses do not provide you with college credit.
- Advances in Forensic Anthropology – The National Institute of Justice has a database of free continuing education courses for forensic science professionals. Advances in Forensic Anthropology was a three day workshop that students can view in video format. The sessions are led Professors Ann Ross, Mohamed Mahfouz, Kenneth Kidd, and Bruce Anderson. They cover topics such as biological sex determination, bone measurements, and population genetics.
- Concentration of Oxymorphone in Postmortem Fluids and Tissues – This is another complementary course provided by the National Institute of Justice. Students must register and attend a digital classroom lecture led by Professor Ruth Winecker, who works as the chief toxicologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She will discuss the pharmacokinetics of oxymorphone within the bodies of narcotics victims.
- Case Studies in Forensic Metallurgy – This is an undergraduate open course hosted by MIT, led by Professor Kenneth Russell and Kyra Sedransk. This course emphasizes the value of engineering expertise within the forensic fields, as students scrutinize historical cases to discover clues within the evidence. Photographs of objects like tires, leg braces, and aluminum ladders can help lead forensic scientists to an accurate depiction of events.
- Forensic Science: CSI – This is a class hosted by DCA Home Learning, a distance learning organization based in the UK. Students who enroll in the Forensic Science open course will get an introduction to crime scene examination work, such as DNA analysis, firearms identification, and arson analysis.
Open Access Forensic Science Journals
These journals give you a look into up-and-coming research developments in several forensic science fields, including toxicology, genetics, and archeology. Generally, forensic science publications are open to submissions from multiple disciplines.
- The Open Forensic Science Journal – Bentham Open is a scientific journal catalog that distributes OFSJ, an annual forensic science periodical. The first volume was released in 2008. Readers can access individual articles as PDF documents. Submissions are welcome on a wide range of forensics research, such as DNA profiling, drug toxicology, human decomposition, bone analysis, and population studies.
- Journal of Forensic Research – This is a multidisciplinary publication that accepts research articles, reviews, commentary, and case studies that pertain generally to forensic science research. JFR is edited by faculty representatives from colleges worldwide, such as the University of North Texas, Nihon University, University of Bradford, and the Kyoto Prefectural University. Individual articles can be viewed in both web and PDF formats.
- Internet Journal of Forensic Science – The IJFS collects forensic science submissions from researchers worldwide, on topics like drug trafficking demographics, instances of fatal electrocutions, handwriting analysis, and sample preparation of forensic materials within a laboratory environment. Dr. Sarabjit Mastana of Loughborough University in the UK is the editor-in-chief of the IJFS. He is highly regarded as an expert in human genomic studies.
- Forensic Science Communications – This was a quarterly forensic science publication released by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation between the years of 1999 and 2009. While the journal is no longer updated, it still serves as a valuable source of research and communication between forensic scientists in the United States. Readers can also explore notes from national monthly FSC conferences, which cover presentations such as “Detection and Enhancement of Latent Evidence” and a dental identification workshop.
Forensic Science Books
Popular books in this field can range from in-depth investigation notes and evidence studies to pop culture psychology profiles on serial killers. The introductory textbooks listed below are great resources for prospective students and undergraduates who want to grasp the fundamentals of forensic science. Other useful books include memoirs from some of the most experienced professionals in the field, whose research has helped to close major criminal investigations.
- Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science – This introductory textbook walks students through pivotal research moments and investigations in history, which have culminated in our current understanding of forensic sciences. Authors Robert Gaensslen, Howard Harris, and Henry Lee strive to give new forensic science students a comprehensive look at the field, its history, and its current specializations.
- Criminal Investigation: The Art and the Science – Professor Michael Lyman uses real life investigations to illustrate modern-day forensic techniques used to solve cases. New editions are released every three years so that students can remain up-to-date with current technologies and research breakthroughs. Professor Lyman teaches criminal justice courses at Columbia College of Missouri, and has authored several other textbooks on organized crime, law enforcement, and drug trafficking.
- The Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation – This textbook is available in both print and digital Kindle editions. Author Ngaire E. Genge explores the connections between pop culture and CSI methodology. This volume is filled with law enforcement interviews, crime scene photographs, and forensic scientist research regarding hair and fiber evidence, firearm identification, and body decomposition. It is an excellent primer for prospective forensic science students who considering a career in this field.
- Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist – Dr. William Maples draws on two decades of experience to describe his work within forensic anthropology, and how bone evidence helped him uncover clues that solved criminal investigations. Dr. Maples also goes into his history with forensic studies, detailing how he first got interested in the field during a college anthropology class. This book is available in both print and digital formats.
- Death’s Acre – The Body Farm is an extremely unusual research facility based in Knoxville, Tennessee, which allows forensic scientists to test and research human decomposition in outdoor environments. Dr. William Bass, a prolific forensic anthropologist, describes how he founded The Body Farm in 1981, and how experiments with human cadavers have led to major advancements within forensic sciences. Students intrigued by Dr. Bass’ work can also find further information in the National Geographic documentary, “Secrets of The Body Farm,” which includes footage of interviews with Dr. Bass and his experiments.
Online Forensic Science Magazines
Digital forensic magazines collect articles for a wide audience, including scholars, law enforcement officials, and scientists who are striving to solve cases. Due to the nature of this field, readers may come across unsettling photographs and medical content depicting death.
- Forensic Magazine – This Advantage Business Media publication has a readership of over 55,000. Forensic Magazine is distributed online, in print, and as an email newsletter. This periodical serves as a news resource for academic institutions, law enforcement professionals, and forensic scientists worldwide. Articles are sorted into five main categories: crime lab, DNA, legal processes, forensic science, and crime scene.
- The Forensic Examiner – This publication is released in both print and digital formats, exploring shifts in historical cases based on forensic evidence findings. Writers revisit cases such as the JFK shooting, Jeffrey Dahmer’s diagnosis, and other high profile slayings to demonstrate how forensic science developments are shifting our interpretations of past crimes. The Forensic Examiner accepts submissions from all disciplines, so long as the content pertains to forensics professionals.
- The Forensic Teacher Magazine – This magazine provides how-tos and experiments that would be perfect for youth exploring forensic sciences. The editors have compiled educational walkthroughs on creating fake blood, setting up a crime scene, and processing investigation documents.
Forensic Science Blogs
Forensic scientists, crime museums, and research departments around the world share their investigation and testing experiences online in blog format. Reference guides and tutorials can easily be illustrated with photographs and video. Please keep in mind that the following website have depictions of death, due to the nature of the research.
- Defrosting Cold Cases – Cold cases are investigations that have run out of steam, hit a dead end, or run off the rails. They are the unsolved mysteries that you read about in newspapers and see on TV. This blog is dedicated to reexamining cold cases, presenting evidence for modern day forensics students and professionals to examine.
- University of Florida Forensic Science Blog – Get an idea of what it’s like to study forensic science at the college level! This extensive blog covers student projects in multiple forensic fields, including imaging, toxicology, computer forensics, photography, and entomology. You can get a behind-the-scenes look at a typical student’s day, laboratory facilities, and developments in forensic science procedures.
- Crime Museum Blog – This is the official blog of the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, an educational facility based in Washington D.C. This blog covers famous criminal cases throughout history, with tie-ins to current exhibitions. The contributors to the crime museum blog do an excellent job of cutting each case down to its pivotal details and illustrating investigation developments with graphics.
- Forensic Pathology – Dr. Dinesh Rao is a forensic pathologist who posts reference documents on the types of evidence that can be found during incidents of post mortem changes, injuries, and sexual assaults. He also shares career resources, news articles, and links to other forensic resources.
Who to Follow on Twitter
Twitter is a home for many forensic scientists, academic departments, and field experts, who share wisdom on current criminal cases, career opportunities, and innovative research methods. They can provide a great amount of insight for students thinking about entering a forensic science degree program or career.
- @forensicnexus – Forensic Nexus was founded by forensic scientist Tatiana Scott of the NYPD. Her Twitter account provides readers with breaking news on industry developments and career opportunities. The Forensic Science Daily newsletter collects research and education features that revolve around forensic science.
- @LeeForensicInst – Dr. Henry Lee is considered a global expert in forensic sciences. This researcher has an entire forensic science institute named after him in West Haven, CT. He is currently the Chief Emeritus for the State of Connecticut’s department of Scientific Services, and he has appeared on TruTV with his own forensics television show. The Henry Lee Institute regularly tweets about new technological developments in forensic science.
- @FRNSCPSU – This is the official Twitter account of the Penn State Forensic Science department, which has programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Get an insiders’ look at career postings, lab projects, industry news, and academic events.
- @SUForensics – This is another academic Twitter account, belonging to the Forensic and National Security Institute at Syracuse University. Explore this school’s curriculum, lab experience, and research by following their Twitter account. They regularly post breaking news about the role of forensic evidence in current criminal cases.
- @F_I_R_E_ – This is the official Twitter account of the Forensic Investigation, Research, and Education section of the Health Science Center at University of North Texas. Watch students collaborate in team meetings online, and read up on breaking tech news pertaining to forensic science research.