2010 CWCS Forensic Science Workshop, Williams College

Forensic Science

Lawrence Kaplan (Williams College)

20-25 June 2010, Wiliams College, Williamstown, MA

For more information see the Forensic Science Workshop Website.


Forensic science, the application of scientific principles to criminal and civil laws within a criminal justice system with the goal toward the establishment of guilt or innocence, has had an enormous impact on the definition and enforcement of the laws enacted to regulate society.  This workshop introduced some of the specialized fields of forensic science and provided the fundamental principles of science and technology upon which they are based.  Aspects of forensic science involving the examination of physical, chemical, and biological items of evidence were explored.  This workshop provided the participants with an opportunity to develop a basic understanding of forensic science and to learn about the application of forensic science to essentially all aspects of undergraduate instruction in chemistry.  In the laboratory component, participants gained sufficient experience to incorporate forensic experiments into undergraduate chemistry and/or biochemistry courses.  The activities on each day included lecture, discussion, and laboratory exercises which included an analysis of evidence collected at various crime scenes.

Day 1:   Legal Issues Associated with Scientific Evidence/Processing the Crime Scene.. Forensic scientists must have an understanding of the legal system to insure that their actions and results are within the rules of law and are admissible in the courts.  Participants discussed the scope of expert investigation and testimony and the law as it applies to the admission of test results in evidence.
Trace Evidence.  An appreciation was gained for the analysis of trace evidence including the refractive index of glass, differential staining of fibers and fabrics, development of fingerprints, and thin layer chromatographic (TLC) analysis of inks and other materials.

Day 2:   Ballistics and Presumptive Drug Detection. This unit included an introduction to ballistic analysis including comparison of bullets and shell casings.  This session also involved a discussion of a variety of presumptive tests for drugs such as the color tests for drug material and one step screening for drugs in urine.  In the laboratory, the participants compared bullets and shell casings and performed tests for the presumptive presence of drugs in powders and urine.

Day 3:   Alcohol and the Evidentiary Analysis of Drugs. This session began with a discussion of the analysis of alcohol in the blood, breath, saliva, and urine.  Continuing with the material from day 2, confirmatory or evidentiary tests of drug material employing FTIR and GC-MS were discussed.  In the laboratory, participants analyzed for alcohol in the breath and saliva and performed evidentiary tests for powdered drug material and drugs in the urine.

Day 4:   Serology and DNA Profiling.  This unit introduced basic blood typing and extended this fundamental procedure to the more elaborate DNA profiling.  Using PCR, gel electrophoresis, and dot blots, the participants analyzed samples of DNA to determine if they have a common origin.

Day 5:   DNA Profiling.  A continuation of the PCR profiling begun on Day 4 to complete the analysis of the samples to determine if they have a common origin.


20 Jun '10 to 25 Jun '10




Williams College