Executive Summary This document is the outline of a strategic plan for the Forensic Science Program at the University of North Texas for the next three years, 2007-2009.
Advances in technology have created a need for students to apply the new tools of technology to a wide variety of criminal investigations. The director of the Virginia Division of Forensic Sciences noted in a recent issue of C&EN news that approximately 10,000 new scientist will be needed in chemistry and forensic related laboratories. Much of the demand will be to process the current backlog of forensic DNA evidence and to expand the databases of evidence obtained from crime scenes.
Forensic science first appeared on the UNT campus with the establishment of the Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and Human Identification, (FLA), within the Department of Biological Sciences. At its inception in 1990 the laboratory began offering identification, trauma analysis, and location/recovery services to medical examiners and law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Texas. Since the lab is tax-supported as a component of the university, all services to public entities within the state are performed pro bono.
By 1994, a Master of Science degree in biology with three forensic tracks was offered. These were human osteology, trace evidence, and serobiology/DNA analysis. Students in the program were required to become members of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and to make at least one formal presentation, (at the annual meeting), during the course of study.
With the Oklahoma City disaster in 1995, the FLA lab became a component in the National Disaster Medical Services, (NDMS), providing human identification services to the office of the Oklahoma Medical Examiner System. Since that time, the lab has provided mass fatality services in the US and abroad in a wide variety of settings, (airline disasters in the US and territories, World Trade bombing, UN War Crimes Tribunal, Judicial Federal Police in Mexico, Indonesian Tsunami, and others). The lab also provides regular training to numerous agencies in planning for mass death events.
In 1996 the serobiology/DNA training track was reincarnated as a shared program with the Forensic DNA lab in the Graduate School of BioMedical Sciences at the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center (UNTHSC) in Forth Worth. At that time, faculty exchange in the twin programs began and continues with great mutual benefit. Students pursuing degrees in molecular forensics at UNTHSC regularly work in the LFA on projects involving human remains analysis.
The LFA reached another developmental milestone in 1999 when it assumed a major role in the Attorney General’s “Cold Case” unit operated by the Texas Rangers. This interaction has served as an important link between the LFA and various committees of the Texas Legislature, (e.g. House Public Safety Comm. and the Senate Criminal Justice Comm.). The LFA has provided significant leadership in the establishment of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Offender Database, the recently adopted Postconviction DNA legislation, and the establishment and funding of the Texas Missing Persons DNA Database, (CODIS). Since 2002, the LFA and the DNA group at UNTHSC have operated in “tandem” to provide identification and other forensic services to Texas law enforcement, and, increasingly to entities outside the state requiring those services.
Since 1995, Forensic Biology, “ a forensic survey class”, for undergraduates offered as either Biology or Anthropology has gained popularity, and now enjoys capacity enrollments, (over 100 students in the semesters when offered). The response to this class coupled with student interest for applied areas within the chemistry and biology majors along with increasing public interest in forensic sciences signaled the need to formalize a robust undergraduate curriculum.
Although the Department of Chemistry has not had a defined concentration in forensic chemistry, BS and MS degree graduates are employed in forensic laboratories. Recent graduates are working at Armstrong Laboratories and crime laboratories at Dallas County, Ft. Worth, FBI offices and Texas Department of Public Safety. The American Chemical Society has accredited the BS in Chemistry degree since 1952.
After ongoing discussions with interested science faculty and administration, Warren Burggren, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences authorized an Advisory Committee to develop an accredited forensic science program. Formal meetings of the Forensic Advisory Committee chaired by Dr. Jean Schaake, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs began in February 2004. The committee included faculty and chairpersons of the departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Criminal Justice as well as three members of the working professional community.
As a result of forensic program curriculum reviews of programs all over the nation, Standards for Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation, and the advice of the forensic professionals, an initial framework for the program evolved using the BS in either Chemistry or Biological Sciences with a Biomedical Criminalistics Certificate as the design for accreditation.
The Biomedical Criminalistic Certificate is designed to enable students in degree programs in biological sciences and chemistry to begin careers in forensic laboratories. The departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences have collaborated with the department of Criminal Justice to develop this interdisciplinary certificate and begin the Forensic Science Program at UNT.
With the framework for an accredited forensic science program in place, the College of Arts and Sciences supported the attendance of Dr. Teresa Golden, Dr. Art Goven and Dr. Jean Schaake at the annual meeting of The American Academy of Forensic Science (Spring 2005 New Orleans) especially to participate in workshops on education and training of forensic scientists and the accreditation process. Dr. Golden also used the opportunity to begin recruitment for the newly authorized faculty position in forensic/analytical chemistry.
In March 2005, Dr. Teresa Golden was appointed Director of the Forensic Science Program for the College of Arts and Sciences and given a graduate student services position to assist her in establishing the office and program.
In April 2005, upper level students majoring in chemistry or biology were invited to apply for the Biomedical Criminalistics Certificate approved by the College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee. Students admitted in the first cohort would be able to complete the course requirements of the certificate and graduate in 2006-2007. With the acceptance of 12 students at the upper level of their degree program for the Biomedical Criminalistics Certificate, review of accreditation standards and consultation with Dr. Jim Hurley, Director of Accreditation and Development, AAFS, the decision was made to apply for provisional accreditation.
In June, the requirements for the Biomedical Criminalistics Certificate were approved by the university curriculum committee effective for Fall semester 2005 but to be published in the Fall 2006 General Catalog. Biology and Chemistry students accepted in the first cohort as junior, senior level students would be able to complete the Biomedical Criminalistics Certificate and graduate in four semesters using the established schedule for course offerings.
The Forensic Science Program Office opened in Fall 2005 and is located in Chemistry 281. Application for provisional National Certification of the Program by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) was submitted in May 2005 and an onsite visit scheduled for October 2005. This allowed a “dry” run for the program, and greatly benefited the program, by allowing an in-depth assessment of the strengths and weakness to be addressed in the program. The program director and dean have continued to attend AAFS meetings (2006 in Seattle and planned 2007 in san Antonio) to participate in workshops on education and training of forensic scientists and the accreditation process and establish friendships and links into the forensic community.
Presently, the Program includes a full-time director, full-time faculty residing in the biology, chemistry, and criminal justice departments, and full-time undergraduate students. The Program facilities are currently spread over four buildings (Biology, Chemistry, Science Research Building, and Chilton Hall). Currently, the Program is establishing links to the forensic science community by soliciting internships from local forensic laboratories, supporting a student forensic science club, searching to hire nationally know forensic faculty, and campaigning for a Denton county/UNT partnership in forensic science.
There has been a continuum of initiatives and activities in Forensic Science at UNT since 1990. However in the last few years, faculty and student interest have accelerated the development of a Forensic Science Program that would meet accreditation standards and prepare students for entry-level positions in the profession. The College of Arts and Sciences has established this program in the sciences and along with university administrative support will provide resources to develop and sustain it as an accredited program. The Forensic Advisory Board will continue to serve and assist in the further development, modification and activities for the program.
This strategic plan includes a number of specific actions to meet the mission and goals of the program. Since the program consist of a collaboration across several departments, it is impossible to anticipate every new opportunity or challenge. Nor is it possible to list every possible action that would contribute to the goals. This strategic plan should be viewed as a guide for decisions and actions over the next three years, but subject to constant review and updates. We realize that the departments affliated with the forensic program also have goals in their strategic plans which include the Forensic Program, therefore this plan is not the meant to override those plans but to be used as a guide for the program and to influence the other plans. Finally, this document is not inclusive of all activities within the Program.
Forensic Science Program Mission Statement The University of North Texas is the largest and most comprehensive research and doctoral degree-granting institution in the North Texas area and the flagship of the UNT System. The University is committed to excellence in teaching and the discovery and application of knowledge through research and creative activities. As an educational component of the university, the Forensic science Program strives to:
Assure a complete and rigorous curriculum designed to develop undergraduate students understanding of the field of forensic science, critical thinking, and laboratory experience.
Review and update scientific content and forensic techniques to ensure the incorporation of current forensic practices in the curriculum.
Strategic Plan (Note: Neither the goals nor the action items are in priority order)
Goals: Increase the Regional, National, and International Stature of the Program. Increase Program Resources. Upgrade Program Instrumentation Action Item 1. Pursue accreditation of the Program with AAFS
a. Submit application for 2007 deadline.
b. Faculty and Program Director attend AAFS national meeting in Feb 2007.
Participate in accrediting workshops and meetings. Meet with academics and practioneers in the forensic community. Expand and build contacts within the community.
c. Meet with subcommittee, spring 07, to go over application and program changes or
Action Item 2. Increase the exposure of the program using various publicity outlets.
a. Advertise Program online.
Add program to AAFS website. Search other websites for addition. Have computer center establish links with other department’ websites. Continuosly update program website.
b. Program Director visit regional labs to promote program.
c. Program Director visit and reach out to regional high schools and present seminars
at schools and community colleges.
d. Send mailers semi-annually to regional high schools science teachers.
e. Program office actively support materially and advise the UNT student forensic
e. Actively recruit undergraduate students in freshmen and sophomore biology and
Action Item 3. Establish multiple internships with local, regional, and national forensic
laboratories, both private and government.
a. Program Director visit regional labs to promote program.
1c. Chemistry track: Organic chemistry, quantitative analysis and instrumental analysis.
1d. All students: Certificate courses
Each semester, the grades of students in program will be reviewed by Program director and put in their file.
Students within program: must obtain a C or better in each course listed under data sources with a cumulative of 2.75 in all certificate courses.
Review ACS exam scores in courses were applicable.
Collect statistics to present to advisory board and subcommittee.
If student maintains a C or above in each course with a 2.75 cumulative: the student will be allowed to continue in program.
If student does not obtain a C in each course, the student will be dropped from program. The student may then a) retake course to obtain a C or better, b) reapply to program after meeting grade requirements.
After review of statistics, faculty may suggest changes to the curriculum to be approved by advisory board.
2. Demonstrate ability to operate modern instrumentation found in forensic laboratories, including but not limited to spectroscopy, chromatography, and microscopy.
Faculty of Instrumental analysis, forensic chemsitry and forensic microscopy provide copies of laboratories covering topics.
Sample copies of written lab reports will be kept in program office.
Students must obtain a C or above in the laboratory courses in program.
Same as 1.
3. Effectively communicate scientific data and observations.
3a. Written lab reports from program lab courses.
3b Student presentations at scientific meetings.
3c Student co-authorship on published papers in scientific journals.
3d. Biol/Chem 4900 internship reports.
Sample copies of written reports, papers, and any presentations kept in program office.
Allow review of all copies by faculty and advisory board
4. Prepare students for employment in biology/chemistry forensic related fields.