FAYETTE, Iowa (September 17, 2008)-Forensic science is a new major introduced on Upper Iowa University's Fayette campus this fall.
Dr. Kerry Opel has been hired to teach the core courses in the program. She earned her Ph.D degree in chemistry from Florida International University, one of the few universities that offer research opportunities in forensic science. Dr. Opel's experience in the forensic field has been in the analysis of DNA, primarily the development of new methods of analysis for difficult samples.
Forensic science is a cross-disciplinary degree, with a strong emphasis in chemistry and biology. According to Opel, it's "a major for the analytical student who is interested in solving puzzles and putting information together to create a bigger picture." The field has a wide variety of contributions and applications to criminal investigation. Interest is high, which Opel attributes to television shows that showcase forensic science.
In addition to the preparatory classes in science, math, law, crime scene processing, the major also teaches the analysis of wide variety of materials, including DNA (human and non-human), fingerprints, firearms, arson evidence, explosives, trace (glass, soil, fiber) evidence, drugs, blood alcohol, poisons, bloodstain patterns and forged or altered documents.
"Although there is a lot of science involved in the degree, it is applied science," explains Opel. "This is stuff that students will use over and over again throughout their careers." However, she admits that the field is not for the squeamish. "Students should know what they are getting into and be able to adopt a professional attitude towards unpleasant situations," she said.
An Upper Iowa forensic science degree can prepare a student for graduate school or employment at a local or federal crime laboratory doing research or handling forensic evidence, as well as other private or commercial laboratories.
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