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The Science Behind Forensic Science

Get an introduction to the science of forensic science and discover how it's applied in the real world.

9,741 enrolled on this course

The Science Behind Forensic Science
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Discover the biology and chemistry behind forensic science

How does forensic science really work? How are scientific principles applied in crime scenes? Answer these questions and more with this course from the team who teach the longest-running forensic science programme of its type in England.

On the course you will get an introduction to the chemistry and biology of forensic science. You will examine the methods used in forensic science and learn about how these technique are used in crime scenes and explained in the court room.

Kindly note that the course material was produced before COVID-19 distancing and restrictions were put into effect. To learn more about COVID-19 advice and guidance at King’s College, please visit this page.

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  • Week 1

    Introduction to Forensic Science and The Crime Scene

    • Welcome

      Welcome to the course! This activity will give you an introduction to the team behind the course, the topics to be covered, and the case that we'll be following over the four weeks.

    • Crime Scene Management

      This activity will introduce the case that you'll be following over the next four weeks. We'll start by looking at good crime scene management, including taking forensic notes, and strategies for managing a crime scene.

    • Crime Scene Search and Evidence Recovery

      In this activity we'll look at the crime scene itself: how to secure the scene, how to search for and secure evidence, and to finish off we'll ask you what you think, based on what you're learnt so far.

    • Week 1 Wrap-up

      To finish the week, you'll return to the station to see Gihan, and summarise what we have learnt about the case.

  • Week 2

    Forensic Biology

    • Item examination

      In this activity, you'll be introduced to the week's topic of Forensic Biology. We'll start by looking at different techniques for examining items found at the crime scene.

    • DNA Profiling

      In this activity, we'll examine the theoretical background to DNA profiling to provide context for the following activity on profile matching.

    • Profile Matching

      In this activity, Dr David Ballard will provide a demonstration and explanation of profile analysis using the processed case samples.

    • DNA Intelligence

      In this activity, we'll look at how we can predict an individual's ancestry from only their DNA. You'll then apply this to the case in the following activity.

    • Week 2 wrap-up

      In this activity, you'll reflect with Gihan on what you've learnt this week, and apply your knowledge to a number of suspect profiles.

  • Week 3

    Forensic Chemistry

    • Introduction to Forensic Chemistry

      This activity will give a short introduction to the different Forensic Chemistry techniques that we'll be looking at this week, including how they will be applied to the case.

    • The forensic chemistry laboratory

      In this activity, we'll be looking at the importance of the chain of custody in the forensic process. We'll consider why accreditation is important and the laboratory scientist's role in maintaining the chain of custody.

    • Physical examination

      In this activity, you'll work with Dr David Barron on an examination of physical characteristics, and conduct a database search for the case.

    • Presumptive testing

      This activity will give an overview of different presumptive tests, focusing on the Marquis test. You'll work with Joanna Czerwinska to analyse the tablet found at the crime scene.

    • Confimatory testing

      In this activity, you'll work with Dr Thomas Miller and Dr Andrew Chan to examine different confirmatory tests. You'll learn how different types of chromatography work.

    • Week 3 wrap-up

      To wrap up week three, you'll return to see Gihan to discuss the results of your testing.

  • Week 4

    Evidence in the Court

    • Evidence in the courts

      In this activity, we'll look at how a case comes to court. You'll examine how the legal system works in England and Wales, the different roles in the court, and the specific role played by an expert witness.

    • Definitions

      This activity looks at the different legal terms used in the course, providing a glossary for reference.

    • Scientific evidence and testimony

      Working with a number of experts in a series of round table discussions, in this activity you'll examine the evidence to be presented in the case and the strategies to be employed.

    • The jury

      In this activity, you'll act as the jury. Based on what you've learnt so far, how do you find the defendant?

    • Final Assessment

      This assessment tests your understanding of the different elements of forensics that have been presented over the four weeks of the course.

    • The case solved

      To end the course, you'll discuss what you've learnt with Professor Denise Syndercombe Court, and finally see how Omar was killed.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how a crime scene is evaluated and some of the analytical techniques required for an analysis of the evidence.
  • Apply the chemistry knowledge acquired to approach the learning and understanding of more sophisticated techniques used in forensic science
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the genome that enables them to comprehend forensic DNA analysis
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of strengths and limitations of an adversarial judicial system in giving forensic evidence

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in discovering more about forensic science. It will be especially useful if you’re thinking of studying forensic science in the future or if you work in a field related to forensic science (for example law or the police force) and want to find out more.

Who will you learn with?

Kim’s area of expertise is biomarkers of substance misuse and investigating the detection of drugs in different matrices. She has been particularly involved in drug-driving research in this regard.

David Ballard is a researcher in forensic genetics and the senior scientist within the ISO17025 accredited DNA analysis at King’s unit. Dr Ballard has over 15 years’ experience in forensics.

A professor of forensic genetics and expert witness with over 25 years' experience in criminal justice leading a research group, supervising PhD students and running an ISO17025 MoJ laboratory.

Gabriella is a Forensic Scientist in the ISO17025 accredited DNA analysis at King's laboratory and is carrying out a PhD in Forensic Metagenomics.

Who developed the course?

King's College London

King’s College London, established in 1829 and a founding college of the University of London, is one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities, based in the very heart of London.

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