Students on campus are seeking justice . . . in the chemistry lab. At least that’s the hope of Dwight Tshudy, associate professor of chemistry, who’s teaching Forensics this semester for the fourth time since it was first offered in 2006. With 15 students from a variety of majors, Tshudy says his goal is to blend science with other related topics (such as justice) in lectures, discussions, labs and of course, in the field as the class investigates various “crime scenes” he sets up around campus. Here’s how Tshudy describes his unique class:
“Forensic science is a multi-disciplinary enterprise that exposes students to scientific concepts and tools that cover a number of different scientific disciplines. Forensics naturally has student interest across disciplines, and it works well as a thematic course that covers the Natural World and Civic Responsibility requirements in the core curriculum. This semester, students in the class are majoring in psychology, chemistry, kinesiology, music, English, physics, linguistics, political science, and history. This allows for some great cross disciplinary discussions especially around justice and its connection to the criminal justice system. Courses that have this mix of majors are good examples of having the thematic core.
“The first part of the lab portion introduces different tools and instrumentation that can be used in an investigation and then teams with four students per team process and analyze a ‘crime scene’ somewhere on campus using the skills they’ve gained. We emphasize scientific aspects of investigations, but explore other aspects of how forensics is used in the criminal justice system, and how law and science intersect. I’ve designed the course for those who want to learn about forensics and have a desire to be ‘hands-on’ in the lab and field. The class is really a combination of general forensic investigations, fundamental scientific principles, and the role terms like ‘justice’ plays into it all. It teaches students some scientific principles and ideas while exploring where science can (and should) play a role in society.”