What is Forensic Biology at WVU like?
In many forensic investigations, biologically-based evidence is the most critical piece to solving the case. Positively identifying unknown materials as human body fluids can demonstrate that someone was injured, that a piece of clothing was worn or that an object was held in someone’s mouth. The development of DNA profiling in the 1980s and 1990s made the analysis of biological evidence from crime scenes even more important, as it gives analysts the ability to identify the source of biological material with extraordinary precision. Currently, DNA analysis stands as the gold standard of a rigorously science-based field under the greater umbrella of forensic science.
As part of that gold standard, Forensic Biology majors are trained as scientists, spending their first two years building a strong base of chemistry, math, physics and the core biology topics of ecology, evolution, organismal physiology and the beginning of cell biology. In their junior and senior years, students build on that foundation by focusing on cell biology, genetics and biochemistry as the essential knowledge to be effective practitioners. This curriculum ensures graduates meet the educational requirements set by the FBI to be DNA analysts.
However, there is more to forensic biology than merely DNA. Death investigators apply a mix of classical investigative techniques and biological knowledge to help medical examiners determine cause and manner of death.
On the forensic side of forensic biology, students learn basic evidence collection and preservation skills, practical microscopy skills and current methods for biological fluid analysis (serology). These skills, particularly the critical documentation and reporting skills, are used repeatedly across the curriculum and are also used extensively in the departmentally-facilitated internship experience between the junior and senior year. The internship experience often helps students network and prepare for formal employment, and further develop their career goals. Students can then choose elective courses that fit their interests, skills and future career goals.
Forensic Biology program highlights:
At a Glance
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