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Forensic BiologyMajor

Deep within nearly every cell is a unique set of genetic markers. When a crime occurs, recovering those genetic markers and determining who they belong to is a job for forensic biologists.

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Partnerships with vetted forensic internship sites around the U.S.

Overview

What is Forensic Biology at WVU like?

Description

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:

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At a Glance

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Fast Facts

What makes Forensic Biology at WVU unique?


Research and Academic Opportunities

Most Forensic and Investigative Science faculty accept and encourage undergraduate research. Undergraduates have presented research at both regional and national conferences. Some recent areas of undergraduate research that students may assist graduate students with are:

  • Rapid analysis of DNA mixtures
  • Male DNA recovery from sexual assault samples
  • DNA preservation in entomological samples
  • DNA mixture interpretation software analysis
  • Biological fluid analysis using epigenetic loci
  • Recovery of biological fluids utilizing the MVAC wet-vacuum system

Depending on the project, undergraduates can begin research as soon as their freshman year. Some projects can go on for several years, even sparking an interesting graduate project. Many Forensic Biology students have taken part in the WVU Undergraduate Research Office’s Research Apprenticeship Program and Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Program, depending on their interests.

Early College Program

Get a head start (and save money) in our High School ACCESS program for high school students. Choose from online, on-campus or dual credit courses that fulfill requirements for general education or Forensic Biology. Online courses to consider for this major include:

  • FIS 201: Introduction to Forensic Identification
  • FIS 202: Crime Scene Investigation Overview

Living-Learning Communities (LLCs)

Live, study and pursue outside-the-classroom learning in a residence hall community that shares your interests:

Student Organizations

Connect with other students who share your academic interests as a member of:

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WVUteach

Do you want a another career option? You can earn a secondary teaching certificate through WVUteach while completing a four-year degree in WVU's Forensic Biology major. One degree, two degree options.

Careers

How does this degree prepare students for a career?

As this degree is rather professionally focused, the majority of Forensic Biology graduates go on to jobs associated with law enforcement, either doing DNA analysis or related serology work in crime labs, including the West Virginia State Police and the Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office.

Students who combined Forensic Biology with electives out of the Forensic Examiner major have also gone on to work for law enforcement agencies around the country as crime scene investigators and death investigators. On the private employment side, genetic analysis laboratories such as Sorenson have hired previous graduates.

Many Forensic Biology students go on to graduate school, either continuing on in forensic science or moving to pure biology, genetics or biochemistry. Those who remain in the forensics field gain critical experience in the more challenging aspects of DNA analysis, such as degraded DNA or low copy number DNA.

The Forensic Biology major also meets admission criteria for most professional schools, such as medical, dental or osteopathic schools. For students interested in pursuing careers in pathology, the emphasis on investigative thinking and familiarity with death investigation procedures would be a valuable asset.

Possible Careers

Wondering what you can do with a degree from WVU's Forensic Biology major? Check out these ideas from WVU Career Services and the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). A median salary is the midpoint of what people typically earn—half of those surveyed earned above the median salary, and half earned below.

This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Employers

Graduates from this major have gone to work at:

Courses

What are the courses like in Forensic Biology at WVU?

BIOL 324:
Molecular Genetics

Theoretical and practical knowledge in genetics as a field of study and as an approach for investigating biological problems.

BIOL 432:
Forensic Biology

Biological applications and advances in forensic identification technologies, including advantages and limitations of different approaches. Focuses on isolation, quantification, amplification, and analysis of DNA.

FIS 201:
Introduction to Forensic Identification

A survey course in forensic science including overview of the history and components of fingerprint classification systems crime scene analysis, and death investigation. This course is open to non-majors.

FIS 305:
Biological Evidence for Forensic Examiners

This is an elective course for Examiner Track students in the Forensic & Investigative Science major. The course focuses on the collection and testing of body fluids as well as death scene investigation procedures.

FIS 314:
Introduction to Microscopy

Laboratory-based introduction to theory and practice of light microscopy, polarizing light microscopy, imaging, particle manipulation, comparison microscopy, and simple microscopy. Open to non-FIDP majors and pre-admits on space available basis. (3 hr. lab.)

FIS 485:
Professional Ethics in Forensic Science

Foundational ethical concepts as they relate to forensic science and other associated professional cultures. Applied case-study examples are used to analyze ethical and moral boundaries of practice.

PALM 200:
Medical Terminology

General medical terminology with emphasis on clinical and anatomic pathology terminology.

Cost and Aid

How much does Forensic Biology at WVU cost? And how can you save?

Tuition and Fees

Estimated rates for the 2019-20 academic year. Rates are subject to change. Anyone that is not a current West Virginia resident will be charged non-resident rates. That includes international students.

West Virginia Resident
Per Credit $409
Per Semester $4,908
Fall and Spring Semesters $9,816
Non-Resident
Per Credit $1,111
Per Semester $13,332
Fall and Spring Semesters $26,664
International
Per Credit $1,111
Per Semester $13,632
Fall and Spring Semesters $27,264
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Ways to Save

Here are a few ways for you to save on the cost of attending WVU in addition to university scholarships.

Early College Program

Get a head start (and save money) in our High School ACCESS program for high school students. Choose from online, on-campus or dual credit courses that fulfill requirements for general education or Forensic Biology. Online courses to consider for this major include:

  • FIS 201: Introduction to Forensic Identification
  • FIS 202: Crime Scene Investigation Overview

Learn About Our HS ACCESS Early College Program

Transfer Articulation Agreements

To simplify the transfer process, we have formal agreements with certain institutions. These agreements outline the courses you should take to prepare for transferring to WVU.

Review the full list of transfer articulation agreements to see if your institution is listed.

Learn How to Transfer Course Credits

Requirements

What are the requirements to apply for Forensic Biology at WVU?

To be admitted to WVU's Forensic Biology major, first-time freshmen must meet WVU's first-time freshman admission requirements for the 2020-21 academic year. They also must meet the following admission requirement. Interested in transferring? Review the transfer admission requirements.

For direct admission to the Forensic Biology program:
  • ACT Math: 22
  • SAT Math: 540

If you don't meet the admission requirements for WVU's Forensic Biology major, check out some related programs.

Next Steps

I like this major. What are the next steps?

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