Module code: CHE2033

Module Overview

The purpose of this module is to give students a fundamental understanding of forensic chemistry.  In this second year module, we focus on the chemistry relating to specific evidence types, namely gunshot residue, explosives, drugs and toxicology, paint and glass.  Casework examples are used to give students a broad understanding of how data is interpreted.  This module interacts with material that students are taught through analytical chemistry modules and demonstrates the application of relevant techniques to forensic casework. 


Module provider


Module Leader

SEARS Patrick (Chemistry)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 3

Independent Learning Hours: 102

Lecture Hours: 29

Laboratory Hours: 6

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • The historical development of analytical techniques for forensic chemistry (e.g. as detection and quantification)

  • Trace chemical analysis : The forensic analysis of glasses, paints and soils



  • The chemistry of fire, fire prevention and fire fighting, arson

  • Flash points, propagation, products

  • Recovery and examination of evidence



  • Nature and types of explosives and explosions

  • Explosives terminology – energetic compounds

  • Forensic examination in explosions

  • Recovery and identification of explosion residues


Firearm and Firearm evidence

  • Forensic examination of firearms, bullets and cartridges


Introduction to drugs and Pharmacology

  • Legal and illicit drugs

  • Pharmacokinetics

  • instrumental methods in toxicology



Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination EXAM - 1.5 HOURS 60
Practical based assessment COURSEWORK PRACTICAL EXERCISE 10

Alternative Assessment

No alternative to Examination Failure of Coursework Group exercise will require completion of a detailed written case study.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate

The assessment strategy is designed to assess whether students meet the learning outcomes of the module.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Examination – 1.5 hours

  • Laboratory write up

  • Coursework write up – approximately 2,000 words


Formative assessment

Test questions during exam tutorial



Laboratory scripts marked and returned during the semester; discussion sessions; practise exam questions

Module aims

  • To consider the historic development of forensic chemistry and its linkage to advances in analytical technique
  • To introduce the chemistry underlying the use of physical evidence
  • To give an understanding of the physical methods used in characterising such evidence
  • To introduce students to the underlying science, safety and forensic aspects of fire, explosions and firearms
  • To consider the information available from forensic computing and photography
  • To introduce the chemistry of drugs and poisons, and their detection
  • To outline the forensic toxicology of the above areas
  • To develop team working in approaching a forensic investigation

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Apply chemical, physical  and imaging techniques in the examination of physical forensic evidence CP
2 Understand the science involved in fires, explosions and the discharge of firearms and apply it in a subsequent forensic investigation KC
3 Appreciate safety aspects of dealing with energetic compounds and firearms, particularly in the context of forensic investigation K
4 Give an account of drugs and forensic toxicology K
5 Discuss the chemistry and methods of detection of selected drugs and poisons, and appreciate the role played by forensic toxicology in the investigation of their illegal abuse KC
6 Approach the solution of multi-faceted forensic problems as an individual or as a member of a team. CPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Provide students with hands on experience of current forensic chemistry methods by practical sessions and workshops

Provide students with an understanding of physical evidence and its chemical analysis through lectures, casework examples, videos and discussions.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Workshops (3 x 1 hour sessions)

  • Laboratory sessions (2 x 1 day sessions)

  • Lectures (29 total)

  • Exam tutorial

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: CHE2033

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Chemistry with Forensic Investigation BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Chemistry BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Chemistry MChem 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Chemistry with Forensic Investigation MChem 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2019/0 academic year.