Surrey University Stag

ADVANCED METHODS IN FORENSIC INVESTIGATION - 2023/4

Module code: CHEM034

Module Overview

The module shows the relevance of current, continuing developments in biomolecular, physicochemical and analytical science in the application of science in the service of the law, poisonings and the investigation of suspicious deaths. Students are introduced to the nature and molecular characteristics of “blood” and other body fluids, and thence to the DNA “fingerprinting”. Means by which finger marks can be enhanced and further analysed are considered, as are techniques currently under investigation which may lead to step change in the sophistication of information available from such marks and also from trace evidence. The key role of analytical science in forensic toxicology is considered and illustrated, followed by detailed consideration of the scientific evidence available in a range of high profile cases.

Module provider

Chemistry

Module Leader

SEARS Patrick (Chemistry)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: F410

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 110

Lecture Hours: 20

Seminar Hours: 8

Laboratory Hours: 4

Captured Content: 8

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content

Indicative content includes:

Body fluid analysis


  • DNA: structure, base pairs, the genetic code, RNA, cell biology, mitochondrial DNA, chromosomes, sexual reproduction.

  • DNA in the cell, types of DNA profiling, RFLP, allele specific and STR.

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), likelihood ratios.

  • CODIS and NDNAD databases, ethical considerations

  • The Colin Pitchfork case, possible surviving relatives of the Tsar, Syrian hamsters, seven daughters of Eve hypothesis.

  • Saliva, salivary amylase, RSID antibody test, whose saliva?

  • Semen, acid phosphatase, microscopic confirmation, whose semen?

  • Advanced methods in DNA profiling



Mass Spectrometry


  • Analysis of evidence by mass spectrometry



New techniques in forensic science


  • Non-destructive methods and new imaging mass spectrometry methods.

  • Ion beam analysis of trace evidence: gunshot residue particles, solids, fibres, paints and glass.



Chemistry of fingerprints


  • Interaction of developers, substrate and environment,

  • New types of development/visualisation,

  • Sequential development of fingerprints

  • Case studies in fingerprinting



Forensic Toxicology


  • Poisons and routes through the body.

    • Toxic dose.

    • Sampling.

    • Toxicology of “alcohol”.

    • Road traffic offences.

    • Other intoxicants.



  • Toxicological aspects of solvent abuse and drug overdose.

  • Non-criminal and criminal case studies.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework DNA Coursework 15
Coursework GSR analysis coursework 10
Coursework Review article coursework 15
Examination Online open book examination (4h) 60

Alternative Assessment

Students unable to attend the practical can submit an essay on an agreed title.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate a developed understanding and experience of current, continuing developments in biomolecular, physicochemical and analytical science in the application of science in the service of the law, poisonings and the investigation of suspicious deaths.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


  • Coursework: report providing a critical review modern forensic science and how developing methods may provide key innovations for the forensic investigator (in the format of a literature review  from Forensic Science International). (15%)

  • Coursework: Critical review of modern methods of DNA analysis. (15%)

  • Coursework: Analysis of elemental analysis data from GSR experiment (10%)

  • Examination: (4 hours, open book, 60%)



 

Module aims

  • To examine the scope and background of forensic investigation of body fluids and other biological material
  • To give a detailed account of techniques used in advanced biomedical analysis.
  • To consider a range of novel developmental methods in forensic science and their potential to add to the toolbox for forensic investigators.
  • To outline the scope of forensic toxicology.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Give a critique of the various techniques used in a mass spectrometry laboratory and when to use them KCPT
002 Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the chemistry of body fluids and understanding of the value of evidence gathered from them KCP
003 Provide an informed discussion of developing methodologies in forensic investigation, gain competence in their practical use and of their potential for strategic innovation CPT
004 Show critical awareness of the role played by forensic toxicology in forensic investigation KCT
005 Give a detailed account of the interaction between fingerprints, reagents, substrates and the environment and evaluate current approaches in fingerprint research KCT

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:

The student will build from their chemical knowledge to gain in-depth insights into modern and future (under development) techniques applied in forensic investigation.  The utility of these techniques will be discussed through examples which exemplify the underlying science and the correct application of those techniques. The seminar content will extend students’ understanding of the role of forensic investigation, its strengths and limitations via an introduction to forensic toxicology, with extensive use made of non-confidential contemporary case studies.

The learning and teaching methods include:

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.

Some of the content for this module will be presented using flipped learning.  Online video content will be supported by seminar sessions to discuss content and evaluate potential questions (adding to formative questions).

 

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

https://readinglists.surrey.ac.uk
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: CHEM034

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Chemistry MChem 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Chemistry with Forensic Investigation MChem 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% 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 2023/4 academic year.