Module code: CHE2033

Module Overview

The purpose of this module is to give students a fundamental understanding of forensic chemistry. Rather than concentrate on chemistry per se, the focus is on the principles of chemistry as they relate to specific evidence types, namely gunshot residue, explosives, drugs and toxicology, paint and glass. Casework examples will be used to give students a broad understanding of how data is interpreted. This module demonstrates the application of relevant techniques to forensic casework. 

This module supports further learning across all chemistry programmes it features in.  Particular relevance can be found in the following modules.

  • CHE2035, CHEM038, CHE3066 (analytical problem solving, instrumental techniques)

  • CHE3055 (forensic toxicology, forensic investigation)

  • CHEM034 (forensic toxicology, analysis of trace evidence)

  • CHEM037, CHE3062 (principles of pharmacokinetics, drug processes, schedules)

Module provider

Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Module Leader

SEARS Patrick (Chst Chm Eng)

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: 6

Independent Learning Hours: 66

Seminar Hours: 22

Laboratory Hours: 12

Guided Learning: 22

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Trace chemical analysis

  • The forensic analysis of glasses, paints and soils


  • The chemistry of fire

  • Fire prevention and firefighting, & arson

  • Flash points, propagation, products

  • Recovery and examination of evidence


  • Nature and types of explosives and explosions

  • Explosives terminology – energetic compounds

  • Chemistry and thermochemistry of Explosives

  • Bomb scene investigation: Recovery of forensic samples

  • Forensic examination and identification of explosion residues

Firearm and Firearm evidence

  • Types of firearms, bullets and cartridges

  • Criminal offences involving firearms, the development of the UK gun control policy

  • Ballistics and reconstruction

  • Forensic information from firearms

  • Detection and analysis of gunshot residue

Introduction to drugs and Pharmacology

  • Legal and illicit drugs

  • Classification and scheduling of drugs and pharmaceutics

  • Pharmacokinetics

  • Instrumental methods in toxicology

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Forensic workshop 20
Coursework Forensic case file 30
Examination 2 hr invigilated examination 50

Alternative Assessment

  • Students not completing the forensic workshop will be required to write a statement to accompany an alternative forensic case scenario (2,500 words)
  • Students not completing the forensic case file will be required to write a statement based on an assessment of case related data (2,500 words) 

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to allow students to demonstrate that they have successfully met the learning outcomes of the module.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

•    Coursework: Forensic workshop. Students will take part in a workshop exercise examining the evidence in a realistic case. In groups, students will guide the investigation, and determine what information should be requested from the crime laboratory. Peer assessment of their roles in the case will contribute a quarter of the marks of this assessment with the remainder arising from a statement prepared on the basis of the evidence reviewed. (LO3, LO4)
•   Coursework: Case file preparation.  A number of short laboratory practical sessions will be completed throughout the module covering a range of evidence types.  The students will prepare a case file with each of the analyses documented and a statement covering the case. (LO2, LO4)
•    Exam: Students will complete an exam covering the full range of material discussed in lectures and seminars.  The exam will be designed to test their application of the material presented. (LO1, LO2, LO3)

Why are we doing this?

The assessment strategy is designed to allow students to develop and test their knowledge and their skills in a manner that not only enhances their understanding of the topic, but allows them to situate it within the wider context of the subject area providing consistency within the programme they are studying. The assessments therefore contain valuable employability components and test a range of transferable skills. 

The assessment strategy also allows for assessment to take place in a supportive context through collaborative work that is, in part, peer assessed, and that can be applied to assessments in other modules. Such an approach contributes to the development of students as independent learners by empowering them to self-evaluate, and reflect on, their own performance in relation to others. 

This assessment strategy allow students to test their performance in relation to ‘real-life’ scenarios and authentic documentation production following on from the application of their practical skills. 

All aspects of the assessment strategy further allow students to receive feedback from expert staff.

 Formative assessment

Informal formative assessment is conducted throughout the module during seminars where students have the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities (including quizzes with instant feedback) and to receive both peer and tutor feedback, with the aim of allowing students to assess their progress week by week.  An example practical analysis will be conducted in the first week of the module allowing students to practice (with feedback provided) how they complete the required documentation.


Feedback and feedforward on summative assignments will be provided via SurreyLearn. This will indicate what students did well, less well, and what they need to do to improve in the future and will relate both to issues specific to the module and to transferable skills. Formative feedback will be provided throughout the module within in-class discussions and activities, and tutorials.

Module aims

  • Introduce practical chemistry underlying the use of physical evidence
  • Give an understanding with examples of the physical methods used in characterising such evidence
  • Discuss the underlying science, safety and forensic aspects of fire, explosions and firearms
  • Consider the chemistry of drugs and poisons, and their detection in the context of forensic toxicology
  • Appreciate the scientific and forensic processes in the investigation of arson and fire
  • Develop team working in approaching a forensic investigation

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Understand how chemical, physical  and imaging techniques are applied to the examination of physical forensic evidence CPT
002 Appreciate the underpinning science of fires, explosions and firearms and how this applies to forensic investigation KCPT
003 Discuss the chemistry and methods of detection of selected drugs and poisons, and appreciatinge the role played by forensic toxicology in the investigation of their illegal abuse KCPT
004 Approach the solution of multi-faceted forensic problems as an individual and 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:

  • Enable students to develop knowledge, skills, and critical thinking in relation to forensic analysis and physical evidence and its chemical analysis. through lectures, seminars, casework examples, videos, active learning/discussion sessions, and online resources.

  • Allow students to work individually and collectively to achieve investigative outcomes that mirror those common in real world forensic investigation scenarios, building upon skills acquired in previous modules.

  • Develop practical skills related to the investigation of forensic exhibits.

  • To maximise learning by encouraging students to be actively engaged in decision-making, negotiation, evaluation of information, and the application of theory to practice, to address challenges and solve problems faced by practitioners.

Students will learn the principles of forensic analysis in relation to the investigation of a range of significant crime areas. They will learn how forensic analysis ‘fits’ within the wider crime investigation process, examine the role and work of the crime laboratory, and explore the processes of forensic analysis. This uses learning from previous modules and help to prepare students for later modules, thereby ensuring consistency throughout the programme. Furthermore, the learning and teaching strategy is designed to develop students’ confidence and competence in working with others, digital capabilities, leadership, teamwork, communication skills, employability, and professionalism.

To achieve this, learning and teaching methods will include; seminars, casework examples, captured content, active learning/discussion sessions, and online resources. Collectively, these methods will combine guided learning, independent learning, and self-reflection. The captured content will introduce and explain key concepts, theories, and core aspects of the practical application of the issues discussed. The seminars will provide students with the opportunity to be active participants in their learning experience by undertaking interactive exercises and group discussions, demonstrating their acquired understanding and knowledge, critical thinking, and communication skills. In order to build confidence and to engage students with diverse learning backgrounds, students will be encouraged to share their thoughts, ideas, and reflections, including those relating to their own experiences. Ongoing feedback opportunities from staff and peers will be variously present in seminars and online.

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

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital CapabilitiesGlobal and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability: this module allows students to both understand, and actively participate in, a range of principles and processes used within forensic analysis. Coupled with the development of critical thinking, reasoning, decision-making, collaboration, leadership, and other transferable skills, the module allows students acquire and practice attributes that will be attractive to employers in this field. The focus of the assessment strategy will help to prepare students for the realities of the world of work because it allows them to be familiar with how forensic analysis is integrated into the wider context of crime investigation.

Resourcefulness and Resilience: The assessment strategy, and indeed the in-class preparation that precedes it, is designed to challenge and stretch student capabilities. It is also one where students are experiencing the roles and perspectives of investigator and analyst individually and collectively as a cohort, and latterly in smaller groups for their first assessment. Students will therefore need to develop resourcefulness, be able to share ideas and experiences both individually and collectively, appreciate potential barriers and challenges faced by others, and provide support and show empathy towards each other in working towards achieving successful outcomes and responding to problem-based task requirements.

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 2024/5 academic year.