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Crime Lab Science


In my many years of teaching chemistry and physics, I observed that the laboratory investigations that created the most enthusiasm were those that cast the student in the role of crime lab analyst.

Rather than lockstep procedures to verify expected outcomes, I present experiments as criminal case descriptions which require careful evidence analysis. Questions like “Was the anesthesia administered in too great a concentration?” or “Does the index of refraction of the glass chip imbedded in the robbery suspect's shoe match the glass from a broken store window?” frame experimentation in a real world context.

This approach became so popular that I now teach four sections each year of a class titled “Criminalistics: Introductory Forensic Science.” I have also assisted teachers regionally in establishing crime lab courses. English instructors are particularly enthusiastic about this approach and often initiate cross-curriculum mystery writing units.

 

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