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Chemistry 113


Forensic Science


Professor James T. Spencer

Syracuse University


Course Description and Prerequisite Skills:  Chemistry 113, Forensic Science, is focused upon the application of scientific methods and techniques to crime and law.  Recent advances in scientific methods and principles have had an enormous impact upon law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system.   In this course, scientific methods specifically relevant to crime detection and analysis will be presented.  No prior chemistry instruction is required or assumed but the course should appeal to those who have also had high school chemistry.  Emphasis is placed upon understanding the science behind the techniques used in evaluating physical evidence.  Topics included are blood analysis, organic and inorganic evidence analysis, microscopic investigations, hair analysis, DNA, drug chemistry and toxicology, fiber comparisons, paints, glass compositions and fragmentation, fingerprints, soil comparisons, and arson investigations, among others. 


Learning Goals:  Scientific methods are radically changing the landscape of our criminal justice system.  Increasingly, law enforcement and legal prosecution are reliant upon often complex and detailed scientific analysis of forensic evidence.  This course is intended to provide an introduction to understanding the science behind crime detection.  This will be accomplished by providing a rational basis for interpreting the scientific analysis of forensic evidence and through occasional relevant case studies.  Laboratory exercises will include techniques commonly employed in forensic investigations.


Lectures: The material covered in lecture will be illustrative rather than exhaustive.  You should read the material in the text assigned before the lecture.  In lecture, alternate ways of understanding the material will often be presented.  The examinations, however, will cover both the assigned text and lecture materials (whether or not they are specifically covered in lecture).  Plenty of help is available to answer questions and provide assistance with problems.  An approximate schedule of class lecture topics and the assigned text is included with this syllabus (please note that it is only an approximate schedule). 


Grading and Examinations:  Final grades will be assigned based upon the two hour exams given during the regularly scheduled class (50%), the comprehensive final examination (25 %), and the laboratory grade (25 %) as follows;


                        Hourly Examinations                                                                 =          50 %

                        Final Examination                                                                                  25 %

                        Laboratory                                                                                           25 %

                                                                                                                                    100 %

There will be NO MAKE-UP Examinations.


Required Textbooks:  The required textbook for this course is “Criminalistics” (Introduction to Forensic Science) by Richard Saferstein (7th Edition) published by Prentice Hall.  The laboratory modules must also be purchased from the bookstore prior to the first meeting of the laboratory


Laboratory:  There will be no Make-Up labs.  In order to pass CHE 113, a student must have a passing grade in the laboratory portion of the course.  Attendance in laboratory is mandatory.  As stated in the schedule of courses, the laboratory periods are 3 hours in length and, while some experiments will not require the total allotted time for completion, students are expected to arrive promptly at the beginning of the lab period and not leave until that particular experiment is completed.  Students that arrive too late to complete the experiment in the allotted time and those that arrive on time but depart before the experiment is completed will receive a zero for the experiment.  Arranging a second “event” requiring the student’s presence outside of CHE 113 laboratory during the scheduled lab period is not allowed by University rules.


            Experiments (Using Option two – see below):

Exp. 1 – week 1 – Check In and Safety

Exp. 2 – week 2- Separating and Identifying Food Dyes by Paper Chrom.

Exp. 3 – week 3 – Identifying a Solid by Its Density

Exp. 4 – week 4 – Classifying Carbohydrates

Exp. 5 – week 5 – Enantiomeric Purity of Commercial Ibuprofen

Exp. 6 – week 6 – Qualitative Tests for Amino Acids and Proteins

Exp. 7 – week 7 – DNA Extraction

Exp. 8 – week 8 – Nine Bottles: An Adventure in Chemical Identification

Exp. 9 – week 9 – The Crime Scene: Analysis of Evidence




(1)        Students who may need special consideration due to a physical or learning disability should see the instructor as soon as possible.  No provisions will be made if notified after examinations. 

 (2)       No student will be refused admission because he or she is unable to participate in a course requirement because of his or her religious holy day requirements.  Again, you must make provisions before such absences.  According to University policy, “an opportunity to make up examinations and other class work [due to religious observances] will be provided...if the instructor is notified in writing one week before the absence.”

 (3)       Excuses from class for medical reasons will only be given if such absences are advised by a health care provider or the Health Center based upon clinical findings and prescribed treatment recommendations.  Verification must be made in writing.  Such absences may be verified.

 (4)       Attendance in classes is expected.  Unannounced attendance checks and/or quizzes may be taken during the semester.

Chemistry 113

Approximate Course Schedule

Professor James T. Spencer Project Advance


Sect. 1





W or Th

Week 1


Chapter 1


Week 2

The Crime Scene and Physical Evidence

Chapters 2 and 3

Lab 1

Week 3

Physical properties and Organic Analysis

Chapters 4 and 5

Lab 2

Week 4

Organic Analysis

Chapter 5

Lab 3

Week 5

Review for Exam


Lab 4




Week 6

Inorganic Analysis

Chapter 6

Lab 5

Week 7

The Microscope and Hairs, Fibers and Paint

Chapters 7 and 8

Lab 6

Week 8


Chapter 9

Lab 7

Week 9

 Spring vacation – No Classes



Week 10

Forensic Toxicology

Chapter 10

Lab 8

Week 11

Review for Exam


Lab 9




Week 12

Forensic Aspects of Arson and Forensic Serology

Chapters 11 and 12


Week 13


Chapter 13


Week 14

DNA (Con’t) Fingerprints and Firearms

Chapters 13 and 14


Week 15

Fingerprints and Firearms and Document and Voice Examination

Chapters15 - 17



Review for Final








Final Exam


Detailed Syllabus

Chemistry 113: Forensic Science

Project Advance


I.          Introduction

Definition and Scope of Forensic Science

History and Development of Forensic Science

The Organization of a Crime Laboratory

Services of the Crime Laboratory

The Functions of the Forensic Scientist

Other Forensic Science Services


II.         The Crime Scene

Processing the Crime Scene

Legal Considerations at the Crime Scene


III.       Physical Evidence

Common Types of Physical Evidence

The Significance of Physical Evidence


IV.       Physical properties

The Metric (SI) System

Physical Properties of Glass and Soil

Comparing Glass Fragments

Glass Fractures

Collection and Preservation of Glass Evidence

Forensic Characterization of Soil

Collection and Preservation of Evidence


V.        Organic Analysis

Elements and Compounds

Selecting an Analytical Technique



Mass Spectrometry


VI.       Inorganic Analysis

Evidence in the Assassination of President Kennedy

The Emission Spectrum of Elements

Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry

The Origin of Emission and Absorption Spectra

Neutron Activation Analysis

X-ray Diffraction


VII.      The Microscope

The Compound Microscope

The Comparison Microscope

The Stereoscopic Microscope

The Polarizing Microscope

The Microspectrophotometer

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)


VIII.     Hairs, Fibers and Paint

Morphology of Hair

Identification and Comparison of Hair

Collection of Hair Evidence

Types of Fibers

Identification and Comparison of Man-Made Fibers

Collection of Fiber Evidence

Forensic Examination of Paint

Collection and Preservation of Paint Evidence


IX.       Drugs and Medicinal Chemistry

Drug Dependence

Narcotic Drugs




Anabolic Steroids

Drug-Control Laws

Drug Identification

Collection and Preservation of Drug Evidence


X.        Forensic Toxicology

Toxicology of Alcohol

The Role of the Toxicologist

Techniques Used in Toxicology

The Significance of Toxicological Findings

The Drug Recognition Expert


XI.       Forensic Aspects of Arson and Explosion Investigations

The Chemistry of Fire

Searching the Fire Scene

Collection and Preservation of Arson Evidence

Analysis of Flammable Residues

Types of Explosives

Collection and Analysis of Explosives

XII.      Forensic Serology

The Nature of Blood

Forensic Characterization of Bloodstains

Stain Pattern of Blood

Principles of Heredity

Forensic Characterization of Semen

Collection of Rape Evidence


XIII.     DNA Evidence

What is DNA?
DNA at Work

Replication of DNA

Recombinant DNA: Cutting and Splicing DNA

DNA Typing

Mitochondrial DNA
The Combined DNA Index System

The Collection and preservation of Biological Evidence for DNA Analysis


XIV.    Fingerprints

History of Fingerprinting

Fundamental Principles of Fingerprints

Classification of Fingerprints

Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems

Methods of Detecting Fingerprints

Preservation of Developed Prints

Digital Imaging for Fingerprint Enhancement


XV.      Firearms, Tool Marks and Other Impressions

Bullet Comparisons

Cartridge Cases

Automated Firearm Search Systems

Gunpowder Residues

Primer residues of the hands

Serial Number Restoration

Collection and Preservation of Firearm Evidence

Tool Marks

Other Impressions


XVI.    Document and Voice Examination

Handwriting Comparisons

Collection of Handwriting Exemplars

Typewriting Comparisons

Photocopies, Printer and Fax Examination

Alterations, Erasures and Obliterations

Other Document Problems

Voice Examination


XVII.   Forensic Science on the Internet

What is the Internet?

Where to Go on the Internet

Exploring Forensic Science of the WWW
Web Sites You May Wish to Explore



Laboratory Experiments: Two Options


Option One: Lab Manual

Lab Manual for “Criminalistics” by Clifton E. Meloan, Richard E. James and Richard Saferstein, 2001, Prentice-Hall, Inc. [ISBN: 0-13-020533-8]


Option Two: Laboratory Modules from Chemical Education Resources

From CER (http://www.cerlabs.com/ )


TECH 380: Safety Practices in the Chemistry Laboratory

Neidig/Spencer, ISBN: 0-87540-380-8


ANAL 492: Separating and Identifying Food Dyes by Paper Chromatography

Markow. ISBN: 0-87540-492-8


PROP 383: Density of Solids and Liquids



ANAL 239: Classifying Carbohydrates

Loffredo, ISBN: 0-53497-718-9


ANAL 751: Enantiomeric Purity of Commercial Ibuprofen

Rowland, ISBN: 0-53497-729-4


REAC 448: Qualitative Tests for Amino Acids and Proteins

Milio/Loffredo, ISBN: 0-87540-448-0


ANAL 242: DNA Extraction

Kemppainen, ISBN: 0-53497-733-2


ANAL 503: Nine Bottles: An Adventure in Chemical Identification

Young/Neidig/Loffredo, ISBN: 0-87540-503-7


The Crime Scene

Analysis of Evidence (TBA)



Rules and Regulations


1.        You will work in pairs in the laboratory, but you are required and responsible for doing your own laboratory write-up.

2.        Students are expected to complete their lab on their assigned day and hand-in the laboratory write-up at the end of the laboratory that same day.  If a student wants to switch days one week, permission must be obtained from one of the instructors at least one week before the scheduled lab.

3.        CHE 113 laboratory is scheduled for 3 hours.  Attendance is mandatory.  Each student is expected to present at the start of the laboratory, during this time the experimental set-up and safety procedures for each lab is discussed by the instructors. Students who show up late will be penalized.

4.        A student may leave the laboratory after completing the experiment, clean-up, and the laboratory write-up (making sure to have each lab initialed and dated by an instructor before leaving or it will be considered late).

5.        Leaving early before completing the laboratory will result in a grade of zero for the experiment. The student is reminded that committing to another course, internship, etc. which overlaps the CHE 113 lab is a violation of University regulations.

6.        Late labs will be penalized.  After five days you will receive a zero for the lab.

7.        Each person is responsible for wiping down his/her work area with a damp sponge or paper towel and washing all glassware with soap and water at the end of each lab period.

8.        If you are in violation of any safety guidelines, you will be asked to remedy the situation only once. The next time you will be asked to leave lab for that day.  There will be no make-up labs.



Safety Guidelines


1.        Safety glasses must be worn at all times while in lab.  You will be given one warning. If it happens a second time you will be asked to leave lab and you will receive a zero for the lab.

2.        Do not wear contacts in lab. Wear your glasses.

3.        If glassware breaks and/or chemicals spill, inform the instructor. Do not try and clean the spill and/or glass yourself.

4.        If you cut/burn yourself and/or spill anything on your clothing and/or skin in lab, inform the instructor immediately.

5.        Long hair must be tied back.

6.        Avoid wearing loose clothing and jewelry.

7.        Wash your hands before leaving lab and going to the bathroom.

8.        Do not sit on the lab benches.

9.        Do not eat or drink in lab at any time.

10.      No open-toed shoes, sandals or shorts may be worn in lab at any time.

11.      Use the disposable gloves provided when required and change them frequently.


Chemistry 113


Safety is the MOST important issue that you will deal with this semester.  Take the laboratory and its risks seriously.  Understanding these risks and minimizing them is the best way to avoid accidents.  If you follow these guidelines and stay alert to possible hazards, your experience in this course should be a safe and productive one.





Hazards - The main potential hazards in the laboratory are fire and exposure to toxic and/or reactive substances.  Though toxicity and reactivity of compounds varies tremendously, an excellent policy is to handle EVERY chemical with respect and caution.  Be aware that you may be exposed to chemicals in several ways: inhalation, skin contact (some chemicals go right through the skin), and ingestion.


         In case an accident occurs, report it immediately!  Do not try to hide anything out of embarrassment - you will be making the situation worse, endangering yourself and others.  Let the instructors decide on the proper course of action.  Those not involved should clear the area.


         The following is taken in part from “The Organic Chem Lab Survival Manual”, by James W. Zubrick.  Please excuse the jokes he uses, I will not claim any responsibility for them.




Disobeying safety rules is not at all like flouting many other rules.  You can get seriously hurt.  No appeal.  No bargaining for another 12 points so you can get into medical school.  Perhaps as a patient, but certainly not as a student.


         1.   Find out how you would get medical help, if you needed it.  (The stockroom has limited                      first aid; otherwise have your T.A. call the Health Center.)

         2.   Always wear your goggles.  Eye injuries are extremely serious, but they can be mitigated or often prevented if you keep your goggles on at all times.  There are several types of eye protection available, some acceptable, some not, according to the local, state, and federal laws.  I like the clear plastic jobbers that leave an unbroken red line on your face when you remove them.  Sure they fog up a bit, but the protection is superb.  Also, think about getting chemicals, or chemical fumes trapped under your contact lenses.  Then don't wear them to lab.  Ever.

         3.   Touch not thyself.  Not a biblical injunction, but a bit of advice.  You may have gotten chemicals on your hands, in a concentration that is not noticeable.  Sure enough, up go the goggles for an eye wipe with the fingers.  Enough said.

         4.   There is no "away".  Getting rid of chemicals is a very big problem.  (Throw all waste                          in appropriately labeled jars)

         5.   Bring a friend.  If you have a serious accident when you are all by yourself, you might be unable to get help before you fall over.  Don't work alone; don't work at unauthorized times.

         6.   Don't fool around.  Chemistry is a serious business.  Don't be careless or clown around the lab.  You can hurt yourself or other people.  Try not to be somber about it; just serious.

         7.   Drive defensively.  Work in the lab as if someone else were going to have an accident that might affect you.  Keep the goggles on because someone else is going to point a loaded, boiling test tube at you. Someone else is going to spill hot, concentrated acid on your body.  Get the idea?

         8.   Eating, drinking, smoking in the lab.  Are you kidding? Eat in a chem lab??  Drink in a                                  chem lab???  Smoke, and blow yourself up!!!!

         9.   Keep it clean.  Work neatly.  You don't have to make a fetish out of it, but try to be neat.  Clean up spills.  Turn off burners or water or electrical equipment when not in use.

        10.   Where it's at.  Learn the location and proper use of the fire extinguishers, fire blankets,                                safety showers, and eyewashes.

        11.   Make the best-dressed list.  No open-toed shoes or sandals.  No loose-fitting cuffs on pants or shirts.  Keep the midsection covered.  Tie back that long hair.  A small investment in a lab coat can pay off, projecting that professional touch.  It gives a lot of protection.





        That's the attitude you should hold while working in the laboratory.  You are NOT going to do anything, or get anything done to you, that will require medical attention.  If you do get cut, and the cut is not serious, wash the area with water.  If there's serious bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean, preferably sterile dressing.  For a minor burn, let cold water run over the burned area.  For chemical burns to the eyes or skin, flush area with lots of water.  In every case get to see a physician.


        If you have an accident, tell your instructor immediately.  Get help!  This is no time to worry about your grade in lab.  If you put your grades ahead of your personal safety, be sure to see a psychiatrist after the internist finishes.