Course Descriptions & Syllabi

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Note: some or all of the courses in the subjects marked as "Transfer" can be used towards a transfer degree: Associate of Science and Arts or Associate of Engineering Science at DACC. Transferability for specific institutions and majors varies. Consult a counselor for this information.

Areas of Study | | CHEM105 syllabus

COURSE TITLE:Introduction to Forensic Chemistry
IAI CODE(S): P1 903L

Students will examine the influence of chemistry on society through the study of contemporary issues, with an emphasis on forensic chemistry. Students will be introduced to chemical, biochemical, and microscopy principles associated with analyzing organic and inorganic substances including fingerprints, soil, blood, DNA, hair, drugs, toxins, fibers, and glass. The course meets for 3 hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab per week.

Placement into ENGL101 and MATH101.

NOTES: A lab is required for this course. Some sections will require a separate lab, while other sections will include the lab.
This course is not available for web registration.

Students completing this course will exhibit knowledge of the chemical, biochemical and microscopy principles associated with analyzing organic and inorganic substances.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
  • Describe forensic science
    • List the differences between a forensic scientist and crime scene investigator
    • Compare the portrayal of forensic science on television with real life
    • List basic services of a crime lab
  • Demonstrate knowledge of scientific processes and principles
    • Define hypothesis, observation, law, theory, observations and inferences
    • List the steps of the scientific method
  • List proper protocols at a crime scene
    • Name the most important thing to do at a crime scene after providing medical attention
    • List ways of searching and recording a crime scene
    • Describe chain of custody and relate it to admissibility of evidence in court
  • Describe types of physical evidence
    • Classify evidence in terms of class and individual characteristics
    • Describe proper techniques for collecting physical evidence at a crime scene
    • List examples of physical properties (e.g. mass, length, volume) and the tools or instruments used to measure them
  • Examine fingerprints
    • Identify loop, arch and whorl patterns in fingerprints
    • Describe techniques used to identify and develop prints and classify each technique as chemical or physical
    • Compare visible, plastic and latent prints
    • Apply Henry’s classification system to a reference set of prints
  • Describe the types of trace evidence commonly found at crime scenes
    • Draw the three components of a hair shaft
    • Compare human and animal hair
    • Explain what evidentiary information hair evidence can and cannot provide
    • List features of paint and fibers useful for comparison
    • Describe the basic parts of a microscope and compare dissecting and compound microscopes
  • Describe tests for analyzing organic and inorganic matter
    • List examples of organic and inorganic evidence
    • Define absorption and emission
    • Explain when and why presumptive and confirmatory tests are done
    • Define chromatography, mobile phase and stationary phase
  • Describe basic principles of forensic drug and toxin analysis
    • Classify drugs as narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, depressants or anabolic steroids
    • Distinguish between drug classifications and schedules
    • Define metabolite in regards to drugs or poisons
  • List the components needed for fire to occur
  • Describe blood typing and biochemistry principles
    • Explain the difference between an antigen and antibody
    • Explain agglutination and how it is used to type a blood sample
    • Draw Punnett squares to explain hereditary patterns of blood types
    • List sources of DNA evidence
    • Explain restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLP), short tandem repeats (STR) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and the role of each in forensic science
  • Relate current events and case studies to forensic chemistry techniques
    • Identify forensic techniques used in criminal cases found in current news articles, news stories, and television shows.
    • Judge how current criminal case results set standards for future cases in terms of court rulings, forensic analysis methods and techniques.
  • Apply knowledge of forensic science in a laboratory setting
    • Conduct experiments to explore general chemical and biological analysis techniques of various substances, such as DNA, soils, fibers, hair, etc.
    • Make systematic observations and measurements during laboratory experiments verbally and in writing.
    • Use microscopes to examine physical evidence
    • Interpret and analyze data.
    • Draw conclusions from data analyses and results and describe these conclusions through writing.

  • Introduction to Forensic Science and the Nature of Science (Week 1)
    • Role of crime scene investigator, law enforcement office and forensic scientist
    • Historical development of forensic science
    • Basic services of a crime lab and the types of evidence examined by various units
    • Characteristics of science and the scientific method
  • Crime Scenes (Week 2)
    • Securing, searching and recording a crime scene
    • Evidence collection and chain of custody
  • Physical Evidence (Week 3)
    • Common types of physical evidence
    • Individual and class characteristics
    • Probability and the product rule
    • Collection of physical evidence
  • Fingerprints (Week 4)
    • Arch, loop and whorl patterns
    • Ridge characteristics
    • Henry’s fingerprinting system
    • Visible, plastic and latent prints
    • Porous and nonporous surfaces
    • Physical and chemical techniques for developing and lifting fingerprints
  • Microscopes and Trace Evidence (Weeks 5-6)
    • Difference between dissecting and compound microscopes and the parts and sources of light of each
    • Individual and class characteristics
    • Hair evidence
      • Morphology of hair and how it is used in evidence examination
      • Comparison of human and animal hair samples
      • Using hair evidence to determine human/animal source, body area of origin, racial origin and method of removal
    • Fiber evidence
      • Comparison of natural and manufactured fibers
    • Paint evidence
      • Layers of automotive paint
  • Glass and Soil Evidence (Week 7)
    • Physical properties including length, mass, volume and density
    • Determining density of glass through the displacement method, flotation method, and density gradient tubes
    • Glass fractures and impact analysis
    • Components of soil
  • Inorganic Analysis (Weeks 8-9)
    • Elements, isotopes, subatomic particles
    • Absorption and emission and the electromagnetic spectrum
    • Ionizing and non-ionizing radiation
    • Presumptive and confirmatory testing
    • Techniques and instruments for analyzing inorganic compounds
  • Organic Analysis (Weeks 9-10)
    • Matter, compounds and mixtures
    • False positives
    • Chromatography techniques and Rf values
    • Spectroscopy and spectrometry techniques
  • Drug Analysis and Forensic Toxicology (Weeks 11-12)
    • Classification of drugs as narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, depressants or anabolic steroids
    • Schedules of controlled substances
    • Lab techniques for analyzing drugs
    • Definitions of toxicology, toxins, metabolites
    • Blood alcohol concentration
  • Fire Investigation (Weeks 12-13)
    • Components needed for fire to occur
    • Combustion reactions
    • Point of origin of a fire
    • Evidence of arson
  • Serology and DNA (Weeks 14-15)
    • Components of blood
    • Antigens, antibodies and agglutination in the context of the ABO-Rh system for blood typing
    • Phenotypes, genotypes and Punnett squares
    • DNA extraction from various sources
    • DNA fingerprinting
    • Gel electrophoresis
  • Case Studies (Week 16)
    • Summary of physical evidence and analysis methods
    • Classification of evidence characteristics as class or individual
    • Analysis of evidence and its role in court rulings

Weekly Lab Outline: Experiments completed in this course are designed to develop basic skills and tools used in forensic chemistry analysis and build critical thinking skills through analysis of the experimental procedures and results with mathematical calculations and writing. Lab experiments will parallel the topics discussed in lecture. All labs are conducted in a wet lab and are hands-on.

Lab Text/Manual Title: CHEM 105 Lab Manual. Nicely. DACC custom lab manual. Spring 2020 edition.
Activity Title Description of Lab Student Outcome/Skills Delivery Method Activity Time
Lab 1 - Lab Introduction and Safety Orientation Students will review safety information, as well as laboratory policies and procedures.

Completion of the safety orientation is mandatory before a student may participate in any future lab experiments
Locate and discuss proper usage of safety equipment

List the requirements for proper clothing and footwear in the lab

List the safety rules for the lab and identify potential violations in a given scenario

Explain why safety is important in the lab and in their future careers
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 2 - Metric Units and Measurements Measurements of mass, length and volume are performed using balances, rulers, and graduated cylinders. Name common pieces of laboratory equipment and tools and find these items within the laboratory

Measure mass, length and volume and report with appropriate significant figures and units
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 3 - Dissecting Microscope Introduction Students will learn the parts and proper operation of a dissecting microscope and examine physical evidence such as fibers, hair, paint chips, burnt materials and soil. Identify the parts of a dissecting microscope

Properly and safely use a dissecting microscope

Examine, draw and describe the appearance of physical evidence as seen under the microscope

Analyze evidence to solve a missing persons case
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 4 - Fingerprinting techniques Students will try a variety of fingerprint developing and lifting techniques using contrasting powder, fluorescent powder, magnetic powder, silver nitrate, ninhydrin, Wetwop, and/or superglue. Demonstrate how to develop and lift a fingerprint using multiple common techniques

Make proper reference prints

Identify loop, arch and whorl features in their own fingerprints

Calculate the Henry classification number from a set of reference prints

Describe differences in porous and nonporous surfaces

Predict appropriate fingerprint lifting techniques to use on various surfaces
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 5 - Compound Microscope Introduction Students will learn the parts and proper operation of a compound microscope. Identify the parts of a compound microscope

Properly and safely use a compound microscope

Examine, draw and describe the appearance of specimens as seen under the microscope

Describe the difference in transmitting and reflecting light

Measure (at low power) and calculate (at high power) the field of view for each objective on the microscope
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 6 - Analysis of Trace Evidence using a Compound Microscope Students will use a compound microscope to examine trace evidence including fibers, hair and blood Properly and safely use a compound microscope

Examine, draw and describe the appearance of fiber, hair and blood specimens as seen under the microscope

Compare and contrast the appearance of natural and synthetic fibers; blood-stained and dyed fibers; and human and animal blood cells
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 7 - Analysis of Glass and Soil Students will use the flotation method and density columns to determine the density of eggs, glass fragments and soil samples Calculate the density of an egg using mass and volume measurements of a salt water solution

Calculate the density of a mixture of two substances with known densities

Examine soil samples in a density gradient column

Examine broken glass fragments and determine whether any edges match evidence from a “crime scene”
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 8 - Flame Tests and the Case of the Poisoned Drink Students will observe colors of cations in a flame for known and unknown samples.

Students will also obtain and analyze the visible light absorbance spectra of colored solutions to solve a case involving a potentially poisoned drink.
Identify unknown solutions based on the color they give off in a flame

Properly and safely obtain the absorbance spectra of colored solutions

Analyze the absorbance spectra of known colored solutions to determine whether a drink sample contains a contaminant
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 9 - Paper Chromatography Students will perform paper chromatography of ink samples using multiple solvents and multiple stationary phases. Perform paper chromatography, demonstrating proper techniques for creating ink spots and placing the paper in the solvent

Calculate Rf values

Design a 2-part experiment to find the most effective solvent and the most effective stationary phase for separating the pigments in an ink sample

Identify the controls of an experiment and explain why controls are necessary
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 10 - Analysis of Lipstick using Thin Layer Chromatography Students will perform thin layer chromatography (TLC) using lipstick samples and apply their results to a crime story case study. Identify the stationary and mobile phases in a TLC experiment

Calculate Rf values

Compare the Rf values from multiple samples to assess whether a particular lipstick sample can be tied to a crime
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 11 - Analysis of Over-the-Counter Drugs Students will perform qualitative analysis of 5 known and 1 unknown pain relievers using different reagents and testing pH. Describe the difference in presumptive and confirmatory tests

Categorize solutions as acidic, basic or neutral using pH values

Examine and describe the appearance of multiple samples as they are mixed with various reagents

Identify an unknown sample using evidence collected from known samples

Compare the molecular structure of multiple painkillers to identify similarities and differences
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 12 - Analysis of Flammable Liquids using Gas Chromatography Students will use a gas chromatograph (GC) to determine the retention and elution times of 3 known and 1 unknown flammable liquids and then identify the unknown liquid. Describe how a GC operates and identify the main components of a GC

Properly and safely use a GC

Measure distances on a chromatogram and convert these to retention and elution times

Identify an unknown sample or mixture of samples using retention and elution times
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 13 - Introduction to Blood Typing Students will perform qualitative analysis of 4 synthetic blood samples and determine the blood type of each sample. Define the terms antigen and antibody

Describe the process of agglutination in the context of the ABO-Rh system

Identify the ABO-Rh blood type of a sample based on qualitative data

Construct Punnett squares to identify the possible blood types for children knowing the blood types of the two parents

Predict how mixtures of two blood samples would show up when blood typing and evaluate whether a suspect could be excluded based on blood typing data
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 14 - Blood Typing and Introduction to DNA Fingerprinting Students will perform qualitative analysis of 4 synthetic blood samples and determine the blood type of each sample. They will also examine DNA fragments and then combine the blood type and DNA evidence in an effort to settle a paternity dispute. Determine the ABO blood type of a sample based on qualitative analysis

Identify all possible genotypes given a particular blood phenotype

Evaluate DNA fragments for similarities between a child and its parents

Explain why DNA fingerprinting could be more useful that blood type analysis alone in a paternity case or criminal investigation
Hands on 2 hours
Lab 15 - DNA Fingerprinting using Gel Electrophoresis Students will load, run and analyze an aragose gel and apply the DNA analysis results to a crime scene scenario. Use proper techniques to perform gel electrophoresis of a DNA sample

Compare DNA of crime scene and suspect samples and explain the conditions under which suspects could be excluded or matched

List sources of DNA evidence and guidelines for collecting DNA evidence from a crime scene
Hands on 2 hours
Total lab contact hours: 30 hours


Text: Saferstein. 2018. Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science, 12 Edition, Pearson

Lab Manual: CHEM 105 Lab Manual. Nicely. DACC custom lab manual. Spring 2020 edition.

Safety Goggles: Students must purchase their own laboratory safety goggles. Goggles are available in the DACC Bookstore. If you already have your own, they must offer complete protection of the side of your eyes. (Look for the markings "Z87" stamped on the goggles.) Lab safety glasses are not acceptable for students.

Calculator: Any simple scientific or graphing calculator is sufficient.

Enclosed Shoes & Pants: For lab days. If you are not dressed appropriately you will not be allowed to participate.


Grading is based on a weighted percentage of six different categories

Homework assignments 10%
Lab 20%
Quizzes (6-8) 10%
Exams (4) 40%
Case study presentations 5%
Final exam (cumulative) 15%

Overall course grades are assigned based on the following scale:

A- 90-100%
B- 80-89%
C- 70-79%
D- 60-69%
F- Below 60%

Attendance is required and a student may be withdrawn from the class roster due to unexcused absences.

Laboratory work must be performed during the regularly scheduled laboratory period. "Make-up" laboratory work at an alternate time will not be an option. No credit will be given for laboratory reports submitted if the student was absent from that laboratory session. If a student has a valid excuse for missing a lecture or laboratory class, credit for the missed period must be arranged with the instructor. It will not be "automatic".


All students must pass the laboratory portion of the class in order to pass the course. Missing three labs will automatically cause the student to fail the lab, which will cause the student to fail the course.

A curve may be applied at the instructor’s discretion.


Membership in the DACC community brings both rights and responsibility. As a student at DACC, you are expected to exhibit conduct compatible with the educational mission of the College. Academic dishonesty, including but not limited to, cheating and plagiarism, is not tolerated. A DACC student is also required to abide by the acceptable use policies of copyright and peer-to-peer file sharing. It is the student’s responsibility to become familiar with and adhere to the Student Code of Conduct as contained in the DACC Student Handbook. The Student Handbook is available in the Information Office in Vermilion Hall and online at:

Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Testing & Academic Services Center at 217-443-8708 (TTY 217-443-8701) or stop by Cannon Hall Room 103. Please speak with your instructor privately to discuss your specific accommodation needs in this course.

Fall 2019

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