Department of Chemistry

Forensic Chemistry Program


The University at Albany Forensic Initiative is a collaborative endeavor that was borne out of a ~$1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Justice. The intent of the Forensic Initiative is to provide education, experience and training for the next generation of forensic scientists on the industry practices and principles, as well as enabling research and validation of modern, cutting-edge techniques. This program is unique is its design to provide a foundation of technical, scientific and professional proficiency in the Northeast and the Nation. The NIJ funding has allowed the development of forensic emphases in three fundamental disciplines, chemistry, biology, and computer science. The University of Albany faculty have partnered with experts at the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center on both academic and research collaborations covering the various disciplines. A portion of the NIJ funding has gone to the development of a mirror-laboratory on campus, which is designed and equipped to mirror the state-of-the-art facilities found at the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center adjacent to the University at Albany. Click here to link to a list of equipment housed in the Department of Chemistry, Forensic Chemistry Laboratory.

The Forensic Chemistry Program is a collaborative effort of the University at Albany, the State University of New York and the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center. The University forensic emphasis includes a B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry with a forensic emphasis as well as a M.S. in Forensic Molecular Biology. The programs were created to address an ongoing need to produce highly trained technical personnel for careers in professional forensic laboratories. Continuing educational programs aimed at the professional forensic scientist who wished to keep abreast of modern development in the field are also planned. The Initiative exists to foster the research needed to improve the speed, accuracy and power of future forensic analyses. The University's partner, the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center, is located on the W. Averill Harriman State Campus, immediately adjacent to the Institute. The Northeast Regional Forensic Institute (NERFI) is also located on the University at Albany, the State University of New York campus. NERFI is a unique organization that was developed to address the need for qualified professionals in forensic laboratories while continuing to foster research towards improving the throughput, accuracy, and efficiency of forensic analyses. NERFI's DNA Academy forensic training program provides a committed environment for training and continuing education and enables rapid proficiency in forensic DNA analysis.

Careers

Job opportunities exist in the field of forensic science, but employment rates will differ regionally, and depend on national and statewide funding, local populations and state crime rates. Opportunities will always exist and demand will be high for trained professionals who adhere to the highest standards in the analysis of evidence. In the early to mid-2000’s, a series of studies came out describing optimistic job prospects for forensic graduates. According to the survey conducted by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), "An additional 9,000 new forensic scientists are needed nationwide" to address the employment needs of the nation’s forensic crime laboratories over the next decade. Early on in the discipline, forensic science was a rather small segment of the employment market, but is believed to have better prospects which are set to improve despite the economic downturn and problematic state finances. Currently, employment opportunities should be considered very competitive, and oftentimes prospective employees may want to consider an advanced degree.
The expected employment opportunities for forensic scientists can, in part, be attributed to the continued scientific and technological advances that continue to be a benefit to forensic science. The entire discipline of forensic science is currently undergoing a revolution because of new technology, increased standards, and because more and more types of evidence are being examined. Forensic science has experienced an enormous amount of interest due to its place in popular culture, but it must be stressed that to produce high caliber forensic scientists, a strong foundation in the physical sciences, along with critical thinking, problem solving, and scientific communication is necessary. Newly trained forensic scientists from our program will have learned about the concepts and instrumentation underlying the technologies that will be the future of forensics science, while developing an understanding of the practical issues related to the analysis of evidence is performed in a professional, timely manner. The proper academic program will enhance to your chances of getting hired in forensics. This forensic academic track in undergraduate chemistry is part of a unique collaboration between the University at Albany and the New York State Police. The chemistry track emphasizes the fundamental science underlying forensic chemistry. As such, it offers rigorous training in the theories and practical aspects of chemistry, with a focus on analytical techniques, and contributes to the development of both the practical aspects of forensic practice, as well as the training of future forensic practitioners. This program also meets the requirements for certification by the American Chemical Society, and as such, fully prepares students to enter a professional career not only in forensic science, but also in analytical chemistry, with direct relevance to any prospective employment positions requiring the precision and performance associated with forensic chemistry techniques.

Important Note: Individuals seeking employment in a forensic science laboratory may be required to undergo a background check. This background check could be extensive and may include a lie detector test, fingerprinting, and drug testing.

Degree Requirements

Undergraduates who seek to undertake the chemistry major with an emphasis in forensic chemistry must have satisfied the prerequisites AChm 225 (Quantitative Analysis), and AChm 430 (Instrumental Analysis), and must have senior class standing as prerequisites to take AChm 450 and AChm 451 (Forensic Chemistry I and II). The Comprehensive Forensic Chemistry Emphasis requires a combined major and minor sequence of 82 credit hours. For a complete description of the curriculum, see the Degree Requirements for the Major in Chemistry.

Internships

A recent study in the Journal of Forensic Science stated that internships be developed so that "college level students participate in science activities as a forerunner to a career." Students in the University at Albany Bachelor of Science in Chemistry program with an emphasis on forensics will have the chance to enroll in internships that will give them hands-on training in a professional forensic laboratory. Students must apply six months in advance of the internship, and may become interns in their senior year. Internships are generally unpaid. Please see links to the NYSP and NYSP internships for more information. For a link to an article on one of our recent interns, please click here.

Application to the Forensic Program

If you are interested in applying to this program, please contact the University at Albany Undergraduate Admission Office. Information about the Department of Chemistry can be found on the University at Albany Chemistry website or by writing to:

University at Albany
Department of Chemistry
1400 Washington Ave.
Albany, NY 12222
(518) 442-4400