CSI: Loyola

New forensic studies minor opens door to exciting careers for students across disciplines

Loyola University Maryland introduced its new forensic studies minor in fall 2011, giving students the opportunity to explore the ideas, concepts, and technology behind criminal investigations, homeland security, and counterterrorism.

Demand among current and prospective students for a program of this kind has grown consistently in recent years, reflective of a similar growing demand among the public, private, and nonprofit organizations across the country that actively seek employees with forensic studies training. Keeping true to Loyola’s academic mission, the minor exhibits the most important hallmarks of a Jesuit education.

“Effective communications, interdisciplinary approaches, and analytical reasoning will be put to the test within the minor itself so that the ultimate goal here is the pursuit of truth, which is what a criminal investigator is going to do and what a student who is studying at a Jesuit institution is going to do,” said David Rivers, Ph.D., director of the forensic studies minor and professor of biology.

The truly interdisciplinary approach makes this minor unique. Traditionally, forensic programs focus heavily on sciences such as biology and chemistry and rarely place an emphasis on the humanities. In Loyola’s program, 10 departments – ranging from philosophy to engineering – offer courses such as forensic entomology, security ethics, and business intelligence and data mining, and six departments offer a capstone forensics experience for students.

To build the program, Loyola identified courses that were already available and structured them into a curricular package that addresses many learning goals for the individual departments and for the University as a whole. Students are required to complete six of those courses, including “Introduction to Forensic Sciences” as a foundation course and one of seven available capstone courses. The capstone is a research experience or independent study on campus, or an internship that Rivers envisions could involve the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or forensic labs.

“This is an opportunity for students who have an interest in forensic studies to pursue that curiosity and, at the same time, develop some specific skills that would be applicable to any career path,” said Rivers.

Though the program is still in its nascent stage, Rivers is already thinking long term. He wants to involve more academic departments as the popularity of the forensic studies minor grows. He also plans to search for additional ways students and faculty can get involved with area agencies for collaboration in seminar series and research projects.

More information on the forensic studies minor is available in the undergraduate catalogue.