Students

  • Application Instructions

    Thank you for your interest in the Forensic Science Masters Program at Michigan State University. Applications are screened for Fall semester only. All application material must be received before January 15 for consideration for the following academic year. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

    Application materials that may be uploaded include:

    • Application for Graduate Study at Michigan State University. May be submitted online here. The major code for the Forensic Science Masters program is 4744. After you begin your application, you will receive an email with a login and password. Before paying your application fee, go to Grad Portal and log in. You will be prompted to upload the following documents and request Letters of Recommendation. Please note: If the application fee is paid before you visit the Grad Portal, you will be unable to upload supporting documents or request letters of recommendation.
    • A statement of your academic and professional goals. This should include information about your motivation to study forensic science, a description of relevant research and/or work experience, and any other information that you would like the admissions committee to know. The Application for Graduate Study has fields for an academic statement and a personal statement, and you may either submit statements there or upload a single combined essay to the Grad Portal.
    • Three letters of recommendation from tenure-track faculty who can comment on your ability to perform graduate work. Please request letters of recommendation through the Grad Portal. You will click on Letters of Recommendation (right side of screen) and then Register Recommender (bottom left side of screen). After you submit the names and email addresses, an email will be automatically generated and sent to them, requesting a letter of recommendation on your behalf and including instructions on uploading the letter.

    Additional required materials include:

    • ONE set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. A transcript of work at MSU is not required.Transcripts from US institutions may be sent electronically, and will be considered official if they are sent directly from the institutions attended to the graduate secretary at burrier@msu.edu. If they are mailed by the institution attended, they should be sent to the address that follows. International students must submit official transcripts in both the original language and English translation of transcript and diploma. Hard copies of transcripts should be mailed directly from the institutions attended to:
    Forensic Science Masters Program
    Michigan State University
    Baker Hall
    655 Auditorium Road Room 557
    East Lansing, MI 48824
    Note for applicants submitting transcripts from Chinese institutions: Certified copies (sealed and stamped by institutions) of all post-secondary transcripts, graduation certificates and degrees must be mailed to our department. MSU requires these documents in the original language (Chinese) as well as an official English translation. Effective Spring 2015, Michigan State University will require all incoming ADMITTED students pursuing degrees or who have earned degrees from universities in China to submit a verification report (English version) through the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) for their final bachelor degree transcripts and bachelor degree. All verification reports need to be sent to the MSU Office of Admissions directly by CDGDC. If you are admitted to the Criminal Justice program while completing your last semester of study, you will need to repeat the process and resubmit the materials once your degree has been conferred.
    • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general scores from an exam taken within the last five years. Test preparation material and information about test dates can be found at www.ets.org/gre. Please note when scheduling your exam that it may take 4-6 weeks for your scores to be forwarded to the university and this department. The institution code for MSU is 1465.
    • International students must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam scores from a test taken within the past two years. MSU's score requirement is a minimum average score of 80, with no subscores below 19 for Reading, Listening and Speaking, and no subscore below 22 for Writing. The institution code for MSU is 1465. Students from countries where the primary language is English may have the TOEFL requirement waived with the approval of the department, college, and Graduate School. Please contact the graduate secretary at burrier@msu.edu to determine whether the requirement may be waived.
    • International students must also submit a statement of financial proof. Please see the International Student Graduate Admissions page and click on Financial Proof for more information.

    Please note: In order to apply to the program, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in a major appropriate to the area of study, and have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. You should be aware that the masters program is quite competitive and recent experience has been that successful applicants have undergraduate GPAs of 3.5 or higher.

    Applicants should be aware that they may be required to undergo a background check, drug test, polygraph, or other pre-employment test as a condition of employment with law enforcement or other agencies.

    Questions? Please contact Graduate Secretary Melissa Christle at forsci@msu.edu or 517-353-7133.

  • Description of Courses

    CEM 832 Mass Spectrometry (3 credits) Instrumentation of mass spectrometry. Interpreting mass spectra of organic and inorganix molecules. Applications to analysis of large molecules and chromatography. Learning objectives encompass the development of student understanding of the principles and applications of mass spectrometry, and interpretation of the results, as needed for research in chemistry and related fields. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Spring.

    CEM 835 Advanced Analytical Chemistry II (3 credits) Separations, molecular spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Learning objectives encompass increased familiarity and expertise in the following forensic science curricular components: analytical chemistry and instrumental methods. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Fall.

    CJ 804 Crime Scene Investigation (1) Introduction to crime scene investigation. Documentation, evidence collection, presumptive chemical and biological tests, and collection and preservation of impression evidence. Learning objectives encompass the development of a practical understanding of crime scene investigation. By the end of the course, students should 1) be familiar with all aspects of crime scene documentation, including sketching, measuring, and photographing the scene, 2) be familiar with aspects of evidence collection, including different methods used according to evidence type, 3) be familiar with presumptive tests used to analyze chemical and biological evidence at the scene, and 4) be proficient in methods used to collect and preserve impression evidence, particularly fingerprints and footwear impressions.

    Offered: Fall of even years.

    CJ 805 Survey in Forensic Science (3 credits) Scientific analysis of physical evidence. The course will cover four major aspects of physical evidence using real criminal and civil cases: generation of physical evidence by criminal activity; collection and preservation of physical evidence; analysis of physical evidence by forensic science laboratory; presentation of scientific expert testimony in court. Learning objectives encompass increased familiarity and expertise in the following forensic science curricular components: crime scene investigation, physical evidence, law/science interface, ethics and professional responsibilities, quality assurance, analytical chemistry and instrumental methods, drug chemistry and toxicology, forensic biology, and pattern analysis. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Fall.

    CJ 817 Law and Forensic Science (2 credits) Course covers the legal aspects of forensic science including the adjudicative process, admissibility of scientific evidence, laboratory reports, hearsay, relevant case materials and expert testimony. Learning objectives encompass increased familiarity and expertise in the following forensic science curricular components: law/science interface. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Fall of even years.

    CJ 819 Forensic Analysis of Drugs and Alcohol (3 credits) Techniques and processes in analysis of physical evidence including spectroscopy, chromatography, microscopy. Emphasis on controlled substances. Learning objectives encompass increased familiarity and expertise in the following forensic science curricular components: physical evidence concepts, law/science interface, ethics and professional responsibilities, quality assurance, analytical chemistry and instrumental methods, and drug chemistry and toxicology. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Fall of odd years.

    CJ 820 Forensic Chemistry and Microscopic Evidence (3 credits) Continuation of CJ 819. Analysis of trace evidence including hairs and fibers, paints and coatings, explosives and fire residues, glass and soil. Learning objectives encompass increased familiarity and expertise in the following forensic science curricular components: crime scene investigation, physical evidence, law/science interface, ethics and professional responsibilities, quality assurance, analytical chemistry and instrumental methods, microscopy, and pattern evidence. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Spring.

    FRS 899 Master's Thesis Research (6 credits required, may be taken in increments of 1-6) Planned research and writing directed by student's thesis committee.

    Offered: Fall, Spring, Summer.

    NSC 820 Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive X-Ray Analysis (3 credits) Use of scanning electron microscope and energy dispersive x-ray microanalysis. Machine variables, artifacts, quantitative analysis, specimen preparation, darkroom procedures. Learning objectives encompass increased familiarity and expertise in the following forensic science curricular components: microscopy. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Fall, Spring.

    PHM 431 Pharmacology of Drug Addiction (3 credits) Introduction to pharmacology and neuropharmacology. Understanding of the biological basis for drug abuse and addiction. Learning objectives encompass increased familiarity and expertise in the following forensic science curricular components: drug chemistry and toxicology. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with each of the objectives listed above.

    Offered: Fall.

  • Doctoral Specialization

    The Doctoral Specialization in Forensic Science, administered through the Forensic Science Graduate Program, School of Criminal Justice, College of Social Science, is designed for doctoral students enrolled in a discipline that typically does not lend itself to full time employment in a crime laboratory, but may regularly be in demand by the criminal justice system for expert advice. While possessing sound knowledge in their specific area of expertise, many individuals are often not familiar with the other forensic science fields, nor how their scientific discipline interacts or overlaps with them. Further, knowledge of the US legal system, scientific evidence, and the intricacies of testifying as an expert witness are requisite for being an effective expert in the courtroom.

    The Specialization in Forensic Science provides a thorough understanding of the broad field of forensic science, details the array of cross-discipline interaction that exists, and prepares the student for their role as a court qualified expert. Scientific, technical, and ethical issues are described and studied.

    The legal aspects of forensic science, including qualifications required to be a court recognized expert witness, what scientific evidence is likely to be admissible in court, and when evidence becomes inadmissible for scientific or technical reasons, are presented. The mock trial experience requires that the student has a systematic understanding of their field of expertise, as well as how to explain the evidence they present, and the methodology with which they collected it, to a group of laypersons. Finally, how the student’s own area of expertise fits into the overarching criminal justice system is explored in detail.

    Requirements for the Doctoral Specialization in Forensic Science Credits
    CJ 805 Survey of Forensic Science 3
    CJ 817 Law and Forensic Science 2
    FRS 890 Independent Study* 1
    Course that is relevant to the discipline (e.g., forensic anthropology, forensic entomology) and agreed upon by the student’s advisor and the Director of the Forensic Science Program. 3

    Please contact Dr. Ruth Smith, Director of the Forensic Science Program, at rwsmith@msu.edu if you are interested in pursuing the Doctoral Specialization in Forensic Science.

    *Independent study will entail either an agreed to project in the student's specialized field, or a substantial literature and legal essay reviewing the student’s specialized field as it relates to the forensic sciences and the legal system.

  • Graduate Handbook
  • Joint Ph.D. With Affiliated Departments

    Michigan State University offers a number of unique programs that allow a student to pursue both a Master of Science in Forensic Science and a Ph.D. in a related field at the same time. This plan allows a tremendous amount of flexibility in career options. You can practice forensic science from the bench, the research lab, or the classroom. You can also pursue a career in the Ph.D. field.

    We presently have a number of students pursuing their Ph.D. in Chemistry, while also pursuing their M.S. in Forensic Science with a concentration in forensic chemistry.

    The joint program works as follows:

    The student must apply to both programs. Admission to one program does not guarantee admission to the other. The student will usually have a faculty advisor in each program, who coordinate with each other and the student to plan the program. The student has to write and defend both a masters thesis and a doctoral dissertation.

    The student's academic program is generally front-loaded with courses and requirements in the Ph.D. granting department so the student may devote most of his or her time to completing the course requirements, passing qualifying exams, selecting a mentor and dissertation project, etc. The student will typically begin work on the forensic science courses during the middle of his or her program.

    Experience has shown that students in both programs can finish all of the requirements in about the same amount of time that a Ph.D would normally take to complete.

    The joint degree program is also open to students who begin studying in one program and then wish to add the other the following year. Students should keep in mind that they must still apply to the second program at the appropriate time, and that in these cases, it is unlikely that both degrees will be finished in the minimum amount of time.

  • Program Requirements

    The Master of Science program in Forensic Science with a concentration in forensic chemistry is available only under Plan A (with thesis).

    Credits
    CEM 832 Mass Spectrometry 3
    CEM 835 Advanced Analytical Chemistry II 3
    CJ 804 Crime Scene Investigation 1
    CJ 805 Survey in Forensic Science 3
    CJ 817 Law and Forensic Science 2
    CJ 819 Forensic Analysis of Drugs and Alcohol 3
    CJ 820 Forensic Chemistry and Microscopic Evidence 3
    NSC 820 Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive X-Ray Microanalysis 3
    PHM 431 Pharmacology of Drug Addiction 3
    Approved electives 8
    FRS 899 Masters Thesis Research 6
    Attend at least one Masters Seminar Series Lecture per semester
    Pass an oral examination in defense of the thesis.