In 2001, the College of Criminal Justice launched the inaugural master’s degree for forensic science in Texas, and it is making history again by offering the first multi-disciplinary Ph.D. in the field in the country.
The interdisciplinary curriculum at SHSU prepares students for a wide variety of forensic science disciplines including DNA, toxicology, firearms, drugs, trace evidence, latent prints, questioned documents or arson. Despite the competitive nature of the field, employment and post graduate success rates have averaged 96 percent since 2006. The majority of graduates work in the public sector, in federal, state, county and city crime labs and medical examiner’s offices, but others have turned to private labs or advanced degrees.
“Sam Houston’s Forensic Science Program helped me to achieve my goal of becoming a forensic scientist by providing the essential knowledge, guidance and skills needed for everyday life in a real-world crime lab,” said Anna Mudd, Supervisor of the Toxicology Section of the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.
The College also recently introduced undergraduate minors in forensic science and forensic anthropology, which can help boost career options in criminal justice, natural sciences and the health care field.
“If you understand a little more about forensic science, it will help you be a better investigator,” said Dr. Sarah Kerrigan, Chair of the Department of Forensic Science and former state crime lab director. “It will also make individuals with science degrees more competitive if they choose to pursue a career in forensics than those with just a BS degree.”
With federal changes on the horizon for the possible certification of forensic scientists, the Department recently added the Institute for Forensic Research, Training and Innovation (IFRTI), which will train professionals to meet current and future standards in forensic science disciplines and build partnerships between academia and crime labs to address issues or trends in the field. In addition to forensic scientists, the program will serve a wide variety of criminal justice professionals, including educators, scientists, law enforcement agencies, attorneys and the judiciary.
“With forensic science reform pending in Congress, institutes of higher education are expected to play a major role in terms of research and training,” said Dr. Kerrigan, Chair of the Department of Forensic Science. “These improvements in the broad field of forensics present a unique opportunity to enhance our profile and national standing, while making a significant contribution to the advancement of efforts at the national level.”
The College of Criminal Justice and the College of Arts and Sciences at SHSU collaborated to create the program in 2001. In 2006, the program underwent a major overhaul, including the introduction of almost a dozen new courses, hiring new faculty, relocation to a state-of-the art Chemistry and Forensic Sciences Building, and investment in scientific equipment found in contemporary crime labs.
Now with its own Department, new equipment and a Ph.D. degree, the program is set to take on the future of the field
“Faculty and student research at SHSU is incredibly diverse, ranging from designer drugs to forensic botany, anthropology, 3D printed guns and next generation DNA sequencing in mass fatalities,” said Dr. Kerrigan. Thanks to our faculty expertise, we are able to offer tremendous scope within the Department of Forensic Science.