01/29/07 — MOC introduces degree program to train next generation of CSIs

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MOC introduces degree program to train next generation of CSIs

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 29, 2007 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College has made a $400,000 investment in state-of-the-art equipment to support a new forensics science major that will be introduced in the fall.

Popular television shows like CSI and Cold Case have prompted a surge of interest in the field, with more college students pursuing careers as criminalists. But the reality is not as glamorous, says Dr. Michael McCann, associate professor of chemistry hired to head up the new program.

The scientific investigation part of forensic science involves analysis of materials at crime scenes, as well as knowledge of the psychology of criminal behavior, he said. On television, evidence analysis appears fast and simple, but the process can actually take weeks or months to complete.

"Forensic science is primarily a science. According to FBI statistics for 2005, only about half of all violent crimes are ever solved, so the forensic scientist needs to be clever, diligent and able to use all the scientific tools at her or his disposal," McCann said.

The course of study requires a thorough background in the biological and chemical sciences as well as criminal justice, statistics, math and physics, he said.

The newest Bachelor of Science degree will feature coursework in biochemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, forensic anthropology, human anatomy and physiology, criminal justice, statistical methods and calculus. Students will also be taught about collecting, analyzing and preserving physical evidence.

In addition to hiring Dr. McCann, the college has purchased $400,000 worth of equipment that will provide students with hands-on experience in testing and analyzing data for crime scene investigations. Students will be able to analyze drugs, do DNA fingerprinting, identify biological fluids and conduct other tests they would do as professionals in the field.

Another part of the curriculum will afford students the opportunity to participate in a forensic science internship in places like the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation or the United States Secret Service where they will work with professional forensic scientists on approved projects.

As an outgrowth of the major, the college's Tillman School of Business is considering adding courses in the specialty area of forensic accounting. Officials said it is a growing area of practice and the number of accounting firms with specialist forensic accounting opportunities is expanding.