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Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC)

School of Adult and Graduate Education
Blaney Hall 105

Lawrence A. Quarino, Ph.D.
Director/Professor, Forensic Science
610-437-4471 ext. 3567

Khadijah Nixon


Khadijah Nixon
Washington, DC

As technology and knowledge in the field of forensic science advances, the need and want for more objective methods have increased. Within the MSFS program at Cedar Crest College, the professors emphasize the importance of having statistical data to back up the conclusions in your work.

In the core curriculum of the program, students are taught in their first-year different methods and approaches to appropriately report data. In the Research Design and Statistics course, we were taught how to apply basic statistics, such as ANOVA and the pairwise tests for significance to different studies and possibly our research. Also, in Advanced Pattern Analysis, we went through several exercises and lessons to drill into our minds the need for reliable and qualified testing methods. In the lecture, we discussed literature, such as the Madrid Train Bombing Case, which showed how subjectivity and bias can create an error that can result in someone being wrongfully accused. Also, the 2016 PCAST Report, focused on the need for valid and scientific methods for pattern evidence.

In the lab portion of classes, these ideals are reinforced. When examining footwear impressions, we were required to come up with a conclusion based on two methods. The first method, which has been commonly done in labs, was to visually identify class and individualizing characteristics from both sample and references and then compare. The second method was to use a 3-D program to overlay sample and reference footwear impressions and then multivariate statistical methods to conclude on the source of the unknown. Although basic statistics have been common knowledge and are now being required or recommended to be implemented in reporting of results, multivariate statistics approaches are fairly new and slowly being integrated into labs.

In patterns, students are assigned a group project to get a glimpse of how these kinds of statistics can be used to classify pattern evidence. Within my group, we were able to use principal components analysis (PCA) and linear discriminant analysis (LDA) to match an unknown bullet to either group set of referenced bullets. In the summer, we took a Using Multivariate Statistics in Forensic Science course, in which we learn more in-depth about the significance of multivariate statistics and how it is being introduced into the field. For example, multivariate statistics can be used to identify an unknown drug sample by taking data points from GC-MS spectrums of unknown and references, or it can be used to classify a glass sample to its manufacture and the glass type. This is just one example of how the MSFS program at Cedar Crest College instills the necessary fundamentals to be successful but also implements and updates its curriculum to fit new advances that appear within the field.

Furthermore, the program is able to do this because the professors are professionally involved and even continue to perform casework.  With confidence, I can say that the professors of this program are truly preparing students for changes within the field, whether they are in the near or distant future.