CHEM 170 - Introduction to Forensic Chemistry

This is an introductory forensic chemistry course investigating the physical and chemical properties of matter. Specific chemical topics include: significant figures, naming compounds, structure of an atom, VSEPR theory, properties of solutions, organic chemistry (functional groups and DNA), thermodynamics, ideal gas law, reaction kinetics, equilibrium and nuclear chemistry. These concepts are linked to criminal cases and how chemical evidence help to solve crimes. Students will also be exposed to forensic techniques and their relevant chemical principles in the laboratory.

This course is intended for students in an Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Arts program at receiving institutions to partially fulfill science credits. It is not a prerequisite for higher level chemistry courses.


Credits:  4


Hours: 67.5 (Lecture Hours: 45;  Laboratory Hours: 22.5)


Total Weeks:  15





Non-Course Prerequisites:




Course Content:
Lecture content will include, but is not restricted to, Chapters 1-4, plus a minimum of seven of the ten following chapters.
- Introduction to Forensic Chemistry and Evidence Collection and Preservation
   Forms of matter and the Periodic Table
   Scientific method
   Unit conversions
   Significant figures
   Precision vs. accuracy
- Atomic Clues
   Atomic theory and atom structure
   Electromagnetic radiation
- Chemical Evidence
   Ionic and covalent bonding
   Naming compounds
   Stoichiometry and the concept of the mole
- Properties of Solutions I and II
   Solubility basics: solutes, solvents, solutions
   Solubility rules
   Strong, weak, non-electrolyte solutions
   pH basics
   Intermolecular forces
   Colligative properties
- Drug Chemistry
   Organic chemistry: naming and properties of alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, cyclics, ethers, ketones, esters, amines, alcohols, aldehydes, carboxylic acids
   Extraction of organic compounds
- Chemistry of Addition
   Lewis structures
- Arson Investigation
   Redox reactions (introduction)
- Chemistry of Explosions
   Ideal Gas Law
   Redox chemistry
   Explosive detection
- Estimating Time of Death
   Chemical kinetics (0 and 1st order reactions)
- Dirty Bombs and Nuclear Terrorism
   Radioactivity and half lives
   Fission and fusion
   Nuclear isotopes
- Poisons
   Equilibrium: K, le Chatelier, Ksp
- Identification of Victims: DNA Analysis
   Lipids, carbohydrates, protein and DNA
For the laboratory, eight to ten experiments will be performed. Experiments may be chosen from, but are not limited to, the list below.
- Measurement at a crime scene: length, mass and volume
- Density: identification of an unknown plastic by density determination
- Soil examination: visual, pH, use of a density gradient, particle size distribution
- Fingerprints: light sources, powder, fuming, rolling prints
- Acid-base extraction of an over the counter pain reliever, analysis by TLC
- Heat capacity and firefighting: analysis of steel and concrete samples
- Quantitative analysis of a food dye in sport drinks by visible spectroscopy
- TLC analysis of ink in permanent markers
- Blood alcohol concentration by colourimetric analysis
- Identification of polymers by flame testing and infrared spectroscopy


Learning Outcomes:
- Students will demonstrate a basic understanding of chemistry, and how it pertains to criminal investigations. They should be able to apply these concepts and the scientific method to solve problems and explain various types of chemical analyses used by criminal investigators. Students will be able to use basic laboratory equipment safely to take measurements and analyse various substances. They will proficiently use least significant figures in their calculations.

To pass this course, students will have to demonstrate creative thinking and problem solving skills by solving problems in the class and laboratory. They will need to participate in class discussions with other students from diverse backgrounds and work collaboratively with a lab partner. Students will need to record observations and produce clear and legible lab reports, and write logical, concise answers to questions on lab assignments and tests. They will be able to research and present a forensic chemistry-based topic for their project. Students will solve mathematical problems, perform unit conversions, handle exponential notation and use a scientific calculator


Grading System:  Letters


Passing Grade:  D (50%)


Percentage of Individual Work:  100


Textbooks are subject to change. Please contact the bookstore at your local campus for current book lists.