The FIVS degree program was initiated in 2007 by Dr. Jeff Tomberlin, a board certified forensic entomologist in direct response to the National Research Council’s (NRC) report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. This report states: “forensic examiners must understand the principles, practices, and contexts of science, including the scientific method. Training should move away from reliance on the apprentice-like transmittal of practices to education at the college level and beyond that is based on scientifically valid principles.” Dr. Tomberlin aimed to do just that. To correct some of existing educational deficiencies, the Report further states, “the legitimization of practices in the forensic science disciplines must be based on established scientific knowledge, principles, and practices, which are best learned through formal education. Apprenticeship has a secondary role; under no circumstances can it supplant the need for the scientific basis of education and of the practice of forensic science.” Consistent with the recommendations of this NRC Report, the Undergraduate FIVS Program at TAMU:
- Provides a life science education and training to solve emerging issues surrounding the introduction and consideration of evidence in court and similar decision-making authorities;
- Possesses a curriculum designed to teach students to recognize, collect, analyze, interpret, and present evidence that meets the standards of the scientific method and Daubert Standard for admission of evidence into court;
- Offers courses that illustrate the integration of skill sets, critical thinking, problem solving, and oral and written presentation;
- Makes available to the upper-level FIVS students an additional set of courses providing practical training.
The success of the program lead to the hiring of a series of forensic science academics and practitioners to better serve the growing student body. Dr. Aaron Tarone was hired as a tenure-track assistant professor on August 1, 2009 in the area of molecular forensics to fill this new vacancy. In support of the Department’s desire to add two certificate-bearing, 400 level courses in “Crime Scene Investigation” (taught during the fall – spring mini-mesters) and “Latent Print Processing” (taught during the spring-summer mini-mesters) to the FIVS curriculum, the College approved the Department’s request to name two practicing forensic specialists (Ms. Christine R. Ramirez and Celestina Rossi, affiliated with Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service) as adjunct assistant lecturers.Dr. Spencer Johnston, Department of Entomology, began teaching FIVS 308 Forensic Evidence of Inheritance, Dr. Jacqueline Aitkenhead-Peterson, Department of Soil & Crop Sciences, began teaching FIVS 401 Forensic Soil Science, and Dr. Coates expanded FIVS 316 from 3 to 4 credits with addition of a laboratory section. Detective Scott Kovar has ~30 years of experience in crime scene investigation and used to teach at Hofstra University. Det. Kovar teaches Crime Scene Investigation, Forensic Microscopy, and Forensic Photography. Mr. Romero teaches a Digital Forensics course that FIVS students take as an elective. Dr. Adrienne Brundage, a board-certified forensic entomologist and assistant director of the program teaches Introduction to Forensic Sciences, Scientific Writing, and Expert Witness Testimony. Dr. Ashleigh Faris coordinates the internship program and teaches the forensic entomology lab. In addition, Dr. Jennifer Rhinesmith-Carranza and Dr. Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman have assisted with professional development courses in FIVS.
Students were advised by Ms. Ann Pool and Ms. Rebecca Hapes until 2020 where administrative centralization of advising removed them from the department and into a centralized advising office. Current advisors are David Wellman and Dr. Jennifer Rhinesmith-Carranza.
The Forensic and Investigative sciences program at TAMU is currently the #1 forensic science undergraduate program in the U.S.
Mission / Purpose
Prepare students for a wide array of career paths, including graduate and professional schools, by providing them an inquiry and research-based learning experience to increase skills in problem solving, written and oral communication, and professional development.
Critical Thinking and Communication – Students will develop critical thinking strategies and enhance written and oral communication skills.
Academic and Experiential Development – Students will integrate academic foundations with experiential development.
Synthesize academic foundation of forensic science – Demonstrate physical and life science competency; Demonstrate knowledge of the fields of forensics and the variety of opportunities available within them; Demonstrate the ability to collect, preserve, process, interpret, and present evidentiary information to address problems of a forensic nature.
Development of Problem Solving Strategies – Critically analyze different problem solving strategies; develop logical arguments from different perspectives; design and communicate decision-making processes.
Demonstrate Written and Oral Competency – Demonstrate competency of both written and oral communication of scientific topics to a variety of audiences.