Course Overview

Scientific methods are radically changing the landscape of our criminal justice system.  Increasingly, law enforcement and legal prosecution are heavily reliant upon often complex and detailed scientific analysis of forensic evidence.  This course is intended to provide an introduction to understanding the science behind crime detection.  This will be accomplished by providing a rational basis for interpreting the scientific analysis of forensic evidence that will be illustrated by occasional relevant case studies.  “At home” laboratory exercises will also be included to demonstrate techniques commonly employed in forensic investigations.

All students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Completion and have the opportunity to request a Syracuse University credit transcript.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify some of the key underlying science and principles of modern forensic science.
  • Compare and contrast the difference between good science and pseudoscience and how science is utilized by the criminal justice system, including using probability and statistics to evaluate evidential strengths.
  • Describe important practices involved in many of the subdisciplines of forensic practice.
  • Explore selected laboratory practices in forensic investigations through experience with “at-home” laboratory exercises.

Course Information

Course Prefix and Number: CHE 113

Format: Online

Eligibility: Students must be of rising high school junior or senior status – or a 2024 high school graduate who have completed High School Biology. 

Credit: 4 credits

Grading: A-F

Cost: $3,785

Program rates are subject to change and will be approved by the board of trustees. Discounts and scholarships are also available.

Program Information

Summer College – Online: Explore college life before stepping foot on campus! High school students can enroll in a college-level course, pursue their academic interests, and meet likeminded students in daily virtual events and activities.

Course Dates and Details

ProgramCourse DatesClass Time (Eastern Time)Credit/NoncreditStatus
Summer College – Online6-week Session: Monday, July 8 – Thursday, Aug. 15, 2024Thursdays;
6:30 – 8 p.m.
4 creditsClosed

Course Requirements

Required Supplies

Students will need a laptop, safety glasses, and appropriate lab clothing.

Typical Day

Tentative Schedule

  • Students read assigned chapters from the textbook and view pre-recorded lectures.
  • After study, including video-taped lectures, students will complete an online assessment for each chapter of material.
  • At-home lab experiments are assigned to be completed weekly.
  • Meet weekly for synchronous sessions with instructor to discuss the assigned considerations.

When class is over, and on weekends, students can look forward to various Summer College virtual activities to meet and connect with other students across the world. Check out our Virtual Campus Experience page for more information!

Faculty Bio

James T. Spencer

Dr. James Spencer joined the faculty at Syracuse University after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry from Iowa State University, and his undergraduate studies at S.U.N.Y. College at Potsdam.  Prof. Spencer has received several honors for his research and teaching work including the “Distinguished Achievements in Boron Science” Award from the BUSA International Conference.  He is the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Distinguished Teaching Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he received the Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence, the highest award recognition for SU faculty and staff in recognition of outstanding achievement in teaching, scholarship and creative work. He also received the Excellence in Teaching Award from University College in 2009. He has been active in organizing a variety of scientific meetings for both the American Chemical Society and the BUSA International Conference, in addition to serving as co-chair for the 10th and 11th Foresight Conferences on Molecular Nanotechnology. Dr. Spencer has presented numerous invited lectures including at the IMEBORON X International Conference, the Gordon Research Conference in Inorganic Chemistry, and the International Symposium on Solid State Imaging and CVD. He has also served as a consultant for the Lockheed Martin Corporation, General Electric Corporation, the Merix Corporation, and International Business Machines, among others.

Dr. Spencer is the author of ~90 scientific papers and has presented over 200 lectures at regional, national and international venues.  Spencer’s research involves the study of solid-state, main group and organometallic chemistry and includes projects in solid state chemistry on boron-containing and nanostructural materials.  Current projects are focused upon the development of a new generation of sensors using chemically functionalized piezoelectric solid state devices.  These new materials will provide rapid, highly sensitive, exceptionally selective, and readily adaptable new sensors for key analytes with applications to medicine, forensic science and national security. 

Dr. Spencer founded the University’s Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute (FNSSI) where he currently serves as its Founding Executive Director. The Institute brings together work from many disciplines and provides a program of excellence, uniquely positioned to make significant contributions to combat crime and promote national security through research, teaching, and professional outreach: the nation’s first program that comprehensively focuses upon the breadth and depth scholarship in forensic and national security sciences and is establishing groundbreaking research based upon rigorous scientific investigation and technical ability. He has completed work on a new introductory textbook in Forensic Science (2021).  Dr. Spencer has also served as the Associate Dean for Science, Mathematics and Research in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences (2009-2014).

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Spencer also directs the national award-winning Syracuse University Brass Ensemble, having begun his studies at SUNY Potsdam in brass music. The Ensemble is composed of over forty professional-level musicians from Syracuse University, Upstate Medical University, and surrounding Upstate New York communities. The Ensemble, the Ensemble-in-Residence in the College of Arts and Sciences and based in Hendricks Chapel, is a year-round organization which presents some twenty performances each year.  These include a variety of recitals on the Syracuse University Campus and performances in and around the northeast and the Ensemble has won a number of prestigious national awards for their performances.