What is Forensic Biochemistry?

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Any forensic science investigation involving biochemistry can be referred to as forensic biochemistry.

First, forensic science may be defined as the investigation of crime using scientific techniques and methods. These techniques are used to examine the materials that were present at a crime scene. Forensic scientists conduct a thorough analysis of all these materials to get clues about who may have committed the crime. The investigations surrounding murder, rape, and assault are largely dependent on the work of forensic science laboratories to point criminal investigators in the right direction.

Forensic investigations often involve serological and biochemical techniques. The biomedical techniques used to conduct forensic investigations constitute the field of forensic biochemistry, which has various applications. For instance, forensic biochemists may be asked to trace the origin of a particular substance, determine paternity or the relationships that specific people or animals share, or even track the spread of diseases.

Forensic biochemistry has proven to be invaluable in conducting forensic science investigations, particularly the DNA fingerprinting technique. However, it should be noted that forensic biochemistry must be used with caution, as its findings can have serious implications.

Applications of Forensic Biochemistry

Some of the ways in which forensic biochemistry is used include:

  • Analysis of evidence found at a crime scene, using biology, chemistry, physics, and genetics
  • Qualitative analysis of evidence using spot testing and microscopy
  • Study of body fluids using separation analyses and optical methods
  • DNA testing to find out the relations between two humans or animals
  • Tracing the origin of specific materials or substances using chemical and biochemical techniques

Specializations in Forensic Biochemistry

As mentioned earlier, forensic crime investigations are only one area where forensic biochemistry can be applied. There are many other ways in which it can be used. Those with an interest in forensic biochemistry can specialize in areas such as:

  • Forensic science: This involves analyzing evidence from crime scenes using chemical, biological, and physical testing methods.
  • Crime scene investigation: This specialization involves the collection of information from a crime scene and using the evidence in criminal trials.
  • Clinical chemistry: This specialization is a branch of chemistry concerned with the analysis of bodily fluids for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes.
  • Biology: This area deals with biological evidence, such as blood, hair, and microbes for criminal and civil law investigations. Biological evidence is valuable due to the presence of DNA and helps associate different individuals and animal species with one another.
  • Physics: This specialization involves forensic investigations methods such as bloodstain pattern analysis, accident reconstruction, and tracing radioactive materials (e.g., the sources of nuclear weapons).

Forensic Biochemistry Degree Programs

In the forensic biochemistry field, one must be careful to follow scientific procedures and maintain a strong work ethic. It is also important to remember that while forensic biochemistry involves conducting scientific experiments, it is equally important to have an analytical bent of mind, as one must be able to study and interpret data.

With that in mind, if one wishes to pursue a career in this fascinating field, here are two exceptional forensic biochemistry degree programs:

Northern Michigan University

Northern Michigan University offers a bachelor’s degree in forensic biochemistry. Made up of 120​ credit-hours, the core coursework includes topics such as organic chemistry, forensic chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, and biochemical techniques. Other than gaining theoretical and practical experience in the field, students also develop an honest and ethical outlook, as well as patience and an eye for detail. Additionally, they develop critical thinking and decision making skills.

Admission requirements for the program include a high school diploma with a minimum grade point average of 2.25, an ACT composite score of 19 or SAT total score of 990, and proof of course prerequisites. ​

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue numerous opportunities as criminalists, forensic DNA analysts, forensic scientist lab analysts, physical anthropologists, and biological researchers.

  • Courses: general chemistry, chemical equilibrium, biochemistry, forensic chemistry, organic chemistry
  • Tuition: $416 per credit-hour (residents), $645 per credit-hour (non-residents)

Syracuse University

Syracuse University offers a master of science (MS) degree in biomedical forensic science. ​The program is ideal for students looking to pursue a career in bio-forensics. Admission requirements include submission of GRE or MCAT scores, three letters of recommendation, and official undergraduate transcripts.

The program consists of 36 credit-hours. ​The program teaches students the relationship between forensic science and law, the importance of ethics and how to uphold them, methods of forensic pathology and forensic toxicology, and the analysis biological evidence using different techniques and instruments.

The program can open up opportunities for students in pathology, toxicology, DNA analysis, forensic biology, chemistry, or anthropology.

  • Courses: advanced forensic science, special topics in advanced forensics, crime scene investigation, biochemistry laboratory, forensic biochemical analysis
  • Tuition: $28,062 per academic year

Careers in Forensic Biochemistry

Once students have completed the required coursework in a forensic biochemistry program, they can pursue a wide range of career options. The demand for forensic biochemists is growing and graduating forensic biochemistry students can find a number of job opportunities awaiting them. For example, forensic chemists analyze evidence from crime scenes and provide conclusions based on his tests. This work helps identify and characterize evidence to move a criminal proceeding forward. Students with a background in forensic biochemistry can find employment as criminalists, forensic DNA analysts, lab analysts, physical anthropologists, biological researchers, crime scene technicians, and forensic biologists.