Forensics Lab


This final lab project, contributed by the Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence, utilizes the techniques learned throughout the semester in the lab as well as the concepts learned in the lecture portion of the class.  The project involves a person breaking into a building and leaving the exhumed body of the dead college founder and a threatening note in a classroom.  Evidence such as fingerprints, hair, fibers, shoeprints and glass are left at the crime scene.

For the first period, students receive a handout explaining the background of the case and then set out to collect evidence at the crime scene during lab.  They are given all the materials they need to correctly collect evidence.  In addition to finding and collecting evidence, students must document the crime scene with sketches and/or pictures and note where the evidence was found and how it was collected.
In the second lab period, the evidence that the groups found at the crime scenes is compared to reference materials collected from the suspects.  There are a total of six suspects – it's good to use other professors that the students might know.  Students must use all the evidence found at the crime scene to implicate a particular suspect.  They are also required to use a piece of evidence to exclude the other suspects.  All of their analyses are documented in a notebook.
The final lab period is a press conference where each of the groups explain what evidence they found, how they collected it and who they think committed the crime.  Students are informed ahead of time how they will be graded on the presentation and are given a rubric.
Class impact
This was by far the favorite activity of the class.  They absolutely loved investigating their professors to see who broke into the building – it gave them an opportunity to learn more about their instructors as well.  This project certainly would not have been as much fun for the students without the cooperation of the suspect professors.  To complete the investigation, students need to use knowledge from their previous lab activities and the lecture.  The presentations were absolutely phenomenal and indicative of how much the students enjoyed the project.  The general consensus was that the “final project was awesome.”   

The lab instructions are attached below.

This activity was contributed by Cornell University.

lab instructions.pdf126 KB