George Washington University Forensic Faculty

Trip Start Aug 08, 2009
Trip End Aug 30, 2009

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today I travelled to the Foggy Bottom Campus to meet with Professor Ted Robinson and Professor Walter Rowe. both lecturers in the Department of Forensic Sciences at George Washington University (GWU).

Ted is a retired CSI from Arlington County and is the writer of the book published by Academic Press titled 'Crime Scene Photography'. He was busy putting the last images into his new edition which is to be published shortly (so don't go out and buy it just yet!).

Professor Rowe is the Department Chair and has a background as a forensic drug chemist. He is also a member of the ASTM committee which sets standards for a variety of forensic disciplines for crime lab workers.

We met at Samson Hall, soon to be the old base of Forensic Science Department as they are shortly to be moving to a new site that will allow the programme to take more students. Although the cost of a GWU Masters in Forensics is quite expensive coming in at about $30,000 per year (just in case you are considering it).

The Masters programme is a 4-year programme which also includes modules in Crime Scene Investigation. (details of which can be found on the GWU website).

All students are given the opportunity of an Intern with a law enforcement agency that lasts approximately 15-20 hours per week. Memorandums of Understanding are drawn up between the university and the law enforcement units which are at both Federal and local levels.
The benefits to the students to be given the opportunity of 'rea'l engagement with prospective employers and also the law enforcement community who get very proactive people that are up to date on research that benefits them was sold to me very well. Students are not allowed to participate in casework but in the past they have been given access to cold cases etc to review.

I believe that very few police forces or forensic science laboratories participate in this type of programme in the UK but for the students to have the opportunity and for forensic establsihments to have an extra pair of hands seems beneficial to me.

Assessment methods used during the course are written termly papers (of course) and practical cases to work through. For example, after students have spent half a term learning about fingerprint powders and recovery methods, they are set an exercise. They are given a number of surfaces (some perishable) from which they are required to recover fingerprint evidence. They are required to come up with evidence recovery plans within a specified time frame and are then given an additional few days to actually go ahead and recover marks from the given surfaces. Obviously the perishable items will need to be addressed first otherwise they will degrade. Also if students do not consider full seqential processes, they also loose marks when graded.

The International Association of Identification has opened up its level 1 qualification to GWU students who can pay to complete this module without the necessity of having operational experience to go with it. The students pay for this themselves but it also helps them professionally when trying to find work after leaving university as employers see this as contributing towards accreditation of CSI's.

Pressure has been applied to GWU from the Department of Education in respect of assessment of learning and there followed a discussion on cost versus benefit.

The Professors also discussed the use of a virtual training simulation using 'Second Life' software as a possibility for CSI' s to use as validation in the future but this is some way off in terms of planning etc.

We also spoke about whether GWU accredits has or would validate or give credits to training programmes run nationally and spoke about NPIA courses being accredited by Teesside University and how this links into Degrees for CSI's who want to progress through this route.

This is something that is a possibility for the future but has not happened yet.

This was a really beneficial meeting and there is too much to add to this blog. But I must say that to sit and talk to two academics who were also practitioners in their own right about how they see the future shaping up and the benefits that having operational personnel joining academic staff has had on the University was great for me.

Oh, just one last thing. All students are give a brand new Nikon camera on loan for the duration of the course which they are then able to buy at the end of the course. GWU wouldn't reveal how they managed to secure this with Nikon but what a great deal eh?

Thought for the day: I hope that the meeting at the NIJ goes ahead tomorrow.
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