Forensic Science Uses Hybrid Model for Fall 2020

By Caitlin Burns | September 2, 2020
Arcadia University student Alexis Testa looks through a microscope

“Once we got sent home last spring, we lost half the semester for lab work,” said Dr. Heather Harris, assistant professor of Forensic Science. “We had just gotten to the meat of the coursework, but the students didn’t get to apply it.”

Like many lab courses in the Spring 2020 semester, the microscopy lab was reworked to fit an online course. In order to make up for that time, students in their second year of the Master of Forensic Science (MSFS) program in the University’s College of Arts and Sciences will take a trace course this semester, which incorporates in-person lab sessions to gain hands-on experience in examining microscopic evidence.

“Students will be working with fiber evidence, low explosive evidence, and other things that’s commonly seen in an evidence lab,” said Dr. Harris. “It’s important for students to have these experiences so they have the microscopy skills when they go to work in a lab.”

Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., up to four students at a time will have access to the microscopy lab to work on assignments. With 16 students in the class, Dr. Harris feels each student will receive ample time to gain the experience for working in an evidence lab and complete all in-lab assignments by Oct. 12. Following the last assignment, students will be learning completely online.

Students in their first year of the MSFS program will also participate in a lab once a week, which will be at the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education in Willow Grove.

“I’m excited for the lab—it’ll provide some human interaction in an online semester,” said Mairin Higgins ’20, ’22M during the in-person Orientation on Aug. 28. “It’s only one day a week, but we’ll make it work.”

The seven students in the class sat at desks several feet apart during Orientation and wore masks to stay within the University’s Health and Safety Guidelines. Alexis Testa ’22M described the day as “bittersweet” because it offered a taste of campus life only for the day.

“It’s weird being on campus with no one here,” said Stephanie VanLysebettens ’15, ’22M. “It’s nice to meet each other today, though.”