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College begins minor in investigative forensics

Duane Bonifer
Monmouth faculty members Christine Myers (left) and Audra Sosatrecz
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College students can now select a minor that could lead them down a career path similar to Sherlock Holmes and other famous sleuths.

The College has launched a new minor in investigative forensics, and the minor’s architects have created a well-rounded program grounded in the liberal arts that will expose students to possible careers in fields from law to laboratory analysis, and just about everything in between.

A five-credit minor, investigative forensics will deepen students’ understanding of how evidence is studied and applied in a variety of academic disciplines, according to history professor Christine Myers, who helped create the minor.

What is especially noteworthy about investigative forensics is that the minor provides students with a broad knowledge base to prepare for a wide range of careers, such as criminology, criminal journalism, forensic science and pathology, and law enforcement.

“We’ve made this a very interdisciplinary minor,” Myers said. “We want students to study it from many perspectives so they can see how a subject can be approached from many ways. This gives students a well-rounded approach and helps them discover various professional paths they might be interested in taking.”

All students who minor in investigative forensics will take a forensic science chemistry course, then four additional credits from at least three other disciplines, including biology, communication studies, digital photography, English, history and psychology. Additional courses will be added this spring.

Chemistry professor Audra Sostarecz teaches the minor’s forensic science class, which she said gives students several real-life views of the subject. The class teaches students how to lift fingerprints, examine hairs through microscopes and learn about analytical instrumentation. At the end of the semester, students investigate a fake crime scene to determine who committed the crime.

“It’s a very nice course because it often involves faculty from other disciplines, such as biology and mathematics,” said Sostarecz.

As Myers points out, investigative forensics has been part of society for more than a century, popularized when Arthur Conan Doyle first published his Sherlock Holmes stories in the late 19th-century.The first practical use of the science occurred in 1832, when a British chemist testified in a murder trial. Investigative forensics has become increasingly popular among college students because of its prevalence in popular culture and in the news media.

“It’s something that’s always been part of society, and it’s increasingly studied in academia,” said Myers, who teaches a course in the minor about violence in Victorian Britain. “The purpose of this minor is to give students a taste of it, and then let them decide whether it is something they would like to pursue as a career or in graduate or professional school.”