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Master
Forensic Science
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Study programme

Curriculum MFS 2021-2022

Studying Forensic Science at the UvA

  • The Master’s in Forensic Science offers an interdisciplinary programme to students with a background in computer science, physics, chemistry, biological sciences, mathematics and others. Our lecturers are not only university professors, but also experts from the forensic field, as well as from the Dutch Police Force and the Netherlands Forensic Institute.
  • Students study the fundamentals of forensic science together and will learn to understand the forensic process and the role of forensic evidence herein, dealing with topics such as hypothesis formation, data collection and analysis, integrity of science, and quality management. They will be trained in understanding the relevancy of different traces, the methods used to analyse those traces and the value of evidence they can provide.
  • A great deal of attention is paid to the development of criminalistic reasoning skills, critical thinking and the application of science in a forensic context. Next to that, the Master’s programme in Forensic Science teaches students to understand and communicate with all partners in the forensic chain. In order to fulfil  the demands of the field, interdisciplinary communication and cooperation is of great importance in the curriculum.
  • In our Master’s programme we train students to become more than an average scientist. We train them to be able to make a contribution to the forensic field by applying specialist knowledge in a forensic context, whether as an researcher at the university, a forensic expert, or as a forensic advisor.

New course: Cybercrime, Digital Traces and Forensic Data Analysis

In 2019-2020 a new course was added to the curriculum titled: Cybercrime, Digital Traces and Forensic Data Analysis. Data Science and digital forensics are expected to become increasingly important areas of expertise in the forensic field. This is due to the fact that new methodologies and techniques are expected to produce increasingly larger datasets and that the amount of digital evidence is growing exponentially in case work. Whereas at the same time there is a lack of digital forensic specialists. This new course incorporates digital evidence at the same level as physical traces and will be an obligatory for all students.

  • First year
    What is the importance of forensic reasoning? Teacher Maarten Blom explains.
    Teacher Maarten Blom highlights two courses of the Master's programme Forensic Science that are part of the learning line that deals with sound reasoning in the application of forensic science. How do we determine the weight of forensic evidence in a case? And how should we communicate this to the decision makers – police, prosecutors, judges and defence lawyers?

    The programme of the first year provides students with the theoretical foundation of forensic science: the forensic process from crime scene to court, including the players and their roles, the judicial context and the quality requirements within the process. Attention is paid to the statistical foundation for the interpretation of evidence, criminalistics reasoning and the importance and underlying principles of hypothesis formulation and validation. Furthermore, students will learn about the most common traces found on a crime scene and the scientific principles of the main techniques used to analyze those traces. As such, students will learn to apply the theoretical knowledge to forensic cases, e.g. in a crime scene setting and as an expert in a moot court. In most of the courses, experts from the field, e.g. from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) and the Dutch Police Force, participate through giving lectures about the practice in the forensic field.

    Critical reflection and interdisciplinarity

    Within the different courses, attention will be paid to critical reflection skills as well as to problem solving skills. Students will learn about the role of forensic science in society and the standards required for scientific research. 

    Another important aspect within the programme is the interdisciplinary nature of forensic science. Students will work in groups and will be stimulated to address interdisciplinary issues contribute to group work by putting their own expert knowledge from their bachelors programme into use. In addition, students visit Frontiers of Forensic Science lecture afternoons, and presentations from second year students to gain an overview of state-of-the-art research in the forensic field and to orientate themselves for topics and criteria for their own literature thesis and the final research project of the second year.

    Moot court

    At the end of the first year, everything that has been dealt with up to that point will come together in the casework offered in the course Chain of Evidence. This course allows students to work through a simulated case, beginning with one afternoon of practical forensic examination - e.g. the collection and analysis of traces - then. The course subsequently focuses on providing interpretations of the data obtained and concluding with a written and oral defense of the expert opinion in a moot court, complete with prosecutor, defense lawyer, judge and counter-expert.

    Study trip in the first year

    Every year our students organize a study trip in October or November for the new first year students. During the study trip we visit several forensic institutes and/or universities and in addition visit the city. It is a great opportunity to extend your forensic network and get to know each other. Want to know more? Follow the links below!

  • Second year

    In the second year students deepen their knowledge in their bachelor’s discipline by following advanced forensic courses and courses from other master ‘s programmes at the Faculty of Science as part of a specialisation. Furthermore, students write a literature thesis and conduct a research project of six months.

    The Master's in Forensic Science is closely linked with the Co van Ledden Hulsebosch Centre (CLHC). This centre coordinates and stimulates forensic research and cooperates with various forensic partners and institutes. The scientists and experts involved in the Master's programme have an extensive network of contacts, creating opportunities for students to carry out their research project in forensic laboratories and organisations all over the world. The topics of these projects cover almost all fields of forensic science and have led to many publications in international scientific journals.

    Research projects

    Students finish the programme by carrying out a research project to expand their scientific and forensic knowledge and to prove their professional skills. This research can be done in the Netherlands or abroad, within or outside the university, a Dutch or foreign forensic institute, a police department or with other organizations in which forensics play a role. The topics span a wide range of forensic areas, from epigenetics to fire investigation to cybercrime and more.

  • Degree requirements

    A Master of Science degree in Forensic Science is awarded upon successful completion of all the core and specialization courses in the curriculum and a written Master's thesis based on an independent research project. This translates into a total of 120 ECTS credits.