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 (NFI).
- Students study the fundamentals of forensic science together and will learn to understand the forensic process and the role of forensic evidence, 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. 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 are 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 contribute to the forensic field by applying specialist knowledge in a forensic context, whether as a researcher at the university, a forensic expert, or as a forensic advisor.
Lecturer Maarten Blom highlights two courses of the Master's programme in Forensic Science, 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 - the 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 interpreting evidence, criminalistics reasoning and the importance and underlying principles of hypothesis formulation and validation. Students will learn about the most common traces found in a crime scene and the scientific principles of the main techniques used to analyse 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, take part 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. They contribute to group work by putting their own expert knowledge from their Bachelor's 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.
At the end of the first year, everything that was studied so far 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. The course subsequently focuses on providing interpretations of the data obtained and concludes with a written and oral defense of the expert opinion in a moot court, complete with prosecutor, defense lawyer, judge and counter-expert.
Every year, our students organise 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!
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. 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.
Students finish the programme by conducting 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 organisations in which forensics play a role. The topics span a wide range of forensic areas, from epigenetics to fire investigation to cybercrime and more.
A Master of Science degree in Forensic Science is awarded upon successful completion of all the core and specialisation courses in the curriculum and a written Master's thesis based on an independent research project. This translates into 120 ECTS credits.