This second episode in the “Strengthening the Forensic Workforce” season of the National Institute of Justice’s Just Science podcast series is an interview with Dr. Sarah Williams, a Research Associate Professor in Forensic Science at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Dr. Keith Morris, a Min Hsieh Distinguished Teaching Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science at West Virginia University, who discuss undergraduate, master’s and doctorate programs in forensic science.
An introductory note indicates this season of Just Science will examine a variety of forensic science programs and the increasing need for more doctoral programs. Recent years have also seen distinctive challenges for hands-on research with the COVID-19 pandemic and misconstrued expectations stemming from the CSI (crime scene investigation) effect, forcing universities and their students to adapt. Dr. Morris and Dr. Williams discuss Ph.Ds. in forensic science and the role of the U.S Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) in providing research and education opportunities for the next generation of forensic science professionals. Dr. Morris and Dr. Williams briefly describe the FEPAC-accredited curricula their universities provide. The impact of COVID-19 on teaching methods and results are also discussed. A benefit of the reliance on teleconferencing has been expanded access for more people involved in interviews and online instruction. The interview also addresses how NIJ research grants and fellowships have created more opportunities for students in forensic curricula to have contact with forensic research and the issues involved in such research. Increasing interactions among forensic practitioners and university curricula and students is also discussed as a source of expertise and insight for ensuring curricula reflect what is occurring in practice.