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Master Syllabus

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Administrative Unit: Physical and Biological Sciences Department
Course Prefix and Number: FRSC 315
Course Title: Forensic Microscopy
Number of:
Credit Hours 3
Lecture Hours 1
Lab Hours 2
Catalog Description:

Examination of the theoretical foundations of microscopy, with an emphasis on stereomicroscopy and polarized light microscopy. Techniques are applied to the analysis of forensic evidence. Occasional offering.

Prerequisite(s) / Corequisite(s):

FRSC 210 and CHEM 112 and PHYS 112/112L or PHYS 212

Course Rotation for Day Program:

Occasional offering.

Text(s): Most current editions of the following:

Use of a textbook in this course is left to the discretion of the

Suggested texts include the most current edition of the

Essentials of Polarized Light Microscopy
By Delly
An Introduction to Microscopy
By Bell & Morris
Introduction to Optical Mineralogy
By Neese
Chemical Microscropy for the Chemist, Criminalist and Conservator
By Kubick & Petraco
Course Objectives

  • To learn about the properties of light, including: refraction, dispersion, polarization.
  • To learn basic microscopy techniques and sample preparation.
  • To be familiar with the use of and care for the stereomicroscope and polarized light microscope.
  • To understand how microscopy is utilized to examine and analyze forensic evidence.

    Measurable Learning

    • Describe how polarized light interacts with solid substances.
    • Measure the refractive index and birefringence of fibers, chemicals and minerals using the PLM.
    • Identify common minerals, chemicals and fibers by determination of their optical properties.
    • Describe the six crystallographic systems of solids.

    • Students will be able to determine a particle's crystallographic system by examination using the PLM.
    • Perform microcrystal tests for anions and cations.
    • Detect polymorphic forms of organic and inorganic

    Topical Outline:

  • Stereomicroscopy and sample preparation
  • Polarized Light Microscopy
  • Refractive index and its determination
  • Crystal systems
  • Crossed polars: isotropic and anisotropic substances, pleochroism
  • Determination of uniaxial and biaxial crystals
  • Optic sign and sign of elongation
  • Observation of interference figures
  • Identification of synthetic fibers
  • Examination of polymer films
  • Identification of minerals
  • Recrystallization and the identification of inorganic salts
  • Microcrystal tests for anions and cations
  • Observation of polymorphic forms by heating and cooling
  • Evaluation of various types of evidence: particles, hairs, fibers, minerals, chemicals, polymers, etc.


    Recommended maximum class size for this course: 20

    Library Resources:

    Online databases are available at the Columbia College Stafford Library.  You may access them using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

    Prepared by: Melinda McPherson Date: November 1, 2013
    NOTE: The intention of this master course syllabus is to provide an outline of the contents of this course, as specified by the faculty of Columbia College, regardless of who teaches the course, when it is taught, or where it is taught. Faculty members teaching this course for Columbia College are expected to facilitate learning pursuant to the course objectives and cover the subjects listed in the topical outline. However, instructors are also encouraged to cover additional topics of interest so long as those topics are relevant to the course's subject. The master syllabus is, therefore, prescriptive in nature but also allows for a diversity of individual approaches to course material.

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