[Home] [Schedule] [Classes] [Forensics] [Links] [Personal] [About this Page]

Chemistry 420 - Forensic Chemistry, S 2008

hp_gc-ms.gif (13001 bytes)
Agilent Technologies GC-MS

GC_peaks.gif (4322 bytes)
The emphasis of this course is to teach laboratory techniques used in modern forensics laboratories. Topics include the use of Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) in the detection of accelerants in arson investigations, nitroglycerin in gunshot residue, and blood alcohol concentration measurements. Additional topics include the detection of latent bloodstains using Luminol, and the analysis of drugs using spot tests and Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (DRIFTS).

When posted here, PDF files require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Dr. Pete Poston
office: NS 110
phone: (503) 838-8218
office hours: MW 10, R 1-3, F 2 make an appointment, or just drop by if I'm not too busy.
web page: http://www.wou.edu/poston
email questions: postonp@wou.edu
Pre-requisite's Ch 313 Instrumental Methods, or consent of the instructor.

"Forensic Chemistry", by Suzanne Bell, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 1st ed, 2006

We will also be using the following texts for additional reference material:

  • Skoog, Holler, and Nieman, "Principles of Instrumental Analysis", 5th ed, Saunders College Publishing,1998
  • Daniel Harris, "Quantitative Chemical Analysis", 5th ed, Freeman,1999
  • Richard Saferstein, "Forensic Science Handbook", Prentice-Hall, Vol 1-3
  • "Criminalistics Lab Manual" by C. Meloan, R. Saferstein, and R. James, Prentice-Hall, 199
Lab Laboratory handouts will also be furnished by the instructor.
Homework Homework is assigned but not graded. Selected homework problems will appear on exams.
100 pts
(33%) Midterm (Wed, Apr 30)
100 pts
(33%) Final (Mon, Jun 9, 12-2 PM)
100 pts
(33%) 8 labs at 10 pts each, scaled to 100 pts
300 pts
Late Labs & Make-ups

Labs must be turned in on time or else chaos ensues! The following "late fees" will be assessed starting at 8 AM the day following the due date:

1 day late = 1/4 off, 2 days late = 1/2 off, 3 days late = 3/4 off

You will receive a zero for all labs more than 3 days late. No labs will be accepted past the last day of classes. If you receive two zeros, on any two labs, you fail the course!

Lab make-ups: Family-related emergencies or deaths must be communicated through the Office of Student Affairs (838-8221) and broadcast to all your professors. Illnesses must be accompanied by a note from your doctor. Under these conditions I will replace the missing lab with the average percentage you received on the remaining labs.

Exam Policies

There are no make-up exams except for University sanctioned events, in which case please see me a week in advance for an alternative testing time. In the event of an unexpected emergency, then -

Midterms: Family-related emergencies or deaths must be communicated through the Office of Student Affairs (838-8221) and broadcast to all your professors. Illnesses must be accompanied by a note from your doctor. Under these conditions there are two options for replacing the midterm score:

(1) If the exam hasn't been handed back to the class yet, then arrange a make-up time with me.

(2) If the exam has already been returned to the class, and since there's only one midterm, then I will replace the missing hour exam score with the final exam score.

Final exam: University policy states that the final exam time will not be moved for any reason. Please do not ask to take the final early because you want to leave for vacation early, etc. Again, if you miss the final and follow the same procedure listed in the section above on Late Labs & Make-ups, then I will give you an incomplete and you can take the final in a future class section to make it up (see Incompletes section below).

Incompletes Incompletes are given under special circumstances such as medical reasons, family emergencies, etc. In order to receive an incomplete, the University requires you to sign a contract with me outlining the steps you must take to finish the course. Usually this means there will be a time deadline for completion of the course before your grade reverts to an "F".
Students with Disabilities

It is your right to request special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For questions, call the Office for Disability Services at (503) 838-8250 V/TTY, or email them at ods@wou.edu.


Week of
Lecture Topics

Reading, Homework, and References**

Mar 31
  • Introduction
  • Statistics


  • Ch 1: Introduction
  • Ch 2: Statistics, Sampling, and Data Quality

Ch 2: 9

Mon-Wed: Extra Lecture Time

Apr 7
  • Sample Preparation
  • Immunoassay


  • Ch 4: Sample Preparation, Thin-Layer Chromatography, and Immunoassay

Ch 4: 5, 6, 8, 9, Integrative: 1

Additional References:

  • Supelco, Inc. Bulletin 910, "Guide to Solid Phase Extraction", download from the internet here
  • Supelco, Inc. Bulletin 923, "SPME: Theory and Optimization of Conditions", download from the internet here.
Lab #1 - Statistical Applications in Forensics
Apr 14
  • Overview of Drugs
  • Presumptive Tests
  • Drug Analysis Pt I


  • Ch 6: An Overview of Drugs and Pharmacology
  • Ch 7: Forensic Drug Analysis I


  • Vol II (1st ed): Ch 3 "Forensic Identification of Controlled Substances"

Ch 6: 12, 13, Integrative: 2, 3a-d

Lab #2 - UV-Vis Spectroscopy of Salicylates in Blood***
Apr 21
  • Drug Analysis Pt II


  • Ch 9: The Chemistry of Combustion and Arson


  • Vol I (2nd ed): Ch 9 "Arson and Explosive Investigation
Lab #3 - Acid-Base Extractions
Apr 28
  • Midterm (Wed, Apr 30)
  • Chemistry of Combustion
  • Arson Analyses
  • Explosives


  • Ch 10: Combustion, Part II: Forensic Analysis of Physical Evidence Associated With Combustion


Lab #4 - Presumptive Drug Tests and Drug Analysis by Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform Spectroscopy (DRIFTS)

May 5*
  • Microscopy


  • Ch 5: Instrumentation


  • Vol III (1st ed): Ch 4 "Infrared Microscopy and its Forensic Application", p. 196-252

Lab #5 - GC-MS of Common Accelerants Found in Arson Investigations

May 12
  • Blood Alcohol Levels


  • Vol I (2nd ed): Ch 12 "The Determination of Alcohol in Blood and Breath"

Lab #6 - Raman Spectroscopy: Forensic Analysis of a Crime Scene

May 19
  • Luminol


  • Vol I (1st ed): Ch 7 "Identification and Grouping of Bloodstains", p. 271-276

Additional References:

  • "Introduction to Organic Laboratory Techniques: A Contemporary Approach", 2nd ed. by D. L. Pavia, G. M. Lampman, and G. S. Kriz, Jr., Saunders College Publishing, 1982, p. 371-375
  • "Chemical Demonstrations", Vol 1, B. Z. Shakhashiri, Univ. Wisconsin Press, 1983, p. 156-167
  • "Criminalistics", 6th ed, Richard Saferstein, Prentice-Hall,1998, p. 370

Lab #7 - Synthesis and Application of Luminol in the Detection of Latent Blood Stains

May 26
  • Forensic Serial Number Restoration
  • Polymers


  • Ch 14: The Forensic Analysis of Paper, Fibers, and Polymers

Internet Link:

Lab #8 - Restoring Serial Numbers on Metals***
Jun 2
  • catch-up
  • catch-up
  • catch-up
*Last day to drop without being responsible for a grade is Fri, May 9

**RS = Richard Saferstein, "Forensic Science Handbook", Prentice-Hall, Vol 1 -1982 & 2002, Vol 2 -1988, Vol 3 -1993

*** from "Criminalistics Lab Manual" by C. Meloan, R. Saferstein, and R. James, Prentice-Hall, 1998, p.131-135, Experiment 15 - Restoring Serial Numbers on Metals

Directory | Home | Site index | Help | Search WOU
Copyright © 2002 Western Oregon University. Site guidelines.
Send comments and questions about this page to: Pete Poston