Oklahoma is Home to the Nation’s Top Institution for Forensic Science in the US
The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute is home to the largest and one of the most sought-after forensic science education programs in the country. In fact, UCO is ranked as the top institution for forensic science in the nation and is the only higher education institution in the state recognized on the list. The ranking is based on Central’s state-of-the-art facilities, partnerships and career placement opportunities, as well as key factors like accessibility and affordability, internship and research opportunities, faculty expertise and extracurricular opportunities.
Students come from far and wide to obtain the coveted forensics degree from UCO’s Forensic Science Institute. In recent years, Central’s forensic students represented more than 16 different states and numerous countries around the world.
UCO’s Forensic Science Institute has overseen the undergraduate and graduate forensic science programs at Central since 2009. Under the direction of Dwight Adams, Ph.D., former director of the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, the UCO Forensic Science Institute is dedicated to providing the highest quality forensic science education, training and research for students and professionals across a broad spectrum of disciplines.
UCO is one of only two universities in North American that is accredited for a bachelor’s degree in digital forensics and is accredited in all disciplines available for accreditation through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH
UCO’s Forensic Science Institute provides its students with a dual-degree approach where undergraduate students earn a forensic science degree in digital forensics, forensic chemistry, forensic investigations or forensic molecular biology, as well as a second bachelor’s degree from another department at Central such as biology, computer science, accounting or chemistry. These degree combinations connect UCO graduates to unique career paths in fields like DNA examination, digital forensic examination, crime scene reconstruction, forensic accounting and forensic toxicology. This innovative approach effectively produces career-ready forensic scientists, which translates to the UCO Forensic Science Institute graduates being more knowledgeable about the academic theories and applied practice of performing forensic science methods.
To prepare graduates, UCO and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations Forensic Science Center provide a synergistic working relationship for training, student research and academic enhancement in form of student internships and coursework. In addition to this collaboration, the Forensic Science Institute has the most up-to-date equipment in all disciplines of forensic science housed in newly completed laboratories.
The faculty of the UCO Forensic Science Institute collectively have more than 300 years of combined law enforcement and forensic science experience, including decades of experience with the FBI, OSBI and Oklahoma City Police Department. As former practitioners of forensic science, Central’s Forensic Science Institute faculty understand how to prepare students for careers in the field. As such, they lead the way in the development of innovative teaching practices.
Students within the Forensic Science Institute are educated using real-world, case-based learning and hands-on experiences. Central’s innovative case-based learning strategies result from the extensive field experience of UCO’s faculty and the passion the students have for putting their crime-solving skills to practice.
Due to the strong academic preparation and a faculty that instills the importance of public service in its students, Central alumni can be found in numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Federal Aviation Administration Forensic Laboratory, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Forensic Science Center, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Laboratory, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory and the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office, among others.
THE FUTURE OF FORENSICS
Forensic science represents the unique merging of scientific insight and the law. With increasing frequency, scientists from an ever-broadening spectrum of disciplines are being called upon to apply their knowledge, guidance and expertise to questions and issues arising within the criminal justice system and civil litigation arena. With that, wildlife forensic science is an emerging specialty, which focuses on forensic techniques and analyses of wildlife scenarios. Poaching; malicious wounding; endangered species, marine mammals, and migratory bird act violations; environmental pollution; and, the illegal importation and/or sale of protected plants and animals are but a few of the types of incidents potentially requiring the application of forensic science to wildlife cases.
To mitigate the needs of this specialized field, the UCO Forensic Science Institute is providing an innovative initiative that provides undergraduate and graduate students with a comprehensive introduction to the wildlife forensic science domain. This initiative, the Forensic Science Institute Wildlife Forensic Science Program, provides collaborative research involving sea turtles, porpoises, seals, lions and elephants. Additionally, students get first-hand experience through collaborative efforts with partners including the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Shoals Marine Laboratory, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others.
The W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute at UCO is a center of excellence in forensic science education, with the success credited to the innovative nature of its academic programs.
Special thanks to Sarah Ward, Director of Special Publications and Projects in University Communications at UCO, for writing this article on behalf of the W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute.