A new degree program at Palm Beach Atlantic University will prepare students for careers in the forensic sciences, working in crime labs like those featured on the television show CSI.
The University's School of Arts and Sciences will offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Science starting this fall. While a few other Florida colleges and universities offer two- and four-year degrees in forensic science, PBA is the first Christian university in the state and one of only a handful nationally to offer this degree.
Federal data indicate an anticipated 20 percent growth in the field over the next eight years. “There are definitely opportunities for students,” said Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Cynthia Toth.
In addition to government laboratories, private DNA labs also have an interest in hiring forensic science graduates, Dr. Toth said. The degree also is designed to prepare students to enter graduate programs in this field.
Students will learn to use the kinds of instruments present in many laboratories, such as an Infrared Spectrophotometer known as FTIR; a High-Performance Liquid Chromatography system, or HPLC; Gas Chromatograph; and Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer. Plans are under way to add a Gene Analyzer and other cutting-edge equipment.
Aside from its emphasis on Christian values, the curriculum was designed to feature a rigorous science base that will set this program apart from other undergraduate programs, Dr. Toth said.
Russell Miller is a 2005 PBA graduate who now works as a DNA forensic scientist for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. His wife Ana, also a 2005 PBA graduate, works for the Boca Raton Police Department's Biological Processing Lab. The Millers said they are glad to see that the program’s main course load will be heavily science based.
“We think that this program will be a great science-based foundation for someone looking to get into forensics, especially forensic biology,” said Miller, who majored in biology with a concentration in molecular biology and biotechnology.
He added that PBA encourages its students to be accountable to one another and to have integrity in their work and their personal lives. “Law enforcement agencies look for the same qualities in potential employees,” he said.