For years, the entomology program at Texas A&M has had a forensic science option. Now, thanks to the popularity of several shows like CSI, that option could be expanded to offer a degree in forensic and investigative science.
Entomology Professor Pete Teel says the proposed new degree will be under that department. However, graduates would not receive a degree in entomology. Instead, they would receive advisement and counseling from department personnel.
The degree plan would provide education and training across the spectrum of forensic science from anthropology and mathematics to chemistry. In addition, Teel said the program's key elements of critical thinking skills, problem solving in the face of changing advanced technology, will be the focus in each emphasis.
Teel says students would learn the vital aspects of a criminalistic job in forensics, "what evidence, evidentiary material to collect, how to analyze that material, and how to present that material," Teel said.
He says those who complete the degree should be fully capable of gaining employment in any crime laboratory, regulatory agency, or private and security agencies. Aside from that particular training, Teel says the proposed program has been structured to appeal to those students who are not necessarily pursuing a job in the crime lab.
"The opportunities that are built into this program for students interested in science to consider preparation for law school," said Teel.
Brazos County First Assistant District Attorney Shane Phelps says it would be beneficial for an individual seeking a law degree beneficial to have some forensic insight.
"It is important for attorneys to be as familiar with forensic sciences as possible," Phelps said.
Phelps says in the courtroom, forensic knowledge could be essential in reaching a jury.
"They know who to call to the stand and how best to elicit the most effective testimony from somebody with a forensic background," Phelps said.
The new degree is only a proposal right now. It will be up to A&M's Board of Regents to approve the degree. If they do, then the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board would also have to give their approval.
Once those hurdles have been cleared, the degree could be offered as soon as sometime next year.