PHOTO: CSULB Criminal Justice students in safety suits with BCIT instructors and Canadian Royal Mounted Police in Vancouver
Last summer in Vancouver, during their first day of class, CSULB students came upon a crime scene. It involved a helicopter crash, a white powder, a cell phone, body parts, and other grisly evidence.
The scenes were fake, but the news was real: eight students from the Criminal Justice department were on a Short-Term Study Abroad trip focused on Comparative Forensic Sciences. The scenario had been expertly staged for educational purposes by CSULB’s partner university, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), which provided students with hands-on experience in classifying evidence, documenting clues, preparing items for lab exams, and eventually, solving crimes.
In the following days, course lectures focused on subjects related to the crime scene, including forensic toxicology, fingerprinting, drug and firearm analysis, DNA testing, GPS data, and more. The group also visited six Canadian criminal justice agencies and universities to observe their practices. Each lecture helped students to eventually solve the crime in question at the end of their two-week trip.
“I strongly believe the comparative perspectives and experiences of forensic science will enhance our students in finding jobs, continuing graduate studies, and pursuing oversea careers,” said Zheng Wang, CSULB’s Comparative Forensic Sciences instructor.
The final day of class featured a mock trial, with students given roles of group leader, DNA expert, and witness. Students also provided forensic evidence in court against real Canadian attorneys.
“Being able to see, touch, and hear everything that goes on in the field instead of reading or hearing it during a lecture was such a valuable lesson for me,” said CSULB student Stephanie Tran. “This study abroad trip pushed me to be sure that this was what I wanted to do as my career for the rest of my life.”