Interest in forensic science spawns new program at UH

UH West Oahu and Leeward Community College to offer first local undergraduate program in forensic science

University of Hawaiʻi
Carolyn Tanaka, (808) 956-9803
Mia Noguchi, (808) 956-9095
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Nov 18, 2005

You need only turn on the TV these days—to almost any station, any night, any hour. The latest hot concept in television programming is forensics. Crossing Jordan and CSI are just two of more than a dozen popular network TV shows where the main characters are involved in using forensic science to solve crimes.

In turn, they have spawned a growing interest in courses in forensic science on campuses across the country. There are presently about 75 accredited undergraduate programs in forensic science across the U.S. and their numbers are growing, according to the American Academy of Forensic Science.

To meet this newfound interest, the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents approved a new certificate 2+2 Program in forensic anthropology to be jointly offered by UH-West Oʻahu (UHWO) and Leeward Community College (LCC) at its monthly meeting held today on Maui. Currently, opportunities to study forensic science are limited in Hawaiʻi in both the scope of courses offered and the number of students local programs can accommodate.

The new program, expected to be available in Spring 2006, is intended to satisfy the growing demand for courses in this area, meet local work force needs, and enhance existing programs at UHWO and LCC. It will be the first undergraduate program in Hawaiʻi dedicated to the study of forensic anthropology (UH already offers a graduate program in anthropology, with a specialization in forensic anthropology).

UHWO has offered a course in forensic anthropology for the past six years. It has been taught by Dr. Thomas Holland, Scientific Director of the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) at Hickam Air Force Base. Other staff members at CIL have also taught other physical anthropology courses at UHWO.

"The new Certificate in Applied Forensic Anthropology which will be offered jointly by UHWO and Leeward Community College will take advantage of a unique opportunity to provide our students with a more substantial background in forensic anthropology and better prepare them for jobs or graduate study, " said UHWO Chancellor, Gene Awakuni.

Leeward Community College Chancellor Peter Quigley said, "In addition to excellent general education courses, LCC also brings expertise in anthropology to the table for this effort. We are especially pleased to see the university working collaboratively to offer students an exciting program with an eye also toward keeping the cost issues under control. The university is wisely using existing resources to bring something new to students and the community."

The broader field of forensic science is comprised of many different disciplines. Among them is forensic anthropology. Forensic anthropologists work primarily as ʻbone detectives." More specifically, forensic anthropology is the application of physical anthropology to the legal and investigative system. The identification of skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentifiable human remains is important for both legal and humanitarian reasons. Forensic anthropologists apply standard scientific techniques developed in physical anthropology to identify human remains, and to assist in the detection of crime.

Career paths open to those with training in forensic science include criminalist, crime scene technician, crime scene investigator, evidence technician, crime scene analyst, detective-crime scene investigation, forensic fingerprint examiner, forensic anthropologist, and archaeologist. Forensic skills are also very desirable for those employed at local, state and federal crime labs and among law enforcement officers. Those with forensic expertise can also work with death investigators, coroners, and medical examiners.