Augusta State University is creating a chemistry track for students who want to become behind-the-scenes scientists.
The Department of Chemistry and Physics will debut a forensic science course of study in the fall that will train students for jobs testing blood stains on clothes from crime scenes or determining types of drugs found in the bloodstream.
“We are a very hands-on department,” said Stephanie Myers, a professor of chemistry and forensic science adviser. “Students get lots of real lab experience. They’re not watching someone else do it.”
Students who sign up for the new track will graduate with a chemistry degree with a concentration in the forensic field.
Carol Rychly, the vice president for academic affairs, said adding the track to the chemistry department complements the goals of the merger with Georgia Health Sciences University – creating more options for students and producing more qualified graduates.
“One of the things that we’re looking to as we move toward the new (university) is to build up the programs we already have and making them more robust,” Rychly said. “It’s a win-win. You’re meeting the students’ needs, and you’re providing the community employable people.”
Rychly said she expects other departments to add more tracks or programs within their fields in the next few years.
The expansion also provides a chance for collaboration between liberal arts and health sciences, such as a possible medical humanities course in the works, Rychly said.
Myers said the forensic track came from student interest and an opportunity after she received a certificate in forensic science from the University of Florida in 2010.
Students will take standard chemistry courses their freshman and sophomore years and move toward more specialized forensic courses as upperclassmen.
Because forensics involves going to court to testify about findings, students will also take communication classes and law courses to prepare.
Myers said labs that hire forensic scientists prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s in forensic science.
Adding the field to the existing three chemistry tracks will give students more options for postgraduate work, Myers said. With a chemistry degree, students can go on to graduate school, law school or medical school or find a job in a lab.
“It’s a very employable degree,” Myers said.