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CSI: Cal State L.A.

September 29, 2011

Category: A Closer Look

When you think of DNA analysis, firearms identification, examining blood patterns and narcotics testing, a college campus is not the first thing that comes to mind… but now it should.

The Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, which is located on the Cal State L.A. campus, is comprised of the forensic crime laboratories for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles Police Department, making it the largest local full-service crime lab in the United States on a university campus. The center also contains classrooms and labs for Cal State L.A.’s School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics and houses the California Forensic Science Institute (CFSI).

“The facility is a tremendous boost to the university’s criminal justice and criminalistics programs,” said Joseph Peterson, director of Cal State L.A.’s School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics. “Serving more than 1,200 undergraduate majors in criminal justice, and 50 criminalistics master’s students, the university has one of the largest programs of this type in the country.”

In addition to offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice (social science approaches for studying crime and the justice system) and a master’s in criminalistics (natural and physical sciences used to examine and evaluate physical evidence), the university provides countless opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations in research, guest lectureships and student internships through the crime lab and CFSI.

“CFSI’s mission is to bridge the forensic science gap through in-service training, applied research and public education,” said Rose Ochi, executive director of CFSI.

Tapping into the center’s resources, CFSI provides training to current and up-and-coming criminalists, holds forums to educate the public on the different challenges facing forensic science, participates on a DNA and a pattern evidence task force to address criminal justice issues, and assists students in career development. CFSI helps graduate students gain experience in the field through internship placement, awarding scholarships and providing in-service training for criminalists where students can sit in on the lecture/activity and be exposed to various topics in science.

Graduate students who intern in one of the crime labs or at CFSI have the advantage of being able to interact and network with established criminalists and learn from professors who push for student success by providing strong scientific training.

Opening its doors in 2007, the Los Angeles regional crime lab has a multitude of functions including storage of evidence; the examination of finger, shoe and tire impressions; firearms identification, photographic/digital imaging; DNA examination; trace evidence analysis (microscopic evidence left behind at a crime scene); narcotics testing; and toxicology screening (testing for poisons and drugs in biological samples).

Hosting a center that has state-of-the-art equipment and maintaining one of the oldest criminalistics graduate programs west of the Mississippi, Cal State L.A. is truly a driving force in the fields of criminal justice and forensic science.

Display case highlighting the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center’s history and achievements.

Classroom laboratory where students learn how to examine DNA from biological stains.

Training room to determine blood splatter patterns.

Bullet shells from past firearms experiments.

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