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NOTICE: Introduction to Criminalistics Lecture and Lab (CHE 2710 and 2711) will be offered in both Fall and Spring of the 2014-2015 academic year.  Beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year, the course will be offered only in Spring semesters.


Criminalistics is the scientific investigation, identification, and comparison of physical evidence for criminal or civil court proceedings. Criminalists must be trained in many disciplines including chemistry, biology, law enforcement, physics, and mathematics. The four-year criminalistics curriculum leads to a bachelor of science degree and includes a half-time internship in a criminalistics laboratory during the senior year. Students in the criminalistics program are encouraged to complete all the requirements for a degree in chemistry approved by the American Chemical Society while completing the criminalistics degree program. Graduates of the program are prepared for employment in criminalistics and have completed the requirements for admission to graduate school in chemistry or criminalistics, medical school, dental school, or law school.  Chemistry students with a concentration in Criminalistics can choose from:  ACS certified BS in Chemistry or BS in Chemistry. 

About the Criminalistics Program



Criminalistics is a branch of Forensic Science that applies science to law through the recognition, documentation, collection, preservation, and analysis of physical evidence. A criminalist is a specialist who uses scientific principles to analyze, compare, and/or identify drugs, accelerants, blood, DNA, hairs, fibers, firearms, fingerprints, and other physical evidence. A criminalist may also be trained to conduct crime scene investigation. Additionally, the criminalist must testify as an expert witness in court.


Upon admission to Metropolitan State University of Denver, any student who wishes to major in Chemistry with a concentration in Criminalistics, should consult the program director (Dr. April Hill, as soon as possible to receive detailed information about the program requirements and to complete the Declaration of Major/Minor form.

Career Opportunities

Opportunities are available with Federal Agencies such as:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • U.S. Customs
  • Armed Services Laboratories


Many of our graduates have found employment with state and local forensic laboratories. Recent graduates have secured jobs at the North Dakota State Crime Laboratory (Forensic Scientist in Drug Chemistry), the Salt Lake City Police Department (Crime Scene Investigator), the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory (Materials Analyst), the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (Crime Scene Investigator), and the Boulder County Coroner’s Office (Deputy Coroner).  Graduates have also been hired in non-forensic chemistry laboratories such as Environmental Protection Agency, Coca-Cola Bottling Co., and Hazen Research.  Still others choose to pursue graduate degrees such as a Master’s in Forensic Science or Master’s/PhD degrees in Chemistry.

In addition to careers directly related to criminalistics, chemistry majors find employment opportunities in such diverse fields such as: medicine, veterinary medicine, chiropractics medicine, osteopathy, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, physical therapy, dentistry, dental hygiene, medical technology engineering, and law.

Criminalistics Program Goal

The program’s primary goal is to prepare majors for careers and/or postgraduate studies in Forensic Sciences and for a lifetime of learning in the field. The Criminalistics Program endeavors to provide students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, criminalistics specific knowledge and a crucial understanding of chemical principals.

Transfer Students

Transfer students are welcomed. If, upon evaluation, chemistry courses taken at an accredited institution of higher education are judged to be comparable to the chemistry program’s course offerings, transfer credit will be awarded.

Special Requirements

Nearly all criminalistics employment is in government agencies that have special requirements including background checks and polygraph examination. Background checks will include criminal record, credit history, and interviews with people familiar with the applicant. Recent illicit drug use (five years), felony convictions, commission of crimes for which you have not been charged, drunk driving convictions and co-habitation with drug users and/or felons will disqualify an applicant from most positions. Many government agencies have a maximum age above which they will not hire. The same qualifications generally apply to the required internships.


The requirement of a minor is waived for students in the Concentration program. The Criminalistics Concentration is split into two tracks as outlined below.  Courses common to both tracks are listed first, followed by additional courses required for each track.  Track A requires one semester of Physical Chemistry and two internships in Criminalistics.  Track B requires one internship and a full year of Physical Chemistry (along with the required Calculus courses), which allows the student to earn the certification of the American Chemical Society (ACS).  Please see a Department Advisor to discuss the ACS certificate requirements.


Chemistry BS with Criminalistics Concentration Required Courses

Basic Chemistry Core for Criminalistics


Credit Hours

CHE 1800

General Chemistry I



CHE 1810

General Chemistry II



CHE 1850

General Chemistry Lab



CHE 3000

Analytical Chemistry



CHE 3010

Analytical Chemistry Lab



CHE 3100

Organic Chemistry I



CHE 3110

Organic Chemistry II



CHE 3120

Organic Chemistry I Lab



CHE 3130

Organic Chemistry II Lab











Additional Required Chemistry Courses



CHE 4100

Instrumental Analysis



CHE 4110

Instrumental Analysis Lab



CHE 4310

Biochemistry I



CHE 4350

Biochemistry Laboratory











Required Criminalistics Courses



CHE 2710

Introduction to Criminalistics



CHE 3700

Criminalistics I



CHE 3710

Criminalistics II



CHE 4710

Criminalistics Internship II











Required Ancillary Courses



BIO 1080

General Biology I



BIO 1090

General Biology I Lab



BIO 3050

Cell and Molecular Biology



BIO 3600

General Genetics



CJC 1010

Introduction to Criminal Justice 



CJC 3110

Constitutional Issues in Criminal Procedures



MTH 1210

Introduction to Statistics -OR- 



MTH 3210

Probability and Statistics 



MTH 1410

Calculus I 



PHI 1030

Introduction to Ethics 



PHY 2010

College Physics I 



PHY 2030

College Physics I Lab 



PHY 2020

College Physics II 



PHY 2040

College Physics II Lab  -OR-



PHY 2311

General Physics I 



PHY 2321

General Physics I Lab 



PHY 2331

General Physics II 



PHY 2341

General Physics II Lab 











Required Options (Choose A or B)



Option A



CHE 3190

Survey of Physical Chemistry



CHE 3200

Survey of Physical Chemistry Lab



CHE 4700

Criminalistics Internship I







Option B




CHE 3250

Physical Chemistry I



CHE 3280

Physical Chemistry I Lab



CHE 3260

Physical Chemistry II



CHE 3290

Physical Chemistry II Lab



MTH 2410

Calculus II



MTH 2420

Calculus III










99 – 109







































































Criminalistics Minor


The Criminalistics Minor program is designed to complement the Criminal Justice Major.  Students who combine these two disciplines in a major/minor program receive a broad law enforcement background with understanding of all phases of criminal investigation.  The required courses for the minor teach many of the same scientific principles as the concentration, but at a level understood by the student with little scientific background. 


Required Courses

Credit Hours



CHE 1100

Principles of Chemistry


CHE 1150

Principles of Chemistry Lab







CHE 2710

Introduction to Criminalistics


CHE 2711

Introduction to Criminalistics Lab


CHE 2750

Arson and Explosives


CHE 2760

Field Testing of Drugs


CHE 3600

Crime Scene Investigation I


CHE 3610

Crime Scene Investigation II





Criminal Justice and Criminology


CJC 3110

Constitutional Issues in Criminal Procedures











NOTE: Principles of Chemistry is a prerequisite for Introduction to Criminalistics.  Introduction to Criminalistics is a prerequisite for all other Criminalistics courses. Crime Scene I is a prerequisite for Crime Scene II.  Courses MAY NOT be taken unless the prerequisites have been completed with a passing grade.  NO EXCEPTIONS.


The Chemistry Department and Criminalistics program is housed in the new Science Building (opened January 2010) on the Auraria Campus. The new 195,000-sq.ft. facility is paired with a renovated existing 143,000-sq.ft. Science Building. Metro State’s Chemistry Department now has nine teaching labs and two research labs, including a classroom/laboratory (SI 3095) dedicated to the Criminalistics Program (with a secure room that houses the drug safe and acts as a dark room and a mock crime scene as needed) and a microscope room (SI 3097) that doubles as research space for the Program’s faculty.

The instrumentation available in the Department includes 2 ATR FT-IR spectrometers, 3 GC-MS systems, 1 GC-ion trap mass spectrometer with MS/MS and CI capability, 2 GC-FID systems, 1 flame AA spectrometer, 1 quadrupole ICPMS, 1 ion chromatograph, 1 FT-IR microspectrophotometer, 2 ion exchange chromatographs, 3 HPLC systems, 20 Vernier Logger-pro systems, 20 Spec-20 UV-Vis spectrophotometers, 1 Agilent UV-Vis spectrophotometer, 2 refrigerated table-top centrifuges, 1 refrigerated high speed centrifuge, gel boxes, a cold room, 8 stereo-microscopes, 8 polarized light microscopes, a comparison macroscope, a comparison microscope, a dark room, digital cameras, a 60 MHz multi-nuclear NMR, 1 Raman spectrometer and numerous chemical fume hoods. A warm room, autoclave, thermocyclers, and biosafety hoods are available through the Biology Department. In spring of 2008, the Biology and Chemistry Departments together acquired an Applied Biosystems 310 Genetic Analyzer. These instruments are all located on the third floor of the Science building, are in or adjacent to the teaching laboratories and are on the same floor as faculty and departmental offices. The Department also recently acquired a new Avance III HD 300MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer, a Thermo Raman spectrometer, an Innovative Technology PureLab HE2 glove box, and three high-purity water systems for Departmental use.  The Department is also currently installing a donated sector-field ICPMS (VG Axiom MC) with high-precision isotope measurement capability that will be developed into an instructional and research capability relevant to the Criminalistics Program.

Recent Presentations

Regan, D.; Hill, D. V.; Hill, A. A. "Authentication: The analysis of Graham H. Hamrick’s solution to preserve corpses patented in 1892," Oral Presentation, Metropolitan State University of Denver Undergraduate Research Conference, Denver, CO, May 3, 2013.

Hill, A. A.; Lipert, R. J. "Using colorimetric solid-phase extraction (CSPE) to improve presumptive drug testing," Invited research seminar presentation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, CO, April 5, 2013.

Hill, A. A. "Drugs of Abuse," Invited oral presentation, COHEART Volunteer Training Session, Denver Office of the Medical Examiner, Denver, CO, September 13, 2013.

Hill, A. A.; Lipert, R. J. "Using colorimetric solid-phase extraction (CSPE) to improve presumptive drug testing," Oral presentation #240, Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Westminster, CO, October 19, 2012.

Gesick, K.M.; Elkins, K.M. “Evaluation of DNA recovery from chewing gum simulated forensic samples by seven DNA extraction methods,” CHED Poster #167, 242nd National Meeting of the ACS, Denver, CO, August 29, 2011.

Radulovich, M.D.; Elkins, K.M. “Modifications to the Chelex DNA extraction method to reduce cost and extraction time,” CHED Poster #173, 242nd National Meeting of the ACS, Denver, CO, August 29, 2011.

Bevins, P.D.; Elkins, K.M. “Preparation and Evaluation of Nanoparticles for Latent Fingerprint Recovery,” Poster presentation, Metropolitan State University of Denver Undergraduate Research Conference, Denver, CO, April 1, 2011.

Gesick, K.M.; Elkins, K.M. “Evaluation of Six Methods to Extract DNA from Chewing Gum Simulated Forensic Samples,” Poster presentation A129, Criminalistics Section, 63rd Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) National Meeting, Chicago, IL, February 25, 2011.

Bevins, P.D.; Elkins, K.M. “Preparation and Evaluation of Nanoparticles for Latent Fingerprint Recovery,” Poster presentation A162, Criminalistics Section, 63rd Annual AAFS National Meeting, Chicago, IL, February 25, 2011.

Bevins, P.D.; Elkins, K.M. “Preparation and Evaluation of Nanoparticles for Latent Fingerprint Recovery,” poster presentation at a meeting of the Colorado Section of the ACS, Colorado Springs, CO, November 29, 2010.

Kadunc, R.E. and Elkins, K.M. “Comparison of quantity and quality of DNA recovered from simulated arson cases in which burn temperatures and conditions were varied,” poster presentation A138, Criminalistics Section, 62nd Annual AAFS National Meeting, Seattle, WA, February 26, 2010.

Mann, G.R.; McLaughlin, S. and Elkins, K.M. “DNA Degradation in Simulated Arson Cases using Various Accelerants,” poster presentation A19, Criminalistics Section, 61st Annual AAFS National Meeting, Denver, CO, February 19, 2009.

Recent Publications

Elkins, K.M.; Eychner, A.M.; Schott, K.M. "Assessing DNA Recovery from Chewing Gum," Legal Medicine, LEGMED-D-14-00124, submitted 5-30-14.

Elkins, K.M.; Kadunc, R.E. "An Undergraduate Laboratory Experiment for Upper-Level Forensic Science Courses: The Use of TPOX Single Locus Primers to Amplify Human DNA by Real-time PCR with SYBR Green Detection," J. Chem. Educ., 2012, 89, 784-790.

Elkins, K.M.; Traudt, E.M.; Dickerson, M.A. "Fluorescence Characterization of the Interaction Suwannee River Fulvic Acid with the Herbicide 2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)propionic acid in the Absence and Presence of Aluminum," J. Inorg. Biochem., 2011, 105, 1469-1476, 10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2011.08.009.