Q: I want to be a forensic scientist. How do I do that?

A: Forensic scientist is a general term for an expert in a particular field that examines evidence for the purpose of presenting his/her finding in a court of law. You should visit the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) web site at www.aafs.org which has a wealth of information including “choosing a career.” The field of forensic science is very diverse as are the educational requirements. The majority of forensic scientists work in crime laboratories in the general area called criminalistics. The relative percentages of the fields represented by the AAFS are as follows: Criminalistics (32.1%); Pathology (17.9%); General (11.2%); Toxicology (10.4%); Odontology (8.3%); Anthropology (5.2%); Questioned Documents (5.2%); Engineering (3.4%); Psych./Behavioral Science (3.3%); Jurisprudence (3.1%).

Q: What programs of study are available to FIU students?

A: The International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI) based in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry coordinates a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. At the undergraduate level students can complete a Forensic Science Certificate which accompanies a bachelor’s degree, normally in chemistry or biology, and there is also a B.S. in Chemistry with a Forensic Science Concentration. At the graduate level there is a M.S. in Forensic Science, a report option M.S. in Forensic Science for practicing forensic scientist and students can also complete Ph.D. in Chemistry or Biology working on forensic related projects. These forensic science programs are designed for students in the natural sciences and, while students may minor in other areas such as criminal justice, these programs are not appropriate for criminal justice majors.

Q: What programs of study should I take to become be a crime scene technician, medical examiner, crime lab scientist?

A: Popular TV shows such as “Cold Case ” and “CSI” often don’t accurately reflect the actual job functions and training of forensic scientists, and students are encouraged to read recent papers on the educational requirements of forensic scientists such as (ABC2003 paper). The FIU Forensic Science programs are primarily designed to educate students for employment in crime laboratory positions. Students interested in crime scene investigation should consider a bachelor's degree with a forensic science certificate. Crime scene investigation training is often gained on the job and administered by the law enforcement agency hiring the investigator. Students interested in becoming a medical examiner/coroner should follow FIU’s pre-medical program with details available at www.fiu.edu/~preprofc/ and should also visit the National Association of Medical Examiners web page at www.thename.org

Q: To whom do I speak about the undergraduate Forensic Science Program including certificate admission and completion?

A: Dr. Anthony DeCaprio. Interested students should also see an undergraduate advisor and follow the B.S. curriculum in their primary department. Please see ifri.fiu.edu for details.

The undergraduate program director is Dr. Anthony DeCaprio. Any questions about the certificate should be directed to him. Dr. Anthony DeCaprio OE116B, 305-348-2195

The certificate is designed to accompany a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences. Students should also see an undergraduate advisor and follow the B.S. curriculum in their primary department. A bachelor’s degree in chemistry is preferred by crime lab directors as detailed in recent papers on forensic science education (ABC Almirall and Furton, JFS Furton, Hsu, Cole). Application forms are available at


Q: With whom should I speak about my Forensic Science M.S. status including approval for graduation?

A: The Forensic Science Graduate Program Director:

Dr.Jeffrey Wells
Professor of Biology
Graduate Program Director and advisor to the Masters of Science Forensic Science program
Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199
(305) 348-1320

The prerequisite for the M.S. program is a bachelors degree in the natural sciences with a GPA of 3.0 and a GRE of 1000 (verbal and quantitative) and a TOEFL score of 550 for students whose native language is not English. Applications are due by March 1 each year. Students must also send two letters of recommendation and a letter from a faculty sponsor. Application forms are available at http:/www.fiu.eduorgs/chemistry/gradapplprocess.htm

Q. How do I obtain a faculty sponsor?

A: You must contact an FIU faculty member from the following list and request that they sponsor you. You should take the initiative to become familiar with the research projects taking place in the laboratories of prospective sponsors and pursue a dialog with them. The following faculty have expressed an interest in directing the research projects of forensic science students Faculty Sponsor List

Q: With whom should I speak about becoming a doctor and other pre-health professions advising?

A: The Pre-health Professions Advisor, Dr. John Landrum, 305-348-0515 / 305-348-3091, OE 212 / CP327, www.fiu.edu/~preprofc/

Q: With whom should I speak about my Chemistry B.A./B.S. status including being reinstated and approved for graduation?

A: The Chemistry Undergraduate Program Director, Dr. Palmer Graves, gravesp@fiu.edu, CP 302, Call 305-348-3496 for an appointment.

Q: With whom should I speak about my Chemistry M.S. or Ph.D. status including approval for graduation?

A: The Chemistry Graduate Program Director, Dr. Watson Lees, CP314, 305-348-3596

Q: With whom should I speak if I can’t resolve my problems speaking with the contacts listed above?

A: The Director of the International Forensic Research Institute, Dr. DeEtta Mills, OE116A, 305 348 7410

Frequently asked questions for students interested in the MS, MSFS or PhD programs at the Department of Chemistry/Biology FIU

Q: How do I find out more information about your department?

A: Please look over our website and also fill out the preliminary application at

University Graduate School

Q: How do I apply?

A: You must send application materials including a transcript, GRE scores, TOEFL (if foreign student) and 3 letters of reference to both the graduate school and to the Department of Chemistry. This will ensure speedy review of your files. If you do not send information to both addresses, your application may be delayed. There is an on-line application for the graduate school at Admissions

The address for the chemistry department is

Graduate Admissions
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry or Department of Biology
Florida International University
University Park
Miami , FL 33199
Fax 305-348-3596

Dr. Watson Lees is the chemistry graduate chair leeswj@fiu.edu
Dr. Timothy Collins is the Biology graduate studies director collinst@fiu.eduj
Dr. Jeffrey Wells is the forensic graduate chair. jedwell@fiu.edu

Q: The on-line application doesn’t work with my computer. What do I do?

A: Contact the graduate school for a paper application

Graduate Admissions Office
PC 231, University Park Campus
11200 S.W. 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199
Phone: (305) 348-7442
Fax: (305) 348-7441 or (305) 675-2498

Q: I am having trouble with the application:

A: Contact the Graduate Secretary in Chemistry

Magali Autie mautie@fiu.edu 305) 348-3596

Q: The MSFS application says I need a faculty sponsor.

A: As there are a limited number of spots for persons interested in forensic biology, we require that all students lacking a chemistry degree or its equivalent have a sponsor in Chemistry, Biochemistry or Biology. Those persons with a BS in chemistry do not need a sponsor. To obtain a sponsor you can either write to faculty members whose research you are interested in or we will contact them on your behalf once your application materials are in.

Q: I have missed the deadline can I still apply?

A: Yes. Once our deadline is past, we move to a system of rolling admissions in which we evaluate applicants when openings become available.

Q: What types of scholarships are available?

A: We have a limited number of research and teaching assistantships available to Ph.D. applicants who apply before the deadline. There are also special scholarships available to applicants with particularly strong academic records.

Q: What are your minimum cutoffs for admission?

A: We require a GPA of 3.0/4.0 for all applicants to our graduate school In addition, GRE is required.

Please call the IFRI office at 305-348-6211 or visit our web page at www.ifri.fiu.edu for additional information.