Forensic Science student examines evidence

A forensic science career is filled with investigation and intrigue, but as it turns out, pursuing high-end forensic science education is no mystery: Methodist University is the top choice.

A forensic science career is filled with investigation and intrigue, but as it turns out, pursuing high-end forensic science education is no mystery: Methodist University is the top choice.

“The Forensic Science program at Methodist University taught me everything I know,” said Ashley Hunt ’22, a graduate of MU’s Forensic Science and Criminal Justice programs. “When I got into the field, I already knew how to do so many things. The program helps you see all sides of the forensic science system. It was an awesome experience at Methodist University.”

Ashley Hunt is one example of the many alumni who can thank MU’s Forensic Science (CSI) program for part of their success early in their careers. After graduation in May 2022, Hunt was immediately able to find a job as a forensic technician with the Fayetteville Police Department.

“I’m able to go out to crime scenes and do everything from photographs to sketches to measuring,” said Hunt. “It’s fulfilling for me because I feel like it’s my way of helping people. The evidence I photograph and collect can be used in court to help bring justice.”

A Different Perspective

Methodist University offers Forensic Science (CSI) on campus as a bachelor’s degree and minor – providing students with a holistic view and understanding of forensic science from the crime scene to the courtroom while blending theory with ability.

Forensic science students examine evidence on the floor.

“Most forensic science programs around the country only prepare students to work in a forensic science lab. They only focus on forensic biology and forensic chemistry,” said Dr. Steve Downs, associate professor and director of Forensic Science. “We focus on the crime scene and investigative side, and there’s only a handful of similar programs in the country that can do that.”

While Methodist University does offer a Forensic Science (Chemistry) program, Downs and the rest of MU’s Forensic Science (CSI) faculty pride themselves on preparing students for a variety of impressive careers. Recent alumni have gone onto careers with the FBI, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI), Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and much more.

“Our students go on to be everything from police officers and detectives to forensic psychologists, forensic pathologists, and lawyers,” Downs added.

Unparalleled Knowledge

The success of the Forensic Science program is built on the hard work of its one-of-a-kind faculty, who carry more than 60 years of combined real-world experience in forensic science.

Steve Downs works with Forensic Science students on collecting evidence.

Downs served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Army with more than 25 years as a Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agent. His military experience connected him to Dave Pauly, professor of Forensic Science, who also worked with the CID for nearly two decades. The faculty also includes professor of Forensic Science Dr. Bryan Brendley, who carries a doctorate in biology along with experience in the police force and classroom.

“Our experience really does help our students,” Downs said. “On top of our theoretical knowledge, we can answer the hard questions like ‘How many homicides have you solved? How many victims have you had to hold your arm around while they’re crying after their loved one was killed?’ We can give them the knowledge of what to expect in this field.”

Hands-On Experience

Along with the experience, the program also teaches students practical application. With two applied forensic science labs fully equipped with high-end forensic science equipment, students can become experts in numerous areas:

  • Forensic photography: obtaining forensic evidence-quality images that can be used by forensic experts across the nation
  • Crime scene investigation: documenting and reconstructing crimes with a focus on bloodstain patterns, clandestine graves, and shooting scenes
  • Firearms investigations: learning how to shoot from dozens of different caliber handguns, rifles, and shotguns in a safe environment

The hands-on experience does not stop there. Periodically, the program even partners with the Fayetteville Fire Department to burn a car off site – letting students examine evidence in the aftermath. For students, the classes are informative and enjoyable.

“So many of the forensic science classes end up being my favorite” said senior Ally Mason, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science (CSI) and Criminal Justice this May. “I loved the forensic firearms class because it showed me the entire process. But I also enjoyed the forensic photography and crime scene investigation classes because they’re hands on. To be able to process the evidence in a way that other students don’t is phenomenal.”

Building Connections

MU’s Forensic Science (CSI) program offers small class sizes to ensure a personal learning experience for each student. On top of that, each student has the opportunity to take an internship at a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, forensic laboratory, crime lab, or medical examiner’s office.

Downs said many students have had an opportunity to analyze a real cold homicide case during their internship.

Forensic Science student examines evidence in classroom.“The internships help our students network and build connections for jobs down the road,” Downs said. “If our students take advantage all of the resources and opportunities we give them, they can leave the program with the knowledge it took us 15 years of working in the field to gain once they graduate.”

The faculty also coordinates off-site visits with government and private forensic science laboratories year-round, allowing students to better understand crime scene products, training requirements, and the application process.

“We go to a lot of conferences, too,” said Mason. “It helped me understand all of the certifications I’ll need when I look for jobs. You meet all of the professionals and learn about all of the career opportunities in forensic science. It’s one of the many reasons why Methodist University has the best forensic science programs around.”

Mason has an internship with the Fayetteville Police Department currently and hopes to become a detective down the road – a goal that is possible thanks to Methodist University’s Forensic Science (CSI) program.

Methodist University has a rolling admissions deadline, which means now is a great time to apply or learn more about the program by visiting the Forensic Science (CSI) web page.