Forensic Serology
Seminar Information
Focus... Syllabus ...Grading

Focus: Forensic Serology is the study of blood, semen, saliva, or sweat in matters pertaining to the law.
 This seminar focuses on the science behind the courthouse headlines as we discuss the biological theory and analytical techniques that provide the basis for forensic serology. Topics will include the composition of blood and semen; the molecular basis for enzymatic and antibody based analytical techniques, DNA analysis (RFLPs, VNTRs and SNPs), and modes of inheritance of different markers (nuclear or mitochondrial DNA and protein).  We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of applying these techniques to samples collected in ‘real life’ situations and the potential ethical implications of DNA databases like CODIS.  In addition to participating in discussions of technical literature, students will participate in debates, and give multiple oral presentations to the class and to public audiences.

Before the first class you should
1) read over the schedule of assignments,
2) take the survey found on Blackboard
3) print out this information sheet

You will be giving giving lectures, critiquing colleagues, and participating in discussions. Why? Being familiar (or even comfortable) with speaking in public is an important skill and can only be learned by practice. Many will tell you that you learn a subject best if you teach it to others. In addition it is important that you are able to 'speak' and 'translate' biology. 'Speak it' because you are a biologist and you should feel comfortable speaking the language with other biologists. 'Translate it' because, at some time, a family member or friend will ask you to explain a scientific concept, a medical finding, your opinion about a CIS-type TV show, or the claims of a new drug or diet and it is important that you can explain your field to someone who is not a biologist.

In order to complete the assignments you must deal with the technology. Back up your work often and do not wait until the last minute to complete it. You must receive peer feedback (classmates or speaking center) before 9pm on the Friday before the presentation will be given. It is expected that you will use the feedback to revise your presentation and develop an even stronger one. Also, the presentation does not end at the end of class. As part of the class, participants will critique your class presentation and will use the information to develop materials for our workshop. You are expected to use the critiques as a way to identify areas of strength, areas that are developing, and areas of weakness so that you can focus your attention appropriately when developing subsequent presentations.

Structure of the Seminar
meet once a week for 3 hours. Since you have taken other Bio courses you are used to a 3hour lab format but a 3 hour discussion class may seem daunting. Each class will have more than one component. The Assignments Due and Topics for each week are found in the syllabus.

Assignments include:

Topic Presentations: Eight classes involve presentations on the law, the biology and the forensic technology underlying a particular topic. Working in groups, you will be responsible for presenting material during some of the classes. Presentations will be 40 min in length and prepared in Powerpoint. You are required to give a formal run-through before midnight on Friday and to have at least one classmate or a speaking center tutor provide feedback (see 'topic presentation development critique'). Your Powerpoint will be posted on Blackboard BEFORE CLASS.

Peer Evaluation of Presentations: During class, each student in the audience will complete a Peer Evaluation Form (online) providing comments and critiques about the presentations of classmates.

Workshop material: Individuals who are not presenting are responsible for preparing potential workshop materials about the topic (see workshop description below). These are being prepared by non-presenters to encourage active listening, retention and aplication of the information. These students will have access to the powerpoint, their notes and, of course, their classmates to aid preparing the material. The material can be a three-fold pamphlet, crossword puzzle, word find, word games. The idea it to communicate information to 8th graders.

Debates: We will have one debate. Working in groups, you will be assigned a stance and each side will prepare opening remarks. Each side will pose and respond to questions from the opposing side and from the floor, with time for rebuttals. Each side will conclude by presenting closing statements.

Workshop, public presentation If information cannot be effectively communicated it is relatively useless. Since it is very important to be able to adapt your presentation style and content to different audiences we will give one 'out of class' presentation. AFTER the presentation each student will write a critique of the event (see syllabus)

Participation: This is a seminar therefore participation is very important and a major component of your overall evaluation. We only meet once a week. You cannot miss any classes.
Showing up is expected and does not count as participating. Because we meet only once a week you must come to class with the material read, your mind ready to discuss the topics and you need to actually speak. Showing up but never participating does not 'count' (just like turning in a blank test). Showing up and talking without having worked through the papers in advance is only slightly better than not showing up. You are not expected to know everything. You are expected to have identified what you do not understand. Come with questions.
Some of the topics are controversial. Your opinion may not be the same as your classmates' and may not be the same as mine. Agreement is not required. Respectful and polite interactions are. Your group will have meetings outside of formal 'class time' and your preparation, attendance and participation at those meetings also forms part of your evaluation.


Assignments and the Honor Code: All assignments must be completed in accordance with the Honor code. Since most are electronic, turning in the assignment counts as pledging that the work is your own and was completed under the Honor code. By participating in group projects you pledge to contribute equally to the project. Group members may have different strengths but no one person will 'carry the load'. You may receive technical help in preparing powerpoint based projects. If you do you should acknowledge that help in your reference section. Remember help constitutes aid, not 'subcontracting'-- you should be able to perform the functions on your own or from your notes.

References *Be sure to include proper in-text references and end of paper bibliographies for all sources used-- this includes lab manuals and online resources as well as texts and journal articles. Images are the equivalent of direct quotations. If you use them you must give credit,
* Bibliographic references to texts and articles must follow the style and format used in the journal Cell.
Bibliographic Information taken from The Cell Journal Website ( ) with comments added in green NOTE nothing is indented and pages of entire article are given not just the page where the information was. The library and BioCenter have print copies and I recommend seeing the format in print so that you follow it correctly.

References should include only articles that are published or in press. Unpublished data, submitted manuscripts, abstracts, and personal communications should be cited within the text only. Personal communication should be documented by a letter of permission. Submitted articles should be cited as unpublished data, data not shown, or personal communication. Note: "et al." should only be used after 10 authors. Please use the following style for references:

Sondheimer, N., and Lindquist, S. (2000). Rnq1: an epigenetic modifier of protein function in yeast. Mol. Cell 5, 163-172. This is the style for an article in a journal whether you accessed it as a pdf file online or held the paper in your hands

King, S.M. (2003). Dynein motors: Structure, mechanochemistry and regulation. In Molecular Motors, M. Schliwa, ed. (Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH), pp. 45–78. This is the style for an article found within a larger book where different people wrote different chapters and the listed editors compiled and have their names on the cover

Cowan, W.M., Jessell, T.M., and Zipursky, S.L. (1997). Molecular and Cellular Approaches to Neural Development (New York: Oxford University Press). This is the style for an entire book where the names on the cover wrote the whole thing (ex. your Sadava et al. textbook)

* ONLY References to online resources will follow the MLA format for online sources (see use #10 Homepage of a website and #11 Short work from a website only) The URL provided should go to the page where the information/image was found (ie. do not provide URL of homepage if the image was five levels 'inside' the site).
* Accessing the pdf version of an article is NOT a website. It is the equivalent of a photocopy straight from the journal and should be cited as the journal article it is.
*There is no such thing as the 'three source rule' and not providing proper credit is plagiarizing.
*Wikipedia is NOT an acceptible source. It is the equivalent of citing the dictionary and, like the dictionary, can be a place to start but should not be the only or final source of your information.

Grading: Your numerical grade will be based on the following categories.

Participation (Discussion of articles) 18%

First Day Quiz

Topic Presentations (includes content and delivery) (1st 7%, 2nd 10%, 3rd 13%, last 15%) 45%

Workshop Materials (3%, 3%)

Debates (5%) 5%
Public Presentation (preparation and delivery) 25%


Your numerical evaluation will be converted into a course grade using the following scale:

Letter grade  B+ = 3.3 = 87-89 C+ = 2.3 = 77-79 D+ = 1.3 = 67-69  
A =4.0 =93-100 B = 3.0 = 83-86 C = 2.0 = 73-76 D = 1.0 = 60-66 F = below 60
A- =3.7 = 90-92 B- = 2.7 = 80-82 C- = 1.7 = 70-72