On Utilizing Forensic Science to Motivate Students in a First-Semester General Chemistry Laboratory

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3 Scopus citations


First-semester general chemistry students often have difficulty relating to the course material in a meaningful way. A consequence of this is that student interest in and enthusiasm for learning chemistry content can be low. One approach to increase student motivation is to present course content using a context that is more student-friendly, either by making the content more interesting or more relevant to their lives. To this end, teaching chemistry within the broader context of the forensic sciences has wide appeal. Students routinely encounter aspects of forensic science via news outlets and TV crime dramas. They are somewhat familiar with the topic and its importance. Chemistry instructors, for their part, are aware of the interdependence of forensic science techniques with chemistry and biochemistry. Using a forensic science context to teach chemistry, therefore, seems fitting. This report describes how we developed a general chemistry laboratory experiment that puts oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions within the framework of a fictional murder mystery. In this experiment, the perpetrator is identified by color-matching redox reactions and using permanganate as the oxidizing agent and DNA nucleotides as reducing agents. The four different nucleotides mimic the DNA of four different suspects. I will then summarize previous reports that utilized a forensic science framework to teach chemistry content, including for introductory college chemistry courses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalACS Symposium Series
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Chemical Engineering (all)


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