The MPhil in Biomedical Forensic Science is an interdisciplinary coursework and research-based programme. It comprises a total of seven courses (120 credits) and one minor dissertation (60 credits) as listed below. The first four courses are theory-based with practical components, and each focus on a different key discipline of biomedical forensic science. The Applied forensic science course bridges theory and practice, where opportunities for simulated death scene management and presentation of scientific evidence in the Cape Town Magistrates court are offered. The remaining two courses are research orientated, with the aim of developing research and statistical skills ahead of the minor dissertation component. While many diverse research topics are offered for students to pursue in their minor dissertation, students are also encouraged to formulate their own research questions under guidance from their supervisors. The courses are delivered by means of blended learning activities (e.g. online and face-to-face lectures, tutorials, practical sessions and seminars) but also require self-study and reading.
Forensic anthropology and anatomy
Course convener: Assoc Prof Victoria Gibbon
This course concerns itself with the retrieval and study of human remains in an advanced state of decomposition or complete skeletonisation. Topics considered are decomposition of soft and hard tissue, archaeological protocols in retrieval of bones and patterns of preservation, identification of age, sex, biological origin and biographic features of human skeletons.
Course convener: Dr Laura Taylor
The course aims to provide students with a good understanding of natural and unnatural deaths, statutory obligations for practitioners in the field, basic traumatology, identification of descendants, explanation of the cause of death and the minimum standards in a forensic pathology laboratory. It also provides an introduction to theories of crime and victimization, the criminal justice system, legislation regarding human tissues, legal age of consent, termination of pregnancy, sexual offenses. It provides an elementary understanding of criminal trials, the use of scientific evidence in the courtroom, how to conduct oneself as an expert witness testifying in court and withstanding rigorous cross-questioning without undue emotional stress.
Course convener: Bronwen Davies
This course will provide an overview of analytical and interpretive toxicology as it relates to forensics. The course covers topics including collection and handling of relevant biological specimens in ante- and post-mortem settings, instrumentation and analytical toxicology, interpretation of toxicological data and results and reporting/testifying in court. Forensic pharmacology and toxicology of major drug categories and other aspects of investigation of toxicity-related deaths are also explored.
Course convener: Dr Laura Heathfield
This course explores the areas of genetics, biochemistry and medical microbiology within a forensic context. Topics covered include biological sample collection from crime scenes and decedents, body fluid identification, molecular processing of samples in the laboratory (including forensic DNA profiling workflows) as well as the interpretation and reporting of results. Technical and quality aspects of these methods are also discussed.
Applied forensic science
Course convener: Dr Marise Heyns
This course is based on the knowledge and skills gained from the Forensic Pathology, Forensic Toxicology, Molecular Forensics and Forensic Anthropology and Anatomy courses. Students integrate and apply this knowledge to case simulations from a crime or death scene through to the courtroom appearance.
Course convener: Calvin Mole
This course is delivered online and provides an introduction to the basic concepts of forensic biostatistics and a guide on how to compute the most commonly used descriptive and inferential statistical procedures and for the students to be able to interpret the results.
Forensic research methods
Course convener: Calvin Mole
The course is designed to enable candidates to prepare research proposals on biomedical forensic science topics that use quantitative methods; as well as exploring study design, ethics in Forensic research and data management.
University of Cape Town
Faculty of Health Sciences
Falmouth Bldg, Entrance 2, Level 5
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