Students turn CSI sleuths

Can one get away with murder? How do you read a blood splatter? A group of 27 students at Tembusu College at NUS had the opportunity to find out when they played real-life sleuths like the investigators from the popular television crime series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in Semester 1, Aacademic Year 2016/17.

The module C.S.I. 101: Truth from Evidence, which returned after a five-year hiatus, aims to provide students with a better understanding of the truth behind forensics, crime-solving techniques and trials, and how they could be misrepresented in the media. The module is led by Associate Professor Lina Lim from NUS Physiology, a Residential Fellow at the College.

The module uses both theoretical methods and hands-on approach, allowing the students to gain experience in gathering and analysing evidence and understand the benefits of forensics in crime-solving.

As part of the course, students were exposed to important aspects and theories of criminal law, taught by Mr Michael Grainger, a Graduate Fellow at Tembusu College. Mr Grainger interspersed the readings on legalese with videos such as those by the Innocence Project, an organisation working to exonerate the wrongfully convicted with DNA evidence; talks by forensic scientists and court experts as well as mock trials. The different formats helped students to better comprehend the course, especially those who might have found legalese hard to digest.

The module concluded with an analysis of media influence on crime scene investigation. Students critically questioned the ”CSI effect” and its validity, as well as whether the popularity of crime and thriller television series had any impact on judges and juries around the world. Students also reflected on the strengths and pitfalls of relying on forensic evidence in solving crimes and discussed how these pitfalls could be mitigated.

The highlight of the module was the final exhibition on 9 and 10 November, titled “How to Catch a Murderer”. In pairs, students chose a crime and conducted a presentation on it to peers and staff at Tembusu College. The Zodiac Killer, George Zimmerman and Ted Bundy were among the notorious murderers featured. The exhibition was an eye-opener for Tembusu College residents who learnt more about forensic techniques, how forensic evidence is used to solve crimes as well as how the jury system works in other countries.

By Cherry Tan Mui Hui, Year 1 NUS Arts and Social Sciences