Forensics Concentration in Insect Biology

forensics student performs study

The Forensics Concentration in Insect Biology is the first program of its kind to offer an undergraduate concentration in forensic entomology. Whether you want to fight crime, cure disease, save animals, protect the world’s food supply, or become a lawyer, doctor, or veterinarian, this new concentration will provide you with a rigorous scientific background and hands-on experience managing evidence from the crime scene to the courtroom.

What is forensic entomology?

Forensic entomology is where the study of insects meets the law. You will gain a foundation in crime scene investigation, analyzing forensic evidence, and providing expert witness testimony. You will also learn about the application of insect evidence to a variety of investigations, civil, regulatory, and criminal.

Our insect biology program is well suited to the study of forensics because it emphasizes applied biology and hands-on research. Our students take the same foundational courses in the College of Science as biology majors, but they move beyond the molecular; they study the organism, explore nature, work with animals, conduct field research.

forensics student performs study

"I'm gaining opportunities through forensics that I didn't have in my biology courses, including a teaching assistantship and study abroad. It’s so hard to make faculty connections in large lecture classes. Forensics courses narrow down as you go through the program until you get that one-on-one attention."

Alexis Pittman, Class of 2020

Forensic Entomology - fingerprinting - 10/02/2018 - Photos taken for the ENTM 22810 forensic entomology class. 
The third set of images from the most recent shoot (10/2) of the fingerprinting sessions, where students had to fingerprint their fellow students, both alive (standing) and dead (lying on the lab bench).

What careers can I choose?

Become a forensics analyst, crime scene investigator, evidence technician, DNA analyst, medical or veterinary entomologist. You could work for the CDC, military, private-sector lab, food industry, city government, or pursue a career in human health, law enforcement, or criminal justice.

Use the rigorous coursework and one-on-one attention to prepare for medical school; apply your knowledge of insect-borne diseases to a veterinary career; turn your background in science and forensics into an advantage for law school.

You can also pursue a career in insect biology. These graduates work in private corporations, governmental agencies, universities, museums, zoos or pursue careers in consulting, teaching, or research. Whether you want to fight crime, cure disease, save animals, protect the world’s food supply, or become a lawyer, doctor, or veterinarian, this new concentration will provide you with a rigorous scientific background and hands-on experience collecting, analyzing, and presenting evidence.

Why the College of Agriculture?

Ranked 9th globally, the College of Agriculture awarded $2.51M in scholarships from 2017-2018. The Department of Entomology offers 17 scholarships exclusively to insect biology majors. While students in traditional biology programs take mostly large lecture classes with little faculty interaction, you will receive constant one-on-one mentoring in support of your academic and career goals. You will have part-time job opportunities working with faculty and staff, and you will be a competitive candidate for internship programs such as a six-month program at Disney World or a summer internship in Taiwan.

What will I learn as an insect biology major?

forensics entomology students conduct field research

Any and all things related to insects. You will learn how to help stem the spread of Malaria, the West Nile virus, Lyme disease and other insect transmitted diseases or support the world’s food supply through crop protection. Insects make up the majority of Earth’s animals, so insect biologists are critical to preserving endangered species, global biodiversity, and addressing the consequences of climate change. You can explore how to manage invasive species and protect urban, rural and forest landscapes; help animals; or even discover a new species.

What will I learn about forensics?

How to apply your insect knowledge to the scientific investigation of crimes. Our core courses in forensic science follow the life history of a piece of evidence from discovery through analysis to court. Our core courses in forensic entomology introduce students to 4 areas of this field: urban, stored product, medical/veterinary, and medicolegal. Through courses exploring each of these areas, you will learn about the application of insect evidence in a variety of investigations, both civil and criminal.

While we use insects as a focal point that doesn’t mean you are only focused on insects; forensic entomology is one type of evidence, but the techniques you learn can be transferred to any type of evidence because we teach the entire chain. The program is designed to meet FEPAC accreditation standards as a forensic science.

forensics entomology students conduct field research

"The forensic labs enabled me to learn how crime scene investigations operate, how tests are conducted, and how forensic testimony is used in the courtroom."

Kylie Koors

What hands-on research will I conduct?

All students are required to complete a capstone research project with a faculty member and can choose to work in any entomology laboratory, including labs that focus on forensic, urban, stored product and medical/veterinary entomology. In our Carrion Ecology course, students conduct field research on decomposition and the factors that impact this process. In other courses, you practice crime-scene management, field data collection, analysis, and work a car crash scene.


Can I study abroad?


of Students Study Abroad

40% of students do. The College encourages you to follow your passion for scientific discovery around the world, with insect biology students recently studying abroad in Costa Rica, Peru, Taiwan, New Zealand, Ireland, and France. We also have our own study abroad program. Forensic Science International: Comparing UK and US Forensic Practitioners introduces students to forensic professionals from across the U.S. who work in numerous fields of forensic science. Students then travel to the UK to meet forensic professionals working in these same fields, but in the UK system. Students travel to England and Scotland to interact with these professionals at the Natural History Museum (London), TRACE Wildlife Forensics and SASA (Edinburgh), and meet with undergraduate students in a forensic science program at the University of Derby.


of Students Study Abroad

Can I transfer into this program my first or second year?

Yes! Our advisors will work with you to ensure that you can lay out the most direct path possible to transitioning from another program. This may lengthen your stay at Purdue, but if you are already in a biological science, you are probably currently taking the courses necessary

What are the 4 fields of forensic entomology I will study?

Plan of Study

1. Stored-product forensic entomology examines insects infesting food products. The entomologist identifies the insect and based on what she knows about their habitat and behavior, determines how the infestation might have occurred.

2. Urban forensic entomology examines the infestation by unwanted insects (cockroaches, bed bugs, etc.) in structural environments such as homes, schools, or hospitals. The presence of cockroaches or bed bugs is a typical example of urban forensic entomology cases. The entomologist assesses the level of infestation, identifies insect, and determines the timeline and mode of infestation.

3. Medicolegal forensic entomology is the most well-known subfield of forensic entomology and is about the colonization of decomposing organic matter by necrophagous insects—or, in simple terms, insects feeding on dead matter.

4. Medical/veterinary entomology focuses on insects and arthropods that impact human health. A veterinary entomologist might study bovine encephalitis, since it can jump to humans. A medical entomologist might research the behavior, ecology, and epidemiology of insects that carry diseases.

Year 1: General Chemistry, Fundamentals of Biology, Calculus, Introduction to Insect Behavior

Year 2: Organic Chemistry, General Entomology, General Physics, Statistics, Forensic Investigation, Forensic Analysis

Year 3: Forensic Testimony and Ethics, Principles of Forensic Entomology, Insect Identification, Insect Ecology, Medico-legal entomology, Insect Physiology and Biochemistry

Year 4: Carrion Ecology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Capstone Project

Core Courses

ENTM 22810: Forensic Investigation
Focuses on the early stages of an investigation including crime scene techniques and protocols. Emphasizes observation.

ENTM 22820: Forensic Analysis
Focuses on the middle stages of an investigation including crime lab techniques and protocols. Emphasizes the testing and analysis of various types of evidence.

ENTM 22830: Forensic Testimony & Ethics
Focuses on the final stages of an investigation including testifying as an expert witness in court. Emphasizes preparing the results of various types of testing and analyses.

ENTM 22840: Principles of Forensic Entomology
Focuses on topics relevant to all 4 fields of forensic entomology.

ENTM 52810: Medicolegal Entomology
Focuses on insect systematics, behavior, ecology, and application to forensic casework. Emphasizes taking an in-depth look at medicolegal insects.

ENTM 42810: Carrion Ecology
Focuses on fieldwork with carrion and student research. Emphasizes an integrated view of insect carrion interactions.

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