Wesleyan University's Tim Ku teaches a course on forensic geology, a field that mines clues from rocks, dirt and other earthly materials to aid criminal investigations.Wesleyan
is one of only a handful of universities in the nation to offer a course entirely on the subject.
The field is based largely on the idea that any two objects will inevitably trade properties when they meet.A few grains of sand fallen from a shoe sole can be all it takes to unravel an elaborate tale of wrongdoing. Ku
defines forensic geology simply as "any type of geology that could be used as evidence in a court of law."Much of the course deals with conventional geology, but Ku
puts it in the context of various crimes.Usually, he
starts each class with a real-life case and then shows how geology helped solve it. "It keeps you interested in the topic and it's a new way to look at it," said Ku, who is an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences.
This was the first year the university offered the course, so Ku
had to put a lot of it together as he
wanted something that would appeal to non-science students.With the interest in forensics fueled by shows such as "CSI," he
hit the jackpot.More than 130 signed up for the class, which had a capacity of 30.The maximum eventually was increased to 34.
The popularity of the class helped him persuade university officials to invest in more advanced microscopes for the course next school year.Ku
said it's an important addition, since recent advances in microscopic technology have affected the field significantly.