Illuminating Mysteries: Energy and Spectroscopy in Forensic Science

Jackie Smith, Physical Science, William Amos Hough High School

Final Unit (PDF)  Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)


This unit looks at the nature of light and its use in spectroscopy in forensic science to identify unknown substances. Light is studied from the development of the theory of the dual nature of light to the properties of light that allow it to be used in spectroscopy. The use of spectroscopy as a tool in the identification of unknowns (drugs, inks, paint, etc…) is explored. The unit offers several activities involving first chromatography and then spectrometry to allow students to gain a deeper understanding of these concepts and to see how science can help solve crimes.