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Mercyhurst’s new forensics certificate highlighted among 10 in country

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A new graduate-level certificate in forensic and biological anthropology, planned for this fall at Mercyhurst University, already has been featured by as one of "10 Graduate Certificate Programs for Forensics & CSI."

Besides Mercyhurst, the organization recognized programs at George Mason University, George Washington University, Iowa State University, UMass-Lowell, University of Florida, National University, Iona College, University of New Haven and Syracuse University.

Mercyhurst’s new program was designed to help students better compete for graduate school admissions, according to Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., chair of applied forensic sciences and director of the university’s graduate program in anthropology.

Mercyhurst University receives an average of 80 to 90 applications each year for its exclusive master’s degree program in forensic and biological anthropology, from which it typically accepts less than 10. Since the program handles, on average, 100 authentic forensics cases each year, enrollment is kept to a minimum so as to give each student optimum hands-on experience.

However, in surveying applications annually, Dirkmaat determined that many of the applicants needed more training to meet the rigor of a master’s degree program; hence, the new certificate was devised.

“Some students need more natural sciences - especially biology and chemistry - or they have not had an osteology course, or they need some upper-level biostatistics, or they need some experience in the field,” Dirkmaat said. “The certificate program will provide these students with an opportunity to take advantage of our expertise in forensic osteology, forensic archaeology, forensic taphonomy, biostatistics and geomorphometrics.”

In turn, he said, they will be better equipped to compete for a forensic anthropology graduate program the following year, either at Mercyhurst or elsewhere.

“The students will have the flexibility of constructing a curriculum that suits their perceived gaps, as well as earning an audition for either our program or, importantly, a very good reference letter to another program,” Dirkmaat said. “We will also allow them to participate in the case work, both in the field and in the laboratory.”

In highlighting the 10 certificate programs, looked for those that had specific ties to authentic crime scene analysis, investigation or forensics and provided an option for allowing students to personalize their certificate toward areas of perceived need or interest.

For more information, contact Dirkmaat at