Research Topics for a Ph.D. in Forensic Science

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Forensic science covers a range of fields, from forensic psychology to computer forensics. A doctoral research topic, or research question, should clearly and concisely state the problem to be studied, with defensible logic functioning as a rudder to the research study. Research topics often focus on areas of rapid change, like technology, troubling societal trends or areas neglected in other research.

Forensic Psychology and Military Rape

Rape in the military is an increasingly important topic. For instance, in 2003, the University of Iowa and Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center studied a woman's risk of rape, while in the military, finding that 79 percent experienced sexual harassment and 30 percent reported an attempted or completed rape. Another study in 2012, looked at Midwestern female veterans and found adverse physical health affects among veterans who were raped, with 25 percent reporting a rape while in the military. A 2007 study for the National Institute of Justice looked at rape rates and military personnel, finding a correlation between Air Force personnel and incidents of rape in the civilian population. However, there was little discussion in any of the studies, nor in a search of available scientific literature, to suggest what causes military personnel to commit rape. What are the motivators or disinhibiting factors that encourage male members of the military to commit rape?

Computer Forensics and Cybercrime

Wireless handheld devices, such as smartphones, are an ever-larger part of our lives. We use them to pay bills, transfer money between bank accounts, check our stock portfolios, access our social media accounts, send emails, play games and pay at the cash register. Most of us are familiar with cybersecurity risks to personal computers, but as mobile devices rapidly evolve, each change to applications and device software expose new risks from cyber crime. Even major corporations, like BP Global, are locking down personal devices to prevent cyber warfare. The evolution of mobile devices creates an endless array of research questions, from consumer protection issues to hostile force cyber warfare.

Forensic Toxicology and Military Violence

Some prescription drugs, including Mefloquine, are blamed for causing violent fits of rage, including homicidal rage. In 2009, NBC News reported that U.S. military members are increasingly prescribed pain, anxiety and anti-psychotic medications and sent back to duty. The drug Mefloquine was used as a defense in Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales' rampage, in which he killed 16 Afghan civilians. Other soldiers reported problems with anti-anxiety drugs, like Klonopin, that reportedly caused one soldier to find himself disorientated and far from his camp. There are numerous pharmaceutical studies about the adverse drug affects on the civilian population. Toxicology research seems lacking about adverse drug effects on military members, especially during or following combat.

Geoforensics and Dense Material

A 2014 review of the scientific literature indicated that geomorphology was an under researched area. Forensic geomorphology is the use of mapping and understanding of soils, including what's underneath, to solve crimes, such as in the search for crime scene objects. Traditionally, geomorphology uses aerial photography, but advances in technology, such as ground-penetrating radar and gamma-ray radiography, are changing the field. A 2012 report on the use of ground-breaking radar indicated problems with signal interference from other devices and a 2014 report on search methodology indicated that gamma-ray only works with wall-like structures. There appears to be a need for research development in specific technology to conduct forensic geomorphology.


About the Author

John Huddle is an Army veteran with enlisted service as general hospital staff and hospital chaplain's assistant. His career also included stints as a teacher, adjunct faculty, administrator and school psychologist. Twice, Dr. Huddle was a major party nominee for state office. He also served as a director on several nonprofit boards. Today he enjoys consulting and lobbying for underdog causes.

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