3.A27 | Fall 2007 | Undergraduate

Case Studies in Forensic Metallurgy


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Advisor: Prof. Kenneth Russell
Associate advisor: Kyra Sedransk

TV programs such as “Law and Order” show how forensic experts are called upon to give testimony that often determines the outcome of court cases. Engineers are one class of expert who can help display evidence in a new light to solve cases. In this seminar you will be part of the problem-solving process, working through both previously solved and unsolved cases. Each week we will investigate cases, from the facts that make up each side to the potential evidence we can use as engineers to expose culprits. The cases range from disintegrating airplane engines to gas main explosions to Mafia murders. This seminar will be full of discussions about the cases and creative approaches to reaching the solutions. The approach is hands-on so you will have a chance to participate in the process, not simply study it. Some background reading and oral presentation are required.


In addition to the readings and technical reports included with each case study, students are recommended to use the following resources when preparing their reports.


Callister, W. D., Jr. Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction. 7th ed. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, 2007. ISBN: 9780471736967.
Chapter 8, “Failure”, and chapter 17, “Corrosion and Degradation of Materials”, are particularly helpful.

Attendance and Assignments

Attendance is mandatory because this class is graded P/F.

Each week you will need to download the case information from the website to bring to class. You will be rotating responsibilities for presenting the evidence from the cases and additional related reading/information. These responsibilities are posted under the assignment schedule tab and each student will have three assigned dates. Part of this assignment will be to include a one page summary of the information you gathered and where or how to start towards solving the case.

For presentations on cases and evidence please keep a few things in mind. You should first understand the background of the case. In addition, you should pay particular attention to the evidence that is provided. In the presentation you will need to “set the scene” for the class with both the background and evidence.

For presentations on background material related to the case, please primarily use the resources provided unless mentioned. Please think about this background in the context of the case, how you can use it to help determine the cause of failure.

1 Torrid telephone
2 Soggy furs
3 Misplaced trust
4 Aluminum ladders
5 Acid drum
6 Nefarious needle
7 Snow collapses
8 Field trip: blacksmith lab
9 Field trip: welding lab
10 Careering chip
11 Broken bead
12 Leg brace

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2007
Learning Resource Types
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Presentation Assignments