Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


In a 1996 trial, the defendant had a confirmed alibi, the victim failed to pick the defendant out in an identity parade, and the age of the defendant did not match with the description of the aggressor given by the victim. The only incriminating evidence against the defendant was a DNA sample found at the crime scene. Can science help us assessing a criminal case of this sort?

Can science detect fraudulent statements in tax declarations just by looking at the ciphers?

Can science detect whether it was an accident, or a person was pushed down?

This unit answers these questions and provides students with a foundation in forensic mathematics. The basic mathematics and physics needed for this unit will be developed inside the unit itself, hence no prerequisites are required. Several specific forensic topics will be covered, including ballistics (distinguishing accidental falls from criminal incidents), bloodstain analysis (reconstructing blood sources and movements of the suspects from the crime scene), shotgun pellet patterns (determining the distance of the weapon from the surface hit by the pellets), fingerprint analysis (distribution of the fingerprint classes amongst the population), DNA evidence (can we use the detection of DNA as the only incriminating evidence?), and fraud detection (using mathematics and statistics to assess the reliability of quantitative claims and declarations).

The theoretical studies are complemented with the analysis of real criminal cases, trials, and courts' decisions.

Students from all degrees are welcome to join this class. Mathematics Applications (High School ATAR subject) or equivalent is recommended.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 1 option in the Criminology and Criminal Justice major sequence
  • Level 1 elective

Students are able to (1) explain some of the mathematical methodologies used for criminal investigations and assessments in trials; (2) demonstrate an understanding of scientific and mathematical methods, by answering specific technical questions; and (3) apply basic concepts from mathematics and physics to real-world situations motivated by crime investigation and forensic science.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tests and (2) working group (group project concluded with a presentation). Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Caterina Sportelli
Contact hours
Lectures: 2x45 minute lectures per week
Practical classes: 2x45 minute classes per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.