Dan Strydom

Faculty/Staff profile

Forensic Science Program Director & Professor of Chemistry
Phone: 
(402) 465-7557
Office: 
Olin Hall 323, Burt Hall 213
Office hours: 

Tuesday & Thursday 11.15am - 1 pm - in Olin 323
Most afternoons Monday through Thursday noon - 7 pm.
Check with me beforehand - by phone or email.

Background: 

1965 – 1978 Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Pretoria, South Africa; successively in the positions of Assistant Research Officer, Research Officer, Senior Research Officer and Chief Research Officer
Nov 1978 – Dec 1996 Associate in Biological Chemistry, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Dec 1996 – Dec 2000 Director of Peptide Research, BioNebraska, Inc., Lincoln, NE
Jan 2001-2002 Vice President and Director of Research, Restoragen, Inc., formerly BioNebraska, Inc, Lincoln, NE
Oct 2002 - Jul 2009 Associate Professor of Chemistry, Director of Laboratory Forensic Science, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE
Aug 2009 - Jul 2012 Professor of Chemistry, Director of Laboratory Forensic Science, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE
Aug 2012 - Professor of Chemistry, Interim Director of Forensic Science Program, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE

Education: 

1964 B.Sc. Chemistry, Physics, University of Pretoria
1967 B.Sc. (Hons) in Physical, Analytical, Inorganic & Organic Chemistry, University of Pretoria
1968 M.Sc. Chemistry, University of South Africa
Title of thesis: 'Studies on Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje haje) venom'.
1972 Ph.D. Chemistry, University of South Africa
Title of Thesis: 'Studies on the toxins of Dendroaspis polylepis (black mamba) venom'.
Postdoctoral Training: 1973 -1974 Biophysics Research Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

Teaching philosophy: 

The core of my philosophy for the teaching of science lies in a realization that the natural sciences are fields of study which have had a profound influence on the material wellbeing of humans. Our knowledge of the inner workings of the natural world has expanded dramatically in the past few centuries. This has created an environment in which the moral and spiritual aspects of our existence, i.e. all that build our social fabric, have been provided with rich opportunities of choice – for good or evil. The natural sciences have been successful through the application of a powerful philosophy of the way in which investigations are done – be it asking questions of and about Nature, or asking questions about the unknown circumstances and happenings at a crime scene. This application has been based on a patient discovery and building of physical facts, one at a time, so that the truth of such facts is tested continuously. A necessary corollary of the discovery process is the creation of a skeptical mindset and experimental approach, skeptical both of answers and of questions, especially of those created or discovered by oneself. All of the foregoing is of course built using those strong partners of our scientific philosophy – practical experimental examination, theoretical understanding of the answers provided by experiment, and examination of the predictive powers of what we currently think we know.

An aspect of Forensic science which is different from the academic sciences, is the scientific conservatism needed to ensure that only tried and tested technologies and ideas are used in practicing crime laboratories. Academic science can afford to do the time-honored review of new ideas over a long period of time, while still rushing ahead with new ideas to build new fields and disciplines. Our criminal justice system on the other hand depends on getting “truth” from forensic studies, and cannot afford later corrections! This has to be incorporated into the way we do forensic science. History is replete with miscarriages of justice (see the various Innocence Projects), and one recurring theme is a failure of doing good science. We cannot accept this, and should do our utmost in assuring correct answers when examining judicial cases.

The “science” of “Forensic Science” means to me that students are Scientists first, and then become Forensic Scientists. The MFS program is not a workshop that distributes a few laboratory recipes and drills one in the precise technical steps needed to be a Forensic laboratory technician. The program is designed to be a graduate program, with the science being the priority. Only through a basic understanding of the science underlying any forensic test or examination can the forensic scientist hope to come to an equitable interpretation of evidence.

My philosophy in meeting this challenge in the Master of Forensic Sciences program rests on the purpose I perceive for those who take on this program. The successful graduates will in all likelihood relatively soon be leaders and managers in the crime laboratories (or wherever else) where they find employment. Crime laboratory heads are in general agreement that they need in their laboratories scientists who understand and apply science, and prefer to do in the workplace the final polishing for being fully fledged forensic scientists. The goal is therefore to provide students with the broad scientific background and philosophy needed to be successful forensic scientists.

Each course, and the Track as a whole, is designed to provide for personal growth – I expect more of the students towards the end of the period in question, than at the beginning. Education is a process, and that process leads to the program’s final goal of a well-rounded Forensic Scientist.

Courses taught: 

Forsc 547 - Forensic Chemistry
Forsc 599 - Forensic Research
Chem 51L - General Chemistry Laboratory
Forsc 515 - Advanced Crime Scene Investigation
Forsc 010 - Introduction to Forensic Science

Professional and community affiliations, certifications and awards: 

Associate Member, American Academy of Forensic Scientists, Criminalistics