Welcome to the 2017 Graduate Cohort!

The Anthropology Department at Emory welcomes four new graduate students to the program this Fall. They come from diverse educational backgrounds and have exciting research that they will pursue in the coming years.

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Bridget Hansen earned bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Classical Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Her research focuses on how cultural beliefs and practices of mental illness and health interact with the neoliberalism of Euro-American systems of biomedicine and psychology in the Arabian Gulf countries. She has conducted research in Oman and other Gulf countries with a Fulbright Fellowship and has been awarded the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation for her work at Emory. She was recently featured in Emory News as an entering graduate student with exciting research and great accomplishments.

AJ Jones earned the Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Princeton University. Her research interests include the topics of illness, disability, medicine, gender, and the body. Prior to coming to Emory, she researched the subjectivity and narratives of girls and women with Turner Syndrome, a genetic condition in which females are born with a partially or entirely missing X chromosome, rendering them infertile, among other physical effects. She hopes to continue and build upon this line of research at Emory.

Jordan Martin earned bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Psychology at Miami University. His research focuses on the proximate and ultimate bases of social behavior and relationships in human and non-human primates, particularly with the evolution and biological underpinnings of social personality traits, the evolutionary consequences of cooperative breeding, and the determinants and functional significance of affiliative and and attachment bonds. Prior to arriving at Emory, he spent a year conducting research in Vienna, and he is a Woodruff Scholar in the Laney Graduate School.

Erik Ringen earned the Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Washington State University. He is interested in comparative and quantitative approaches to understanding human behavior and health from an evolutionary perspective. While at Emory, he will focus on ingestive behavior and the natural history of human interactions with plant secondary compounds in food, medicine, and drug use. Prior to coming to Emory, he worked as a researcher with the Human Relations Area Files project at Yale University.

Postcards from the field: Dr. Liv Nilsson Stutz and Dr. Aaron Stutz in Jordan

Greetings from Jordan where Dr. Liv Nilsson Stutz (Senior Lecturer in Anthropology) and Dr. Aaron Stutz (Associate Professor in Anthropology at Oxford College) are excavating at the cave site Mughr el-Hamamah, where they located archaeological contexts from the early upper Palaeolithic in 2010. This year they return to the cave to finish the excavations. In addition to excavating lithics and animal remains, their work this season aims at recovering the remains of plants (in the form of charcoal, seeds, nuts, etc) which will help them reconstruct the paleoenvironment and to better understand how palaeolithic hunters and gatherers used resources in the landscape. To help them they are joined by archaeobotanist Dr. Chantel White of the University of Pennsylvania, and her undergraduate assistant Fabian Toro. They are also benefiting from the invaluable help of John Murray (incoming PhD student at Arizona State University), Emma Hanlon, Neharika Penmetcha, Hazel Sima, and José Amador (undergraduate students at Oxford College and Emory College).

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Kendra Sirak develops less invasive sampling procedure for DNA analysis

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Ancient DNA analysis can reveal insight into past populations on many levels. Unfortunately, accessing the osseous labyrinth inside the petrous bone, which has the highest concentration of endogenous DNA of any skeletal element, creates a problem for analysis: It requires intact skeletal remains.

PhD candidate Kendra Sirak has developed a new technique to access the osseous labyrinth without the damage done by established techniques. She details the process in her paper published in BioTechniques and has taught the technique to experts in ten different countries, which has allowed them to perform the procedure independently.

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Molly Zuckerman’s Research on a Forgotten Cemetery

Dr. Molly Zuckerman (PhD, 2010), Associate Professor of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures at Mississippi State University, has been making the news lately. After 7,000 bodies were found buried under the University of Mississippi Medical Center, she has been involved in exhuming and studying the skeletal remains and the asylum’s health records.

lead_960The cemetery was part of the Mississippi State Asylum, which was operational from 1855 to 1935, an era in which psychiatric asylums were common throughout the United States. Dr. Zuckerman has drawn conclusions about the health of the asylum patients from the archives of the asylum’s discharge records. These records are allowing Zuckerman and other historians and anthropologists in the Asylum Hill Research Consortium to form a database of individuals who were buried there. They have received many inquiries from family members about ancestors whom they think died at the asylum, and the Consortium’s hope is that people will be able to readily access the information.

Zuckerman also hopes to exhume more of the bodies in order to learn more about health and the diagnosis of madness in the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries. The bones could provide information about the diseases, malnutrition, or living conditions of the patients. Zuckerman’s research focuses on the bio-social determinants of health inequalities. Her dissertation at Emory was an evolutionary, social, and ecological history of syphilis in England. Since syphilis was a common cause of insanity, Zuckerman’s expertise positions her well to conduct research at this site.

Several master’s students at Mississippi State have already analyzed the exhumed bones to make conclusions about health. One student used genetic sequencing to reconstruct oral bacteria from skeletons. Another student studied tooth enamel to make conclusions about nutritional deprivation and severe stress. Yet another student found evidence of pellagra, a disease caused by Vitamin B deficiency, in both asylum records and skeletons.

The stories of the patients buried at the Mississippi State Asylum are sure to unfold in the next few years, and we look forward to Dr. Zuckerman’s contributions.