Gabriela Sheets (PhD, 2017) receives the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Dissertation Award for her 2017 dissertation on “The Developmental Ecology of the Infant Gut Microbiome”.

Gabriela Sheets (PhD, 2017) receives the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Dissertation Award for her 2017 dissertation on “The Developmental Ecology of the Infant Gut Microbiome”.

Gabriela Sheets receives the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Dissertation Award for her 2017 dissertation on “The Developmental Ecology of the Infant Microbiome”.

The Committee describes Sheets’ work as “novel meshing of anthropology and biology to explore an emerging area of general interest,” and thought it was likely to “make important contributions well beyond the medical anthropology community.”  One member called it an “exemplar in where science should go.”

“Recognition begs reflection, and reflection begs gratitude. The beast that this dissertation was to become invited me on a marvelous journey through the lives, stories and biologies of many Salvadoran families, for which I am forever grateful. Before my observing eye, life spilled out. She sometimes clumsily, but always excitedly, tripped over herself to whisper her secrets and to weave her tales through the human body. Even under and around the long shadows of death where meaning was mute, her whispers sounded. Thank you Emory for the opportunity to research questions that excite me, always supported by frameworks rooted in our anthropological and biological heritage. I hope to make even a small difference with the tools and drive that you provided for me.” Gabriela Sheets

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.

Alumni Spotlight: Dinah Hannaford on Migration and Marriage

Dinah Hannaford (PhD, 2014), Assistant Professor of International Studies at Texas A&M University, has two major accomplishments coming up this year. Her first book, Marriage Without Borders: Transnational Spouses in Neoliberal Senegal, will be published in July, and she will be embarking on a Humboldt Fellowship in Germany in the Fall.

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Dr. Hannaford’s book, Marriage Without Borders, is based on ten years of ethnographic research in Senegal and Europe. She examines the dynamics of transnational marriages: Senegalese men living in Europe who are married to Senegalese women back home. Her ethnographic study of these marital relationships shows how they reshape kinship, Islamic piety, and family care. Hannaford argues that “neoliberal globalization and its imperative for mobility extend deep into the family and the heart and stretch relationships across borders.” The book is a revised version of the dissertation research that she conducted while at Emory.

Dr. Hannaford has also been awarded the Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the 2017-18 academic year. She will be hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and will work on a new research project about international development, domestic work, and return migration. We are excited to see her new contribution to these topics!