Current Student Research

Highlights of recent student research projects

  • Senior Forensic Anthropology student Ben Thompson’s research centers on the problems in differentiating Hispanic crania from other ancestral groups.  In this project, he is studying Hispanic crania from the University of Tennessee William Bass collection, comparing metric and non-metric dimensions in terms of their accuracy in identifying Hispanic ancestry.  Ben is carrying this research project forward into next semester in the Advanced Forensic Anthropology course.  He will increase his sample of Hispanic crania and will be working with the digitizer in collecting 3-D landmark data so that he can gain insight into the shape of Hispanic crania. He hopes to present the results of this research at next year’s American Association of Forensic Anthropology meeting and ultimately publish this research in the Journal of Forensic Science; (see Fig 5)
  • Senior Forensic Anthropology student Laken Campbell is using the RUFSI Keyence Digital Microscope to analyze perimortem Blunt Force Trauma (BFT) to human ribs. The ultimate goal is to differentiate mechanisms of injury to the thorax (e.g., falling vs. crushing).  Using stillborn pigs as models, she will experimentally recreate rib trauma and investigate characteristic trauma signatures with the help of the digital imaging; (see Fig 6)
  • William Willis (recent RU Anthropological Sciences graduate and current RUFSI intern) is using the RUFSI’s portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) chemical analyzer to compare the chemical signatures of lithic (stone) resources used by prehistoric Native American to make stone tools in Southwest Virginia. He has found that stone raw materials (such as chert and quartz) from different archaeological sites in different river drainages produce distinct chemical signatures. This information can be used to trace trade between different Native American groups and to better understand their resource procurement and utilization activities for these important raw materials.  He will be presenting this research in a poster at the 78th annual Society for American Archaeology meeting April 3-7, 2013, in Honolulu, Hawai’i. (see Fig 7)
  • Brandon Buck and Daniel Riegel – senior Anthropological Sciences majors – are analyzing prehistoric ceramics (pottery) from Native American sites with some of the same goals. Brandon is trying to identify the sources of clays used by the ancient potters and how heating affects the chemical signature of the clay. Daniel is trying to see if there are different chemical signatures for clay pottery from sites in different river drainages. The RUFSI portable XRF is a vital tool for their research projects as well (see Fig 8)
  • Laurel Finney (Forensic Anthropology RU graduate, December, 2012) has recently investigated, through the use of the XRF, the presence of GSR (gunshot residue) on bone undergoing gunshot trauma.  Preliminary analyses indicate the presence of trace GSR signatures on projectile-affected bone (Fig 9).