PEOPLE

Todd Fenton, PhD, D-ABFA

Todd Fenton is Chair and Professor of Anthropology. Dr. Fenton is a physical anthropologist who specializes in forensic anthropology. His interests focus on the analysis of skeletal trauma as well as techniques in human identification. He recently completed his third National Institute of Justice funded research project titled “Building a Science of Adult Cranial Fracture”. His NIJ grants have focused on understanding the biomechanics of cranial fracture, including fracture initiation, propagation and patterning. Additionally, the effects of energy level, interface compliance, impactor shape, and head drops versus entrapped impacts have been investigated. In addition to his forensic work, Dr. Fenton has ongoing, long-term collaborative bioarchaeological projects in Italy. In 2015 he began analysis of the skeletons from the Roman and medieval town of Rusellae. Dr. Fenton is also the anthropologist for the Impero Project, a Roman excavation in southern Tuscany directed by Dr. Sandro Sebastiani of the University at Buffalo. Dr. Fenton is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences; and Executive Secretary and Member of the NIST OSAC Anthropology Subcommittee.

Carolyn Isaac, PhD

Carolyn Isaac is a physical anthropologist that specializes in forensic anthropology. Her main research focus is the histological progression and stages of cranial fracture healing and how this can be used to determine the age of an injury. The goal of this project is to generate baseline empirical data on the cells and tissues involved in fracture healing at different stages and to provide forensic practitioners with a method to estimate the age of a healing fracture. Such estimations can aid in determining whether an injury contributed to death, whether there are multiple injuries of various ages indicting a pattern of abuse, and may directly contribute to the manner of death classification (homicide, suicide, accident, natural, or indeterminate).

Joseph Hefner, PhD, D-ABFA

Joseph Hefner is an assistant professor specializing in forensic anthropology and quantitative methods. His interests in forensic anthropology include the estimation of ancestry using macromorphoscopic (cranial nonmetric) traits and cranial and postcranial metrics. The focus of Dr. Hefner’s research is the standardization and quantification of macromorphoscopic traits with robust and appropriate classification statistics, including data mining techniques and machine learning methods. One aspect of this type of research is the seemingly endless need for more data. To that end, Dr. Hefner is currently establishing the Forensic Macromorphoscopic Databank at Michigan State University, with a grant provided by the National Institute of Justice. Dr. Hefner’s professional activities center on forensic anthropological method and theory and statistical approaches to biological anthropology, including biodistance analysis, categorical data analysis, geometric morphometric methods, data excavation, and parametric/nonparametric classification statistics.


Clara Devota, B.S.

Clara is a first year biological anthropology doctoral student with a focus on forensic anthropology. Clara works with Dr. Isaac as a graduate assistant researching histological progressions of healing in the human cranium. She earned her B.S. in Anthropology from Michigan State University in 2020.

Rhian Dunn, M.S.

Rhian is a biological anthropology doctoral student with a focus in forensic anthropology. She is working with Dr. Hefner as a graduate assistant looking at human variation and macromorphoscopic trait analyses. She earned her B.A. in Biological Anthropology from University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016 and her M.S. in Forensic and Biological Anthropology from Mercyhurst University in 2018.

Alexis Goots, M.A.

Alex is a PhD student working with Dr. Fenton as a graduate assistant on cranial blunt force trauma research. She earned her BS in Anthropology from The Ohio State University in 2014, and her MA in Anthropology from Texas State University in 2016. Her research interests include forensic questions related to migration, in both modern and archaeological contexts, as well as human rights issues.

Kelly Kamnikar, M.A.

Kelly Kamnikar is a doctoral student working with Dr. Hefner focusing on forensic anthropology. She is interested in the application of forensic anthropology to human rights investigations. Current research projects include macromorphoscopic trait and craniometric analysis in groups considered Hispanic and dental age estimation in subadults. 

Amber Plemons, M.A.

Amber Plemons is a PhD student in biological anthropology working with Dr. Hefner. She received her BS from Texas State University and MA from Mississippi State University. Her research interests focus on human variation, ancestry estimation, dental anthropology, fragmentary remains, and data management. Her dissertation research examines the role of genetics and climate on craniofacial form and how this influences human variation on a large scale.

Micayla Spiros, M.Sc.

Micayla is a biological anthropology doctoral student with a focus in forensic anthropology. She is working with Dr. Hefner as a graduate assistant researching the ontogeny of macromorphoscopic traits and human variation. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Miami University, Ohio in 2016 and her M.Sc. in Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology from University College London in 2017.

Elena Watson, M.S.

Elena is a fifth-year forensic anthropology PhD student. She earned her BA in Anthropology and Biology from Lawrence University in 2015 and her MS in Forensic Science with a concentration in Forensic Anthropology from Michigan State University in 2018.