Carolyn Hurst, UDF – Full Interview


– Hi, my name is Carolyn Hurst. I am a recipient of the University
Distinguished Fellowship. I grew up in Minnesota and from there I did my undergraduate
at University of Arizona where I majored in anthropology. And ever since I was
in about kindergarten, there’s actually a book that says what I want to be when I
grow up that everybody does. And in mine, it says when I grow up I either want to be an
archeologist or a barber. At University of Arizona
I pursued the archeology. I didn’t care less about hair actually. I was really into archeology all my life but once I kind of got to
that stage in my education, I realized that I wanted to do
something a little bit more. I wanted to be able to help people. And to me I still love archeology but it was a very, kind of
purely academic endeavor and I wanted to do something where I could help people as well. And that’s when I discovered physical and forensic anthropology which you get to do the
great stuff of going on archaeological excavations and looking at human bones, but you also get to work
in things like forensics. While I was at University of Arizona, I was introduced to a
forensic anthropologist there and I actually got to do an internship at the Pima County Office
of the Medical Examiner with a practicing forensic anthropologist. And that’s where I really
decided that that’s what I wanted to pursue. From there I started
looking at graduate programs and physical anthropology, and Michigan State is one of
the top programs in the nation. And so, I of course applied here and I also applied to just
a handful of other schools. And what really made the difference was and the reason I chose to come here was a huge part was the University
Distinguished Fellowship. Nowhere else was able to offer me such a great incentive to come. And it really helps ease
any financial burdens that may come with
attending graduate school. I also love the program, love the people, love my advisor so that helped as well. My advisor is Dr. Todd Fenton and he’s also practicing physical and forensic anthropologist. And one of the great things
about this program here is that you get to do case work. We consult for medical examiner’s offices all around the state but you also get to do bioarcheology. And so, I’ve gotten to go with Dr. Fenton to places like Albania and to Italy. And I’ve gotten to be
his research assistant through being a distinguished fellow. Being a research assistant
during the summer has allowed me to take those
trips to Albania and to Italy to have the experience
of being in the field, which is really integral to
learning skeletal biology and learning human variation. For my dissertation, I
am working in this lab studying human bones from medieval Nubia which Nubia is on the Nile and it was three kingdoms
that were just south of Egypt. And so, they had great trading
relationship with Egypt. It’s really an interesting area but that’s been kind of lost to history. They don’t have very
much internal history. We don’t know much about these kingdoms and so, we’re really trying
to get at the history through looking at the skeletal remains. And the remains that we have here are on loan from the British Museum and we have it on loan for
approximately five years. We’re charged with basically trying to collect as much data as we can on these individuals. What I’m specifically looking at is the children or the
juveniles of the collection. And basically, at what age did they die and if I can get at it, how did they die. A lot of individuals are showing evidence of nutritional deficiencies so I’m looking at that
to try and kind of get a snapshot into what their life was like. And the island that we’re
studying, Mis Island, it has since been flooded and so, it no longer exist. This is really our last and only chance to kind of get an idea
of what life was like on this island for these
medieval inhabitants. My research beyond Michigan State, I’m hoping my experiences with individuals at the British Museum and also with these other field
sites in Italy and Albania will really help me
establish myself in academia. So I can continue doing
bioarcheological research and really gain kind of
a regional understanding of skeletal health in
the medieval time period. I’m heading back to Italy this summer and trying to find another
cemetery to study there with an archeologist that
works in Southern Italy. And I’m hoping that when
I go on the job market next year, two years, I’m hoping to graduate a year from May. So when I finally go on the job market, I’m hoping to be able to use that as kind of something to set me apart that I have these experiences but I also am able to
continue those experiences in my career as a professor. I’ll be able to have
projects already established that I can then bring my
own graduate students to.