Through my undergraduate and early graduate years in biological anthropology, I did not hear about the field of “ancient DNA” until I started my doctoral work at McMaster University (Hamilton, ON). After a course or two on the topic, I was definitely hooked. Fast forward a bit, and I received my doctorate, combining anthropology with ancient pathogens. For me, ancient DNA provides a complementary anthropological approach to ask questions about what makes us human, how we got here and what happened along the way.

SM_lab
Me! In the ancient DNA lab at Penn State.

I am fascinated by the interplay between humans and their microbes, specifically the evolution of infectious diseases and the adaptive responses that have profoundly impacted human biology throughout our history.  Disease is not just a biological phenomenon,  so I also focus on how ecological, social and cultural systems may have mediated human-pathogen interactions in the past.

Currently, I am a postdoc in the Department of Anthropology working in the laboratory of Dr. George (PJ) Perry. My latest research at PSU focuses on exploring human height variation using ancient DNA and osteological (skeletal) data across human prehistory.