Hi! I’m about to start my fifth year of my Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I’m earning a doctorate in anthropology. I’m a forensic anthropologist and bioarchaeologist and my research looks at human remains that are used in medical schools for anatomy classes. I analyze the skeletons to try and figure out who they were in life and what populations were targeted as sources for teaching cadavers, especially at the turn of the twentieth century. I work mainly in Iceland, where I’ve now spent two years of my Ph.D. as an affiliated researcher with the University of Iceland’s medical school.
This has changed a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, though, I would go into the anatomy labs at the University of Iceland in the morning and spend a few hours sorting through the human remains, sorting them by type (ex. upper arm bones, hand bones, ribs, etc) and then the afternoons were spent actually looking at the remains for any identifying features or for indicators of where that individual came from prior to being used as a lab specimen.
Since the pandemic started, I typically wake up and do an hour or two of Icelandic language practice online in the mornings and spend the afternoon sorting the thousands of photos I’ve taken of the remains. At this point, it’s all computer work!
I’m beyond lucky at how much my Ph.D. has allowed me to travel. I never in a million years would think that I would go from growing up in a tiny village in upstate New York to living in the capital of Iceland.
The most challenging thing right now is staying motivated during the pandemic. Everyone is just doing their best to manage a completely different style of work and home life right now so trying to find that balance after having been on such a strict schedule before is tough.
Western Massachusetts is a really beautiful place to live while working on my doctorate. It’s rural enough to make a country dweller like me feel happy while still being close enough to major metropolitan areas that I can call on external resources when necessary. Plus, I have an amazing advisor, Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, who goes above and beyond what you could ask for during a Ph.D.
A lot of my time is just spent exploring all the nature around Iceland. There’s nothing like being at the base of a glacier watching the northern lights on a cold winter night.
Check out his personal website, Academia.edu profile and Twitter account using the links below. Also check out the Scientific American article Adam wrote related to his research: