No Bones About It
Anthropology professor shares forensic expertise in classroom
KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 29, 2018) — Walking in the doors of Social Sciences Building Room 4080, Kennesaw State students are greeted by a skeleton at the door. The cabinets are filled with carefully labelled skulls grinning back. Inside this class, students begin every lesson by collecting bones to study and review with Alice Gooding, assistant professor of anthropology.
Students taking Gooding’s course, The Human Skeleton, get a glimpse of the world that Gooding operates in as a forensic anthropologist and also gain hands-on experience with human osteology, the study of the human skeletal system.
The class covers bone biology, anatomical terminology, bony landmarks and bone variation to examine how anthropologies use skeletons in forensic, genetic and bioarcheological contexts. With a specialty in biological anthropology and osteology, the study of bones, Gooding shines in the class that covers the human skeleton from head to toe. There are no prerequisites to the class, and Gooding welcomes all students into the study.
For Ashleigh Freeman, the class is giving her the knowledge for her future goals of working with skeletons in forensics. One of the best parts of the class for Freeman is that despite what some would see as a morbid class, there is frequently laughter during the lessons.
“Dr. Gooding always comes up with clever ways to help us remember the weird bones and her classes are always funny,” Freeman said.
Gooding is excited to see the class full and with students interested in learning all they can about bones and the opportunities found within them.
“Previously, there wasn’t the opportunity to really study bones like this. We had a little section on bones in some biology courses, but otherwise nothing like this,” she said.
In addition to her work at Kennesaw State, Gooding uses her specialty with bones to help the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. She serves as a forensic anthropologist for the state of Georgia and also teaches law enforcement professionals courses on forensic anthropology and clandestine grave recovery. Forensic anthropology is a specialized area of anthropology that focuses on using bones to answer questions like: who is this, how did they die, and how long ago did they die? Those questions are vital for cases Gooding works with the GBI.
Being able to read the age, state, shape and features in bones gives Gooding details about who a person could have been in life. Diets, ancestry and skeletal shape may answer vital questions and help solve a case.
Gooding hopes her course will open up the world of possibilities in forensic anthropology to students, and encourage them to continue working with bones.
“I want to help students learn more about the human body and the work you can do with anthropology,” she said.
For Gooding, the work she does for both the GBI and KSU is not just a passion, but a way to give back.
“Forensic anthropology is first and foremost a community service,” Gooding said. She enjoys the work with the GBI helping identify skeletal remains and reunite them with their loved ones.
Gooding has already made an impact on students like Larry Cates, taking knowledge from her class and diving into deeper research on skeletons. Cates is currently analyzing CT scans of the humerus, radius and ulna of senior adult tennis players to understand the impact of physical activity on the bones of the upper arm. Gooding serves as his advisor in his research.
“The continued opportunity to work with real human skeleton bones daily and learn the functions of these bones is extremely edifying,” Cates said.
In the tiny details of the bones, Gooding is teaching future generations to be able to read the stories left by those who can no longer. She and her Human Skeleton class are giving voices to the dead and helping bring peace to the living.
– Andrea Judy
Photos by Lauren Kress
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.