It has been a while- a long, long while!

2012 September 30
by Michele Goodson

Opsies…. I neglected this website terribly. I apologize to any of you hoping to gain more information about forensic anthropology! I did not exactly keep you in the loop 🙁

But you all deserve an update on my life- especially since a LOT has changed! Most significantly, I changed my career path. I loved bones and forensic anthropology and determining all of this incredible information from only a skeleton, but after some experience in the general museum field, I felt something was lacking. It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was. I was working in a museum setting and cleaning off and packing up some specimens (at the time, my coworkers and I were packing up an awesome collection of hearts!) when I mentioned my concern of feeling isolated in an anthropology PhD program or in a museum job as a curator. I love people- talking to them, teaching them, etc., and I felt worried that I wouldn’t enjoy anthropology as much as I originally anticipated. After I mentioned that concern, my good friend and coworker, Ariel, mentioned that I go into the healthcare field.

Honestly, I don’t know how I never thought of it before. I love people, I love learning from their skeleton and who says I need them to be dead before I learn about their ailments. Besides, when the “specimens” are still alive- I can help them! In a previous post I spoke about how enthralled I was with paleopathology: how a skeleton with an extreme case of osteoarthritis in his left knee makes him so human and real to me as an anthropologist. It is clear, looking back on his post, that the more reality and close-hitting a case, the more I desired to figure out about this person. The only problem was that once they are ID’d… they’re still dead. They are beyond my help. The reality of my situation hit me as soon as I entered my first class in Anatomy and Physiology- I was immediately hooked. From the microscope slides of skin cells and sebaceous glands to the gross anatomy of the heart, I loved it all.

It has been a year in the making, but I am currently applying to a couple programs in the area, most of which are combined BSN and Masters programs. I am going to be a Nurse Practitioner, which allows me more diagnosing and treatment capabilities than a Registered Nurse (RN). I have to get a bachelors first (the programs I applied to offer an accelerated “second-degree” for students like me who already have a bachelors in an other field. Upon completing the BSN, I will take an exam called the NCLEX which will certify me as an RN. Then, depending on the program, I may be able to work as an RN for a few years and gain some experience before returning to complete a Masters, after shich I am eligible to sit for boards and become a Nurse Practitioner.

WHEW. So that is the short story- and it’s pretty long, I suppose. I need to get back to studying for Chemistry and Microbiology. Study on!


And I Thought College Was Busy…

2011 January 11
by Michele Goodson

HAPPY 2010!!!  First off, I need to apologize the lack of updates.  I am a horrible blogger!  But I will get better soon because now I have a LOT to talk about!!!  Since the last time I posted on this blog, a whole slew of awesome things happened.  I interned for 3 months at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, I got a lot of experience working with specimens while being a research assistant to a PhD student collecting data for his thesis, and I volunteered for 6 months in the Forensic Anthropology Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, which [excitement] led to a part-time paying job!!!

So what I want to do is a few entries that reflect upon my time with each of these places and I want to write them separately so as not to overload my billions of readers (hahaha or 5).  Which reminds me- I am SO thrilled that a few people have been finding my site and contacting me!  I have a reader from Rutgers (yay, New Jersey pride!  The classy part, not the shore part) and one from California.  Thanks to you two who gave me some feedback!  Keep me updated on your endeavors- its a small field and I bet we can help each other struggle through it!

That also reminds me to thank my awesome brother, Greg, who made it so I can be found through Google really easily.  He’s great at what he does!  If anyone needs a PPC consultant in Atlanta…. Greg is your guy.

So my upcoming posts:

First I will write about my experience working with the public while volunteering at the Forensic Anthropology Lab.  I want to talk about all of the people who are crazy about bones, and all of the people who are just plain crazy- as well as my experiences handling all types of people- my people skills are honed and practically a weapon!

My next post may have to be split into multiple posts regarding my time at the National Museum or Health and Medicine.  I want to talk about my time in the “Wet Specimen” room and what I learned about preservation and specimen care.  I also want to discuss a little about the archiving experience I got as we in-processed some amazing files from ABFO, the American Board of Forensic Odontologists (oh yeah, be jealous!).  I also want to talk about my time learning from our weekly intern-article-prowl where the interns chose articles on topics each week and discusses them.  Lastly, I want to talk about perusing and re-organizing/cataloguing the Veterinary Collection [or Comparative Anatomy Collection].  I learned so so SO much at this internship that it is truly invaluable- hopefully I will have the chance to visit every once in a while AND maybe even help in the museum’s move from the AFIP [Walter Reed Facility] to the brand new building in Maryland.

My final catch-up post will cover some of my experiences at my new job, which involves teaching Forensic Anthropology to classes from 4th grade through 12th grade.  I will talk a little about the cases (as long as you don’t mind some spoilers about the answers to the case) and I’ll talk about some of the crazy theories I hear from the younger classes–including giant rats and pet monkeys roaming the West Virginian countryside. I am slowly developing a passion for teaching, which may make the inevitable path of academia, which is held in store for almost everyone with a PhD in the Social Sciences, more bearable.

I also want to talk about the developments in the advancement of my academic self.  I haven’t put as much thought and effort into grad school as I should be- but I think making a little money before I take out boatloads of student loans will be the more responsible thing to do anyway- plus I want to make absolute sure that what I am doing is my definite career path and that involves a lot more thinking (and GRE studying!)

Recently, I found a few papers I wrote while clearing out some jump-drives.  I thought it might be an interesting project to go through my anthropology-related papers for classes and re-research them and make some edits and post here about what I learned.  This way, I can keep myself [and readers] up to date and educated on some of the topics in anthropology, as well as learn a little more about my own writing skills and faults and how to improve so that I can write papers well on the first go.

So many exciting new things with this exciting new year!!  2010 was a good year, but 2011 is going to be even  better.  If you have any ideas on something I should write about that you think is relevant and would be educational, please post!  I would love to hear input! I can’t wait to update everyone further and talk about all of my amazing experiences!!!

Enjoy these next few post.  Because I definitely will.

Oh, you know, just fulfilling my dreams…

2010 June 27
by Michele Goodson

Okay, so this title is probably a little over-zealous, but I certainly feel as though I am on my way to fulfilling my dreams. I may not have a crystal clear image of what those dreams may be, but I do know that there is a metaphorical hiking trail and the next few miles are on a steady incline with no cliffs/avalanche warnings in sight.

A lot has been going on in my daily life [things I try not to talk about here- but perhaps a short list would be alright]: I graduated from New York University [with Cum Laude honors- I’ll toot my own horn there]. I recently threw a baby shower for my pregnant sister and we are expecting a niecephew [we don’t know the sex yet, haha] in about one month. I moved out of New York City and back home to New Jersey for less than a month before moving into a place temporarily in Bethesda, MD. I have a volunteer position in the Forensic Anthropology Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (I work there twice a week or more). I’m searching for some paying jobs around town [Ruby Tuesdays/Coldwater Creek/Banana Republic/Talbots/Petco, etc.] and around the neighborhood [babysitting, house-sitting, petsitting, etc.]. I recently attended a lovely brunch/potluck in my neighborhood and had the pleasure of meeting some really nice people (the community is really wonderful- I’ll be sad to leave it!). My Big Sister, Amy, got married this weekend and I got to attend a gorgeous wedding and see so many people from a few years back [all of whom I have missed SO much] it was a beautiful party for an even more beautiful bride! I am currently researching GRE classes and books for when I take the exam in the fall. I am researching [slowly] what schools will be a good fit for what I want to do in my future. I am looking into a statistics class at a local college in order to familiarize myself with research statistics and statistical analysis.

So that paragraph was a quick catch-up for all of you readers out there [that sentence made me giggle, since all of you readers know that information already from constant phone calls and/or emails].

So while a TON of things have been changing in my life, I don’t know if there is too much to update you all on. I could gush for hours and hours about how much I love what I’m doing at the Smithsonian. I think that I will write a little description instead (especially since I already posted a HUGE entry about the exhibit). At the Forensic Anthropology Lab, I get to teach visitors and student groups about what forensic anthropologists and bioarchaeologists do with the excavated material from a burial site. In the lab, we set up a case (one of 4) for the day and allow visitors to go through the case, table by table, and compile a pseudo biological profile for the individual. So far, I have only worked one case in the lab and it is called Mystery of Yorktown Creek. We have 6 tables set up which are focused around the following aspects of a real case: (1) Sex, (2) Stature/Height, (3) Pathology, (4) Age, (5) Scientific Context, (6) Historical Context. Now, I can’t give you the answers to the case because, well… that would be cheating!! Plus, I want all of your to come to the Lab and try to figure it all out by yourself. But my job in the lab is to explain to visitors HOW one can decipher Age, Sex, Pathology, Stature, etc. from skeletal remains alone. We volunteers are encouraged to allow others to complete the case on their own and ask questions when they want (as opposed to forcefully walking them through and taking up their time) so, obviously, my favorite part is when visitors ask me questions. I love being able to impart my knowledge of this field. I think my favorite visitors are the younger children who will come in and just stare wide eyed at the bones.

A little bit of my Psychology Minor is going to peek around teh corner, here: It is strange and fascinating to see how the thought, to children, of holding real human bones is so amazing as opposed to surreal- as if it really hits them and they can understand the severity of the moment, while to adults who hold the bones find it “cool” but don’t let the reality of the situation really hit them; it’s all in the eyes. I’ve gotten “this was a real person one time- like my gramma” from a wide eyed little girl- completely consumed in the case AND “Hah, this was like- a real dude- cool” from some nonchalant twenty-something man whose eyes were really only searching to see if his friends would be grossed out. It sort of makes me realize even further how elementary education is such an important aspect of the growth of a person’s intellect and how essential it is to have sincere teachers at that age [a little shout out to some friends of mine in elementary education: Sandy Berman, Kirsten Holtje and Adriana Silva, as well as some awesome teachers from my elementary years at Ironia: Miss Reckenbiel, Mr. Tarnowski and Mrs. Herr].

Back to the Lab, right- I let myself sidetrack: So I don’t mind these different reactions (because, after all, that twenty-something man DID learn something from bones that day and he did say that he thought it was “cool”). An other thing I absolutely love about this little job is when I get to talk to other students who are either working in the lab with me (awesome shout-out to Allison who I discovered went to an Osteology workshop with an NYU classmate of mine- small world!) as well as the students who come in and tell me about how they are working towards the same career I am. It is great to hear from other people who are in the same boat as I. There are so many people left to meet in this field and all the ones I have met so far have been so genuinely excited about their course of study. It is great to know there is a whole world of passionate bioarchaeologists and forensic anthropologists with whom I get to interact in my future. Yay networking!

Okay- well there is my update for you [ahem- GREG- no, but seriously thanks for nagging me to write again]. I apologize for it’s length and obvious ramblings. This was almost a train-of-thought exercise. Oh! And a small shout-out to a new reader, Ashley. Your comment made me so happy that it’s not just my parents and siblings reading- and good luck with your Anthro-related-endeavors!

Until next time….

Paleopathology: The Love Of My Graduate Life

2010 April 21
by Michele Goodson

Dear Readers,

Well it has been quite a while since my last post. Since then, we have covered quite a bit more units in my all-time favorite class: Interpreting the Human Skeleton. In this class we learn how to evaluate skeletons for a biological profile (sex, “race”/ancestry, stature, age, possible behavioral markers, etc.). Recently we came to the section of Paleopathology. HYPERNERD TIME: You all know from my last post that I find diseases and abnormalities of the bone the coolest thing EVER, right? Right! So this was basically the best week of my life.

I’m currently writing this blog from our NYU Osteological Collections Lab. Our east wall is lined with bins and bins of skeletal material organized and separated by element. On the left are the cranial fragments and the contents of the bins move down the body to the vertebrae and ribs as we move towards center of the wall. Then we have the clavicle and scapula fragments, followed by the humerus/radial/ulnar fragments and disarticulated hands. At the center moving right, we start with pelves and move to the end with the femur/tibia/fibula fragments and finally conclude on the bottom right-hand corner with the disarticulated feet. Within these bins are the remains of individuals whose bones tell so much about who they are/were. But, to me, saying that this femur belonged to a male, of about 43 years of age, who was 5’8″, while incredible given the minimal material, only paints a picture of an average-height-middle aged-male. However, to say that this person had and extremely arthritic knee joint, evidenced by the erosion of the articular area from bone-on-bone contact… that paints a picture of a person. This man had a limp; that limp caused pain; he experienced pain; he experienced emotion. These sorts of things make it all so REAL.

I think that I have found, finally, where my plans for future (graduate) research lie. Paleopathology. How diseases show up in the bone. This is utterly fascinating to me.

At the end of this summer, I will be volunteering at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology with their osteological collections. I have never been so excited to look at bones. What I most look forward to is the opportunity to work with the remains of people who died during the Civil War. I will be able to see the results of the medicine from that era and the types of diseases that affected the people of that time. I find myself nerdily giddy with excitement (no, “nerdily” is not a word- but it’s the only thing I felt could accurately describe my feelings). I should probably find a less spastic way of conveying my excitement before I arrive for my first day….

Well- that was just a quick update for you all! I am sure there are grammar/spelling errors galore, but I will be back soon to edit 🙂

Comments please!

Written in Bone Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

2010 March 8
by Michele Goodson

This past summer in late August, I took a trip to Washington DC to do 3 things: visit my grandparents in Silver Springs, bake a souffle (a la Julie and Julia) for my aunt who recently had a plate and several screws implanted in her arm, and spend hours upon hours in the “Written in Bone” exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit displays wonderful examples of the human skeleton and presents information, gathered from recent excavations, on the historic, 17th century, settlements of Jamestown, Virginia and St. Mary’s City, Maryland. Warning: the following entry contains several episodes of what I affectionately term “HyperNerd” and “SuperGeekFreakout” moments but, hey, I love what I do! (I should trademark those…)

James Fort was settled in the early 17th century (1604) by 100 men and boys and later joined by women. The location of this fort was unknown until recently when it was uncovered in 1994. Since that date, several burials have been located, a few of which have been excavated, and the lay out of the Fort is now coming to light. Interestingly, a few journals of colonists have survived and, in the hands of skilled scientists, the information from these journals have been pieced together with the excavation records and biological profiles (age/sex/disease) of skeletons to paint a detailed history of life for these early colonists.

The exhibit presents many skeletons and cases to the visitors and may, therefore, take an individual several hours to walk through (that is, if their interest level is as high as mine)- but a few sections of the exhibit stuck in my mind as particularly interesting. I have always been interested in pathology of any sort (and injury for that matter) and given that both pathology and injury can manifest in bone and tell a tale hundreds of years later makes me thrilled to call myself an aspiring forensic anthropologist or bioarchaeologist. Thus, naturally, the sections of this exhibit that excited me the most were those concerned with pathology, injury, and any abnormal modification to bone, along with how these markers can tell scientists about history without even using words.

One of these sections was that of an infant skeleton (aka the Calvert Child), from the St. Mary’s City excavation, and determining the baby’s possible cause of death. The infant’s bone markers suggested malnutrition as well as vitamin deficiency (presenting as weakened bones and improper mineralization) and it was hypothesized that the child suffered from rickets. Further investigation revealed that the infant was buried during the springtime, suggesting it was born in the winter when it was most likely swaddled for warmth, which also reduces the contact between sunlight and infant skin, reducing vitamin D in the body, reducing proper calcium which, combined with the malnutrition common in a recently settled colony, would very likely result in rickets! Deep breath- that was exciting. But, really- WHOA! How awesome is it that they figured that out by looking at pollen and bones? Pretty cool, I’d say.

A few other exciting details was this one section where occupation was discussed. Now, in my current classes we have discussed that bone markers are seldom useful in determining occupation (IE: when, on TV’s “Bones“, Temperance Brennan decides that an individual was a tennis player within 30 seconds of seeing the skeleton due to some anomaly with the shoulder joint to which Booth replies “Now how do you get a pretty tennis player out of that yuck?”… Well, I’m sorry to say that really isn’t too realistic- but it’s still a great show!! Watch it!). However, there happen to be some pretty awesome occupational (or perhaps social) skeletal markers from this colonial exhibit!! My favorite example is the black smith. It was discussed that the blacksmiths of the town may have been the skeletons recovered with abnormal bone growth on the medial sides of their proximal femoral shafts (that’s fancy talk- it’s their inner thighs). Black smiths are known for hammering metal on their thighs in order to alter it into a desired shape. This hammering could have disrupted the bone and caused it to grow abnormally- almost to make a padding for the kind of work they preformed. I suppose it’s a difficult thing to confirm and it’s been a while since I’ve been to the exhibit. But that’s pretty awesome, too, right?

There is also the ever famous image of the skulls with holes in their smiles. This is a more obvious marker than the blacksmith marker, and indicates the men who enjoyed quite a many smokes with their pipes. These smoking pipes were used so often that they wore a hole in the bite of their users. Check out this picture I found through a Google search for “17th Century Colonial Pipe Smokers.” The photo is of a specimen from the museum that they uploaded onto their site. You can also see some of my favorite cases by clicking here! These are all files where the analysis of skeletal remains helped scientists uncover some great information about some of the first colonists!

I could go on and on about this exhibit until my fingers fall off from typing and any reader’s eyes may pop out into their coffee mug. I loved it. The mixture of bioarchaeology, forensic files, physical anthropology lessons, and a slew of awesome specimens open the eyes of visitors and allow them to see what life was like three hundred years ago when our country was first settled (by ‘outsiders,’ mind you, as Native Americans have been kicking butt on this continent for much much longer, plus they played a huge role in these settlers lives as well- but you’ll have to go to the exhibit to see how!!) This entry may be a ramble of excitement (and may need some heavy editing for that matter) but I hope you have enjoyed reading the tales of 17th Century Chesapeake Settlers from the eyes of a nerdy and enthusiastic student (HyperNerd/SuperGeek… what have you). I can’t wait to go back and visit again!!!

Comments please!

Archaeological Dig Uncovers Important Discovery

2010 February 5
by Michele Goodson

During my 8 week field school with the Archaeological Field School of South Texas, we had a camera crew come and film us explaining some findings.  It was such an exciting experience to share the information with others- especially with those of the community who made our research possible!

Here you can see the working conditions and the wonderful members of the research team at Site NU-54.  Everyone shown on screen made my experience with the AFSST a wonderful one and I look forward to more similar experiences!

Read the full article here:

My Experience from Field School and Advice for Others

2010 February 5
by Michele Goodson

My name is Michele Goodson.  During Summer 2009, between my Junior and Senior years at NYU, I attended an 8-week intensive Archaeology Field School at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC).  My decision to attend field school is probably one of the best decisions I have made thus far, as the experiences learned are infinitely applicable to my future in the field of Anthropology.  I would highly recommend to students who are interested in Archaeology or Physical Anthropology to attend a field school, as it will qualify students for Cultural Resource Management work as well as many other jobs that require practical excavation experience.  Additionally, field work is now a prerequisite for most graduate programs in Anthropology.

It is important to know what kind of experience you are looking for when you decide upon a field school.  During my search I knew that I wanted to test myself; I wanted to place myself in conditions that would challenge me and create a make-or-break scenario so that when I left the field school I would know whether or not I would be happy with digging and field research as a career.  With these thoughts in mind, and the notion that I preferred to stay within the country, I chose the Archaeological Field School of South Texas, a field school located in San Patricio, Texas: Population 318.

While this field school fit my desires for a challenging environment (we slept in tents, temperatures were constantly in the triple digits, and we bathed in outdoor showers with cold water), there were several other aspects of the school that attracted me.  The AFSST was run through an accredited university (Texas A&M University Corpus Christi) and offered 6 credits to attend the school.  This was important to me, as I wanted to transfer the credit and have a field school on my academic transcript (be sure to petition before you go!).  Additionally, AFSST was run by a professional archaeologist, Dr. Bob Drolet, a Professor at TAMU-CC and Curator at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.  These connections with a museum and University were terrific aspects of the school, as they allowed students to learn exactly how materials and discoveries get from the dirt in your trowel, all the way to a museum display or the classroom.

I also knew, when applying for field schools, that I wanted to learn it all: excavations, mapping, lab work, data analysis, everything.  I knew that in order to do this and make my time worth it, I needed to find a field school that was as long as possible- providing me with as much time as possible to absorb all that I could.  There were very few field schools that lasted longer than 5 weeks, and this 8-week AFSST program provided me with the unique opportunity to not only do it all, but to do it all several times and genuinely learn.  By the end of the season, I felt as though I was an Archaeologist and that I had the skills I needed in order to hold my own on any other dig.

By far, the best trait of the AFSST was the fact each student had to write a paper.  While this isn’t typical of a field school, this was something I knew I wanted.  The papers that the students of the AFSST wrote were based on a formulated thesis started at the beginning of the 8-week program and developed through data collected at the site.  But even better than the formulation of the paper was the fact that students were given the opportunity to present their findings at a professional conference (Texas Archaeological Society Meetings) in October.  The process of writing this paper helped me to better understand what kind of work is necessary to achieve a finished product good enough to present to an academic community.  Not only was this process priceless, but the networking and the practical experience of presenting a paper was beyond invaluable.

Feel free to ask me questions about my experiences!

Michele Goodson
NYU 2010

The Start of

2010 February 3
by Michele Goodson

Today, I begin my blogging experiences.  This page is all thanks to my brother; he bought the domain and helped set me up–I think it is quite a brilliant idea.  The goal and purpose of this page is to update readers (whomever you may be) about my academic and professional experiences- hopefully all of which will be related to Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology.

My name is Michele Goodson. Currently, I am a student at New York University (graduating in May of this year 2010) with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Psychology.  My interests, in terms of Anthropology, are heavily focused on the Forensic aspects- mainly human osteology.  I find it thrilling to examine the  bones of an individual and attempt to decipher what they may have done, who they may have been, and how or when they may have died.  To many, my interests sound morbid, but I prefer to view this field as a study of life through an individual who just happens to be deceased, as opposed to studying “the dead.”  Because, really- the point of this type of study is to determine what happened during life.  In my opinion, the study pays homage to people in general, as everyone has a personal story worth knowing.

I can describe myself as an individual with intense dedication to what I do.  I actually enjoy being in a lab with bones all day- whether it means measuring skulls, familiarizing myself with trays upon trays of bone fragments, comparing the hand and foot phalanges, studying teeth, seriating muscle attachment rugosity in femurs/humeri/os coxae, what have you.  I’m happy to say I know what interests me and that I am taking every step possible to achieve my goal of becoming a Forensic Anthropologist.  I know I have what it takes and this blog is hopefully a way for me to show others my potential and dedication.

Enjoy the reads and come back often.  Updates should occur once or twice a month- and perhaps more often than that, considering that a lot happens in the wrapping up of an undergraduate degree.

Thanks for reading and Stay Tuned!