Dr. Joseph Hefner Awarded Major New National Institute of Justice Grant

The Department of Anthropology is very please to announce that Dr. Joseph T. Hefner, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, and Dr. Nicholas Herrmann, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University, have received a National Institute of Justice award to improve the accuracy of age estimates for unidentified remains of children and adolescents.

The project, “Investigation of subadult dental age-at-death estimation using transitional analysis and machine learning methods,” was funded for approximately $900,000.

“As forensic anthropologists, we are routinely involved in the identification effort when unidentified human remains are discovered,” said Hefner. “Refined age estimates are a critical component of identification, especially when the skeletal remains under examination belong to a child.”

The project focuses on tooth root and crown development to estimate age in children and adolescents using transition analysis and machine learning methods. The goal is to provide forensic anthropologists and odontologists an accurate and precise age estimation method using a large, demographically diverse, modern sample of children and adolescents. Current standard methodology based on tooth mineralization often underestimates age by one to more than two years as age increases.

The project will use dental development data collected on radiographs from living children and adolescents from different populations in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and other locations around the world.

The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and Triservice Orthodontic Residency Program, 59th Dental Group will also collaborate on this research.