Dr. Hefner and NIJ Helping to Identify Children

Dr. Joseph T. Hefner, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University, and Dr. Nicholas Herrmann, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University, received a National Institute of Justice award to improve the accuracy of age estimates for unidentified remains of children and adolescents. The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and Triservice Orthodontic Residency Program, 59th Dental Group will also collaborate on this research.

The project entitled, “Investigation of subadult dental age-at-death estimation using transitional analysis and machine learning methods,” was funded for approximately $900,000 and focuses on tooth root and crown development to estimate age in children and adolescents using transition analysis and machine learning methods. Currently, standard methods often underestimate the age of children and adolescents by one to more than two years as age increases.

Their 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 by collecting data from radiographs obtained from living children and adolescents from different populations in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa and other locations around the world.

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

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