Ph.D. Student Alexis VanBaarle Awarded J. Lawrence Angel Student Award

Department of Anthropology Ph.D. student Alexis VanBaarle has been selected as the 2024 winner of the J. Lawrence Angel Student Award. The J. Lawrence Angel Student Award is given yearly for the best student paper presented at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference. Alexis’ advisor for this project was Dr. Heather Garvin of Des Moines University.

Alexis’ presentation was titled “The Use of Outline Analyses to Assess Kerf Floor Shape Patterns in Saw Marks.” As summarized by Alexis, “When presented with medicolegal cases of saw dismemberment, forensic anthropologists are asked to estimate information about the saw utilized (i.e., saw class characteristics) which can help narrow down possible tools or be used in legal proceedings. To estimate these characteristics, forensic anthropologists look to features left on the bony surfaces by the saw teeth during the sawing process and apply qualitative and quantitative methods. My work looked at one specific feature, called the kerf floor shape, which is thought to be an outline of the saw. Previously, the relationship between this outline and how well it described the utilized saw was qualitative (or relied on visual morphological observation). I took these bony outlines and applied elliptical Fourier and principal component analyses to quantify the relationship between kerf floor shape and the saw class characteristics, thus providing error rates for estimating the saw class characteristics from kerf floor shape.”

For more information on the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, see here.