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Department of Anthropology

Savannah Keating granted Magellan Journey Award to study disease in past populations

Savannah Keating, a junior, has been granted the Magellan Journey Award for her research. She's looking for trends in how disease affected past populations by studying skeletal remains. 


What is your research project about?

I will be analyzing demographic data that Dr. DeWitte has obtained from skeletal remains of past populations and working to identify potential trends between this data and the osteological* data she has obtained from the same remains. 


What prompted you to get involved in your project's research topic?

I am very interested in learning about past populations interactions with diseases. Learning about what diseases affected people that lived in the past can allow us to learn more about the effects of those diseases on people and the factors that impacted a person’s likelihood of becoming infected. Along with this, skeletal remains can tell us a lot about the demographics of populations in the past. I am interested in this work because not only can it allow us to understand populations in the past better, but it can also allow us to identity trends in disease interactions with populations in the present and the future. 


How does studying skeletal remains and disease trends relate to your career interests?

I plan on attending graduate school to do research in biological anthropology and obtain my PhD.  My career goal is to be a professor and to one day conduct my own research.


What dieases and/or populations would you like to study?

I am honestly open to anything! I want to learn as much as I can about as many diseases and populations as possible. I know that I will narrow my focus some point soon, but for right now I am content with being open to all possibilities. 


How has studying diseases impacted your worldview whether in big or small ways?

Oh wow, I feel like every class I take in both of my majors, biology and anthropology, impacts my understanding of disease and, consequently, my worldview in so many ways. Everything is connected. All the issues that affect many people daily, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, have biological effects and interact with diseases in important ways. This has really impacted my worldview because it has shown me how important social issues are in biology. I feel like they often get left out of coursework in STEM majors even though they have huge impacts on peoples' lives and need to be a part of many discussions every day, especially in the science world.


Is there anything else you'd like to add? 

I'd just like to say how grateful I am for the opportunity to get to work with Dr. DeWitte and for all the support I have received from the anthropology and biology faculty who have taught me, mentored me, and pushed me to learn more about my fields of interest and myself every day.

*Ostoeology: The study of the structure and function of the skeleton and bony structures.



Oxford University Press. (n.d.). Osteology. In Retrieved December 14. 2021, from

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