Micro-computed tomography (µCT) is state-of-the-art high resolution imaging technology that is increasingly employed in the study of bones, fossils, and archaeological artifacts. It allows researchers to nondestructively explore the three-dimensional external and internal structure of bone, fossilized remains, and irreplaceable archaeological artifacts. With Major Research Instrumentation support, Texas State University, an Emerging Research and Hispanic serving institution in Central Texas, will purchase a µCT system that will be housed in the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS). The system will help support the missions of the university and FACTS by promoting scientific discovery as well as providing teaching, training, and learning opportunities.

FACTS is a scientific research, educational training, and service center within the Department of Anthropology. FACTS faculty conduct research and train students in skeletal biology, and provide service to law enforcement by analyzing skeletal remains in a medicolegal context. FACTS also houses a rapidly growing documented human skeletal collection. The combination of a large documented human skeletal collection in the same laboratory with a µCT system will allow faculty and students to conduct scientific investigations into how habitual physical activities, age, and body weight affect the microstructure of bones and to develop methods for determining whether trauma to a skeleton occurred at the time of or after death. This research will greatly advance scientific knowledge of bone functional adaptation and trauma. The µCT system will also provide a method of conducting virtual autopsies on skeletal remains. FACTS faculty will be able to accurately analyze and document injuries in skeletal remains and build virtual three-dimensional reconstructions of the implement used to cause sharp and blunt force trauma, which will greatly benefit legal investigations.

The µCT system will be a shared instrument used by intramural and extramural researchers for a variety of collaborative interdisciplinary scientific investigations. The Center for Archaeological Studies will use the µCT system to aid in the documentation, interpretation, and conservation of artifacts from ancient human occupation sites and shipwrecks. The Paleobotany Laboratory will analyze and identify fossilized plants that can be used to reconstruct past climates instrumental in understanding climate change. In addition, the µCT images will provide a method for building virtual museums and sharing detailed information about bone microstructure, prehistoric artifacts, and rare fossils with researchers around the globe.

The µCT system will also be used to promote learning, and students will be involved in research using the µCT system. This will create greater excitement for scientific discovery and help with retention. Teachers can enhance learning in the classroom by facilitating the viewing of structures such the vascular system of plants and the microstructure of bone that are difficult for students to conceptualize. Students trained in advanced imaging methods will have unique skills and research opportunities that will significantly affect their career options, and can be applied to problems in a variety of fields. This knowledge will be especially valuable for the large portion of female, rural, and Hispanic students at Texas State University that often seek employment outside of academia in applied fields. In general, the shared instrument will serve to increase faculty and student scholarship, attract outside researchers, promote collaboration, help attract and retain diverse and exceptional faculty and students, and enhance teaching and learning.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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John E. Yellen
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Texas State University - San Marcos
San Marcos
United States
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