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In April, I received the fabulous message that I would be a recipient of the Global Horizon, as well as the Santander Fund! These funds enabled me to fulfill my dream of going back to America in order to conduct research for my dissertation. The topic of my dissertation project is to analyze how the body composition affects human decomposition in its various stages.


In order to study that, I first went to Knoxville (Tennessee) to the Anthropological Research Facility. Not only was I able to conduct my research there and gathered tons of data, I was also allowed to participate in an array of activities. This included but was not limited to:

  • Assisting with intake of donated bodies (assessing the physical state of the body, taking body measurements, as well as taking blood, hair and nail samples, I helped to prepare post autopsy bodies for placement and captured biometrics of individuals).
  • Placed and recovered fresh, skeletonized and mummified remains at the Anthropological Research Facility.
  • Mapped, photographed, inventoried, recovered and processed scattered and buried remains.
  • Completed the Bloodborne Pathogens Regulatory Awareness and the Biological Safety Principles & Applications course.
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It was overall an amazing experience, which taught me so much enhancing everything my education has taught me thus far. While my Masters course at BU certainly prepared me for what I was getting myself into in Knoxville, I certainly enjoyed learning from some of the best forensic anthropologists at the world’s most famous facility. Looking back at it, I would have probably gone to the sauna in Bournemouth a couple of times before heading to the US. The humidity and heat was something I certainly had to get used to after a year of original British weather.


Now, I am in San Marcos (Texas) at the Forensic Anthropology Center and am collecting more data in a different environment. I have only been here for a week, but have already again, learned so much more, and been able to see the differences in decomposition by location. Furthermore, I was able to meet with the responsible people and help with the project that identifies border crossers who did not survive the exhausting journey. This weekend, I will join the search team in an attempt to recover two still missing juvenile flood victims. Cadaver dogs have hit on a sandbank several time and we will do everything in our power to hopefully recover the remains of 2 children still missing from last year’s floods.

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Overall, this experience has already been beyond amazing and I am very grateful to have received the Global Horizon and Santander Fund that made this incredible journey possible.

By Saskia Ammer