Career: Forensic investigator
Learn to: Analyze human remains
Months after a county cleanup crew found a skeleton in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, forensic anthropologist Ann Ross and her students zeroed in on an incisor. It established what other investigators couldn’t: that the deceased was Elizabeth Smallwood, the sixth victim of the Edgecombe serial killer.
When new cases come in, students help Ross recover bones and collect data, Factors they consider include preservation, as in a frozen pond, or exposure to the sun, all of which can help establish time since death. The bulk of the student’s work- even the undergrads- is analyzing unidentified human remains to create what’s called a biological profile. To establish ancestry, they look at facial structure or map the skull using 3-D software that Ross co-created. “It’s the element of mystery that gets them,” Ross says of her students. “But I think it’s being the voice for those who can no longer defend themselves that keeps them.”
Web site: ncforensics.org