Anthropology Bilinksi Fellows
What is the Bilinski Fellowship?
The Bilinski Educational Foundation was established in honor of Russell Bilinski, a researcher, professor and entrepreneur and his wife Dorothy Bilinski, an adept artist. The Bilinski Fellowship is an extension of the foundation that awards $30,000 to doctoral candidates who are ambitious and responsible during their graduation year. Typically, this final year is spent writing and completing a dissertation. This allows doctoral candidates to devote time solely to their dissertation without worrying about other obligations.
An anthropology Ph.D. candidate from the University of Nevada, Reno, Kelly Heim, was awarded the Bilinski Fellowship last year and is now defending her completed dissertation. She was able to move to Florida and solely focus on completing her dissertation with the help of the fellowship.
Heim is infectiously, passionate about teeth. She has created the foundation for a new model for dental development and age estimation based on modern American teeth. Currently a French Canadian dental model is being utilized, but she feels there is still improvement to be made. "Methods need to be updated, the U.S. is very diverse and the model doesn't account for that," Heim said. She hopes to implement this model after adding more statistical evidence to support her theory universally.
Amanda Harvey, an anthropology doctoral candidate from the University of Nevada, Reno has completed her dissertation on the Maya diet in west central Belize. Confident and self-reliant, she was motivated by her dissertation's focus and prepared to apply for the Bilinski Fellowship upon entering the doctoral program - six years ago!
She studied the different ways Spanish conquest and colonialism affected social consumption of food in the colonial site Tipu. Onsite scientific and physical methods to explore consumption habits allowed Harvey to personally grow as well as focus on her passion. The most rewarding aspect of education for Harvey is, "Simultaneously having the opportunity to do what I love (archaeology) while gaining a better understanding of myself on a personal level." The fellowship allowed her to engage completely with her research while not worrying about living expenses.
Rebecca George, an anthropology doctoral candidate from the University of Nevada, Reno will be analyzing dental variation in Central and Mexican Latinos for her dissertation, with the help of a Bilinski Fellowship.
George is creating a series of statistical models that can be applied to dental morphology and metrics for use by forensic anthropologists. She will be traveling to Mexico City as well as several institutions across the U.S. to analyze samples. This will be the first project that combines morphology and metrics to understand this population. She is fervently driven by reconnecting the deceased with their families, "The border crisis is a growing inspiration for a lot of us in forensic anthropology, this research helps us get them home," said George. Teeth are strong and despite normal methods of decay, such as cavities, they don't corrupt easily after death. Interestingly, George is noticing patterns in dental work, such as fillings, that reflect country of origin.
George is beaming with hope for the future. She is excited to see where her research takes her, whether it be teaching, researching, or becoming a medical examiner.
Donovan Adams, an anthropology doctoral candidate from the University of Nevada, Reno was awarded a Bilinski Fellowship for 2018-2019. He will be analyzing the building of a community in ancient Turkey using dental morphology for his dissertation.
Using his fellowship, Adams will be travelling to the Anatolia region of Turkey. The site that he will be studying appears to have been a modest sized community for the Bronze-age. The community was discovered by their large burial site during construction. The site held 800 burials, all but 18 of which were constructed the same way. He will be using dental morphology to study the remains because it is not destructive. Most of his examining will be conducted using calipers to measure the teeth. Adams will be able to detect whether the bodies were family, migratory people, or formally settled in the region they were buried. He aims to answer why 18 of the burials were buried separate and differently than the others. "There's just so much we'll never know...but coming closer to actuality is a silver lining," Adams said.
Adams said he is most grateful for his experience as a teaching assistant at the University of Nevada, Reno. "I love the classroom dynamic of questioning; they challenge me and it forces me to learn more about my field as well." He wants to continue teaching as a professor after he completes his dissertation.