Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

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Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology

Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology Track

Paleontological research at OSU-CHS spans the Mississippian to the Recent, fossil bone microstructure to long-term patterns in paleobiodiversity, and temnospondyls to mice.  Faculty research interests are currently concentrated in Mammalia and Archosauria.

Graduate Student Opportunities

Field WorkWe seek students in two new labs and in two that are more established. As we are in an enriched environment with respect to biomedical techniques, projects incorporating biomedical approaches to paleontological questions are encouraged.

Students in the Anatomy and Paleontology track receive structured training to equip them for careers teaching Medical Gross Anatomy, Development, Histology, and Neuroanatomy. Taking courses alongside the first-year Medical students and progressing into teaching assistantships, graduate students develop and hone their anatomical knowledge and instructional skills.

Degrees offered are in Biomedical Sciences; we offer Masters of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. There is no non-thesis Masters offered on the Anatomy and Paleontology Track.

Financial Information

Ph.D. students are eligible to receive a stipend. Stipends are competitive and do not require a teaching load. To be considered for a stipend, applications must be completed by February 15.

Upon successful completion of coursework, teaching assistantships in Gross Anatomy are available. Students are also encouraged to apply for NSF predoctoral funding and other grants.

Facilities and Field Work

Lab FacilitiesOur vertebrate paleontology faculty members are actively building collections as a part of their research. Field work beyond basic techniques is not required for graduate projects, however Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology track students have the opportunity to pursue field projects. (We do not maintain a research collection at OSU, but work cooperatively with several institutions that do.)

We have moved into expanded research labs, including space allowing comparative dissections, fossil preparation and recovery, paleohistology, and 3-D image processing.  We have an active vertebrate paleontology volunteer program that assists on research projects and provides opportunities for student and faculty outreach.

Regional Resources

We have close affiliations with the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, OK (~2.5 hrs. drive). We are also within 4.5 hrs. drive of the University of Kansas collection in Lawrence.  We have a good relationship with the Boone Pickens School of Geology at OSU’s main campus in Stillwater, and may ask students to do some coursework there. (The Big Orange Bus (BOB) runs regularly between the two campuses.)

Faculty

Holly Woodward Ballard, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Research interests: Using large-sample osteohistology to assess growth dynamics, individual variability, and survivorship in dinosaurs and other extinct vertebrates, while utilizing the bone microstructure of extant vertebrates to provide a framework for paleohistologic inferences.

Paul Gignac, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Research interests: Musculoskeletal and dental biomechanics, cranial evolution and paleobiology of feeding in crocodilians and theropod dinosaurs, and contrast-enhanced micro-CT imaging techniques.

Kent S. Smith, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Research interests: Paleobiology, biogeography, and systematics of late Neogene and Quaternary mammals of the North American southern Great Plains, Colorado Plateau, and Great Basin.

Dr. Smith is the co-founder of the Native Explorers Foundation, an organization dedicated to the advancement and education of Native Americans in earth science, natural science, biomedical science, and medicine through mentorships with professional colleagues. Graduate and medical students at OSU-CHS and the College of Osteopathic Medicine have the unique opportunity of interacting with this exceptional organization. Funding opportunities are available for qualified students.

Anne Weil, Ph.D.– Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Research interests: Early mammalian evolution, phylogeny & biogeography of multituberculate mammals, terrestrial recovery after the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, and evolutionary constraints on biotic response to extinction at large spatiotemporal scales


Staff

Lindsey Yann, Ph.D. – Senior Research Assistant

Current Graduate Students

Ian Browne, M.S. – Ph.D. Candidate
Dissertation topic: Small mammals of the Barstow Formation: biotic response to climatic change at the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum

Leigha King, M.S. – Ph.D. Aspirant
Research interest: Distinguishing genetic variation in mammalian skeletons


For more information on our graduate program please contact us:

Holly Woodward Ballard, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Office: (918) 561-8263
Email: holly.ballard@okstate.edu

Paul Gignac, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Office: (918) 561-8265
Email: paul.gignac@okstate.edu

Kent S. Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Office: (918) 561-8246
Email: kent.smith@okstate.edu

Anne Weil, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Office: (918) 561-8266
Email: anne.weil@okstate.edu

 

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