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Midori Albert

April 25, 2017

If Midori Albert’s lab brings to mind an episode of “Bones,” that’s understandable. Like the fictional television character, Albert is a forensic anthropologist who sometimes works with law enforcement. More often, however, she is teaching or advising students as a member of the UNCW Department of Anthropology faculty.

Albert, a professor of biological anthropology, is coordinator of the forensic science minor at UNCW. That explains the bones – real and simulated – carefully laid out throughout her lab. She also teaches both introductory and upper-level courses and conducts research in the field of identity science as part of the university’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Identity Sciences (I3S).

An anthropology class at the University of Florida defined her path, though she majored in psychology. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in anthropology from UF and the University of Colorado Boulder, respectively.

“My interest in forensic anthropology stems from a heartfelt calling to help people, and I suppose there are none more in need of help than those who have died and cannot speak for themselves,” Albert said. “Interpreting a life history and manner of death from skeletal remains combines scientific proclivities with the mystique of delving into the unknown, and it engages me in a different sort of problem-solving process.”

In addition to teaching and research duties, Albert enjoys advising students and helping them research potential jobs.

“It is so meaningful to be able to genuinely connect with students as individuals with their own personal story, learning style and career goal,” said Albert, who was a first-generation college student. As such, she said she understands that students often need careful guidance in setting academic and career objectives.

Her expertise in forensic anthropology has taken her to crime scenes, sites of long-buried skeletons and the aftermath of one natural disaster.

She spent several weeks in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, working with funeral directors, crime-scene investigators and military personnel to recover and transport bodies from the homes of people who died in the Category 5 storm. Despite the destruction around her, Albert found the work rewarding.

“In the aftermath of such devastation, it was the teamwork, friendships formed and selfless assistance of the volunteers that revealed such a positive side of humanity,” she said. “It was an experience like no other I have had.”

-- Tricia Vance