About

My name is Adam Netzer Zimmer and I am a biocultural anthropologist, educator, and science advocate pursuing my Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Ég heiti Adam Netzer Zimmer og ég er doktorsnemi í „biocultural” mannfræði við University of Massachusetts Amherst í Bandaríkjunum.

My research, conducted under the supervision of Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, focuses on the intersections of identity, policy, violence, and health in bioarchaeology, forensic anthropology, and medicine. This work, which is based primarily in Reyjavík, Iceland, has been funded by the Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation fellowship, and a UMass Amherst Pre-Dissertation Fellowship. My dissertation project is on cadaver recruitment policies for anatomical dissections, looking at the differences between Iceland and the United States in the late 1800s.

You can read about my research in my latest article for Scientific American, "Era of the Body Snatchers".

I earned a dual Bachelor of Arts in Music (Voice) and Anthropology from Ithaca College in upstate New York in 2013. That was where I first gained interest in human remains as a research assistant at the Taphonomic and Decomposition Post-Mortem Outdoor Laboratory Experiments (TADPOLE) facility.

As a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, I then went on to earn my Master of Arts in Anthropology from UMass Amherst in 2016 as a part of the UMass Violence & Conflict Laboratory. My master's research, supervised by Dr. Ventura Pérez, Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, and Dr. Amanda Walker Johnson, used GIS mapping to trace how body acquisition practices for anatomical teaching disproportionately affected racially segregated neighborhoods in New York City (ca. 1880-1920). This research is now available as a part of the Springer Press book Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies: New Ways of Knowing Anatomical and Archaeological Skeletal Collections, edited by Dr. Pamela Stone.

While my research speciality is now centered in Iceland and the American Mid-Atlantic region, I have also conducted bioarchaeological and forensic fieldwork in Italy, upstate New York, Massachusetts, and the American Southwest. I currently work in the UMass Community Archaeology Laboratory, directed by Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, and I will be returning to Iceland during the 2019-2020 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar.

More information about my current research projects can be found here.

To contact me or to request a copy of my CV, please email me at azimmer@anthro.umass.edu


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Research

My dissertation research, centered in Reykjavík, Iceland, investigates the process of cadaver recruitment for anatomical and medical training in the early years of modern medical practice. This project is squarely situated between biological and cultural anthropology, combining both to gain a picture of who was used for dissections, why they were chosen, and what policies promoted this process. I am then comparing this to contemporaneous data from the same time period in the United States. This project is funded, in part, by the Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation.

To read about my journey from my Master's degree to my project in Iceland, please read UMass Amherst Spotlight: Adam Zimmer receives Leifur Eiríksson Foundation Scholarship.

Additional Projects

Taphonomy & Trauma of Human Remains
This project uses 3D digital microscopy and macroscopic analysis to analyze sharp-force trauma patterns on anatomical skeletal collections. The goal is to establish standards for determining the timing and methods of maceration techniques applied to human remains. It aims to address the problems with determining trauma pre- and post-soft tissue decay. This in a continuously-evolving project using faunal models in the UMass Amherst Taphonomic Research Facility.

Megafauna Butchery in Madagascar
I am a part of a large project investigating the decline of now-extinct megafauna in Madagascar. My specific contribution is the 3D microscopy analysis of sharp- and blunt-force trauma on faunal remains. The goal is to determine if, and to what extent, human butchery of these species may have occurred.

Repatriation & NAGPRA Consultation
I am a consulting osteologist for the UMass Amherst NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) Repatriation Committee. In conjunction with this role, I am very interested in community-based approaches to human remains investigation and repatriation. In particular, I am interested in collaborating and consulting with descendant populations not directly addressed by current NAGPRA legislation.

Research Updates
You can find my most current research updates on the following sites:


Teaching

I have acted as a teaching assistant and guest lecturer in a variety of courses, including Human Origins & Variation, Forensic Anthropology, Anthropology of Violence, Inequality and Power in the United States, Anatomy of the Human Body, and Race and the American Museum. In addition, I have acted as a supervisor for undergraduate research projects on decomposition in the Taphonomic Research Facility and as a graduate peer mentor in the Department of Anthropology.

My teaching interests and abilities include the following:

  • Anthropology of Violence
  • Race & Racism in Science
  • History of Science & Medicine
  • Bioarchaeological Methods
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Queer & Feminist Science

For five years, I was also the instructor of the UMass Amherst Bioarchaeology & Forensic Anthropology Field School. This 6-week field course, held every summer, utilizes a combination of classroom teaching, in-field excavation, and laboratory experiences to introduce students to the role of the biological anthropologist, archaeologist, and forensic scientist in the excavation of human remains.

As the instructor of record for this course, I sought to maximize students' individual learning potential by creating laboratory and field exercises for a variety of learning styles. In addition, I integrated readings and guest lectures on higher-level topics such as critical feminist biology, community-based approaches to archaeology, and heritage management. I believe it is crucial that students going into the field acquire not only the hands-on skills of excavation but also the knowledge base to put these skills to work.

Summer 2019 and Fall 2019 I will be teaching Human Origins & Variation through UMass Amherst's Department of Continuing and Professional Education. This course introduces students to the wide range of research within biological anthropology and helps students learn how human biology and behavior have interacted over the course of our evolution.

This course will address some of the following questions:

  • Why are new human ancestor fossils important and exciting?
  • How does human culture impact our biology?
  • What do we have in common with the other primates?
  • Just how biologically different are humans from one another?

To enroll in this course or to find out more information, please visit UMass Amherst's Continuing and Professional Education.


Advocacy

Advocacy work is central to my research and teaching philosophies. I believe that an effective science is one that is effectively communicated outside of academia and one that centers the voices of people who have often been excluded from science.

As a part of this work, I am a proud member of the #UniqueScientists initiative, the 500 Queer Scientists initiative, and oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

I am also an active panelist for the Boston-based SpeakOUT. This organization is the nation's oldest LGBTQIA speakers bureau, working to create a world free of homo-bi-transphobia and other forms of prejudice.


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Updates

June 5, 2019

My most recent article for Scientific American magazine has just been published.

The article, "Era of the Body Snatchers" describes my Master's research which looked at how the intersecting factors of race and poverty intersected to influence who was selected for dissection tables in early 1900s New York City


February 28, 2019

I've been awarded the U.S. Fulbright Program's Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant!

I'll be returning to Iceland for the 2019-2020 academic year to continue my research on anatomical skeletal collections.


January 28, 2019

Enroll in my online summer course, Human Origins and Variation, through UMass Continuing and Professional Education!

This course, which runs from July 8 to August 16, will introduce students to the wide range of research within biological anthropology and will help students learn how human biology and behavior have interacted over the course of our evolution.


December 28, 2018

Exciting news!

I've just received notice that I have been recommended as a semi-finalist for the 2019-2020 Fulbright U.S. Student Program to Iceland!


November 2, 2018

Thank you so much to the Forensic and Bioanthropology Laboratory (FAB Lab) Group at Boston University's Program in Forensic Anthropology for inviting me to speak about my research. I gave a talk titled "Violence or Trauma? What skeletal collections can teach us about violence".


September 24, 2018

I'm very excited to say that I will be co-organizing a roundtable session at this year's American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.

Along with Syracuse University Ph.D. student Aja Lans, we will be organizing a roundtable discussion titled "Black Feminist Science", aimed at discussing what contributions and futurities Black Feminist perspectives can offer to the scientific side of anthropology.


August 25, 2018

In the spring of 2018, I was awarded a University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Anthropology Pre-dissertation Fellowship. Thanks to this funding, I've spent the summer conducting research on post-mortem processing on several anatomical teaching skeletons housed at UMass Amherst.

My hope is that this research will help bioarchaeologists distinguish post-mortem processing marks associated with dissection and autopsy from those occuring naturally from excavations and general wear and tear.


June 26, 2018

I'm so proud to be one of the queer scientist contributors to Rewire.org's story about LGBTQ representation in STEM: 500 Queer Scientists Speak Up About STEM Inclusivity.

I can't think of a better way to close out Pride Month 2018 than by helping increase visibility of queer scientists. For more information about the 500 Queer Scientists project, or to submit your own story, be sure to check out their website!


March 12, 2018

I have a new book review out about the fantastic volume The Archaeology of Race in the Northeast, edited by by Christopher N. Matthews and Allison Manfra McGovern.

The review can be found in the Anthropology Book Forum of Anthropology News and is titled Re-evaluating the Place of Race in Historical Archaeology.


January 2, 2018

My first book chapter is finally published! It's titled "More than the sum total of their parts. Restoring identity by recombining a skeletal collection with its texts." It's part of a fantastic edited volume, Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies: New Ways of Knowing Anatomical and Archaeological Skeletal Collections, edited by Dr. Pamela K. Stone, as a part of Springer Press' Bioarchaeology & Social Theory series.


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