10th September 2021

From Fossils To Mind Workshop 2021: Organisers and Presenters

Organisers

Amélie
Beaudet

Amélie Beaudet is a lecturer in Human Origins at the Department of Archaeology of the University of Cambridge (UK). She started her research on the African fossil record within the frame of her PhD at the University of Toulouse (France) in 2012. During her first postdoctoral contract at the University of Pretoria (South Africa) in 2016, she developed a particular interest in the evolution of the human brain. She joined the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) in 2017 as a postdoctoral researcher to study the fossil hominin assemblage from the ‘Cradle of Humankind’. In 2020 she moved to Cambridge (UK) where she is lecturing about human evolution and pursuing her work on human brain evolution.

Tanya
Calvey

Tanya Calvey has a Ph.D. in comparative neuroanatomy and is a senior lecturer in the School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand. Tanya researches the evolution of addiction, translational neuropsychopharmacology and addiction medicine. Tanya is interested in how addictive behaviours differ between species and why humans seem to be particularly vulnerable. Regarding her work in the field of addiction medicine, Tanya integrates human neuroimaging and translational molecular neurobiological findings from her lab to guide her research in the field of drug treatment and prevention policy.

Alexandra
de Sousa

Dr Alexandra A. de Sousa is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Bath Spa University and is also a visiting researcher at the University of Bath. She is interested in the biological basis of behaviour in general and the origin of the human mind in particular. Dr. de Sousa is committed to diverse interdisciplinary approaches within her research area, which led her to found the European Network for Brain Evolution Research. She is involved in public outreach through Brain Evolution in the News. Her research also applies evolutionary theory to understanding contemporary human-environmental interactions.

Presenters

Julien
Benoit

I am a Senior Researcher in Palaeontology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa). As a researcher, my efforts are directed toward a better understanding of the neuroanatomy, palaeobiology and physiology of African mammals and their ancestors the therapsids. From the inner ear and brain of the Afrotherian mammals that I studied as a PhD student to the trigeminal nerve and pineal eye of the South African therapsids that I study today, my work has always been driven by the same goal: to better understand the palaeobiology of African extinct species using computed tomography and 3D imaging techniques.

Katherine
Bryant

Dr. Katherine Bryant is an evolutionary neuroanatomist who studies the organization of white matter tracts in humans, great apes, and other primates using MR-based methods including diffusion tensor imaging. Dr. Bryant is interested in the human and ape-specific modifications to brain structure and identifying when these changes may have occurred in the human and hominid lineages. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Cognitive Neuroecology lab headed by Prof. Rogier Mars.

Collette
Dehay

Dr. Colette Dehay has pioneered the understanding of the role of cell-cycle control in corticogenesis in both mouse and monkey (e.g. Dehay et al., Nature, 1993 Lukaszewicz et al., Neuron, 2005; Dehay and Kennedy, Nature Neuro Rev, 2007; Pilaz et al., PNAS, 2009; Betizeau et al., Neuron, 2013, Arcila et al., 2014). Her team is one of the few groups that bridges the gap between work in rodents and human developmental neuroscience by studying primate development. She has extensive expertise in manipulation of gene expression on ex vivo primate organotypic slices in combination with 2 photon live-imaging of cortical progenitors in rodents and primates.

Aida
Gómez-Robles

Aida Gomez-Robles is a biological anthropologist with a general interest in the study of human evolution. Her research focuses mostly on palaeoanthropological issues, but also includes, whenever possible and relevant, a much broader comparative context. Her major research interests in this field are diverse and they include: 1) Human brain evolution, with particular focus on the evolution of brain plasticity; 2) Evolutionary relationships of Pleistocene hominins as inferred from dental variation; and 3) Quantitative approaches to the study of human evolution.

With a background in biological sciences (BSc in Biology, 2004, University of Granada, Spain), Aida gained her PhD in Biological Anthropology in 2010 working at the Spanish National Research Center for Human Evolution. In 2011 and 2012, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research (Altenberg, Austria). From 2012 to 2017, she was a postdoc at the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology of the George Washington University (Washington DC, USA). In 2017, she moved to London as a UCL-Excellence Research Fellow at the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment of UCL. In 2018, she took up her current position at the UCL’s Department of Anthropology.

Philipp
Gunz

Philipp Gunz, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig

Dr. Philipp Gunz is a biological anthropologist who studies the evolution of human development. Philipp obtained his PhD at the University of Vienna (2005), and is currently a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He is a specialist for the reconstruction of fossil skulls from computed tomographic scans, and the statistical analysis of shape — a set of methods called geometric morphometrics. His group’s research brings together analyses of fossil skulls, ancient genomes, brain imaging and gene expression to shed light on the evolutionary changes shaping the human brain.You can find out more about his research on www.evodevo.de

Pascaline
Lauters

I studied biology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and completed my PhD in 2013 on the morphology and evolution of the brain of ornithopod dinosaurs at the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. I worked a few years for a health insurer, after what I went back to science by accepting a position for the Belgium’s federal public service Health. I’m currently employed in a department dedicated to the evaluation of phytopharmaceutical products, ensuring the protection of human and environmental health.

Paul
Manger

Paul R. Manger is a professor in Anatomical Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand. Manger’s research focus is on the evolution of brain and behaviour – neuroethology – of African mammals. He and his colleagues and students examine the structure of African and other mammalian brains to investigate how brains change and how they stay the same in different phylogenetic lineages and in mammals showing major morphological variations. These studies are building a fundamental understanding of the processes of brain evolution and how they relate to behaviour in mammals. In addition to this, Manger and colleagues are studying sleep in free-roaming mammals, and use sleep as one of the key behaviours that can be related to evolution of the structure of the brain. Manger is on the editorial board of the Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, and reviews articles from over 20 scientific journals. Manger has published over 250 papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals and has penned 13 chapters in books. 

  

Chet
Sherwood

Chet Sherwood is a biological anthropologist and neuroscientist who studies brain evolution in primates and other mammals. His research investigates how brains differ among species and how this variation is correlated with behavior, shaped by the rules of developmental biology, impacted by experience, and encoded in the genome. Sherwood graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and anthropology, then attended New York University for a master’s degree in education, and afterwards completed his Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University in 2003. He was an assistant professor at Kent State University before joining the faculty of The George Washington University in the Department of Anthropology in 2006. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, The Wenner-Gren Foundation, and The Leakey Foundation. He was a recipient of a James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in 2012 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2021. He currently co- directs the National Chimpanzee Brain Resource and the Great Ape Neuroscience Project.

Felix
Strockens

Felix Strockens is from Heinrich-Heine University Duesseldorf, Germany.

Gaokgatlhe Mirriam Tawane

Mirriam Tawane is from the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, South Africa.

Gaokgatlhe Mirriam Tawane was born in Majeakgoro village, in Taung, North West. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, Honours degree and Master of Science degree in Palaeontology, and a PhD degree in Palaeoathropology, all awarded by the University of the Witwatersrand. Her PhD thesis was titled “Dental size and frequency of pathologies in the teeth of a small- bodied population of Mid-Late Holocene Micronesians, Palau Micronesia”. She is the first black South African female to qualify as a Palaeoanthropologist. She served as a council member for the National Heritage Council as a Ministerial appointment. She is now the curator of Palaeontology at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (DNMNH). She has been involved in several multi-disciplinary projects in Palaeoanthropology. She is currently the recipient of a National Research Foundation grant that will be utilised to create a digital data for fossil materials curated at DNMNH. She has and still is involved in Palaeosciences outreach projects. She undertook a human evolution workshop in rural Taung, with the aim of taking Palaeosciences to the rural areas of Taung. The project addressed the gap that exists between the scientific community and the local communities of Taung, as well as the lack of knowledge and exposure of Palaeosciences to the locals. Taung is well-known for the discovery of Australopithecus Africanus (Taung child) in 1924. 

Martijn
van den Heuvel

Martijn van den Heuvel is from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Martijn’s research is focused on mapping the roadmap of connections of the human brain and understanding the topological organization of the ‘human connectome’ in health and disease. In his comparative work, Martijn’s lab aims to use data and network analysis tools to gain insight into fundamental principles of human brain connectivity, across species and human evolution. With his work he bridges multiple fields of science, including biology, computer science, mathematics and clinical and cognitive neuroscience.