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Karen Samonds

Karen is currently an Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University. She received her B.S. and B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, and her M.A, M.Phil. & Ph.D. from the Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University. She has worked at Mount Holyoke College, McGill University, and the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research integrates comparative anatomy, systematics, and biogeography with field paleontology to address topics in vertebrate evolution. She first travelled to Madagascar in 1998, and has participated in many different types of research there (e.g., paleontological, ecological, behavioral). Her paleontological field research aims to shed light on the origin and evolutionary history of Madagascar’s modern fauna, one of the most unique and endemic on the planet.

Graduate Students

 

Joshua Mathews - Chief Fossil Preparator & Lab Supervisor
Josh is a PhD student in the Dept. of Biological Sciences and studies vertebrate paleontology. He earned his B.S. in Biology and Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and his M.S. in Geography at NIU. Prior to starting his PhD, he was chief fossil preparator at the Fryxell Geology Museum at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. He was involved with the Transantarctic Vertebrate Paleontology Project and traveled on expedition to Antarctica in the winter of 2010-2011 to excavate and search for early Jurassic dinosaurs. He is also part of ongoing paleontological research in Utah and Montana with the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois.

Katie Heffernan
Katie earned her bachelors in Biology at University of Wisconsin - Parkside in 2009, and then received a M.S. with a specialization in Human Anatomical Sciences in 2011 from Northern Illinois University. Her PhD thesis focuses on dental macrowear in Malagasy lemurs. She currently teaches anatomy labs at NIU while pursuing her Ph.D.

Nadia Rasolofomanana
Katie earned her Masters thesis at the University of Antananarivo in September 2016. Her work focuses on the subfossil diversity in the Sambaina Basin, central Madagascar. has conducted fieldwork with the Samonds paleontological team since 2015.

Miora Christelle Andriambelomanana
Christelle began working with the Samonds team in 2016. She is currently pursuing her Masters thesis at the University of Antananarivo, and is interested in studying pollen and the paleoenrivoronmental history of the Sambaina Basin, central Madagascar.

 

Angela Reddick
Angela is currently pursuing her Masters thesis in the Department of Geology at Northern Illinois University, and is co-advised by Dr. Karen Samonds and Dr. Reed Scherer (Dept of Geology and Environmental Geosciences).

Undergraduate Students

 

Rebekah Ernat
Rebekah is a senior majoring in Biology and Anthropology and minoring in French at Northern Illinois University. Her passion for paleontology was revived at a fossil dig while she was studying in Madagascar in the sumer of 2015. She hopes to someday work at a national park, natural history museum, or some other location where she can help people to better understand and enjoy the world around them.

Kwame Ababio
Kwame is a Biology major with a keen interest in dentistry. He is orignally from Ghana and has been in the United States for almost 4 years. He is also in the honors college and represented NIU at the recent Regional Table Tennis competition. He is also a reggae recording artist. 

Ghulam Haider Saadat
Ghulam Haider Saadat is a M.S. student in Human Anatomical Sciences at Northern Illinois University. He recently joined the Samonds Lab, and plans to work on an independent study project focusing on the musculoskeletal system with Dr. Samonds.

Kailynn Madsen
Kailynn is currently pursuing a degree in Biology at Northern Illinois University and is enrolled in an independent study with Dr. Samonds. Her work focuses on acetic acid preparation of small vertebrate fossils. She has future hopes of attending veterinary school.


Isabella Huminsky
Isabella is a Senior-Biology major studying Pre-Medicine & Spanish. She plans to attend medical school in Downtown Chicago after graduation in the spring of 2017 to become a pediatric oncologist. She is currently participating in honors research with Dr. Samonds for the University Honors Program and the Biological Honors Program at NIU. In addition to working in Dr. Samonds' lab she works at Campus Child Care and the Orientation and Family Connections office. She is also a member of Delta Gamma sorority, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Golden Key International Honor Society. She is looking forward to doing intensive research here during her last year at NIU!

Majeed Papa
Majeed is a senior Biology Major double minoring in Chemistry & Applied Math. He has also conducted research in both Dr. Hagen’s and Dr. Hosmane’s labs. He is hoping to attend dental school after graduation and is currently taking an independent study focused on Head & Neck Anatomy with Dr. Samonds. 

 


Past Students

 

Harimalala Tsiory Andrianavalona
Tsiory defended her PhD at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar in August of 2016, and her Masters degree in 2011, both of which focused on shark fossils from northwestern Madagascar. She was recently named a “National Geographic Young Explorer”and has conducted fieldwork with the Samonds paleontological team since 2010.

Tolotra Niaina Ramahangihajason
Niaina defended his PhD at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar in August of 2016, and his Masters degree in 2011, both of which focused on newly described microfossils and the genus Kuphus (a marine bivalve) from Nosy Makamby, northwestern Madagascar. He has conducted fieldwork with the Samonds paleontological team since 2010.

Kara Coffman
Kara graduated from the Human Anatomical Sciences Masters program in 2016. She received a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Northern Illinois University in 2007. Kara completed a special studies project on the inguinal canal, incorporating a descriptive manual explaining the detailed anatomy of the inguinal region along with its clinical significance, three dissections of the inguinal canal, and a model representing the development and formation of the inguinal canal.

Morgan Hirschfield
Morgan graduated from NIU in 2016 with a Biology major emphasizing in Pre-Medicine. She is hoping to attend medical school after graduation, and is currently serving as President of Alpha Omega Episilon, a STEM sorority at Northern Illinois University.

Jessica Cox
Jessica was one of the 2014 "Huskie Research Rookies" and participated in mentored research in the Samonds lab. She hopes to attend medical school after graduation to become a doctor, and is very interested in Anatomy and Osteology.

Melissa Woodall - Lab scientific illustrator
Melissa graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2015. She intends to pursue a Masters degree in Medical or Scientific Illustration. She has conducted research on color psychology and marketing and also visualizing psychological and personality disorders. Her current research project involves collaborating with a chiropractor to create educational posters illustrating chiropractic techniques. She has developed a passion for drawing skeletal features, insects, and a wide variety of animals, including humans.

James Mateika
James graduated with a BA from Northern Illinois University in 2015. He undertook an independent study with Dr. Samonds focused on prosthetic limbs and related physical and occupational therapy.

Samantha Kraft
Samantha graduated from Northern Illinois University in December 2014. She worked in the Samonds lab for 2 years, and was also an SI Leader (a peer tutoring program designed to enhance student performance and academic achievement). She is interested in the skeletal system and forensic Anthropology, and hopes to continue her studies in graduate school.

Meghan Timke
Meghan graduated from Northern Illinois University in December 2014. She took an intensive independent study of Head & Neck Anatomy with Dr. Samonds, and has future hopes of attending medical school with a potential focus on osteopathy.

 

Burcu Carlon
Burcu finished her PhD research on the functional morphology and biomechanics of extant and extinct felids and canids in the Fall of 2014, co-advised by Dr. Karen Samonds and Dr. Christopher Hubbard (Dept. of Biological Sciences).

Allison Reed
Allison is currently in the Physical Therapy program at Northern Illinois University. She worked with Dr. Samonds on a Capstone Project for the honors program on knee anatomy, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and rehabilitation.
Rebecca Stith
Allison is currently a dental student at Louisiana State University (New Orleans). She undertook an intensive independent study of Head & Neck Anatomy and Dental Anatomy with Dr. Samonds.
Trevor Christ
Trevor started his career at Northern Illinois University in the fall of 2012, and will graduate in 2016. Trevor gained experience doing fossil preparation in the Samonds lab. One day he hopes to be a Nurse Anesthetist.
Caitlin Crookshank
Caitlin graduated with a BS in Biology from Northern Illinois University in 2014. She gained extensive lab experience in acetic acid preparation and fossil identification.
Kelly Fallon
Kelly is currently an instructor of Biology at McHenry County College and plans to continue educating the population of McHenry County in Biological Sciences. Kelly graduated in the Spring of 2013 with a Masters degree in Anatomical Sciences from Northern Illinois University.

Paul Regan
Paul completed an independent study with Dr. Samonds on Gorilla anatomy and specimen preparation. He entered a Nursing program in 2014.

Brittany Gerard
Brittany graduated with a Biology degree from Northern Illinois University in 2013. She completed her Capstone Honors thesis research with Dr. Samonds on semicircular canal morphology.
Thomas Yurek
Tom is an Environmental Studies student at Northern Illinois University. He plays volleyball for the men's NIU club team and is a Forest Preserve District Volunteer.