Heather F. Smith, Ph.D.

Director of Anatomical Laboratories, Associate Professor


Midwestern University
Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
Department of Anatomy
Office: Agave 201-Z; Lab: Cactus Wren 207
19555 N. 59th Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85308



Office: (623) 572-3726
e-mail: hsmith@midwestern.edu

Website: https://www.midwestern.edu/glendale_campus/body_donation_program.html

EDUCATION

Postdoc Anatomy University of Arizona-College of Medicine Phoenix 2009
Ph.D. Biological Anthropology Arizona State University 2008
M.A. Biological Anthropology Stony Brook University 2003

RESEARCH SUMMARY

My primary research focus has been the relationship between cranial morphology and phylogeny in primates, with the goal of establishing a framework by which to interpret the primate fossil record.  Fossils lack organic material and therefore contain no DNA; however, the fossil record of humans and other primates contains numerous craniodental specimens, which are frequently used to infer taxonomy and phylogeny throughout primate evolution.  The knowledge as to how the phylogenetic utility of various cranial characters and regions vary and the understanding of the reasons behind this variation are essential for drawing accurate interpretations about human evolution.

My second research focus is the evolution of the cecal ("vermiform") appendix in mammals.  Appendectomies are among the most frequently performed surgeries in the United States, with rates of appendicitis reaching as high as 7% in some areas.  Despite the relatively frequent occurrence of this pathology, comparatively little is known about the evolution of this interesting anatomical structure.  My research in this area has focused on interpreting the evolutionary history of the appendix, tracking its distribution in mammals, addressing hypotheses as to why certain species possess and appendix while others do not, and attempting to identify its function(s) [if any].