Tanya Smith, Ph.D. is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, and an Associated Scientist in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
For over a decade I have worked to refine knowledge of the poorly understood
processes of dental development and growth, integrate and improve non-destructive
methods of study, and clarify how dental tissues may resolve taxonomic, phylogenetic, and developmental questions about great apes and humans. Tooth microstructure, a primary focus of my research, is critically important for the study of development as age at death can be precisely and independently determined from juvenile dentitions, and dental development is correlated with aspects of life history, or the overall pace of growth and reproduction. My research program encompasses aspects of developmental biology, oral biology, and evolutionary biology, and employs fundamental histological approaches as well as state-of-the-art imaging techniques. Ultimately I am motivated by a desire to fully understand how teeth grow, why they vary, and how this information can advance the field of human evolutionary biology.
Tanya’s research centers on three main themes:
- What is the fundamental nature of dental microstructure?
- How and why does dental development and tooth structure vary within and among primate species?
- How can information from dental development inform studies of the evolution of human growth and development?