Quinn Cordero pursues a career in forensic anthropology

Quinnlan Cordero spent last summer reading old FBI case files in Washington, D.C. Today, the Sonoma Valley High grad, Class of ’17, is halfway through her junior year at George Washington University in D.C. and she has shifted her longterm focus from medical school to forensic science.

“I quickly came to the realization that I wasn’t very interested in biology – I’ve always loved science but the biology pathway was full of classes, such as chemistry and physics, that did not appeal to me,” she said. She said that she felt lost and confused about the right path forward until she enrolled in a sociocultural anthropology class to fulfill a general education requirement.

“I fell in love with the subject of anthropology as it offered the best balance of objective measurement and subjective analysis,” she said.

Today, she is majoring in biological anthropology with a minor in criminal justice.

She describes biological anthropology as the study of humans as a biological organism through an evolutionary framework.

“It was the perfect match for my interests as it allowed for me to study not only objective biological aspects but also behavioral and cultural aspects, which helps me feel more of a personal connection to my work.”

Cordero has also managed to balance a rigorous course load with an internship which has resulted in her already having a published academic byline to her credit.

Cordero is currently working as an intern for physical anthropology curator Douglas H. Ubelaker at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History. Ubelaker is also a forensic anthropologist, having consulted for the FBI on more than 875 cases.

Cordero took a class from Ubelaker last year which met regularly at the Natural History Museum, where students studied the human skeletons and bones housed there.

After taking the class and reading Ubelaker’s 1992 book ”Bones,” Cordero realized that she wanted to pursue forensic anthropology as a career.

As part of her internship, Cordero helps with the research and writing of articles for scientific journals on the subject of forensic anthropology, working largely off of FBI case files that Cordero describes as “fascinating.”

She spent all of last summer researching and pulling case files to help Ubelaker write an article on photographic craniofacial superimposition – a technique used in forensic anthropology for the purpose of identification.

Cordero said that she hopes to continue working with Ubelaker until she graduates and maybe even after. Eventually, she plans on getting a master’s degree and a PhD in physical anthropology. “My current career goal is to become a forensic anthropologist for the government but I would also enjoy continuing research, working in a museum, or being a professor,” she said.

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