Zach ThrockmortonAssociate Professor and Medical Human Anatomy Director Biomedical Sciences
I am medical human anatomy director and associate professor of the Colorado University School of Medicine's branch campus at Colorado State University, and associate professor of Colorado State University's Department of Biomedical Sciences. From a young age I was fascinated by animals. What they looked like, what they ate, how they moved, how they behaved - I couldn't read, watch documentaries, see them in the wild, or see them at the zoo enough! In college, I became particularly interested in evolution, paleontology, and anatomy. I pursued graduate training in human evolutionary anatomy and became a paleoanthropologist - a scientist who studies the fossil record of how humans came to be. Humans are particularly unusual and interesting animals. My career as a medical school gross anatomy professor began in 2013, giving lectures and teaching medical students how to take a human apart so they could learn how to put a human back together. With students, my research projects typically investigate patterns of human anatomical variation that can be applied to clinical and evolutionary questions. While I taught human anatomy, I occasionally incorporated insights from comparative anatomy, especially in the contexts of embryology and neuroanatomy. My growing interests in embryo and neuro drove me to pursue more training and experience in those anatomical science subfields. In 2014, I had the tremendous fortune to be selected to participate in the Rising Star Workshop at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our team described, analyzed, and named a new species of extinct human, Homo naledi, from an unprecedented treasure trove of about 1,500 identifiable fossils recovered from the Rising Star Cave outside of Joburg in the Cradle of Humankind. This discovery made international news, was featured on the covers of National Geographic, Scientific American, and above the fold on the front page of the New York Times. In 2016, I was member of the international team of researchers who identified and described the oldest known case of cancer in a human, a 1.7-million-year-old osteosarcoma of a fossilized foot bone. I continue to be involved in ongoing research into Homo naledi and other fossil humans as Research Associate at Wits' ESI.