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Mary Manhein

Mary Manhein

Professional in Residence
Department of Geography and Anthropology
LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences

Director, LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory

Director, Louisiana Repository for Unidentified and Missing Persons Information Program

What was your previous position and where?

I have been at LSU for more than 25 years. LSU is my alma mater. I received both my undergraduate degree — B.A. in English — and my master's degree — anthropology — here. I have taught both undergraduate and graduate students — thousands of undergraduates and hundreds of graduate students — since 1986 — 25 years.

What brought you to LSU?

I came to Baton Rouge when my husband's work brought him here in 1970. I started at LSU as an undergraduate in 1975 when I put my younger son in kindergarten.

What is your research interest?

As director of the FACES Laboratory, I lead a team of five research associates and multiple graduate students in anthropology in building a comprehensive database for all unidentified and missing persons in Louisiana. Our goal is to identify all people who have been found in Louisiana who remain unidentified — approximately 100 — and to find the missing ones. We have a website,, where our cases are listed. Those cases of unidentifieds have been sampled for DNA and those DNA profiles are being uploaded into the national database — Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS — in order to try to find matches. In the last 2-3 years, we have identified five persons whose remains have been in our lab for many years ... the oldest being 32 years since found. Additionally, we conduct research on historic cemeteries in Louisiana. We have excavated cemeteries — mainly those that are threatened — all over the state including various historic cemeteries in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas. Also, we conduct research on paleopathology to try to understand the history of disease on both a local and global level.

What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?

I began by teaching an introductory course in physical anthropology (1001) at LSU in 1986. Over 20 years of teaching that course to thousands of students provided me with a true sense of accomplishment — sharing my love of physical anthropology with those who probably had never had an anthropology course before. Today, I teach a course on forensic anthropology to senior-level and graduate-level students. This course — Forensic Anthropology 4014 — is taken by many students, not just anthropology students. I hope to translate to those students the strategic role that forensic anthropology plays in the field of forensic science and hope they leave the class at the end of each semester with a thorough knowledge of the secrets that we can tease from bones and an appreciation of forensic anthropology in the real world. My love for anthropology remains as strong today as it did more than 30 years ago when I took my first course in anthropology. Today, students I taught 15 or more years ago in the introductory course come up to me in restaurants, grocery stores, other stores and in the general community and preface our conversation with "you won't remember me Ms. Manhein, but I remember you; your course was one of my favorites at LSU." Nothing is better than to think you had an impact on your students. That will always be one of my greatest achievements.

What do you enjoy most about LSU?

The students; always the students and their enthusiasm for anthropology.

What are your major accomplishments?

One of my major accomplishments will always remain reaching the students, but building the database and sending family members home to their loved ones, albeit under sad circumstances, helps me to know that my life has touched the lives of others ... for that I am fortunate and most grateful!


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