MSU graduate student awarded prestigious NSF grant to fund missing persons research

STARKVILLE, Miss.—An individual who completed their graduate studies at Mississippi State University and made valuable contributions to the Mississippi Repository for Missing and Unidentified Persons has been honored with a prestigious fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

Sarajane Smith-Escudero (Submitted photo)

Sarajane Smith-Escudero, who is pursuing a master’s degree in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, has been selected for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program in Anthropology. Recognized as an exceptional graduate student poised to make significant scientific advancements, she will be granted over $150,000 for research and educational resources during the initial three years of her five-year fellowship.

“This award will support my ongoing research on the racialized public safety crisis that disproportionately impacts Black, indigenous, and other people of color. I aim to enhance our understanding of the connection between race and missing persons, ultimately increasing awareness about cases of missing individuals in Mississippi,” stated Smith-Escudero, originally from Laredo, Texas. “NSF reviewers mentioned that my project will not only benefit Mississippi but also, by incorporating my perspective as a bilingual BIPOC individual into forensic anthropology, I can potentially influence the field in the future.”

Smith-Escudero completed her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Latino studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2023. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in applied anthropology, specializing in forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology. This NSF grant will also enable Smith-Escudero to serve as a fall graduate manager at MRMUP, which is overseen by Jesse Goliath, an assistant professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures.

For additional details about MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, and the Mississippi Repository for Missing and Unidentified Persons, please visit www.cas.msstate.edu, www.amec.msstate.edu, and www.missinginms.msstate.edu.

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