Two TXST students honored with P.E.O. Scholar Award

Student Experience

Kate Malazonia | January 8, 2024

Two Texas State University Ph.D. students, Emilie Wiedenmeyer and Petra Banks, were among the 110 doctoral students in the U.S. and Canada selected to receive the $20,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood for 2023-24. Both students were sponsored by Chapter IW (Horseshoe Bay).

emilie wiedenmeyer

Emilie Wiedenmeyer

Wiedenmeyer is also an applied anthropology doctoral student at TXST, where she has been a previous recipient of the Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship. Her dissertation explores the potential use of entheseal changes, i.e. bony changes occurring in musculoskeletal attachment sites, for forensic investigation and identification.

“My project records and reconstructs underlying patterns in musculoskeletal attachment sites as seen in the arms of identified individuals who lived between the mid-19th and early-21st centuries,” Wiedenmeyer said. “The underlying goal is to improve identification efforts for unknown decedents in forensic anthropological cases.”

Wiedenmeyer’s goal is to work within forensic contexts to improve the identification of vulnerable and marginalized groups in the global humanitarian crisis of missing and unidentified persons.

“I hope, through my work, I can advocate for the ethical stewardship of human remains by communicating these principles through publications and community outreach, as well as highlight their importance and impact on victims and their loved ones,” she said.

Wiedenmeyer elaborated on how the P.E.O. Scholar Award was able to support her research, saying, “I was able to train two undergraduate research assistants in scientific photography of osteological remains and in various 3D reconstruction methods to model entheseal changes observed during the project. Using their photographs and reconstructions, I am now developing a resource gallery of exemplary entheseal changes as seen in the donated skeletal collection at Texas State University. I was also able to fund my participation in an intensive biostatistics course, which enabled me to run statistical analysis for this project.”

petra banks

Petra Banks

Banks is an applied anthropology doctoral student at TXST, where she has been the recipient of the National Institute of Justice Graduate Research Fellowship, Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation’s Biological Anthropology Program Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, among many other honors.

Through her research, Banks examines skeletal blast trauma by looking at the differential distribution of trauma between different traumatic event types.

“By creating a database of blast trauma and comparative trauma types, I can provide researchers with a reference for the identification of the traumatic event,” Banks said. “Furthermore, the data collected through trauma blast experiments will provide not only detailed results of blast-specific trauma but also valuable data on the forces that cause the bone to break.

Upon graduation, Banks plans to seek employment with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which works to recover and identify United States military personnel from previous conflicts.

“Through this work, I can honor their service and provide some closure for their loved ones,” she said. “After gaining experience as a forensic anthropologist, I plan to return to my home community in Alaska to work for the state medical examiner. In this position, I hope to assist local Alaskan Native community groups in identifying cemeteries from indigenous boarding schools so these communities can honor the memory of the children buried there.”

Banks noted, “The P.E.O. Scholar Award has been invaluable for both me and my research. These funds are supporting the writing and analysis phase of my dissertation, freeing up my time so I can complete my dissertation.”

The P.E.O. Scholar Awards were established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the U.S. and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral-level degree at an accredited college or university. Recipients are a select group of women chosen for their high level of academic achievement and their potential for having a positive impact on society.

The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded Jan. 21, 1869, at Iowa Wesleyan College, is a philanthropic educational organization dedicated to supporting higher education for women. There are about 6,000 local chapters in the U.S. and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.

The Graduate College external funding coordinators, Andrea Hilkovitz, Ph.D., and Brian Smith, DMA, arrange the initial interview for this award with local chapters to facilitate a nomination.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922