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Forensic Microscopic Age estimation: a 2D and 3D study of cortical and trabecular bone

School of Science and Engineering

About the Project

In disciplines such as Forensic Anthropology, osteological age is one of the key aspects in creating a biological profile from human remains. In the case of fragmentary remains, micro-anatomical features are employed to estimate age-at-death. In order to better understand bone age-related changes at the microscopic level, both cortical and trabecular bony structures need to be assessed to provide a complete aging multifactorial picture.

Previous studies have shown the relationship between age and cortical and trabecular bone for clinical purposes [1] and cortical and trabecular assessment separately for aging methods [2,3]. However, no study has tested both cortical and trabecular bone through 2D and 3D imaging methods for the development of forensic age estimation population-specific standards.

The sample selected for this study will consist of male and female adult individuals from a donated cadaveric Scottish population; one that is primarily geriatric. Ideally, samples from other populations will be also included to create forensic population-specific microscopic aging methods and to examine the impact of other factors influencing the aging process such as diet and/or other environmental conditions.

The 2D and 3D methods used for the examination of cortical and trabecular microstructure will be performed using different imaging techniques: scanning electron microscope and/or micro-CT in combination with traditional histomorphometry. These imaging tools will allow the assessment of key age indicators such as osteocyte quantification, trabecular volume and thickness, and other remodelling units like secondary osteon density, as well as cortical area cross-section parameters.

The main goal of this study is the systematic examination of cortical and trabecular age-related changes to explore age-at-death for geriatric individuals and it will provide further insights about the microscopic status of bone and remodelling dynamics throughout the later years of the human life.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Julieta Gomez Garcia-Donas ()
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK in a relevant discipline.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Dr Julieta Gomez Garcia-Donas () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with the supervisors, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate:

Apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification: Select the start date and study mode (full-time/part-time) agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.

PhD fees (tuition) at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification vary in accordance with the area of research and resources required for the project. Please contact Dr Julieta Gomez Garcia-Donas () to confirm the annual fees associated with this project.


1. Andronowski JM, Crowder C, Martinez MS. Recent advancements in the analysis of bone microstructure : new dimensions in forensic anthropology. Forensic Sci Res. 2018;3(4):294-309. doi:10.1080/20961790.2018.1483294

2. Beresheim AC, Pfeiffer SK. Use of backscattered scanning electron microscopy to quantify the bone tissues of mid-thoracic human ribs. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2019:262-278. doi:10.1002/ajpa.23716

3. Chen H, Zhou X, Fujita H, Onozuka M, Kubo KY. Age-related changes in trabecular and cortical bone microstructure. Int J Endocrinol. 2013;2013:213234. doi:10.1155/2013/213234

4. Stout SD, Paine R. Brief communication: Histological age estimation using rib and clavicle. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1992;87(1):111-115

5. Mcgivern H, Greenwood C, Márquez-grant N, Kranioti EF, Xhemali B, Zioupos P. Age-Related Trends in the Trabecular Micro-Architecture of the Medial Clavicle : Is It of Use in Forensic Science ? Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2020;7(January):1-8. doi:10.3389/fbioe.2019.00467

6. Lee UY, Jung GU, Choi SG, Kim YS. Anthropological age estimation with bone histomorphometry from the human clavicle. Anthropologist. 2014;17(3):929-936.

7. Stout SD, Porro MA, Perotti B. Brief Communication: A test and correction of the clavicle method for histological age determination of skeletal remains. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1996;100(1):139-142

8. Shah FA. 50 years of scanning electron microscopy of bone — a comprehensive overview of the important discoveries made and insights gained into bone material properties in health , disease , and taphonomy. Bone Res. 2019:1-15. doi:10.1038/s41413-019-0053-z

9. Pratte DG, Pfeiffer S. Histological age estimation of a cadaveral sample of diverse origins. J Can Soc Forensic Sci. 1999;32(4):155-167. doi:10.1080/00085030.1999.10757496

10. Cho H, Stout SD, Bishop TA. Cortical bone remodeling rates in a sample of African American and European American descent groups from the American midwest: Comparisons of age and sex in ribs. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2006;130(2):214-226. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20312

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