Kent State Anthropology Professor Elected as 2021 Fellow of Prestigious Scientific Society

Mary Ann Raghanti, Ph.D., a biological anthropology professor and chairperson in Kent State University’s Department of Anthropology, in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Raghanti also serves as a faculty member in Kent State’s School of Biomedical Sciences and a member of the Executive Committee of the Brain Health Research Institute.

Members are awarded this honor by AAAS because of their efforts to advance science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished. The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows includes 564 scientists, engineers and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines. Raghanti is being specifically recognized for her unique and distinguished contributions to biological anthropology and our knowledge and understanding of the origin and evolution of human and primate behavior.

“Dr. Raghanti has been particularly successful because she is both brilliant and the hardest-working scientist I know,” said C. Owen Lovejoy, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Anthropology at Kent State. “Her general area of investigation is human evolution and the role of the human brain as the primary agent in our explosive occupation of the planet beginning around 5-7 million years ago. Her labs are always buzzing with basic research, and despite all this, she still manages to run the anthropology department, which has been particularly successful academically over the past few years. Mary Ann is truly a star!”

Raghanti’s lab uses numerous histological, immunohistochemical and stereological techniques to investigate potential neuroanatomical correlates of human-specific cognitive and behavioral specializations.

“Her work has demonstrated that not just the size of the cerebral cortex, but the more primitive parts of our brain, such as the basal ganglia, contain structures that are central to rewarding and establishing cooperation within the members of groups – and the fossil record has confirmed that such cooperation almost certainly was responsible for the powerful drive underlying human advanced evolution, including such phenomenon as language and speech,” Lovejoy said.

“One area of importance within the basal ganglia is a structure called the striatum, and it is central to what can be called the dopaminergic reward pathway – an incredibly powerful driving and motivating force – very likely the most important underlying force in our evolution over the past 5 million years,” Lovejoy said. “A few decades ago, the striatum was thought to merely convey information related to motor activity, but it has been recently shown to equally impact social behavior. Raghanti’s research on dopamine concentrations in primate brains not only has laid bare our understanding of our own evolution, but also has implications for such phenomena as autism – and her work on primates also has important implications for the causes of Alzheimer's disease. She has even studied the causes of heart disease in primates.”

Since joining the faculty in 2007, Raghanti has taught a variety of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level, has advised five doctoral and 12 Master of Arts students at Kent State and has authored more than 70 scientific journal articles and several book chapters. She has been awarded substantial external research support from both the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, and she has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy and the Journal of Comparative Neurology, on the advisory board of Brain Structure and Function, and as guest editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She also collaborates with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on projects involving the health and well-being of a diverse array of primate and non-primate species.

For more information about Raghanti’s research, visit www.kent.edu/anthropology/dr-mary-ann-raghanti.

Raghanti has also served on dozens of regional and university boards, task forces and committees, including Kent State’s Research Advisory Council, Laboratory Safety and Radiation Safety Committee and the Joint Appeals Board.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of Toledo (1996), a Master of Arts in anthropology (2002) and a doctorate in biomedical sciences (2007) from Kent State before being hired as a research associate in the Department of Anthropology (2007-2008).

At Kent State, Raghanti joins Marilyn Norconk, Ph.D., and C. Owen Lovejoy, Ph.D. (both in Anthropology), Jonathan V. Selinger, Ph.D. (Physics and the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute), Michael Lehman, Ph.D. (Biological Sciences), and David Riccio, Ph.D. (Psychological Sciences) as elected AAAS Fellows.

The new AAAS Fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin to commemorate their election (representing science and engineering, respectively) and will be celebrated later this year during an in-person gathering when it is feasible from a public health and safety perspective. The new class will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science in January 2022.

For more information about Kent State’s:

About AAAS
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine; Science Signaling; a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances; Science Immunology; and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For additional information about AAAS, visit www.aaas.org.

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Media Contact:
Jim Maxwell, jmaxwel2@kent.edu, 330-672-8028

POSTED: Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - 9:37am
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 4, 2022 - 8:17am
WRITTEN BY:
Jim Maxwell