Dr Kristian Carlson, Senior Researcher in the Wits Institute for Human Evolution (IHE) is one of the driving forces behind the University’s successful application to acquire the new X-Tek microfocus computed tomography (CT) system, also known as a micro-CT scanner.
Carlson, together with Prof. Francis Thackeray, Director of the IHE, Prof. Bruce Rubidge, Director of the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontolgical Research and Prof. Lee Berger, a renowned palaeoanthropologist and discoverer of the Australopithecus sediba fossils, drove the application on behalf of the Palaeosciences Centre.
Their success resulted in the National Research Foundation (NRF) awarding the Wits Palaeosciences Centre R8.2 million through a Strategic Research Infrastructure Grant, and the Research Office of the University making another R2 million available, to fund the purchase of the new micro-CT scanner. The scanner is supplied by Nikon Metrology.
“The grant caused great excitement in the Centre. The scanner is the most expensive, most sophisticated piece of equipment that has ever been brought into the Centre. Now we have the capacity to be self-sufficient and to utilise more sophisticated research methods with fossils in the Centre. We have worked for two years to attain this privilege,” says Carlson.
Carlson came to Wits three years ago from the USA and immediately joined Thackeray, Rubidge and Berger in driving the bid for the micro-CT scanner.
“I had a vision that one of the ways of strengthening the IHE would be to create an imaging centre for the palaeosciences at Wits. The micro-focus CT scanner is the culmination of a collective effort to get top-notch equipment into the IHE to help us to step up our research capacity,” says Carlson.
He says the acquisition of the new micro-CT scanner is important because it is something that the entire palaeosciences community in South Africa is supporting and interested in using for various forms of research.
“When we submitted the application to the NRF, we already knew of 30 individuals who said that they would like to use the machine in one way or another. There are people from four or five different museums in the country, at least five academic institutions in South Africa and at least six researchers at Wits who have asked whether they could use the machine. This is a great achievement for Wits, and will enable us to be involved more widely in groundbreaking research,” says Carlson.
The micro-CT scanner will be used in a diverse range of disciplines from the botanical sciences, medical research, animal experiments, but most importantly at Wits in the palaeosciences, for instance looking inside blocks of stone to see fossils before removing them and studying the tiny details of fossils or artefacts.
Carlson received his undergraduate BS degrees in Anthropology and Anthropology-Zoology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1994. He completed his graduate degrees in Anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington, receiving an MA in 1998, and a PhD in 2002.
From 2002 until 2005, he undertook postdoctoral research in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University in New York. He also completed postdoctoral work in the Anthropologisches Institut und Museum at the University of Switzerland between 2005 and 2006. From 2006 until 2009, he was an Assistant Professor of Anatomy in the Department of Anatomy at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.