NAME: Becky Mountain
Role: Postdoctoral research Fellow
EDUCATION: Boston University, Anthropology B.A (2010),
University of Arizona, Anthropology M.A. (2013) & Ph.D. (2019)
HOMETOWN: Byfield, Massachusetts
1. WHAT ARE 3 BIG QUESTIONS YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ANSWERING?
Can we use developmental defects in teeth as potential biomarkers of early childhood exposure to psychosocial stress during sensitive periods?
Are there associations between developmental defects and other tooth measures and later mental health outcomes?
Could dental biomarkers of early life stress be used to guide early intervention strategies to prevent depression and improve mental health outcomes?
2. what are you LOOKING FORWARD TO WORKING ON IN THE LAB?
I'm really looking forward to exploring the potential of teeth as biomarkers of both early life exposure to stress and subsequent mental health problems. From decades of work, we know that tooth enamel and dentin are formed in regular sequential layers, producing growth marks that are similar to the rings in a tree marking its age. When that formation process is interrupted (as a result of some disruption of the body’s homeostasis), it leaves a pronounced growth mark, which can be pinpointed to a very narrow window of time in development. These growth marks and patterns have been studied in anthropology and archaeology in order to understand physiological stress in past populations and living primates. Although not yet studied, I think this work also holds great potential for research in living populations. I’m looking forward to studying those relationships in large-scale epidemiological studies. I’m also excited to learn more about the physiological pathways that may be impacted by stress that affect tooth formation.
3. OF YOUR MOST RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS, WHICH ONE ARE YOU MOST PROUD?
I just completed my Ph.D. in Anthropology in January of this year, so I would say that is the recent accomplishment that I’m most proud of. I first entered graduate school back in 2011, and I really had no idea what to expect. It was an extremely challenging experience, but I had amazing opportunities that allowed me to grow personally and professionally and pursue new avenues of research and collaboration I never would have considered as an undergraduate. It was that experience in graduate school, and the freedom to explore creative and novel approaches to my research questions, that led me to my current position here in the Dunn Lab.
4. WHICH SUPER POWER WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE?
Instant teleportation. No question. I would save so much travel time!
5. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
I am a big sci-fi fan, so I would like to trade places with anyone who gets to travel through the Stargate, but preferably someone from the SG-1 TV series. I think it would be amazing to travel to different planets all over the galaxy instantaneously.
6. Where would you go in a time machine?
I think I would probably go back to the Cretaceous Period. Although all of the Jurassic Park movies have told us that humans and dinosaurs do not mix, I would still love the chance to see a live Tyrannosaurus rex in person. I suppose I would just have to take my chances.