People » John Starbuck


Dr. John Starbuck is a biological anthropologist who studies congenital anomalies affecting the face and skull. He is a first generation student, a 21st Century Scholar, and a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholar. Dr. Starbuck was broadly trained in the four-field approach to anthropology at Indiana University (IUPUI) and specifically trained in biological anthropology at Penn State. Following his doctoral studies, Dr. Starbuck spent two years working as a post-doctoral researcher in the 3D Imaging of the Craniofacial Complex Center (3DICC – a 3D imaging and morphometrics lab) in the Department of Orthodontics and Oral Facial Genetics at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. He then spent one year as a visiting lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Indiana University Northwest. Currently Dr. Starbuck is an assistant professor and graduate faculty of anthropology who teaches courses in quantitative methods, human evolution, and human variation.

Dr. Starbuck investigates human variation, anatomy, and health. He specializes in studying morphology and dysmorphology of craniofacial anatomy using 3D imaging modalities, powerful visualization software, and multivariate morphometric approaches that quantify variation of the craniofacial complex. Morphological deviations and associated health issues can be caused by genetic, environmental, or unknown teratogenic factors, which may disrupt or perturb craniofacial morphogenesis of soft and hard tissues during development and growth. Dr. Starbuck’s research intersects with the biological, forensic, anatomical, and medical disciplines.

Using 3D images of humans and genetically modified animal models, Dr. Starbuck studies trisomy 21 (i.e., Down syndrome). He is also interested in other conditions affecting the skull and face (e.g., cleft lip with or without cleft palate), basic human variation, and the history of congenital anomaly depictions in material culture.

Research Goals

Dr. Starbuck’s goals are to better understand how health problems arise in individuals affected by genetic and environmental perturbations by studying 3D images of humans and animal models. His research is important to anyone directly or indirectly affected by these conditions and to the biomedical community, which is interested in better understanding these conditions and alleviating health issues that occur in individuals affected by genetic and environmental conditions.

The long-range goals of Dr. Starbucks laboratory include:

  • Quantitative assessment of anatomical changes (e.g., brain, craniofacial complex) occurring from genetic (e.g. trisomy 21), environmental, and treatment effects in humans
  • Development and assessment of animal models mimicking human conditions
  • Potential rescue of anatomy and/or alleviation of comorbidities and health issues that affect developmentally perturbed humans and animal models

Dr. Starbuck’s research agenda is active and can include student researchers. Dr. Starbuck collaborates with anthropologists and individuals from other disciplines including (but not limited to) dental professionals, medical practitioners, geneticists, and biologists.

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