Symes earns T. Dale Stewart Award for lifetime achievement

Steven A. Symes, Ph.D., DABFA, a forensic anthropologist at Mercyhurst College, has earned the prestigious Thomas Dale Stewart Award for lifetime achievement, the highest honor offered by the Physical Anthropology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).

Symes was named this year’s recipient on Feb. 20 during the academy’s 60th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes Symes’ enduring contributions to the field of forensic anthropology and a career marked by accurate, detailed scholarship and remarkable productivity.

Symes is one of the country’s leading experts on trauma to bone and an authority on saw and knife mark analysis. In 2003, he joined the faculty of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., where he lends his expertise to a landmark master’s degree program in forensic and biological anthropology and an undergraduate program in applied forensic sciences. Currently, he has undertaken research, supported by the National Institute of Justice, to establish a gold standard methodology for analyzing saw and knife marks in bone.

A sought-after consultant in criminal cases, Symes has been qualified as an expert for both the prosecution and defense, testifying specifically on forensic tool mark and fracture pattern interpretation in bone, as well as blunt force, ballistic, burned and healing trauma in bone. As a result of his specialty in criminal dismemberment and mutilation, he has worked a number of serial homicides, and has provided analysis of cut marks in nearly 200 dismemberment cases and roughly 500 knife wound cases.

He has lectured, consulted or testified on trauma cases, among them high-profile human rights cases, in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Indonesia, Kosovo, and Europe.

In addition, he has more than 50 publications to his credit, and has presented in excess of 50 papers, lectures and workshops. He is co-editor of “The Analysis of Burned Human Remains,” a reference book for osteologists and the medico-legal community for the understanding of burned bone remains in forensic and archaeological contexts.

Before coming to Mercyhurst, Symes spent 16 years as forensic anthropologist for the medical examiner’s office at the Regional Forensic Center for Shelby County, Tennessee. He has been involved with hands-on forensic anthropology since 1979, when he became the graduate assistant to Dr. William M. Bass, founder of the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Both Symes’ master’s and doctoral degrees in physical anthropology were earned at UT, Knoxville. 

In 1997, based on his personal and professional record of education and training, experience and achievement, he received the 57th certificate in North America, admitting him as a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (DABFA). He is one of only two board-certified anthropologists in Pennsylvania, the other being Mercyhurst colleague Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., DABFA.

Release date: Feb. 20, 2008



Symes Forensics ©2010 | 501 East 38th Street, Erie, PA 16546 | (814) 824-3369 | Disclaimer | Contact Us