Alemseged Lab


Professor Zeray Alemseged is a paleoanthropologist in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago. His research interests include human evolution and the exploration of the factors that shaped the evolution of humans and extinct ancestral species.

Zeresanay Alemseged

Principal Investigator & Donald N. Pritzker Professor

Prof. Alemseged undertakes extensive fieldwork and employs cutting-edge imaging techniques to investigate the evolutionary process and mechanisms that led to the emergence of Homo sapiens. He explores both the biological and cultural transformations that occurred over the past 6 millions years since humans diverged from the apes.

See our Research

Zeray and his team have been publishing research articles related to human paleontology and paleoenvironments for nearly three decades.

In the Alemseged Lab

We combine intensive field work with cutting edge technology to better understand human evolution.

Virtual Paleoanthropology

Virtual paleoanthropology allows scientists to study one-of-a-kind fossils of our human ancestors without having the fossils in their possession. This means that the fossils can remain protected in the countries of origin with less risk of damage caused by repeated transportation for lending and the – albeit careful – handling by a number of scientists across years and decades.

Additionally, this allows multiple researchers across the world to collaborate in real-time, which speeds along the dissemination of information. Further, this method is non-destructive for physical tissues like fossilized tooth and bone.

Having digitized copies of fossils helps expand what we can do, and therefore, what we can know about our ancestors.


Digital Imaging

We dedicate much of our time using digital imaging techniques to collect new and comparable data for our interpretations. While it has been mentioned that this method speeds our collection of data and understanding of our history, it also allows us to address questions that cannot be answered qualitatively and macroscopically.

One method we use is a 3D hand-scanner to quickly convert a fossil or museum specimen into a digital copy. Using 3D software, we can take quantitative measurements and plot landmarks or mirror missing pieces to reconstruct broken fossils.

We also imploy the use of synchroton and mini-CT scanning to look at internal structures unavailable to the human eye, especially without destructive means. With these methods, we can compare thickness of cortical bone areas or direction of trabecular bone development to better understand various stressors applied to bone during growth and behavior as just one example.

With either of these methods, the resultant digital copy also allows us to 3D print specimens for teaching and sharing through public outreach, as well as qualitative examination which is still an important and valued aspect of fossil identification.


Ultimately, fieldwork is the point of origin for most of our data collection.

If we are not virtually working with the digitized discoveries of our past collections or with those of our colleagues, then we are in the field searching for more clues about our ancestors. Members of our team investigate several sites in East Africa, including Dikika and Mille-Longya.

However, field work also involves traveling to museums far and wide to examine fossil and comparative specimens. We have strong relationships with a number of museums for this purpose.

Latest Lab News

Three Minute Thesis Challenge

Three Minute Thesis Challenge

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an academic research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. It is a professional and highly engaging international program. In just three short minutes (180 seconds!) and with a single...

Research Speaks at the Field Museum

Research Speaks at the Field Museum

Two of our students, Laura and Maddie, were able to share their research at the Field Museum's UChicagoGRAD Research Speaks in April, a new event established this year. This single day program grants students the opportunity to discuss their research with the general...

2024 AABA in Los Angeles

2024 AABA in Los Angeles

The Alemseged Lab team recently made it over to Los Angeles, California, to attend both the 2024 Paleoanthropology Society meeting (PSM) the 93rd annual American Association of Biological Anthropologists meeting (AABA), as well as to meet up with others in the field....

With over 100 co-authors and over 2,000 citations,
research done at the Alemseged Lab is on-going and deliberate.

Find an article

Research at our lab strives to better understand our evolutionary past, physically and environmentally.


Zeray Alemseged

An impressive research and service history highlights his engagement with both past and present.

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