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By Janet Harron

Dr. Madeleine Mant is the recipient of Memorial’s first Banting post-doctoral fellowship to be housed in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

She is the second Banting fellow to be named at Memorial.

Attract and retain

The Banting post-doctoral fellowship program provides funding to the very best postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to the country’s economic, social and research-based growth.

The objective of the Banting fellowship is to attract and retain top-tier post-doctoral talent, develop their leadership potential and position them for success as research leaders of tomorrow. Seventy fellowships are awarded annually at a value of $70,000 a year for two years.

Dr. Madeleine Mant
Dr. Madeleine Mant

Originally from Alberta, Dr. Mant holds a PhD from McMaster University.

It was there she first met Dr. Meghan Burchell, an archaeologist who was completing her doctoral studies as Dr. Mant was beginning hers. Dr. Burchell will be Dr. Mant’s supervisor during her fellowship at Memorial.

“I was immediately impressed with Meghan’s dynamism and passion for archaeology and I foresee many fruitful discussions concerning how best to communicate archaeological knowledge to the widest audience,” said Dr. Mant.

Skeletal remains

Dr. Mant’s project, Stories in Sailor’s Bones, will examine the lives and deaths of 18th- and 19th-century sailors through the study of their skeletal remains.

She will focus on two distinct groups: individuals from Admiral Nelson’s navy excavated from the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth in the U.K. and individuals excavated from the Royal Naval Hospital in Newfoundland, which was in operation in St. John’s during the years 1725-1825.

Her doctoral research examined breaks or injuries to bone that occurred at or around the time of death in working class 18th-century Londoners.

“My research program is driven by a desire to examine individual past lives,” said Dr. Mant. “It was through discussions with Meghan that I added the trans-Atlantic element.”

North Atlantic life

This approach will allow Dr. Mant to glean information from previously “mute” historical individuals, including how their health or disease conditions were similar or different and what processes affected the bones of individuals before and after their death.

Ultimately, she hopes the results will tell us more about North Atlantic life during this period of trade and expansion.

“It’s an academic version of The Avengers.” — Dr. Madeleine Mant

“I am thrilled to be collaborating with Meghan, as well as Drs. Kris Poduska and Vaughan Grimes on this project. Everyone brings unique strengths to the table; it’s an academic version of The Avengers,” said Dr. Mant, who received a Vanier Scholarship in 2012.

Ocean relationships and spaces

Her research program also dovetails nicely with the aims of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), according to Dr. Aimée Surprenant, dean, School of Graduate Studies.

“What Dr. Mant’s work will bring to the OFI intellectual community is the all important perspective of history.” said Dr. Surprenant.

“Because her research seeks to answers questions about our past relationships with the ocean, the results of her research, in collaboration with Dr. Burchell and Memorial University, will ensure the work of OFI scholars never ignores or elides the lessons of our past. We expect Dr. Mant’s research to significantly shift and calibrate our ongoing discussions about humanity’s relationship to ocean spaces.”

Dr. Mant will relocate to St. John’s at the end of the summer.

“I grew up in landlocked Alberta, so my relationship with the ocean has been a mere flirtation,” she said. “Everyone I’ve told about my impending move has been incredibly enthusiastic — sounds like I’ve been missing out by not moving to Newfoundland sooner!”

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