Prestigious NSF grant will fund MSU graduate student’s missing persons research

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State University graduate student whose work benefitted the Mississippi Repository for Missing and Unidentified Persons is the recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship.

Sarajane Smith-Escudero portrait
Sarajane Smith-Escudero (Submitted photo)

Sarajane Smith-Escudero, a master’s student in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, is a selection for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program in Anthropology. She was chosen as an outstanding graduate student with the potential to be a high-achieving scientist with demonstrated potential for significant research achievements. She will receive more than $150,000 for research and education materials in the first three years of her five-year fellowship.

“With this award, I hope to continue my research on the racialized public safety crisis that disproportionately affects Black, indigenous and other people of color. Overall, I hope to help the public in Mississippi by deepening our understanding of the intersections between race and ‘missingness,’ and hopefully raising awareness about missing persons cases,” said Smith-Escudero, a native of Laredo, Texas. “As NSF reviewers noted, not only will my project have a positive impact on Mississippi, but by bringing my insight as a bilingual BIPOC individual to forensic anthropology, I have the potential to help shape the discipline in the future.”

Smith-Escudero received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Latino studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2023. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in applied anthropology with a focus in forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology. The NSF award will allow Smith-Escudero to hold a fall graduate manager position with the MRMUP, led by Jesse Goliath, MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures assistant professor.

For more information about MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures and Mississippi Repository for Missing and Unidentified Persons, visit, and

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