Dr. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan was always interested in math and science and completed her studies at the university level in order to be a science teacher which included a postgraduate diploma in teaching.
But finding that she really enjoyed science instead of teaching school she decided to pursue a master’s degree in science and then a doctorate, earning her PhD in 1991 from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Two years of post-doctorate work at the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S. led to her working at the South African Museum in Cape Town before accepting a position as an Associate Professor in the Zoology Department at the University of Cape Town.
Working in the field of paleobiology, a combination of paleontology and biology, she uses bone structures of modern animals to make extrapolations to the fossil record of animals. By looking at the microscopic structures of fossilized bones she tries to understand the animal when it was living including determinations on things like the animal’s sex, growth rate, and overall health. Two of her other research interests are the transition of non-avian dinosaurs to birds and the bone microstructures of flying reptiles called pterosaurs.
She is the author of two academic publications, a children’s book on the dinosaurs of Africa, and a recently published book focused on the fossil heritage of Africa written for high school level readers. She has also written dozens of articles and book chapters on her work. In 1995 she was the recipient of the National Research Foundation President’s Award and in 2005 she was honored with both the South African Woman of the Year Award and the Distinguished Women Scientist Award from the South African Department of Science and Technology. Eight years later she was awarded the World Academy of Science’s Sub-Sharan Prize for the Popularization of Science.
An advocate for women in the sciences, she spent six years as the president of South African Women in Science and Engineering. Chinsamy-Turan continues her work as a professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town.
Written by Angela Goad