Helen is an archaeological scientist who studies human evolution and prehistory through the study of ancient biomolecules. In the Ancient Genomics Lab, she is studying ancient proteins preserved in bones and fossils ('Palaeoproteomics') to investigate the evolution of our species, particularly employing non-destructive pre-screening approaches to identify well-preserved skeletal material and limit destructive sampling of precious fossil material.
Helen obtained her PhD in the Dept of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) where she specialised in radiocarbon dating small samples of ancient bone. She focussed on methods to reduce sample size, both at the pretreatment and AMS measurement stages, to obtain high-resolution direct dates whilst reducing destructive sampling of human remains and precious bone artefacts. She applied these methods to help resolve the chronology of the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic Transition in Europe (~50,000-40,000 years ago), when Homo sapiens migrated into Europe and interacted with Neanderthals, before the latter disappeared. This included directly dating Neanderthal remains and some of the earliest members of our species yet discovered in Europe from Bulgaria, which are over 45,000 years old.