"When looking into graduate studies, SFU was an obvious choice for me. I was blown away by the incredible laboratory facilities along with the palpable sense of community. "

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Luca Del Giacco

January 03, 2024

Archaeology master's student in the Faculty of Environment

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

Originally from Montreal, Quebec, I was drawn to the West Coast as it offers familiar opportunities found within a big city all while being surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape. I was first inspired by my current research while excavating an archaeological cemetery. While there, I began thinking about the ethics relating to sampling practices as invasive approaches may be unwelcomed and compromise the integrity of human remains for long-term preservation and curation. My research strives to validate a minimally destructive method to extract ancient DNA as it is imperative to balance the value gained from genetic information with its ethical concerns. This research is supported by an SSHRC Master's Scholarship for the 2023-2024 school year. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time outdoors and building various types of intricate Lego models.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

When looking into graduate studies, SFU was an obvious choice for me. I was blown away by the incredible laboratory facilities along with the palpable sense of community.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

My research focuses on assessing a minimally destructive method of ancient DNA extraction from human teeth. Current methods involved turning bone into a powder, effectively destroying that sample. My research aims to validate a method in order to preserve skeletal material during the extraction process.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

Ancient DNA, human osteology, bioarchaeology

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

Throughout my academic career, I have been involved in a diverse group of research projects spanning bioarchaeology, soil micromorphology, and paleoanthropology. These projects have shown me the benefits of developing an interdisciplinary model for research, which is one I try to incorporate into my current practices. In addition, my current academic pursuits have led me to various opportunities to conduct collaborative research with my lab mates further promoting the values instilled through my academic journey.


Contact Luca:lda67@sfu.ca


In the process of extracting DNA from ancient archaeological material.

My research is focused on the extraction of ancient DNA from human teeth in a manner that is minimally destructive. This protocol does not utilize drilling or cutting, thereby maintaining the morphological (i.e., shape of structure) and biochemical integrity of the tooth. The tooth has a hardened layer covering the outside of the root while providing attachment to the bone, known as the dental cementum. To target the DNA within the cementum, a salt bath (i.e., lysis buffer), is used to open the cellular membrane of the tooth to release its genetic information.