Right on the riverside opposite the University of Tennessee, next to UT Medical Center, is where you will find Helen Martin living in the land of the Dead. Martin is not your typical college girl. She was not interested in an internship that sits one behind a desk or one about filling out paperwork. She is not interested in interacting with the living much at all. Instead, you can find her carrying a corpse early Wednesday mornings at the Body Farm.

What is the Body Farm?

The Body Farm is the public nickname for a facility that is officially known as the Forensic Anthropology Center, FAC.

The FAC was founded by anthropologist William Bast as a place to observe the decomposition of the human body. The FAC has produced a lot of knowledge that has helped in identifying corpses. Many people have used the facility, from FBI agents across the country to even National Geographic. The FAC is frequently expanding their presence in the forensic and anthropology world.

Double majoring in Anthropology and Spanish, while also minoring in Neuroscience, interning at the Body Farm is helping Martin to potentially pursue a future in forensic anthropology.

Martin's duties at the Body Farm include but are not limited to, processing and taking photos of decomposing bodies. Processing bodies is what Martin describes as, "preparing bones for storage and future research projects." Human skulls, hands, and hips, are all parts of the body that Martin comes across.

All of the bones and corpses the FAC studies are donated and as stated on the FAC website, there is no cost to donate as the department will drive to the body to pick it up.

The farm is not for 'weak stomachs'

Martin points out that what she does is not the most pleasant or settling job. Taking photos of the decaying bodies she says, "entails going out into an outdoor research facility with graduate students and taking pictures to monitor the rate of progression of the decomposing." These pictures consist of rotting flesh, swollen bellies, and wiggling maggots.

Watching a body rot is something most people only get to see on TV. When asked how it feels to experience the real thing, Martin explained how different it is from seeing it on your favorite crime show. Experiencing it with all her senses, not just sight, was a huge factor in the contrast. The intense smells and the foreign noises take some time adapting to, yet Martin says, "...thinking of it as a learning experience helps me tune out the less pleasant aspects of the internship."

Although the internship is graphic, Martin encourages both weak or strong willed people to think about interning at the Body Farm.

She assured that the staff of FAC tells all personnel that no one will ever be pressured into doing something that makes them uncomfortable. The explicit sights of the Body Farm are thoroughly discussed to newcomers, so they will not walk in unaware.

Martin emphasizes the major thing about to coming to the Body Farm is not about handling the sights or facing your fear, it's about respect. If people are interested in coming to see or get involved in the farm, Martin explains "the most important rule that is constantly stressed is to respect the individuals who have donated their bodies to be studied. We greatly respect and value their donation because it is truly irreplaceable to have this facility available... It is a unique opportunity to learn about this incredibly interesting field!"