Research Apprenticeship Program

The Department of Anthropology is pleased to invite applications for our innovative Research Apprenticeship Program, which pairs undergraduates interested in gaining research experience and considering applying to graduate school with Anthropology PhD students for a semester-long research apprenticeship. The program prioritizes students with little or no prior research experience, students from underrepresented backgrounds, first-generation college students, and students with financial need. This program is generously supported by the CLAS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative and the Department of Anthropology.

For undergraduate participants, the aim of the Research Apprenticeship Program is to foster deeper engagement with research in Anthropology in addition to providing exposure to the graduate school experience, while also helping students build transferable skills including critical thinking, written and oral communication, problem solving, and time management. All undergraduate Research Apprentices will be expected to 1) attend in-person mentoring and networking program events, and 2) prepare a research poster for a final end-of-year event, together with their mentor.

Descriptions of all available opportunities are included below. Applications can be submitted via the application portal until Friday, December 1, 2023, at 5pm. Applicants will be asked to rank their top three choices.

1) Project Title:  "Chronic Exposure to Air Pollution: Assessing Impact Using a Rodent Model"– Graduate Researcher: Corrin Laposki

Research Overview: While air pollution conjures up mental images of smoke stacks and dirty cityscapes, it is in fact a problem humans have been dealing with for millennia. My dissertation research uses a rodent model to observe how chronic exposure to one of the most common air pollutants throughout history, wood smoke, shapes bone biology throughout an organism's life. The findings of this research will help illuminate how fire use and air pollution have left their marks on human biology over time and space.

Research Tasks:

  • Conduct literature reviews online as well as via physical books obtained from the library.
  • Generate figures for use in posters using BioRender and Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • Perform introductory bioinformatics using the R programming language. No special training or certification is required. The student will complete one-on-one training upon acceptance.

2) Project Title: “What are the experiential, cognitive and social aspects in which intense group bonding and psychological kinship emerges, and why?” – Graduate Researcher: Steve Medeiros

Research Overview: Goal of this project: Exploratory research on how the intentional cognitive construction of individual and social identity (especially a “warrior” identity), cultural ritual, and mythology, play a role in fostering group bonding and psychological kinship. Method: Using cultural domain analysis interviews and other qualitative methods, this study explores and compares cognitive and social aspects of different groups who identify as “warriors” (e.g., military, historical anachronists / reenactors / roleplayers, athletes, etc.). Outcome: A better understanding of the role of cultural myth and intentional identity construction in the cognitive (imaginative function) of intense group bonding and psychological kinship.

Key terms: Psychological kinship: Intense group bonding resulting in valuing non-biologically related individuals as though they were members of one's own family. Intentional identity construction: The intentional adoption of aspects of a persona into ones own sense of self.

Research TasksThe RA for this project will assist in several areas of initial research design. Specifically, the RA will:

  1. Conduct a thorough literature review using digital library resources.
  2. Explore the online ethnographic database HRAF (Human Relations Area Files) as part of the literature review.
  3. Conduct online research identifying and categorizing potential historical/anachronists/reenact-ors/LARP (Live Action Role Players) groups.

In addition to learning to navigate the HRAF online database, there may be an opportunity to learn about the IRB process and and research design. As a first-generation college student I look forward to the opportunity to assist in anyway I can in the process of applying to grad school. 

3) Project Title:  "Spiritual, but not Religious: Assessing Beliefs and Practices among Religious, Nonreligious, and Spiritual but not Religious Persons"  Graduate Researcher: Matthew Conrad

Research Overview: Affiliation with mainstream religious traditions is declining in North America and Europe. It is increasingly popular for people to identify as spiritual, but not religious. Our research investigates these changes, and is especially interested in the importance of spirituality for nonreligious people. The data we are collecting will allow comparisons across religious, nonreligious, and spiritual but not religious persons. We are especially interested in the differences in people's minds, and their ritual practices.

Research Tasks: An RA for this project should expect to:

  • Have an interest in religion and spirituality
  • Have an interest in learning about American and European religious trends
  • Generate interesting research questions 
  • Learn to formulate tests for their research questions
  • Learn to implement these tests in R, a statistics programming language

The RA will work through these steps with my assistance.

4) Project Title:  "Human Adaptations to Fluctuating Climate Conditions during the Last Glacial Period"  Graduate Researcher: Chen Zeigen

Research Overview: I use geo-chemical analyses to study human adaptations to fluctuating climate conditions during the last Glacial period (ca 70-20 thousand years ago). My research focuses on extracting paleoclimate data from archaeological materials to help understand the findings from cave sites of the period from the perspective of shifting local ecological factors. The RA will focus on sampling and analyzing carbonate from tooth enamel of hunted herbivores. Stable isotopes from tooth enamel preserve information about 1) climate factors such as precipitation source, dominant vegetation type, and seasonality patterns, and 2) The geographical territory where the animal lived- thus allowing inferences about shifting hunting ranges by the humans occupying the cave sites.

Research Tasks: The RA will primarily assist in the task of systematically sampling a large number of herbivore teeth and preparing them for stable isotope analysis. This will involve operating a Micromill precision sampler. After analysis is conducted, The RA will assist in the processing, interpretation and write-up of the results, which are ultimately intended to be included in a publication on which the RA will be signed as a co-author. Training on the Micromilling system and additional sample prep will be provided by the graduate mentor and conducted in the Hartman Lab.

After several training sessions, the RA will be free to work independently in the lab at their convenience. To work in the lab, the RA must complete mandatory safety training provided by EHS. In the sampling process, the RA will be required to clean the samples using both mechanical tools and acid digestion, preform calibration of the Micromilling system, and conduct sequential drilling of the tooth surface. For the result analysis portion, the RA will be assigned relevant reading materials, and will conduct data processing using excel worksheets, with the guidance of the graduate mentor. 

5) Project Title:  "Climate Change in Our Body: The Connection Between Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Climate Change on The Southwestern Coast of Bangladesh"  Graduate Researcher: Abdullah All Shakil

Research Overview: Over the last few years, media outlets have reported a growing number of cases of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and hysterectomy (uterus removal surgeries) on the Southern Coast of Bangladesh. With the hope of having a permanent solution to PID, young women aged 20 to 30 fall under the trap of private for-profit clinic owners and brokers. After the surgery, women face extreme physical difficulties and struggle to work. Eventually, many are divorced by their husbands and then struggle to survive in society. Journalists have reported that climate change and global warming are the key contributing factors, but there are many historical (colonial), political, economic, social, and gendered factors that these reports do not mention. In this research, I will interview women who are suffering from PID and learn about their experience of dealing with the condition. I will try to learn how they experience puberty, menstruation, marriage, sex, and childbirth in a difficult environment. The research aims to understand the impact of climate change on our bodies and how social, economic, and political factors play a role in the process.

Research Tasks: The RA will be asked to:

  • Study the research protocol, research methodology, and interview guidelines to understand the development and methodology of the research.
  • Create a list of journal articles and news reports on pelvic inflammatory disease in Bangladesh.
  • Develop an overall sense of the data analysis process, with mentoring and support, and assist in synthesizing research findings.
  • Along with the lead researcher, prepare a poster presentation.

6) Project Title:  "The Birth Control Plan": Identifying abortion-inducing plants in archaeology"  Graduate Researcher: Audra Darcy

Research Overview: In a post-Roe era, where the constitutional right to abortion has been eliminated, critical evaluation about the antiquity of women's reproductive agency is necessary. This study will explore the ethnobotanical use of abortion-inducing and contraceptive plants from a cross-cultural perspective in order to: 1) establish a database of plants; and 2) create a reference catalog of plant remains for archaeobotanical research. The goal of this study is to identify abortion-inducing plant remains that may be preserved and recovered in archaeological contexts. By identifying these plants in archaeological settings, we can then trace and test hypotheses about women’s reproductive agency through time.

Research Tasks:  After initial training, and depending on comfort level, the RA may choose the tasks they find the most interesting from the following list. Students will be required to complete general lab safety training online.    

Can be performed remotely

  • Search for scientific references on this topic
  • Update current database and summarize key information related to main topic (housed on google drive)
  • Attend bi-weekly meetings to discuss concerns, interests

Cannot be performed remotely

  • Identify plant components (leaf, stem, flower, seed etc.) using a microscope
  • Prepare plants for several analyses to identify microscopic remains (combustion, boiling, chemical)
  • Extraction and slide preparation of microscopic plant remains to be identified using a microscope
  • Preparation and chemical analysis of plants using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)

7) Project Title:  "Understanding Decolonial Psychedelic Drug Policy in North America"  Graduate Researcher: Elyse Smith

Research Overview: My dissertation research explores how certain communities in North America think about and use psychedelic drugs, and how consciousness-altering substances can play a role in local healing systems and economies. I am especially interested in the role of psychedelic drugs in resisting domination and other oppressive forces. My work pays attention to changing laws around the use of these substances, as well as environmental threats to certain traditional psychoactive plant medicine sacraments. I use archival and ethnographic research methods to explore the political, cultural, and ideological tensions around these substances, as well as the tension between Indigenous plant medicine-based spiritual traditions and efforts to reform psychedelic drug policy.

I will support my mentee by having meaningful conversations, during our regular meetings, about everyday life as a graduate student, and about how to develop the research skills, experiences, and timelines/processes expected of graduate school applicants.

Research Tasks:

  • Search library databases for government documents containing psychedelic drug laws and regulations in the U.S. (e.g., the Controlled Substances Act, federal bills, other court case documents or legal proceedings resulting in federal or state policies on psychedelic substances).
  • Organize relevant documents into a simplified list, noting basic information such as the name of the court case and/or resultant law, the year, and a brief description of the policy, and linking to the document.


    • For full details about the Department of Anthropology’s Research Apprenticeship Program, or to apply, click here.