Thursday, April 27, 2017

URSP Student Grace Morgan Conducts Bioarchaeological Research in a Medieval Danish Cemetary

I’m a senior anthropology major with a biology minor, and my research deals with the intersection of those two disciplines. I conduct bioarchaeological research analyzing spatial analysis of demographic and health data in a medieval Danish cemetery. The reason I became interested in this research stems from my original goals when I started university. I’ve always loved archaeology, but I did not think that pursuing a career in it would be possible as I knew nothing of the current field. So, I started at GMU on the pre-med track, and I wanted to be a doctor. I was and still am very interested in health and pathology, but I realized that I was more interested in studying larger trends of health over time, with respect to how infectious diseases evolve alongside us. Couple that interest with a few archaeology classes and an infectious disease class with Dr. Bethany Usher and I had found my niche, bioarchaeology.

To conduct my research I spend my time translating handwritten Danish notes on the excavation of the cemetery I am studying, and then formatting that data into excel files grouped by specific demographic (age/sex) and health factors (cribra orbitalia/linear enamel hypoplasia). I then use SaTScantm to spatially analyze this data. I spend a lot of time running this software. This is really fantastic experience for my future career however, because I am obtaining hands on skills analyzing and interpreting data specific to my field. I have been able to directly utilize what I am learning in my classes to conduct research. This has helped me to see the connection between what I am learning in class and how it applies to the real world. More so than that, there is nothing more fulfilling that being able to add something to the greater scope of knowledge, and researching has allowed me to do just that. Participating in undergraduate research has prepared me for my career, and it doesn’t hurt that it looks great on a resume.