Here’s the final student blog of the 2017 NSF REU Bioarchaeology Field Season! All of the students have been working incredibly hard to put the finishing touches on their projects. The presentations will be Friday afternoon before we say goodbye on Saturday! We have been so impressed with everyone’s work this summer and are looking forward to the great things these students will do in the future!
IT’S THE LAST WEEK AND WE ARE SO SAD TO GO! Whatever shall we do with our summer now that our REU is over??
The last week has been defined by sleepless nights, a lot of data analysis, and constantly working on abstracts and posters. By last Saturday, all of the students had received most of their data, which was quite the crunch time when everyone is trying to finish posters and abstracts this week. Let’s state the obvious here: data analysis is hard. You would think that the second that beautiful graph displaying data points appears that it’s all smooth sailing from there; that you could infer anything and everything from that one, simple graphic. Well, it’s a bit more difficult than that. You start searching through the preliminary articles you found, looking for the methods and ideas that they put together that will be useful to you. You make long lists in your notebook of helpful citations and constantly have at least seven tabs open in Chrome. But, as you keep sieving through your data and articles, you realize that you are the academic, coming to conclusive interpretations.
But wait, there’s more!
As the program draws to a close, we have been designing posters to present our research to a general audience. Condensing our research process to a limited amount of space is challenging…maybe just as difficult as interpreting our data and thinking about the implications our findings have for understanding the ancient Mediterranean. It is, however, an immensely rewarding experience to produce a poster that represents the culmination of about two month’s hard work. After several rounds of revision by our advisors, we will soon be prepared to communicate our findings with the world! We are optimistic about how these presentations will go and are looking forward to practicing them Thursday.
Near the end of the program, we have also had time to reflect on our experiences this summer. First off, we cannot express enough how rewarding and influential this program has been on all of us, regardless of what our interests were coming in and what experience we had before. It gave us all a chance to think about what we really like – and find difficult – about the research process and exposed some of us to opportunities in bioarcheology that would never have been available otherwise. We will all come away from this summer with new skill sets and a deep appreciation for researchers, scholars, and academics who do this every day (re: it’s hard).
We (Alex and Chrysanthi) would like wrap up this final blog post with a few words to thank everyone who were incredibly helpful in the second half of this program:
Let’s start with our wonderful and incredible advisors: Dr. Reitsema and Dr. Kyle. Truly, we could have not asked for better mentors and guides through this research process. The way they think, lecture, and offer advice has been an amazing resource to us. Not only that, but we feel as if we have built close relationships with extremely knowledgeable academics.
Next, is Katie, our amazing graduate student assistant. From osteology lectures to showing us around the Center for Applied Isotope Studies, Katie has been there every step of the way.
We want to say a special thank you to the scientists and technicians at CAIS who worked incredibly hard to help us get our data in time for analysis and the presentation.
We are filled with so much gratitude towards everyone that we have had the pleasure of meeting and working with this summer. We can’t wait to see where this experience takes us in the future (beyond Austin, TX in Spring 2018 for the AAPAs!).
Alex and Chrysanthi
P.S. special shout-out to Eli, we miss you!