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Previous MI Anthropology Undergraduate Research Funding Recipients

2021-2022 Funding Recipients

Georgia Mies, Chicago

Thank you for your support of undergraduate research at the University of Michigan. The awardwas much appreciated. The funds were used to attend the Midwest Primate Interest Group Conference in Chicago at the Lincoln Park Zoo. I presented a poster on my work testing different fecal hormone extraction methods for looking at Mountain Gorilla cortisol metabolites. I attended the conference with Dr. Stacy Rosenbaum’s lab and was able to learn first-hand about a myriad of primatology research topics across the nation. I also had the opportunity to practice my research, presenting, and networking skills as a result of this funding.

I leveraged the skills I gained from this experience in my graduate school applications. Igraduated in December from the University of Michigan and am currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in Genomics and Computational Biology.

Thank you again for the grant and for continuing to fund undergraduate research!

Abdul Kizito, India

Last summer because of your donation, I got the extraordinary opportunity to travel, make new friends, learn about people and places that I never knew about. Most importantly I got a chance to get out there and learn more about how the things that I learn actually come to life. You gave me the opportunity to really push my academic pursuits  into an experience that was grounded in the kind of real work I want to do. For that I sincerely cannot say thank you enough.

I went to Pune, India to learn about African Students in India and the ways in which their experiences are facilitated. I found myself amongst a population about whom very little nuance about their stories was told. Africans and African students tend to get written about within the context of the racist violence towards them and in other bigger conversations about Africa and India relations. My project had gone to learn about organizations and their relationships with the communities they served. I found myself focusing on student organizations and communities because they were the largest group and also interestingly took on responsibilities that traditionally belong to embassies, or to their school. The student organizations also had wide enough networks(including police, politicians and other local Indian philanthropists) that also served and coordinated ways of mitigating economic and social percarities for other Africans in India(migrant workers and those who get stuck in India because of visa issues). My project is attempting to explain how and why those big networks within their communities exist and work to help Africans. The big thematic issues being covered in my ethnography are “community,” social organization and kinship and new forms of relatedness.


Christian Berends

Anthropology has been a passion of mine since the day I found out it existed. I was driving down the road bored of music and ready for something new. I went searching for podcasts about history and human origins and found the Leakey Foundation podcast entitled “Origin Stories.” This was an anthology of current research being done in the field of evolutionary studies and how it relates to how humans came to be who we are today. I was immediately captivated by how much I did not know and how much of our world, our culture, and our life we could question when we take a look at ourselves.

Fast forward to 3 years down the line and you will find me frantically researching and writing an essay to be selected by the National Science Foundation as a participant in the 2020 summer research program. I had only heard about this event a week earlier and realized how far behind the ball I was. I stayed for 48 hours continuously in the library bringing with me a sleeping bag and pillow so I could rest with my books, waking up to continue my studies. A few months later I was chosen to take part in their field school, provided this new thing called COVID loosened
restrictions by the time we were supposed to arrive in Alabama.

As we all know, this was not the case. I had to wait another year to get my first taste of original research. I decided though that if I were to wait, I would spend the time wisely. I researched all I could about archaeological methodology and the Umm an-Nar time period of the United Arab Emirates that we were to study. I spent each night reading something new about current research done in the area and made sure I was prepared! Little did I know how impossible it would be to ever be fully ready for your first research project.

I arrived in Alabama feeling high on the excitement of my prospects, we were to learn all about human osteology and then delve into analyzing bones recovered from a 2017 excavation of the sites Unar 1 and Unar 2 in the Ras al-Khaimah province of the United Arab Emirates. This was a time period of great cultural change providing host to the largest preIslamic period population in the region and we were to look into tomb membership ages for the community mortuary structure. These remains were analyzed previously by Soren Blau, currently of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Australia, who reported that there were no infant or fetal
bones present in the tomb. After analyzing the bones we received, we found that nearly 20% of the total number of bones between the two tombs were fetal - changing the status from membership exclusive to membership inclusive. This showed that to be considered a part of the community in the Umm an-Nar culture one only had to be conceived to be represented. We also tested three unique methods of assessing fetal age, discovering that none quite matched up with the other and that more research needs to be done before archaeological material can be accurately stated to be of a certain age.

I wanted to take this time to thank you for accepting my grant proposal. Because of this funding I will be able to present my findings at the American Association of Biological Anthropology conference in Denver this coming March 2022! I will be able to demonstrate the findings that we made representing undergraduate research programs, the National Science Foundation, and the University of Michigan. I will be able to network with professionals from across the country also working in the field and will be able to make connections that will support me as I endeavor to find a graduate school. None of this would be possible without your acceptance, thank you!

Patrick Potoczak

I am honored to have been selected as recipient of a scholarship from the Anthropology Undergraduate Award. I greatly appreciate your generosity in allowing me to pursue research to support my senior thesis in anthropology. Because of your generosity, I was able to investigate the imprinting of genes in the placenta using confocal fluorescence microscopy as part of mysenior thesis, titled “Visualization of Imprinted lncRNAs in the placenta via RNAscope fluorescent in-situ hybridization”. I learned so much while writing this capstone thesis project.

With help from this gift, I imaged fluorescent microscope slides using the resources of the Biomedical Research Microscopy Core. These images are giving great insight into expression patterns of selected RNA molecules that are known to be imprinted in the human placenta. Genetic imprinting is defined as the controlled silencing of one of the pairs of alleles. This means that only either the maternal or paternal copy of the gene is expressed. I observed differential expression of RNAs within the placenta, which may reveal something about the imprinting status of the selected genes. I reported on the details of RNA expression in my senior thesis which was completed in May 2022.

India Pruette

In summer 2022, I was granted funds to conduct fieldwork in Israel focusing on the Early Bronze period of Tell el-Hesi, a site located on the northern border of the Negev desert. My work in Israel this summer was focused on archaeological survey with my graduate student mentor, Kara Larson. We engaged in a pedestrian survey of the area surrounding our site, as well as other sites in the area that had been flagged following a 2008 survey. Our specific focus was on looking for any Early Bronze Age pottery, lithics, or other artifacts, but we were careful to note any of our findings. We also took particular note of zooarchaeological findings, as my mentor is also conducting isotopic analysis on this site for her thesis.

This funding was invaluable for my participation in this work, and I was so fortunate to have been able to go and build these new relationships and gain hands-on experience. On-site, I developed my skills in identifying different types of artifacts, as well as learning how to set up this kind of survey as well as the things that I will need to know once I move into graduateschool and start leading my own projects. I learned how to set up such a survey method with flagging tape and squares as well as the process of cataloging and analyzing all the data. I also had the opportunity to work closely with Bill Isenberger, our Hesi GIS specialist, and familiarize myself with the methods and tools for his kind of research. I really found this interesting, and was so grateful for the opportunity to work in the field with him and the rest of the team at Hesi this summer.

My visit to Israel also afforded us the opportunity to visit plenty of archaeological andcultural sites in the region. We visited Masada, the Dead Sea, Petra, Jerusalem’s Old City (and all the cultural, religious, and historical monuments therein). These were incredible andunforgettable experiences of exploring a country and culture so different from Ann Arbor, where I grew up.

I’m also excited to be bringing this trip and my new experiences with me: in October, I plan to present a summary of our survey at the UMMAA Centennial Poster Session, and also to present my own research stemming from my visit to Israel at the ASOR conference in Boston in November as well as the 2023 SAA meeting in Portland. I am so fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to have met such wonderful people working in this field while abroad, and even more grateful to be able to see them again at these events and to meet even more professionals.

I’m truly grateful for the funding I received, as it is truly my stepping-off point into myfield. I send my gratitude and endless thanks.


Cassandra Payne, Mongolia

I was able to go to Mongolia for five weeks for an anthropology course that highlighted the following: Human osteology, burial excavation methods, and skeletal identification. There were also many opportunities to learn the culture of the Mongolian people from the 14th century era. As I have multiple chronic medical needs, the terrain and environment deemed challenging for me however, it gave me an opportunity to learn more of the laboratory work that was needed. I was able to be around human remains and learn to clean them off properly and photograph them. I believe it was the highlight of my journey because I am interested in forensic anthropology and being able to work in the lab gave me a sense of purpose. Also, I was able to write an osteobiography report on the remains; it was also something new for me. I enjoyed the tasks very much and coming on this trip has opened my eyes to different experiences that I will never forget. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. When I came to U of M as a transfer student during the fall at the start of the pandemic, I told myself to chase every opportunity that comes my way because I am reaching depths that I never knew I could achieve and for that I am grateful that I was able to receive an award from Riggs Hoenecke. I believe I was destined to travel to Mongolia and learn from other very intellectual individuals. It was an amazing experience and the very first time traveling abroad for me. I’ve learned so much.

This experience allowed me to push forward in my academic career and open to new career opportunities. It also reminded me that more people that look like me (black) need to experience what the world has to offer! It is beautiful! I probably would not have been able to travel to Mongolia, for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please enjoy some photos from my trip! 


Josephine Schmidt, Michigan (Primate Behavior Lab)

I am extremely grateful to have been selected as a recipient, and I would like to thank you for your generous donation.

This funding allowed me to explore my research interests and gain valuable lab experience by working in the Primate Behavior Lab at the University of Michigan. The specific goal of my research project was to determine if the Dual Hormone Hypothesis is supported in mountain gorillas. This hypothesis proposes that glucocorticoids interact with testosterone to influence status-seeking behaviors such as aggression, competition, and risk-taking. Several studies have provided evidence in support of this hypothesis, showing that high levels of cortisol block the effects of testosterone on these status-seeking and reproductive behaviors. However, the results are not conclusive, and some studies have described the opposite effect.

During summer 2022, I used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to detect testosterone levels in male mountain gorilla fecal samples. With this data, I was able to present preliminary results at the Midwest Primate Interest Group Conference in late October – my second scientific conference – and after further analysis, I will also be incorporating these results into my honors thesis on behavioral endocrinology. Furthermore, I plan to use my work on my honors thesis to contribute to a manuscript on the Dual Hormone Hypothesis that will be submitted for publication.

Overall, this funding has provided me with the opportunity to gain hundreds of hours of lab experience, present a poster at a scientific conference, pursue an honors thesis, and co-author a manuscript. I would like to thank you again for your funding that has provided me with incredible opportunities and enabled me to pursue my passions.

2009-2022 Funding Recipients

2021-2022 Funding Recipients

Christian Berends

Kuo Guang

Caitlin Hoyng

Abdul Kizito

Georgia Mies

Cassandra Payne

Patrick Potoczak

Thomas Proffitt

India Pruette

Abigail Rieck

Josephine Schmidt

2020-2021 Funding Recipients

Armando Otero

Josephine Schmidt

2019-2020 Funding Recipients

Macy Afsari

Jordan Brady

Alexis Fine

Patrick Potoczak

Daniel Wong

2018-2019 Funding Recipients

Zoe Boudart

Jordan Brady

Autumn Schmitz

Nicole Smith

Hannah Thoms

Trey Smith

Kevin Wang

Allegra Ward

Rachele Willard

Faith Williams

2017-2018 Funding Recipients

Alex Cashman

Arianna Cerqueira

Rachel Hurwitz

Aliya Khan

Christine Rysenga

Nicole Smith

Kinsey Vear

Allegra Ward

2016-2017 Funding Recipients

Zachary Arrington

Kelly Garland

Megan Harrison

Lauren Heinonen

Andrew Mitchel

Nolan Powers

Bianca Winward

Brianne Yeskey

2015-2016 Funding Recipients

Sarah Burke

Anna Forringer-Beal

Polina Hristova

Connor Liskey

Hannah Marcovitch

Lillian Shipp

2014-2015 Funding Recipients

Sarah Cunninham

Darci Curwen-Garber

Andrew Fiasco

Anna Forringer-Beal

Briana Gladhill

Nabiha Hashmi

Polina Hristova

Christina Johnson

Ingrid Lundeen

Alexandra Newton

Ann Soliman

Jennifer Washabaugh

2013-2014 Funding Recipients

Andrea Dantus

Julia Hickey

Polina Hristova

Jenna Isherwood

Laura Jessmore

Katherine Kinkopf

Ingrid Lundeen

Ann Soliman

Jennifer Washabaugh

2012-2013 Funding Recipients

Colton Babladelis

Colleen Breslin

Alie Rae Cohen

Julia Field

Anna Forringer-Beal

Erika Loveland

Jillian McConville

Samantha Patterson

Anna Schwiebert

Rachel Stokes

Murphy Van Sparrentak

2011-2012 Funding Recipients

Kendall Arslanian

Nicole Carbone

Megan Cole

Katherine Globerson

Sarah Hodin

Clare Toeniskoetter

2009 Funding Recipients

Cynthia Kazanis

Shayna Liberman