First-Generation Student’s First Research Fellowship

Stefani Hammond received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to work alongside anthropology Assistant Professor John Starbuck, Ph.D., in his lab this summer. As a first-generation student putting herself through school, she is thankful for this opportunity.

“Being awarded this fellowship means a lot to me in many different ways,” Hammond said. “As an undergraduate researcher, it reinforces that the effort I have made has been successful. As a first-generation student, it shows that those who come from this kind of background can also be successful.”

This fellowship represents her first step into undergraduate research. While in Starbuck’s lab, she’ll use 3D imaging technology to research the effects of DYRK1A on facial morphology. This is a gene which plays a role in bone and tissue growth in the face. Hammond will be helping compare images of children with DYRK1A Haploinsufficiency to those without, researching how the gene corresponds to facial structures.

This is a much different aspect of the anthropological field than Hammond originally thought she wanted when she first chose the major. When she entered UCF, her initial goal was to eventually become a museum curator.

“It was a good intersection of many interests I had coming into college, including art and history,” Hammond said. “As I got further into the major, I decided I was more interested in the biological side of anthropology and decided to make that my focus.”

Now, she hopes to obtain her doctorate in biological anthropology and become a professor, inspired by her time at UCF.

“I have had a very positive experience as a UCF student,” she said. “UCF as an institution wants only the best for its students, and always wants them to succeed. I don’t think that any other college could have afforded me the genuine experience I’ve had here at UCF.”

This experience, and her fellowship with Starbuck, is the first step to achieving her goals.

“As an anthropology major, it’s important for me to show a major that’s not often represented or thought of when it comes to academically outstanding majors,” she said. “As a recipient of this fellowship, I’m very proud to represent a study that’s so important and valuable.”


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