A Summer in Sicily

Caitlin Sawyer - NSF REUCaitlin Sawyer, senior anthropology student with a focus in bioarchaeology, was recently selected for a National Science Foundation Research Experience (NSF REU) in Sicily, Italy. This very selective program is conducted through the University of Georgia, where she will be working with assistant professor Laurie Reitsema, Ph.D., from UGA. Caitlin’s NSF REU will specifically focus on “Immersive Research in the Bioarchaeology of Greek Colonization”.

This NSF REU is an eight-week program offered jointly through the University of Georgia, the University of Northern Colorado, and the Università del Salento. This is an immersive program focusing on bioarchaeology with four weeks being in spent Sicily, Italy collecting data from human skeletons and then four weeks being spent at the University of Georgia working on their independent research, in the Bioarchaeology and Biochemistry lab .

Caitlin’s independent research focus for the NSF REU is examining interpersonal violence through trauma to the bone.

Undergraduate students are integrated as junior partners of the Bioarchaeology of Mediterranean Colonies Project, a cross-disciplinary, international research program. In Sicily, Caitlin and the other REU students will travel to local archaeological sites and museums and immersed in Italian culture.

“Field work is something I need more experience in and I am so thankful for the acceptance into this program to be able to do that,” shared Caitlin. Hands-on learning and the application of bioarchaeology skills is a big part of this project and Caitlin is excited to be putting her osteology and archaeology skills to the test. “It is definitely something I am ready for but nervous for at the same time.”

Students will leave the REU with greater technical and data analytical skills, better preparedness for graduate study and professional careers, and heightened awareness of global issues. Caitlin knows “these skills are foundational for improving global citizenship and stewardship in [her] career.”

This semester, Caitlin has been working on research with J. Marla Toyne, Ph.D., focusing on her work in Túcume, Peru. They researched the probability of an intentional amputation on a young woman whose left foot was absent from the rest of the skeletal remains. “It was truly a fascinating case, and one I think will stay with me throughout future cases I come across in bioarchaeology,” explained Caitlin. Caitlin presented this research at the 2016 Showcase for Undergraduate Research on April 7th.

Caitlin would like to thank Sandra Wheeler, Ph.D. and J Marla Toyne, Ph.D., “for helping me through the application process, as well as all of the professors in the Anthropology department who have given me such a great experience at UCF.”

The students will present their research at a poster symposium on the final day of the program and are strongly encouraged to participate in academic conferences during the subsequent year(s) alongside other program alumni and the program directors.

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