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2017 AAPA New Orleans

Thursday: May 24, 2018

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Refreshing for my summer bioarchaeology project has reminded me that I’ve never posted about my AAPA conference last year! I did not present, but I wanted to go specifically for the Dental Anthropology Association workshop on tooth crown and root morphology. See me being studious?

I inadvertently sat next to Dr. Liversidge. Helen was my lunch companion during the DAA’s Let’s Do Lunch segment in 2013. It was nice seeing a friendly face again and we both remembered each other, yay! I also met Dan, who happens to live nearish to me and we stay in touch on Academia. And my old advisor was there so I got introduced to his students, and they all knew his reference to me as “Rebecca the White”. I had really impressed him as a student, so I was first dubbed “Rebecca the Grey” like Gandalf, and at graduation, he bestowed upon me a LOTR t-shirt and the new “White” moniker. I suffer from imposter syndrome so I prefer to remain known as “the Grey” instead, you see. But I digress!

That workshop was pretty awesome. Mostly because I love how geeky everyone there was about teeth (it almost matches my advisor’s passion;) but I learned more about morphology, too. I also love meeting the people behind the names, and adore how everyone is just a human like me! I am sure there are big egos who can be rude or stuck on themselves, but so far I have been fortunate to rub elbows with pleasant people. Or, at least they are pleasant to me since I am perhaps just a “nobody”? Doesn’t matter. Nothing beats meeting the mentors. So, you can imagine the fuzzy-feelings I got when I asked for the authors to sign this book:

Ok, so maybe you need the fun backstory: The publisher had a booth but the books hadn’t arrived and rather than a full shipment, there would be something like three. THREE for a conference filled with interested parties! I accidentally met up with some of the author’s students and got on their good side and so they let me know as soon as the books showed up so I could look at one. See, there were three of them to go along with the three books (or whatever that number was). As the fourth, I was assumed to be SOL. However, I am clever! I was the first person to ask the vendor if I could buy the otherwise reserved display copy – I guess no one had thought of it. So, the vendor took my name and slipped it inside the book. Every single person for the rest of the entire conference who looked at that book – and dare I say there were many! – saw my name in large capital letters. I thought that alone was hilarious. But especially when I would introduce myself to people, or they’d be chatting with me in a group and see my name tag and go “YOU’RE that person? How did you get that book reserved for you? Why are you so special?!” Haha. Oh, good times they were – even for one such as myself that doesn’t generally like attention. But the story doesn’t end here, obviously.

In fact, let’s take another step back. I had talked to the first author, Dr. Scott, briefly at the publisher’s booth before hand and we discussed my interest in getting a doctorate in dental anthropology. He said I should check out his program, but I was honest and said I wasn’t sure I’d get in since I assume there are better candidates (whether that is true or not I can’t say – I am not shy to say I’m a brilliant student, but I must acknowledge that I am one who also, as I said, suffers from imposter syndrome). Richard told me I might be surprised because since he has met me, he knows I love the field, and my honesty and “realness” gives me an advantage, and he’d remember my name. Sweet. That made me feel good all by itself, yea?

So, fast forward, after the DAA business meeting, I got up the nerve to ask politely if Dr. Scott could sign the book. I said his name would do just fine, I didn’t expect him to take the time to write some epitaph, and walked away a little so I wasn’t creepily looking over his shoulder. He took a moment, and then returned the book. “Rebecca, I love your passion for teeth. If you ever want a PhD give me a call. Best wishes – G Richard Scott”. I thought that was just so cool. I know it is probably near meaningless, but I had just learned my teaching contract wasn’t being renewed before the conference so having even a glimpse of a possible future in the field was absolutely delightful.

I had never spoken to the other author before and I couldn’t get a read on his personality but I finally bit the bullet and asked for a signature. At first, I felt like I truly was a bother, but once he read Richard’s, he took my book and exclaimed something like “oh great, how am I suppose to match this? Of course he would write that and of course he would take the entire page!” Haha! So, I said just his name would be fine, as I didn’t want to create drama, and politely stepped away for a bit. Dr. Irish kept the book for a bit longer, obviously pondering what to write. When Joel returned the book, I was too embarrassed to even look at it til I escaped the room. I laughed out loud when I read “Forget Richard, if you want a PhD – come see me! Best – Joel D Irish”. Oh, if only all those people who saw my book on display now knew what was written inside! Teeheehee!

Other fun bits from my New Orleans experience:

I attended a fascinating symposium on the bioarchaeology of children. That theme is something I’ve considered for a doctorate many a times. See me once again, being studious?

I met the Lucy cast. I saw her in real life once purely by happenstance in NYC, but she was in parts lying down. (And it was epic.) I’ve taught about her every semester as an instructor. But seeing her height in real life was super awesome for perspective. Isn’t it always the case? “It’s one thing to read about it, but to see it really matters!” Her shoulder had slipped, if you are curious, but I didn’t want to get in trouble for touching the mega-expensive cast.

My New Zealand friend came to town for the occasion and I was fortunate enough to hang out with friends each night after enjoying supper with my in-law family (see below). The night life was amazing for people watching.

My MIL and SIL came with me. They had recently won a trip to New Orleans a year or two before and fell in love so the chance to go back was high priority. Since Boy couldn’t come, they offered to hang out with me. We toured the French Quarter together in the evenings and they did their own things while I was at the conference. One night, we took a ghost tour. It was really more about the vampire “history”. Our tour guide was amazing! Of course, I googled just about everything she said later, and almost none of it could be backed up by actual facts (as I had, of course, suspected) but it was fun regardless; she made it worth it.

We also took a bayou tour to see the wildlife. It was super cool, culturally, to see these “off-grid” houses. And the wildlife was cool. Amazing trees. Lot’s of birds and turtles and even a snake or two. Here is a wild boar:

And we saw many, many alligators. In fact, the tour guides put hotdogs on the ends of sticks and teased the gators out of the water. I have many videos. They are smaller than I imagined while at the same time larger. I can’t explain it. On Sapelo, I’ve only ever seen their eyes quickly disappear under water. Here I saw full bodies of various builds. How they can come jutting out of the water is quite frightening as well! I’m not sure how I feel about feeding alligators hotdogs, and the future repercussions for them and for people, but I do have a new appreciation for them and doubt I will be so curious the next time I am at Sapelo, geez! Not that I was ever stupid about it, but I feel like I would now never go to the dock alone for phone service.


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AAPA 2013 Poster Presentation

Wednesday: April 17, 2013

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I was in Knoxville, Tennessee last week for the AAPA 82nd Annual Meeting. I will make a post about the whole experience later when I have more time, but here I will focus on my own contribution to the meeting. I had a poster presentation on Saturday, which you can see below (or read the real thing here). I had no idea what to expect from a poster presentation. The way it was set up, I had to stand by my poster for a half hour at 10:30am and then again at 2:30pm and engage in conversations with interested parties. I was dreading it for many reasons (talking to strangers, possibility of being criticized, not knowing enough about my subject, etc). My first presentation was interesting, not a single person stopped by until the very end! I blame this on the layout – bulletin boards were set up like dominoes against a windowed wall. In order to read the posters, one must enter each nook. My particular position, lucky number 13, had a huge column just in front of it – we are talking maybe 4 feet in diameter. It was very uninviting, to say the least. But, honestly, not having anyone show was just my style! In addition, the boards were not the appropriate size, so my poster had to hang off the edge – I feared this would make it look like I didn’t follow the size guidelines, but what could I do?

Across from me was someone I had cited, Rocco de Gregory. Unfortunately, I could not locate his thesis title before getting the poster printed, so I took that as an opportunity to meet him. His poster, also on dental microwear texture analysis, had a much better visibility so he had more visitors to deal with, keeping our conversation short.

My 2013 AAPA poster on display in Knoxville.

Now, someone did show at the very end, and had I not just been out to lunch with him the day before (and about 20 other well-known people in the Dental Anthropology field), I wouldn’t have known who he was since he was not sporting a name tag. Unfortunately for me and my anxiety, I did recognize him: Richard Scott. Really? I didn’t get to practice on any normal person before one of the Big Names dropped by?

I must say I was almost perfectly relaxed in speaking with him for the ten or so minutes he gave me. I attribute that to his own laid back style mostly, but a little bit also because teaching has given me some speaking skills, and I really do understand what microwear is all about. In fact, I think I was more nervous to finally meet my coauthor Jaime, since the cultural and temporal period is what I know so little about. She’s very nice though, just as my other co-author Sue had described her to be. Phew!

My second presentation had more visitors, which I thought ironic, since a large majority of attendees had already begun leaving Knoxville. My first group were Loren and Scott, from the Dental Anthropology Association. They were judging my poster as I walked up (I had submitted it to win the Albert A. Dahlberg Prize, though I find it unlikely), so I asked if they needed anything. A run-down was kindly requested, so I went through my unrehearsed spiel hoping for the best. Again, I was consciously aware of how comfortable I was – even knowing I was being judged in all likelihood. We talked for maybe more than ten minutes and then they went on their way. Rocco and I resumed conversations, talking about the most rad panel discussion ever. I will cover my impression of it in a later post, but here is something one of the panelists posted: Talking about data access at the 2013 AAPAs.

I explained my poster to two others, and that was that! I had provided 30 copies of the poster in the hanging file, 20 of which were taken. A few of my business cards were taken also (which is cool, because they represent a web project I have been working on, so hopefully I will get some early interest in it! In fact, my web project seems to be coming in a time that is quite ready for it – that rad panel discussion pretty much convinced me of that, but high hopes, and alas, I digress…)

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AAPA 2013 Poster

Sunday: January 6, 2013

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Part of the grad school experience is attending and presenting at conferences. In the past, I have presented at both the Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology Association (BARFAA) and the Indiana Academy of Science (IAS), but last year I did not get to attend the American Association of Physical Anthropology (AAPA) (I held down the fort in the Monkeys, Apes, and Humans class instead). This year, I submitted an abstract for a poster presentation (literally a giant poster), coauthored with my advisor, a former student, and two colleagues from other universities.

Due to some miscommunication, the abstract was submitted prior to my colleagues finding a glaring error that, while not changing the data, was important enough to seek correction. Once submitted, the AAPA policy is no further editing, so I was not sure what could be done and truth be told, as my blog intends to portray, this was a very stressful event for me. I will leave it at that else I raise my anxiety again.

Long stressful story short, the poster was accepted. Not for a couple of days more was it made known to me that the edit would also be granted due to the special circumstances (thank you so very much!).

I am not sure of everyone’s stance on the AAPA – which is the same organization that produces the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (AJPA), but I consider both (as one and the same) in high regard. Not in the way that I am special for getting a poster accepted (it is likely a fairly straightforward process), but in the way that this is where all the knowledge of bioanthropology collides. Students like me will be in attendance alongside professionals with huge names.

I will now be traveling to Tennessee in April, with the daunting task of answering questions about my topic during the presentation schedule, and hopefully meeting my colleagues to explain everything in person.

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Conferences and Classes

Thursday: May 3, 2012

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Anthropologists meet at several events annually, depending on area of study and travel expenses, of course. The American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) was held in Portland this year. I did not attend, but my advisor and cohort did. Instead, I ran two sections of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans alone, and then helped guide the undergraduate Dental class with the bio graduates. I don’t like talking in front of groups, so I was happy that all classes were lab exercises (not lecturing), but it is something I need to get over soon (I will get to that…)

The Society for American Anthropology (SAA) was held the following week in Memphis. My advisor was the only one of us who had a chance to go. My Peru field school assistant and now friend Keith presented on the sample I helped collect data from. If you click on the image, it will take you to his site and you can see a larger version.

Another Possible Complication for the use of Harris Lines as an Indicator of Growth Disruption by Keith Chan

I am bummed I did not make it to either since I missed out on meeting some mentors in the field, but there is always next time, right? Next year, I hear that the AAPA will be in Tennessee and the SAA in Hawaii. I am not sure if I can make it to either one, but it is satisfying to know that I picked a field of study that involves traveling :)

And I may not have gotten to go to the meetings, but I was approached by the department Chair and asked if I was interested in teaching Cultural Anthropology. At the time, I was not sure what he meant (I had thought he meant that night). Long story short, I am being given the opportunity to teach a class this fall. Cultural anthropology has not been my area of focus, but it is a 100 level class, and I have been given notes and presentations from others who have taught it. Jeremy has even offered to let me sit in his class over the summer for a refresher, which I haven’t decided on yet. I haven’t decided yet about actually accepting the opportunity either (although my inner voice is screaming “Yes you have! You are doing it!”). If I am going to teach, I do not want it to be a blunder – I want to be able to focus on it. If I am going to have another semester of grad studies, I do not want it to blunder, either – I have to be wary of my stress level and time management. Aside from those two large issues, there is nothing but positives: I get paid, which roughly will cancel out my school costs; I get the experience of teaching; I get something for my CV; I help the department out when they are in a pinch; etc etc.

I really shouldn’t kid myself – I am going to do it. How could I not? I enjoyed SI-ing during my undergrad life. And Boy put it to me like this: I get to spread the good word of anthropology to newbs. It freaks me out, to have to present 50 minutes two or three times a week, instead of 15 minutes three times a year at a conference, but I just need to get over that. While I had never defined myself as a person who wanted to teach, I think I have to agree with others that it may suit me. I might as well find that out now, so I can begin pursuing that career when I graduate, rather than guessing that is what I ought to be doing when I find myself without a job. Right?

Oh, but the most ridiculous awesome part is that I have academic freedom to design the class myself, down to picking out the very book the students will be using. To say I am shocked is an understatement. To say I am ready for that responsibility is slightly bending the truth. But I have good people to refer to and help me out, so it will work out in the end.

Seriously, though…Me? A teacher?  C R E E P Y .

Oh, and one of my teachers puts together a newsletter for the department. They are huge files so it may take some time to load, but you can catch up with Volume 1 Issue 1 (details the Sapelo Island field school), Volume 1 Issue 2 (Lew Wallace excavations and a little bit about the DENTALWEAR Project), and Volume 2 Issue 1 (where there is a blurb about my research associate job with DENTALWEAR – this one isn’t posted yet at UIndy so I uploaded it for you).

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Semester II

Monday: January 23, 2012

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After I get situated with all the new assignments, I will begin posting class notes again.

Aside from my cohort, I share classes with some undergrads I already know which is cool. We also share classes with some biology grad students (mostly focused in forensic anthropology). At first that seemed daunting: perhaps because their program is not new but well established, or perhaps because there are so many of them. I am not sure, but I felt like it would be hard to keep up, that they must be more advanced than me, something. Silly of course, because they wouldn’t be taking the same classes if that were the case! They all seem cool so I look forward to getting to know them.

I did get the TA position for undergrad Monkeys, Apes, & Humans (all three of us were fortunate for a position) – two classes back to back with two different teachers. I am also sitting in on the undergrad Human Evolution class to refresh myself and hear perhaps other perspectives as well as updated discoveries. I will be working on a project for the Indiana Academy of Science coming up in March, traveling to Portland for the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in April, and writing up a report on my own research by the end of the semester for Archaeology of Eastern North America (with the possibility of publishing). I’ll also have had to decide what my thesis will be, write a paper in Molecular Anthropology, and do fun things with teeth in Dental Anthropology. My job as the Research Associate is going much smoother this semester too, I feel like I have the system down and will really get to make a dent in the project.

This semester will cut me deep to my core, though: I have a class at 8:30am. Since that aligns with a lot of businesses, I give myself about an hour for traffic, with an hour before to wake up and get ready, and with winter upon us, an extra half hour just in case. Meaning that I wake up at 6am. For the last half of my life, I have been on a night schedule, waking roughly by 1pm (last semester I averaged 9AM and that was rough). Going to sleep at 9pm makes me feel silly but hopefully I will get the hang of it quickly (why yes, I need 9 hours of sleep). You must keep in mind that as you scoff at my hardship, if most people wake up by say even 7am, imagine trying to wake up by midnight. Exactly. Add to that, my school is in another time zone, an hour ahead of what I am use to. Having a home and husband on Central Time prevents me from fully switching to Eastern so I feel caught oddly between. Oh, and need I even bother mentioning I am not a morning person?

Overall, I feel busier than ever. I’ve had one week and it really feels more like a whole month!

Here’s a quick sketch for a dental lab assignment. I do not have Aperture reloaded yet so forgive the crummy quality, I used the print-screen option to resize the image.

sketch of a mandible

Quick sketch of a mandible, highlighting key features.

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