Your contributions at work

Your contributions to the department are used to support activities that facilitate training, research, and teaching in anthropology. The most important of these are the awards that the department gives to undergraduate and graduate students.

Undergraduate Students

Each year we recognize the Best Undergraduate Honor's Thesis and Best Anthropology Essay with financial awards. A faculty committee selects the papers for each award. We give out three awards for Best Anthropology Essay - one each for archaeology, biocultural anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology.

Best Honors Theses in Anthropology 2013-2014



Amanda Cortez

Thesis Title: 
"Drawing the line: An exploration into the complex and contradictory relationships between humans and other primates."

Advisor: Dr. Devon Peña

Haley Millet

Thesis Title: 
"Life in the Lukoola: Place-based Pursuits of Food Sovereignty in Central Uganda."

Advisor: Dr. Devon Peña


Best Anthropology Essay Awards 2013-2014


Sociocultural Winner

“Identity and Ideology: Veiled Sentiments vs. Women of Fes”
Gina Senegor
Professor: Dr. Michael V. Perez

Biocultural Anthropology Winner

“An Evolutionary Explanation for Reserach Misconduct?"
Eleanor Cummins
Professor: Dr. Dan Eisenberg

Archaeology Winner

"Preliminary Analysis of Physical Characteristics of Archaeological Sediments at Malakunanja II"
Lindsey Hess
Professor: Dr. Benjamin Marwick

Graduate Students

The department helps to support pre-dissertation pilot research projects and travel to national academic conferences for graduate students. The awards provide graduate students with critical support that is not typically available from any other source of funding.

Each year we fund as many graduate students as possible to conduct pre-dissertation pilot research. This research is used to identify a field site, make important connections at the location, and undertake preliminary data collection. These awards are made in amounts ranging from $168 to $1,400 each. This research is funded directly by donations to several department gift accounts.

One significant source of support comes from the Student Training in Anthropological Research Tools and Skills (STARTS) endowment fund. In January 2014, the department hosted an event to honor its founders, David Notkin and Cathy Tuttle. (You can read Cathy’s comments here.) To see the many ways in which STARTS has supported graduate student research, the department created a 45-page booklet that highlights 21 of the STARTS recipients with descriptions and photos of their research.

The students and projects funded for the 2013-2014 academic year were:


Ulil Amri

The two biggest faith based organizations in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, have been involved in the issues of climate change adaptation and mitigation recently by mobilizing their adherents, mainly pesantrens (Islamic traditional boarding schools) members. My work will portray the role of the pesantrens as the spearhead of the faith based organizations’action in addressing climate change at the local level. I am interested in seeing the involvement of pesantrens in this kind of climate change discursive practice.

The UW Department of Anthropology pilot grant enables me to travel to Indonesia to conduct pre-dissertation site visit on the role of Indonesian pesantrens in addressing the issues of climate change. My preliminary objectives during the visit will be to ascertain which Islamic pesantrens I will be working with, to familiarize myself with pesantrens, and to finalize appropriate research questions.

In this pre-dissertation work, I will visit the headquarters of both Muhammadiyah and Nahdhatul Ulama in Jakarta, and then visit some pesantrens in Bogor, Garut (West Java), Yogyakarta, and Bantul (DI Yogyakarta) regions. I will collect some relevant documents from the headquarters in Jakarta, and also local pesantrens) in Bogor, Yogyakarta, Garut, and Bantul.


Stephanie Cruz

Numerous continuing medical education (CME) facilities across the country use cadaveric tissue in medical studies and in the training of physicians and clinical staff. These CME training centers acquire the tissue needed for their teachings from the willed body programs of medical schools and from non-institutionalized tissue banks. Importantly, willed body programs, tissue banks and CME training centers are developing the best practices protocols for handling, trading, and disposing of cadaveric bodies as the federal government only stipulates that remains may neither be bought nor sold. This leaves states and institutions to individually develop the use and disposition policies over human remains, which often come down to the people working in the capacities of technicians and staff of body donation organizations or CME training centers. My research explores how technicians and staff at the CME training centers and body donation organizations develop these best practices, how they operationalize them and how the transformation of cadavers from person to specimen occur.

Public knowledge about the trade of human tissue is noticeably absent, especially considering how widely organs and tissues from donated bodies are used. An analysis of the role of technicians and staff in CME training centers and the body donation organizations they source from, will examine the way cadavers operate as sites of practice, sites where subjectivity is problematized, and sites of surplus economic value.

Pilot funding for the summer will allow me to travel to meet body donation organization's staff and directors at their annual academic conference and collect information on how the industry is addressing and creating these best practices. Ultimately, this will allow me to make contacts with body donation organizations for future dissertation research.


Tiffany Pan

My overarching dissertation work revolves around microchimerism as a biological paradigm that has implications for human life history and reproductive health.  Microchimerism is the retention of a small quantity of cells or DNA from a genetically distinct individual.  This occurs naturally during pregnancy as cells are exchanged across the placenta between mother and fetus, and these cells can, remarkably, persist in their respective host for decades.  Microchimerism of maternal origin in an adult female host may promote healthy immune adaptation for pregnancy.  In addition to the transfer of cells across the placenta, breast milk may be a postpartum source of maternal-origin microchimerism.  My research aims to explore variation in microchimerism prevalence in relation to breastfeeding behavior and the potential effects on reproductive fitness.  There are two major roadblocks to this overall objective: 1) measuring reproductive fitness is challenging, and 2) breast milk has not been validated as a source of persistent maternal-origin microchimerism in humans.

This pilot research grant will be used to access data from The Preeclampsia Registry questionnaire.  Preeclampsia is generally a disease of a woman’s first pregnancy and affects 5-8% of all pregnancies in the United States.  Infant and maternal mortality resulting from preeclampsia would have been a powerful selective force in the evolution of human reproduction.  Therefore, incidence of preeclampsia, eclampsia, and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy can serve as a biological and clinical proxy for low reproductive fitness. 

To address the issue that breast milk has not been validated as a source of persistent maternal-origin microchimerism in humans, the goal of the pilot project is to examine risk of preeclampsia in relation to history of being breastfed.  Women who were breastfed in infancy are predicted to have higher levels of persistent maternal-origin microchimerism, which seems to have a protective effect against preeclampsia by promoting immune tolerance of a fetus.  Without validating that being breastfed has a lasting impact on levels of maternal-origin microchimerism in adulthood, there is a disconnect in my causal framework.  Making the substantial investment in laboratory materials, recruiting subjects, and sample collection is risky when little empirical evidence exists to support my hypotheses.  Confirming an association between being breastfed and lower risk of preeclampsia would lend evidence supporting a possible causal link, for which microchimerism is the mechanism.  The pilot funding would support exploration of this innovative idea and serve as a basis for submitting new research grant applications for my dissertation work.  This project has the added advantage of potentially elucidating an early life protective mechanism against the risk of preeclampsia in adulthood.


Joss Whitakker

I am beginning research at a previously unexcavated archaeological site on the island of Ujir, in the Aru archipelago, Maluku province, eastern Indonesia. Aru is on the far eastern edge of Island Southeast Asia. Although remote, it has functioned as a trading entrepôt since at least the beginning of European contact in the seventeenth century, and probably much earlier. I’ve always been interested in borders, frontier towns, and places where different cultures blend into each other. I visited Ujir briefly in the summer of 2012, and found signs of a long history of cultural exchange, in the form of sixteenth century Chinese trade porcelain, seventeenth century Dutch bottles, and unique architecture that cannot be securely attributed to any one culture. Ujir’s current residents have many different theories about the origin of these buildings, and they welcomed my plan to return and conduct an archaeological study, which will result in a “biography” of the site, from its earliest detectable habitation to the middle nineteenth century. Through this site biography, I hope to test theories about the origins of agriculture and complex trade economies in the Maluku region.

This pilot funding will allow me to return to Ujir and, collaborating with a team of European anthropologists, to document the oral histories of Ujir’s present population. This research will illuminate historical relationships between Ujir’s population and cultures elsewhere in Island Southeast Asia, as well as providing a reference point against which to measure the archaeological data I collect in a future excavation. I will also conduct a thorough survey of the island, and begin coordinating excavation plans with the village leadership of Ujir.