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Two IC students present research at top conference in biological anthropology


Two Illinois College students presented their student-faculty research at this year’s American Association of Physical Anthropology Annual Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.

Megan Price ’21, who studies biochemistry, and Lauren Estes ’19, who will graduate this month with a degree in health sciences and psychology, each presented a poster during the conference’s undergraduate symposium. 

Dr. Miranda Karban, assistant professor of biology, worked with both students on their research. She said the opportunity to present work at the APAA meeting, which is the largest and most important annual conference in the field of biological anthropology, was a valuable learning experience for the students. 

“Presenting their research at this conference allowed Lauren and Megan to exchange ideas with experts from all over the country,” said Karban. “I saw both of them gain confidence in their speaking skills, and come home with excitement to build upon what they learned.” 

The research that Price completed addressed whether certain skeletal features of the nasal bones, commonly used to determine an individual’s ancestry, could also be studied to determine an individual’s sex. While she found no correlation, Price hopes to continue her work to learn more about the development of the nasal bones. She said she received advice and ideas from professionals in her field that will help with future research. 

“This conference was truly a wonderful experience and taught me so many different things, not only in the field of forensic anthropology that I am studying, but about all aspects of anthropology,” she explained. The most memorable part of the experience came when Price was able to meet Alexandra Klales, a researcher whose studies and published articles have been crucial to Price’s work. 

“I was given the chance to talk to her about my research and gain insight on the research she is conducting currently. It was an incredible opportunity to actually put a face to the name of the person whose work I have studied for the last year,” she said. 

Estes, a senior, has collaborated with Karban for two years and has presented work for both years at the Illinois State Academy of Science and the Celebration of Excellence on IC’s campus. Her work includes identifying the sex of the two real human skeletons in IC’s anatomy lab and more recently a study of decomposition using pig feet. 

 “The entire research experience the past few years has been exciting and challenging,” said Estes. “Dr. Karban was always there to answer questions and help us when needed, but she let us do most of the work on our own.”

At the AAPA meeting, Estes broadened her view of the field and also was able to meet with scientific leaders whose work had been influential in her own research. She believes her experience with student-faculty research as an undergraduate would be rare at other schools. 
Price and Estes both expressed their gratitude for Dr. Karban for being a helpful professional mentor and for the donors whose contributions supported their research and travel to the conference. 

“There is no way that I would have had the chance to travel and present at these conferences without the opportunity to apply for and receive funding from the college,” said Estes. “I can not thank the donors enough for being so generous and giving IC students these opportunities.”

As she nears graduation, Estes has been accepted to a one-year program to earn a Master of Science in Management degree in the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, which she will start in June. She aspires to a career in healthcare administration and said that Illinois College has prepared her well. 

“The research opportunity not only gave me some awesome things to put on a resume, but being able to work with Dr. Karban these last two years has been great when looking at applying to graduate school,” she said. 

Price is excited to continue her research at IC as she prepares for a future career in medicine. 

“This experience will help pave the way for my future immensely,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to attend medical school and having experience presenting at a national conference has made me polish my communication skills, especially in a scientific context.”

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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Rosalind Essig | Senior Writer
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