I spent the summer with Dr. Morgan K. Hoke working on a range of projects in the Biocultural Anthropology Methods (BAM) Lab. For the first part of my summer, I worked on entering data from surveys Dr. Hoke and her research assistants collected during the 2018 field season at her research site in Nuñoa, Peru, a high altitude Andean community. When I concluded data entry, I started turning her traditional paper survey into a digital survey using a software called Qualtrics. Hopefully, next field season, the digital survey will allow for a more complete data collection and quicker data entry process so that analysis of the material can begin much sooner. The latter half of my summer was spent doing traditional wet lab work. Participants in Dr. Hoke’s study during the 2018 field season also provided small blood spot samples, called dried blood spots, that were collected on filter paper following a finger stick with lancet. We then tested the dried blood spots for levels of endotoxin-core antibodies with an EndoCAb ELISA assay. High levels of EndoCAb are indicative of environmental enteropathy leading abnormal intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome, which is an issue present in this population as a result of frequent fecal-oral contamination (Hoke et al, 2018).
As a result of Dr. Hoke’s mentorship this summer, I was exposed to nearly every step of the academic research process, providing me with skills that will be insurmountably useful as I begin to think about completing an honors thesis in anthropology next year. As mentioned previously, I began my summer working on data entry. At the conclusion of that project, I then worked on writing a digital survey to administer to study participants, both of which are tasks that I imagine myself doing as a part of my thesis project. In addition, I also had the opportunity to do a little bit of data analysis, namely descriptive statistic calculation, for a publication Dr. Hoke was working on using the statistical software Stata. As the school year picks back up again, I intend to continue working with Dr. Hoke to finish the assays on the dried blood spots from 2018 and begin analyzing the data to supplement to my coursework in the human biology concentration of the anthropology major. Not only was Dr. Hoke an excellent research mentor this summer, the relationship that was established thanks to PURM has made Dr. Hoke an incredible advisor on all things academic, ranging from which classes to take to post-grad plans.