Elissa’s undergraduate research topic was Cochlear Labyrinth Volume Reconstruction and Predicted Hearing Abilities in the Fossil Primates Mahgarita stevensi and Rooneyia viejaensis
“The single most rewarding part of my research experience is opportunity; every skill I have learned and person I have been lucky enough to meet has been another door opening.”
Dr. Edward Chris Kirk, Anthropology
Briefly describe your research project.
The goal of my research project is two-fold. Firstly, I am conducting an expanded comparative morphological analysis between extant primates and mammals with known audiograms to verify if mammals show the same negative correlation between cochlear volume and frequency of hearing. Secondly, I am using X-ray computed tomography scans to quantify the cochlear volume of the fossil primates Margarita stevensi and Rooneyia viejaensis. If the relationship between cochlear volume and frequency perception holds true, then this research will serve as a validation of methods and allow for hypothesized frequency perception parameters of these extinct specimens.
How did you become involved in research?
My first experience in research was with Dr. Liza Shapiro. I was taking her Primate Evolution course in the Spring of 2008 when she mentioned that she could use some help with data processing. After some initial training with Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Jesse Young I began digitizing videos of sugar gliders. Continuing to work with her led to participating and assisting in locomotion experiments with sugar gliders, possums, and eventually mouse lemurs.
What was the most rewarding part of your research experience?
It is quite difficult to pinpoint one single reward that stands out in my research experience here at UT. Perhaps assisting in locomotion experiments with Dr. Shapiro and getting a perfect run from an animal, or working with Dr. Kirk on a fossil dig and looking down to see a fossil cranium dating to the Eocene, or even the joy and satisfaction of processing scans for my own research. I suppose to sum it up the single most rewarding part of my research experience is opportunity; every skill I have learned and person I have been lucky enough to meet has been another door opening.
What surprised you during the research process?
What has surprised me during this journey is the astounding number of hours that go into the entire research process; applying for funds, gathering data, data analysis, etc. It is easy to read a published paper or glance at an abstract and be able to quickly grasp the main findings or point of the research; actually doing all of those hours needed to procure results is something else entirely. Putting in so many hours into processing data that may be summed up in one sentence has given me an enormous appreciation for the tremendous amount of work and toil that goes into research.
How do you think getting involved in research will be helpful to you in the future?
Helping others in the research process will be beneficial to me in the future as I have been fortunate enough to have been taught techniques and skills that will aid me in my academic future. My research experience has helped me to refine what exactly my personal interests in research are and what I will choose to focus on in my graduate studies.
What advice would you give incoming students about getting involved in research?
I would tell incoming students that getting involved in research is one of the most beneficial things they can do for themselves as students at UT. Not only will one be able to gain hands-on experience in their particular field of study but they will also be able to form meaningful relationships with persons in their chosen field. These relationships and experiences gained from being involved in research will yield countless benefits and knowledge.