Student Lands National Science Foundation Grant

Anthropology major, Lukas Brown ’24, has won a highly competitive grant from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program to study evolutionary biology at Brown University. 

The rising senior will spend the summer researching the adaptive effect of the environment on the human genome with internationally renowned faculty and top students from other colleges and universities.

“This is a highly competitive opportunity,” said MBU Professor of Anthropology Abby Wightman, one of Brown’s faculty advisors. REUs “enable students to conduct research in the sciences, network, and build skills with scholars who are working on pressing scientific questions.” 

Experiences are designed to give participants a sense of what it would be like to pursue a particular discipline at the graduate level — and a leg up when applying to top programs, especially in the sciences. Many colleges and universities warn even their best students that REUs are harder to get into than many of the top graduate schools, equally strenuous, and advise applying to eight or more sites to have a chance at acceptance.   

Brown says the best thing about his REU is that it will bring a plethora of hands-on practice with state-of-the-art technologies that are invaluable in pursuing his career. 

“My goal is to become a forensic anthropologist and, given how fast technology has become a major part of determining criminal investigations, I’m happy to have the opportunity to develop a strong understanding of how to use that technology before going to graduate school,” he said. 

Brown intends to work with Wightman and MBU associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Peter Ruiz-Haas, on a Capstone Project that will let him continue that learning throughout senior year. Brown is confident they’ll help make it happen, and says the two have been instrumental in his academic success thus far.

“They’ve just been incredibly supportive,” said Brown. “Dr. Wightman has been so encouraging around all my endeavors to study forensic anthropology — going out of her way to assist me with volunteer opportunities at museums, and facilitating connections with professional forensic anthropologists. Meanwhile, Dr. Ruiz-Haas worked closely with me to complete my REU applications, and steadfastly insisted I work chemistry courses into my curriculum, which proved invaluable. I can’t stress my gratitude for them and their guidance enough.”

“Lukas is an amazingly enthusiastic learner, and a dedicated student. Even when he has a bad day, he comes to class and engages. I feel fortunate that he’s an Anthropology major.”

Dr. Abby Wightman, MBU Professor of Anthropology