NSF Award Helps Kent State Anthropologists Expand International Partnership
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Kent State a three-year $298,000 International Research Experience for Students (IRES) grant that will allow graduate students to travel to Kyoto University in Japan to study primates and human evolution at the world-renowned Primate Research Institute.
The IRES grant is under the direction of Dr. Anthony Tosi, associate professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, along with his colleagues in the department, Dr. Richard Meindl, professor and graduate coordinator; Dr. Owen Lovejoy, distinguished professor; and Dr. Mary Ann Raghanti, professor and chair.
“The theme here is that we’re using non-human primates as models for human evolutionary history,” Tosi said. “Under this umbrella, we’ve allowed for several smaller projects, yet to be created, to be done by 18 graduate students — six students each summer for the next three years.”
Tosi said the students will come from anthropology and biological sciences, and they will conduct studies focused on morphology, genetics, neuroscience, and primate behavior.
“Ideally, these might be master's and doctoral students, who would plug this in as a chapter in their final project, as one component that will somehow dovetail with what they already do,” Raghanti said.
The team said Kyoto gives students access to a broad array of opportunities.
“It’s not just the great faculty and the location, but the amount of resources they have for us fills a hole that we just can’t fill here,” Meindl said. “In addition to resources, they provide expertise that is first-rate. They are true scholars, international scholars at Kyoto.”
The Primate Research Institute (PRI) is home to more than 40 faculty and welcomes students from all over the world. Tosi said the institute houses 12 different species of primates, more than 10,000 skeleton specimens of more than 100 different species, and a bio-materials library with samples unavailable anywhere in the United States. The PRI also boasts fossil sites and field stations in Africa, where students can observe chimpanzees, gorillas, and other species in the wild.
Tosi said Kent State has already sent six students over the past five years, including two this year through fellowships from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science — the Japanese equivalent of the NSF.
He said the experience is invaluable for students who participate.
“They can build an international network of relationships with researchers very early in their careers, they develop new scientific expertise while in Japan, they have access to all these resources, they gain a sense of how science is conducted in a foreign culture, and all that will open up more job opportunities,” he said.
Tosi said the students come back with a new air of confidence and experience that makes Kent State’s labs better places for all to learn.
“They come back and they just have more presence in my lab meetings, they’re not afraid to ask more questions or direct the discussion down different avenues, and they’re very helpful to their lab-mates,” he said.
Tosi said the relationship with Kyoto University has been developing steadily and he is hopeful that a two-way exchange program might be on the horizon.
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