Faculty Research

Opportunities for Student Research

All of the tenure-track faculty in the anthropology department are actively engaged in research, though not everyone has a research laboratory. You can find out more about faculty research by looking at faculty webpages or by talking with professors. Many professors are able to incorporate undergraduate and graduate students into their research – just ask. Taking a research methods class is a great way to get experience doing research and working with professors in their areas of expertise. Many classes make use of the department’s research laboratories, but you can also ask to volunteer there. Here are brief descriptions of the department’s research laboratories.

Research Labs

Dr. Kate Sullivan created and runs the Anthropology Media Lab. The ethnographic film course (ANTH 4460, offered annually during Fall semester) is a rigorous upper division undergraduate methods class, in which students engage in their own ethnographic research project, learning to film and edit in the lab. With the addition of geospatial projects and software in the media lab, students may engage in a range of qualitative, geospatial, and ethnographic research and documentation in the lab. ANTH 4460 ethnographic film students have produced and submitted ethnographic films to the annual CSU Los Angeles Golden Eagle Student Film Festival and the Anthropology Media Lab has instituted its own small but growing film festival to screen our films for the people in our films, family, friends, and our university community. The lab is equipped with computers and uses a PC-based current Premier digital video system. This allows for expanded student access to ArcGIS online, Adobe software, and several other PC-based university subscriptions.

For more information, contact Dr. Kate Sullivan at [email protected].

In 2017, 2018, and 2022, student clubs in the Department of Anthropology organized CSU-wide student research conferences. The first two were held in person on campus and the last was held virtually. Students from across the CSU, but especially from our campus, gave paper presentations and showed their ethnographic films in a day-long conference. The department will continue to support student efforts to organize student research conferences.

For more information, get involved in the department’s student clubs.

The Cal State LA Archaeological Field Program in Central America is not part of the normal curriculum, but students involved in the program can receive credit for ANTH 4240: Archaeological Research Techniques after participating. The Field Program previously took students to Guatemala but now only goes to Mexico and Belize. The Field Program pays all student travel and field expenses. The Fields Program is run by Dr. James Brady with the support of Cal State LA instructor Melanie Saldaña, Dr. Ann Scott, and Allan Cobb.

For more information, contact Dr. James Brady at [email protected].

The Coastal Archaeology Laboratory (CAL) is a hub of academic activity for anthropology students working on undergraduate and graduate degrees at CSULA. Types of research conducted in the CAL include analyses of archaeological collections from the Pacific coast of North America spanning the past roughly 12,000 years, including shell midden analysis, lithic and other artifact analysis, spatial and landscape analysis using GIS, replicative studies involving the experimental reproduction of archaeological artifacts, archaeometric and material sourcing studies, paleonenvironmental reconstructions using stable isotopes and a variety of archaeological data, and zooarchaeological analysis and subsistence studies including the analysis of isotopic signatures to detect dietary patterns in humans and other animals. This lab also provides a space for the accumulation, processing, and housing of an extensive zoological and malacological comparative collection including terrestrial and marine mammals, avian species, reptiles and amphibians, fish, and mollusks. Many of these research projects are performed in collaboration with professionals and students at other academic and professional institutions, providing Cal State LA students with contacts and experience participating in interdisciplinary collaborations that reach far outside this campus and prepare them for the next chapter of their academic and/or professional journey. In addition, students from CAL participate in and lead community outreach programs at local schools and community events in the Los Angeles area and many students work part-time for local Cultural Resource Management (CRM) companies gaining valuable professional experience as they simultaneously pursue their degrees.

For more information, contact Dr. Amira Ainis at [email protected].

The Linguistic Anthropology Lab and Community Language Center, LADORES (Language Documentation and Revitalization Space), provides students experience with language documentation (including making and editing recordings), linguistic fieldwork, and less-commonly taught languages and at the same time support language revitalization and maintenance efforts, providing a space for community members to document their own language and culture (with assistance from students) and for this work to be showcased and shared, a potential point of pride and visibility for the university. Our goal is to create the first, only, and, without question, best center for documenting the linguistic and cultural diversity of the city of Los Angeles. Working in conjunction with the Center for the Study and Development of the Indigenous Languages of Oaxaca (CEDELIO), the lab’s early focus has been on the indigenous languages of Oaxaca, creating a standardized set audiovisual materials and publishing them on various social media. (See https://www.facebook.com/L-A-D-O-R-E-S-Language-Documentation-Revitalization-Space-191339901479124/.) The first two languages covered by LADORES are Tsome (Highland Chontal as spoken in Santo Domingo Chontecomatlan) and Ñuu Saavi (Mixteco de San Juan Mixtepec) and we have since expanded to Lowland Chontal of Oaxaca. Additionally, students have worked on their own projects using the lab’s facilities, including collaboration with Dr. Sonnenschein on a dialect survey conducted in 2016 and thesis work on the ethnolinguistic documentation of the patron saint’s day festival of San Lucas Quiavini.

For more information, contact Dr. Aaron Sonnenschein at [email protected].

The Mesoamerican Archaeology Laboratory (MAL) was founded in the summer of 2010 by Dr. James Brady. The Mesoamerican Archaeology Laboratory houses a number of noteworthy collections and resources. These include: the Naj Tunich Ceramic Type Collection, the Naj Tunich Skeletal Collection, the Midnight Terror Cave Artifact Collection, the Guatemalan Embassy Ceramic Collection, the William Byron Collection of West Mexican Books and Artifacts, the H.B. Nicholson Memorial Library, the H.B. Nicholson Article Archive, the H.B. Nicholson Slide Archive, and the Mesoamerican Map Archive. In addition, the lab houses the Fred Reinman collection of artifacts from Guam, and a collection of Southwestern artifacts.

For more information, contact Dr. James Brady at [email protected].

Dr. Joyce Parga’s Primate Genetics Laboratory at Cal State LA specializes in the extraction and analysis of non-human primate DNA. Students in this lab gain hands-on experience in such protocols as DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and gel electrophoresis. The molecular data generated are used in conjunction with behavioral data to investigate topics that broadly span reproduction, sexual selection, and population genetics. All students in this lab are trained one-on-one by Dr. Parga, and have the opportunity of aiding ongoing research projects of Dr. Parga’s, or can conduct their own independent research projects. Students in this lab have worked with biological samples collected from wild lemurs in Madagascar as well as lemurs maintained in a primate colony located on St. Catherines Island (Georgia, USA).

For more information, contact Dr. Joyce Parga at [email protected].

The Skeletal Biology Lab provides a collaborative learning and research workspace for graduate and undergraduate anthropology students interested in exploring the interactions between the environment and human skeletal adaptation and variation. Research in this lab is focused on bone biomechanics and functional skeletal morphology, skeletal growth and development, and ecogeographic patterns of skeletal morphological variation. The lab is equipped with standard osteometric equipment, a 3D scanner, and computers with a variety of software for computer-aided design (CAD), image processing, and statistical analyses. There are opportunities for graduate and advanced undergraduate students to conduct research using 3D modeling, digital radiography, and more traditional osteometric methods.

The Skeletal Biology Lab also houses a large, high-quality cast collection of modern human, non-human primate, fossil hominoid, and other vertebrate specimens. Additionally, there are several medical-quality, life-sized models of complete human skeletons. These casts and models serve as part of the continuously growing comparative osteological collection in the Department of Anthropology and are used in several courses as well as for independent study. There is designated space in the lab for graduate students to hold office hours, for student groups to hold meetings, and for students to gather for study sessions and peer mentoring.

For more information, contact Dr. Michele Bleuze at [email protected].