You're Researching What?

With so many academics and researchers around Harvard, eclectic topics are bound to emerge. Here are some of FM’s favorites.
By Lindsay Bu

With so many academics and researchers around Harvard, eclectic topics are bound to emerge. Here are some of FM’s favorites:

Max D. Price

Department: Anthropology, Ph.D Candidate

Dissertation Topic: Morphological changes in pigs from the 6th to 3rd millennia as a result of domestication

As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Max D. Price first became interested in anthropology. When someone suggested that he take a class in zooarchaeology, he took the chance and “it all just clicked.” These days, Price studies how pigs changed morphologically in response to shifts in husbandry practices brought about by sweeping economic changes faced by smallholders over the course of the 6th through 3rd millennia BC. Pigs are especially interesting because they were domesticated twice: once in the Middle East around 7500 B.C and again in China at approximately 6000 B.C. In his research, Price uses fossilized pig teeth to understand their domestication over time. With geometric morphometrics, Price is able to take advantage of mathematized analysis of shape change to infer information about the way pigs were domesticated and treated in the past. “I hope to continue to understand the processes by which humans modify their food resources—that’s the most important question to me,” he told FM.

Anna K. Hopper

Department: Government Dissertation

Topic: The government role in building and financing airports

When she was a senior at Harvard, Anna K. Hopper ’11 wrote her thesis about political parties in Scotland. After completing her master’s degree at Oxford, Hopper returned to Harvard, initially assuming that she would continue her work in comparative politics. But that was before she took a class at the Harvard Kennedy School on the government’s role in transportation, and another at MIT on the airline industry. “Both of these classes made me really interested and excited. I hadn’t really thought about [airports] as a subject to study before,” Hopper explained. Today her dissertation focuses on the government’s role in building, financing, and operating airports. She says, “If approached from the right angle, I think that it’s something that can connect to political science, but it’s also one that people outside the discipline can find interesting.”

Sarah Wellons

Department: Astronomy

Dissertation topic: Compact ellipticals galaxies in simulations

“Many astronomers have this stereotypical story of when they were eight years old and they fall in love with the stars. But that’s not really how it started for me,” Sarah Wellons says. In fact, she came into the world of astronomy as an undergraduate student at Princeton University, where she read Simon Singh’s “The Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe,” and the subject became an academic passion. At Harvard, Wellons works with a research group that uses computers to create extraordinarily large-scale cosmological simulations and recreate physical systems. In her dissertation, Wellons uses these simulations to examine a population of the galaxies from the red-shift (or early) universe known as “compact ellipticals,” or “red nuggets.” Wellons claims that one of the most exciting aspects about her research is simply light, explaining that, “Almost everything that we know about what lies outside the earth comes from light—photons—and it’s amazing how much information can be carried by light, as well as the ingenuity people have in using it to figure out how the universe works.”