The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

In the Anthropology Department, undergraduate research takes place in the classroom, in the lab, and in the field. Faculty run research projects and create research opportunities as part of their own research programs, and invite proposals and ideas from students in the form of independent research classes.

There are many ways that you can get involved in faculty projects, gain valuable research experience, develop your own ideas, and learn to present your findings.

Course-Based Research

Our faculty routinely bring their work into the classroom, providing opportunities for students to learn from and help to extend research. Some of our classes are designed as collaborative research projects in which you will learn anthropological methods while co-producing knowledge with community partners. For example, here is a recent publication that features an ongoing collaborative research project between the Anthropology Department and the W.E.B. Du Bois Library. This research forms the basis of a qualitative methods course. Students collaborate with the library and through design ethnography, have made lasting contributions towards more effective and equitable use of library space and resources.

Other classes that involve students in research and engagement to varying degrees include 394AR Applied Anthropological Research Methods, 370 Contemporary Issues of Native Americans (see a fantastic graphic novel created by a student as part of this course), 297DM Dragon Mythology, 380 Grassroots Community Organizing, 462 Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, 340 Other Economies are Possible,  341 Building Solidarity Economies, and 494IE Global Bodies (see digital stories created and produced in 494BI)

Faculty Research Assistants

Department faculty offers undergraduate students opportunities to assist with their ongoing research projects. Through this work, students help to produce anthropological knowledge, learn valuable research skills, and gain a better understanding of the research and publication process. Research Assistantships can be found and developed through a few different avenues in the Anthropology Department. 

Sometimes these positions are developed in an organic way; students and faculty form mentoring relationships through classroom work and discuss research opportunities. Students are encouraged to reach out to faculty whose teaching and research you find interesting! 

Sometimes faculty circulate research opportunities through the department, for example when grants are received, and solicit applications in an ad-hoc manner.

Field Schools

The department currently runs two summer archaeological field schools in Western Massachusetts – The UMass Fieldschool in Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology and the Archaeology Field School at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst. We also periodically offer summer ethnographic opportunities and field schools.  For example,  urban farming in Lisbon, Portugal in 2016 and 2017. These field schools teach research methods and analysis as part of ongoing research projects. 

Independent Research

Advanced undergraduate students may also develop and propose their own research projects with faculty or advanced graduate student mentors. These projects may involve independent reading, archival research, ethnographic work, spatial analysis, and so on. Research structure, process, and “products” are agreed upon between student and faculty sponsor as part of a credited Independent Research course. Products might include a term paper, an op-ed or other type of public writing, an annotated bibliography, a conference paper, a photovoice project, a poster presentation, or other agreed format that can showcase research findings.