Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Activity

The office of Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Activity (URSA)  is UAF's resource for the development and promotion of experiential learning activities that engage undergraduate students to support UAF's goal to become a leading student-focused research university.

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Congratulations to the 2023 Research & Creative Activity Day Awardees for the College of Liberal Arts!


Dean's Choice: Brooke Fisher   |   Honorable Mention: Meredith McMahon


A Tooth Size Allocation Investigation into Bodo Origins: Revisited

Brooke Fisher
Mentor: Dr. Brian Hemphill

This project is the continuation of a biodistance analysis started in the Fall of 2022 of an ethnic group called the ‘Bodo’s’ from the Assam region in India through a comparative analysis of another ethnic group residing north of the Brahmaputra Valley, the Nyishis of Arunachal Pradesh.


“Girls,” “Dancers” and “Ladies”: Language, Gender and Power in a Gentlemen’s Club

Meredith McMahon
Mentor: Dr. Robin Shoaps

This project examines how erotic dancers craft the interactional personae they sell to customers and how these performances respond to power dynamics in their workplace. It will draw from participant-observation ethnography and discourse analysis of interviews with dancers and staff at a local gentlemen's club.




Research & Creative Activity Day Archive

Honorable Mention

Exploring Lay and Provider Understandings of "Adequate" Prenatal Care in Interior Alaska: An Ongoing Pilot Study

DaeLee Forshaw
Lisa Gilbert
Lainey Lioi

Mentor: Dr. Elaine Drew





A Tooth Size Apportionment Investigation into Bodo Origins

Brooke Fisher

Mentor: Dr.  Brian Hemphill




What can a blank slate learn about another culture though transcription

Kayla Tate

Mentor: Dougless Skinner, M.A.

 Fire and Morchella: Foraging and Learning in the Alaska Burn

Michael Hevezi

Mentor: Dr. Igor Pasternak & Dr. Sveta Yamin-Pastornak


Reclaiming Traditional Names to Promote Dine' (Navajo) Language and Culture

Kendrick McCabe

Mentor: Dr. Elaine Drew

The work I have completed for my travel involved attending the Navajo Nation Human Resources and Review Board Bi-Annual Conference. The conference involved the presentation of my project in poster format along with other projects being presented over the course of two days. In those two days between every meeting I stood by my poster presentation and explained my research project to members of other Universities. The Projects presented were interconnected and overlapped in various conference rooms. My project was noticed by a few professors and attendees from other universities for its cultural significance and contribution to language revitalization. Questions regarding my project included: What are you doing this for? What have you found? How did you come up with this idea? What do you plan to do next? The project found a significant positive feedback in the application notion of contemporary language use. Very significant discussion over the continued use of these methods in various other reservations were very helpful among the academics and researchers. The final day of the conference found a few discussions into others name usage as well as reflection of Navajo language use among young Navajo children. Interestingly enough, elders self reflection of their own Navajo names sparked conversation of contemporary use among a select few. Further inquiry of results were asked of this researcher by the members of the board to which positive feedback was found. Further investigation of name usage in churches were discussed and produced results that require a new project protocol involving past name documents among Catholic churches on the reservation. These documents in conjunction with this current project holds significant applications to the revitalization of the language. The presentation of this project produced positive feedback as we as further community inquiry into the continued investigation and work of this researcher. 


Taphonomic Analysis of Caribou from the Croxton Site (Tukuto Lake, Alaska)

Taylor Vollman

Mentor: Dr. Jamie Clark

This study assesses taphonomic damage to caribou bones from the Croxton site, with a goal of reconstructing both human butchery and processing behavior and the impacts of carnivores on the assemblage. The Croxton site is located in the Brooks Range and contains both Ipiutak and Denbigh occupations. The connection between Ipiutak peoples living in coastal and interior settings is not well understood. As a large interior site, Croxton has the potential to contribute to the broader understanding of this period. Croxton was excavated by field crews in the early 1980s, with some additional excavations taking place in 2000. All material has been housed at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, where much of it remains to be studied. Beginning in 2016, UAF zooarchaeology students analyzed faunal material from Level 1 of Unit 180S/88W, an Ipiutak occupation layer. For this project, caribou bones were analyzed under a microscope to record cut marks, percussion damage, carnivore damage, and acid etching. Presence/absence data was recorded along with cortical preservation. Cut marks and carnivore damage were draw onto printed templates to match their positioning on the bones as best as possible. Results were compared to other studies conducted on the Croxton fauna. This study found much higher frequencies of cut marks and carnivore damage than previous studies, which may be the result of different analytical methods (primarily the use of a microscope in this study). Drawings of the placement of cut marks were compared to ethnoarchaeological/experimental datasets to determine specific butchery processes. This analysis suggests that all stages of processing were present at Croxton, which indicates hunting took place nearby the site. Elements were grouped into body sections to see if certain areas of the body had higher frequencies of taphonomic damage. This revealed that carnivores had access to all body sections, with no indication that dogs were fed specific elements, something that has been documented in historic period sites in the Brooks Range). These results are critical to our understanding of site formation and disturbance processes at Croxton. 



Participatory Action Research in the Social and Cultural Effects of Gamelan Music and Gamelan Ensemble Playing 

Kellie Lynch

Mentor: Dr. Sveta Yamin-Pasternak

The building of a set of Javanese gamelan instruments was a goal of mine since arriving in Fairbanks to finish my bachelor’s degree in the Music Department at University Alaska Fairbanks in 2016. It took a few semesters of reading, listening and emailing other instrument builders before I managed to get enough information and funding to take on such a large project. To construct the instruments the project included collaborations with a carpenter and a blacksmith, consultations with physics faculty and the help of a few volunteers and friends. I relied on the expertise of instrument builders, Jarrad Powell and Stephan Fandrich for instruction on the minute details of tuning the steel bars and plates and resonator acoustics.
As an ensemble leader and educator, I reached out across the university and community to acquire skills in participatory action methods in education and collaboration. My mentors and teachers are my collaborators, community members and participants each providing a vital part to my research and education process as I document the process of participatory methods in community music. This project serves as the capstone of my undergraduate interdisciplinary degree in Applied Ethnomusicology by utilizing the skills I have learned in music, Alaska Native cultures and knowledge systems, anthropology and the importance of community involvement.
Fairbanks has many community music ensembles and cultural events within the Alaska Native community which celebrate the different music and cultures of the people who live in Fairbanks. In the use of gamelan, I was looking for something that would have no barriers of learning in place such as knowing how to read music or owning a certain instrument to be able to participate. The goal of bringing gamelan music into the community was to share, equally, a musical experience that would require only the participants willingness to learn to create music together as an equivalent.
I am continuing to make contacts with other gamelan educators and players in the United States and Indonesia to further my education in both Javanese gamelan and Javanese culture. I intend to spend time with gamelan instructors during a visit to Java over the winter break and bring back more information to my fellow gamelan players to further our collective knowledge in support of our community gamelan ensemble.


K Lynch 2 photos

  • Kendrick McCabe - Undergraduate Student Research & Scholarly Activity (URSA) Award, Spring 2019
  • Kevin Huo - UAF Student Participant in Model Arctic Council Finland, Fall 2018
  • Fionna Fadum, Kevin Huo, and Jason Kells - Dean's Choice Award, URSA Research Day, Spring 2018
  • Colleen Mertes - Dean's Choice Award, URSA Research Day, Spring 2018
  • Jessica Obermiller, US Council for Undergraduate Research, Washington DC, Spring 2018
  • Montana Goss - Who were the Shenks Ferry People? Ancient DNA and Population Affinity. Spring Undergraduate Research Award
  • Jessica Obermiller - Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Denver, Colorado, November 2015 (2015 Fall Travel) Alta East - Foraging Practices of Military Families in Alaska (2015 Summer Undergraduate Research)
  • Cassidy Phillips - Society for American Archaeology Annual Conference, San Francisco, California, April 2015 (2015 Spring Travel)
  • Claudia Cease - The Taboo of Mourning: Germany 1939 - 1955 (2015 URSA Project Award)
  • Stormy Fields - A 12,000 year record of ecological change at Blair Lake, Interior Alaska (2015 URSA Project Award)
  • Aidan Barba - Mitochondrial DNA Markers of Ancestry and Migration in early Medieval Moravia (2013 CLA Undergraduate Research and URSA Spring Project cofund)