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IU receives National Science Foundation grant to engage in multidisciplinary research


Project at Angel Mounds State Historic Site will offer training in archaeology, geophysics, geoarchaeology and geochemistry

 INDIANAPOLIS — The National Science Foundation has awarded a three-year $267,204 Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant to Jeremy Wilson, associate professor of anthropology in the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and G. William Monaghan, Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University Bloomington. The grant will immerse students in a multidisciplinary research project at Angel Mounds State Historic Site in southwestern Indiana.

Nationally recruited undergraduates from the arts and humanities, social sciences and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines will be provided with field and laboratory research training in archaeology, geophysics, geoarchaeology and geochemistry.

“The goal of this project is to foster a new generation of scholars that can work across disciplinary boundaries to craft cogent, meaningful and empirically sound interpretations about the native peoples who inhabited the site between the 11th and 15th centuries,” Wilson said.

Over three years, Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant participants will develop paleoenvironmental reconstructions for the region, investigate earthwork construction episodes, and explore the timing and relationship between fortification construction, settlement development and subsequent site abandonment.

Beginning with Eli Lilly and Glenn Black, the research history at Angel Mounds highlights changes and innovations in American archaeology and allied disciplines that have undergone several “revolutions” in theory, methods, tools and technology since the 1930s.

“If this past is predictive, the theoretical and methodological landscapes will continue to transform regardless of discipline, and students need to be ready to accept new ideas and perspectives,” Monaghan said.

Over eight weeks, the educational programming will promote professionalization of undergraduate students and enhance skills by providing training in multidisciplinary field methods and hands-on use of sophisticated geophysical and mapping instruments. In laboratory settings, students will learn to process, analyze and curate the artifacts, ecofacts and data collected. Analytical techniques taught in the laboratory will include basic identification and quantification of artifacts and other field data, as well as advanced methods of geochemical detection and estimation. Through the diverse and multidisciplinary training provided during the Research Experiences for Undergraduates implementation period, students will gain a solid foundation in field and laboratory research and begin to form peer and professional relationships that will serve them for the rest of their careers.

According to Wilson and Monaghan, students from various backgrounds in the social and natural sciences will learn how to navigate, communicate and apply their training within a multidisciplinary framework. This will be accomplished by professional modeling of research approaches in the field and laboratory through direct, side-by-side mentoring of students within a complex, real-world research environment. Through a project-based learning structure and collaborative learning processes, the professors will develop knowledge and expand the specific skills of students. By completing the grant projects individually and in cohort teams, the professors will create a learning environment that focuses on developing skills appropriate for the next generation of researchers.

The development of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates project was supported by the IUPUI Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the IUPUI Center for Research and Learning. “The REU program is highly competitive, and it is exciting to have our campus involved in this prestigious research opportunity for undergraduate students,” said Richard Ward, director of the Center for Research and Learning.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2012, its budget was $7 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 50,000 competitive requests for funding and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards nearly $420 million in professional and service contracts yearly.