Major: Anthropology (Biomedical)
High School: Canyon Springs (North Las Vegas)
Research: Health Status Effects on Human Female Mate Preferences
Mentor: Peter Gray, anthropology
What does health have to do with choosing a mate?
What we consider beautiful or aesthetic is a reflection of our ancestral past. Assessing attraction is inextricably linked to health. Voice, smell, and the facial characteristics make up the suite of traits and/or cues by which the health status of a prospective mate can be inferred.
Little research has addressed the mate preferences and behavior of women under "sick" conditions. With the help of anthropology professor Peter Gray, I'm testing the hypothesis that a woman's present health status will significantly affect her mating preference, specifically to the degree to which she classifies masculinity as appealing.
How do you do that?
We recruit women when they are sick and ask them to evaluate the appeal of two markers of masculinity: those present in the faces of men and those in the pitch of their voices. The voices and faces are products of computer morphing techniques. Two weeks later, we ask the same women to repeat the exercise if they are recovered. We suspect differences within a participant's data set will exist and will investigate variables we believe might serve as moderators of the hypothesis.
How has the McNair program changed your career aspirations?
The McNair program has reinforced my dedication to academia. I always knew I was interested in research and I always had research questions, but I never would've been able to reconcile my research ambitions with my research abilities if not for this experience. The program has helped me learn about the research process, the field I study and, perhaps most importantly, about myself.
What have you learned about research?
Everyone warns of the prospective complications that come with research and, though you do your best to anticipate and prepare for them, the complications do always come and force you to adapt.
Despite it all, the research experience has been, in the best possible way, intoxicating. I've worked with people who've taught me the value of working hard at work worth doing and who've helped me see academia as a community devoted to understanding the world and our place in it.