In addition to our own majors, minors, and concentrators, undergraduate students from a wide array of disciplines take our courses, and many go on to further study in Anthropology and related fields. Here are just a few examples of our undergraduate alumni.
Angela Zhang, she/her ('23), majored in Course 6 - Computer Science and Engineering, with an Anthropology minor, is featured in MIT SHASS's Senior Spotlight | Class of 2023. She says of studying anthropology, “Something I love is that despite the wide range of topics in Anthropology, in the end it's all about the people. Over the past four years, I have explored case studies from places all over, and each of them has helped me come to a better understanding of the world and the people that live in it. One of my favorite classes was Food, Culture, and Politics (21A.155) because of the way it connected food to concepts of identity, authenticity, memory, and a variety of other topics that are central to the human experience.” At the same time, she notes, “EECS is just as much about humans as any other subject area, and an important part of the engineering process is evaluating how design decisions will affect real people. For example, Technology and Culture (21A.500) took deep dives into a number of ethical issues in computing, pushing me to reevaluate the ways in which I both think and learn about technology.” After graduation, Angela will work at a startup in San Francisco.
Gabby Ballard, they/she ('19), majored in 21E with concentrations in Computer Science and Anthropology. Under the advising of Professor Graham Jones, Gabby enthusiastically explored the broad and varied meanings of culture, life, and experience, while developing their own. They remained motivated to complete their undergraduate degree largely because of the thought-provoking classes and guidance of Professor Jones, Professor Edoh, Professor Walley, and Professor Paxson. Currently, Gabby is an MIT full-time staff employee, expanding access to STEM fields through enrichment programs for high school juniors. Off the clock, they volunteer at a local Boston community center where they continue to cultivate a passion for healthy interpersonal connection, educational engagement, and political empowerment.
Dorota Chapko ('12) double-majored in Brain & Cognitive Sciences and in Anthropology. Currently she is a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Anthropology classes and research projects supervised by Prof. Erica James allowed her to explore in depth the social determinants of health and disease. All these experiences inspired her to examine in the PhD thesis the interaction between social and biological factors in the context of cognitive aging. The goal of her study is to determine what life-course factors contribute to cognitive reserve — a moderator which allows an individual to preserve cognitive functions despite underlying brain pathology. Her research addresses the challenge of demonstrating potentially modifiable components of socio-cultural capital that contribute to resilience to cognitive disorders in the face of biological aging.
Victoria Fan ('06) majored in 2A and minored in 21A where she pursued her interests in international development and public health. After receiving both a masters and doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health, Victoria chose to work as a research fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD). Her main work currently focuses on the international aid architecture for global health and she is embarking on new work on global public goods for health. She has a special interest in Indian health policy, the focus of her dissertation. She contributes to CGD’s global health policy blog and is on Twitter (@fanvictoria).
Paul Kominers ('12, Economics and Political Science Major) is the project manager at Democracy Works for the Voting Information Project (VIP), which seeks to offer an array of cutting edge tools that provide voters with access to customized election information. While at MIT, he took classes in the anthropology department with Professor Susan Silbey. Those classes helped teach him to think about actors at every level of a system, and sparked his interest in law and society, the public perception of science, and corruption. Paul maintains a personal site and is active on Twitter (@pkominers).
David Shane Lowry ('07, Anthropology major) completed his PhD in anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012. For his dissertation, he conducted ethnographic research with missionaries, healthcare providers, and humanitarians from the Lumbee Indian community of North Carolina. He spent the 2012-2013 academic year as a lecturer at American University. Between 2013-2017, he taught medical students at Chicago Medical School (RFUMS). He is now an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Biola University (Los Angeles). He is developing an anthropology of basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Email David at email@example.com.
Laura Martini ('08, Anthropology minor, Mech E major) is a product designer based in Palo Alto, California. From MIT she went to Stanford, where she studied in the human-centered design program affiliated with the d.School while earning an MS in Product Design. She has found ethnography — interviewing, participant-observation, understanding a system from someone else's perspective — to be essential to the design process (and an Anthropology Minor to be helpful in landing an internship with IDEO). Check out her blog and portfolio here.
Meghan O'Dell ('16, Anthropology major) is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member with William James College in Newton, MA. She provides capacity building support for the PATHWAYS program, a community collaboration that offers culturally-sensitive counseling services free-of-charge to at-risk youth in the Boston Public School system. She is in the process of applying to master's programs in secondary education in the Greater Boston area, planning to bring the tolerance and understanding that she gained from MIT Anthropology to her home community. She hopes to teach World History or Global Studies, with an eye towards a future PhD program in developing curricula with an anthropological focus. She believes the time is ripe for secondary education to make use of the principles central to the field of anthropology.
Brian Oldfield ('13) completed a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in energy studies to gain a deep understanding of the challenges of global climate change. In the class Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies, he began to realize that solving energy issues is much more difficult than solving the associated technical problems. The Anthropology program gave him the tools to understand problems with human decisions, institutional structures, and political processes in mind. With the help of Professor Susan Silbey, he applied these tools to his undergraduate thesis, entitled "US Virgin Islands Renewable Energy Future". After graduation, he will work as an energy consultant for Navigant, focusing on utility-scale efficiency.
Noopur Ranganathan (’21) majored in Course 7 and minored in 21A where she pursued her interests at the intersection of medicine and public health. After developing a voice-to-text-to-braille solution via the ESG-PKG fellowship that enabled the deafblind community to communicate with the rest of the world, Noopur was motivated to learn more about medical issues faced by marginalized groups of people. While at MIT, she took classes with Professor Walley, Professor Moran-Thomas, and Professor Jones, which sparked her interest in analyzing medicine from a more humanistic angle, one that is inspired by culture, environmental factors, and lifestyle. Noopur is currently in medical school and hopes to become a physician who actively delivers a more holistic healthcare approach.
After graduation, Caroline Rubin ('08, Anthropology major) taught middle school science in the South Bronx through Teach For America. She writes, "Experiencing firsthand the opportunity gap between students growing up in low-income communities and their more affluent peers was simultaneously humbling and infuriating, and compelled me to make a long-term commitment to working towards educational equity. I now work on TFA's admissions team in Philadelphia. Educational inequity is a systemic injustice, and my anthropology background has given me the theoretical knowledge and critical thinking skills to truly understand how institutionalized injustice works — as well as how it can be subverted. My anthropology degree also prepared me for working effectively across lines of difference, a skill which has served me well both within and outside the classroom. I feel incredibly lucky to have received the excellent education I did from the MIT anthropology department, which is why I am committed to ensuring that more students have access to high quality educational opportunities."