Getting Involved with Research at Emory

by Hannah Smagh 15C
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Coming to Emory, I expected to take some cool classes, make friends, graduate, and then go on to graduate school to become an archaeologist where the real work would begin.  When I got here however, I had something else added to my schedule: research. Doing research has allowed me to move around in circles of academics as a participant in my own right, rather than just being a student listening to the work of professors.  I have grown from only absorbing information in the classroom to being able to process it and come up with my own hypotheses outside it.

I started with the SIRE Research Partners Program as a research assistant to Dr. Bonna Wescoat, a professor in Emory’s Art History Department and the director of excavations at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace.  In retrospect, my timing was very lucky.  I joined the Samothrace project right as work was beginning on the Winged Victory, Samothrace’s famous statue which now lives in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  I did preliminary work for the Winged Victory’s reconstruction and conservation, using photographs of the statue and her fragments on Samothrace in order to place the fragments on the statue.  This research took place here at Emory, in Paris with one of the Louvre’s curators, and on site at Samothrace.  I cannot begin to describe how rewarding this project was for me.  Not only did I get to work with leading experts in my field, but I was given great autonomy in my work on the project which I was grateful for, especially given that it was my first foray into research.  I also learned a lot about the art historical approach to archaeology, something that I had not previously been exposed to.

This semester, my SIRE fellowship with the Fox Center for Humanities has enabled me to move on from being a research assistant to doing my own research.  Over the past few months, I have begun to work on reconstructing the initiation rites at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, particularly focusing on dancing rituals.  The Fox Center has provided me with a supportive environment and a community of academics to do my research in.  Being able to present my research to fellow academics was very beneficial because their questions and feedback helped me further direct my investigations.  It was also very interesting to hear others in the community present because seeing what they had accomplished motivated me to do the same.  Overall, I have really enjoyed my research experiences here at Emory; I have met interesting people, done exciting work, and been able to grow as a scholar.