Anthropology Professor George Armelagos took home this year's George
P. Cuttino Award for Excellence in Mentoring, but the concern and
involvement with undergraduates that earned him the honor has come
naturally since he started teaching.
Ive always been involved in getting undergraduates
involved in research, Armelagos said. If we get them
involved early, it demystifies the act of research and it becomes
second nature to them.
In fact, he added, one of his colleaguesDennis Van Gerven
from the University of Utahbegan as one of his students in
the late 1960s when Armelagos taught at Utah. He has now worked
with Van Gerven during five different decades. I like that
model, Armelagos said of grooming students to become colleagues.
Currently, Armelagos students are helping him investigate
the appearance of tetracyclinean antibiotic most commonly
used to treat acnein various samples of human remains, some
more than 1,000 years old. This is like unwrapping a mummy
and finding a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, said Armelagos,
who hypothesized that the drug was created in antiquity by a mold-like
bacteria that found its way into beer-making processes.
This would feed, so to speak, directly into Armelagos primary
research interest: diet and nutrition in prehistory. His 1981 book,
Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating, often gets
him cited in the popular press as an expert on food, but Armelagos
intellectual curiosities extend also to skeletal biology (in which
he often teaches a course) and even infectious diseases.
In fact, his current work links food and disease by tracing the
emergence of infectious disease to the advent of large-scale agriculture
among humans. Whereas humans had previously existed as nomadic tribes
of hunter-gatherers, agriculture turned humanity into geographically
stable groups (more conducive to spreading disease) that often relied
on single crops (which could result in poorer nutrition).
In another related subject, Armelagos is having some of his students
follow womenwith their permission, of courseas they
wind up and down grocery store aisles, all in the name of anthropology.
At 4 p.m., in the afternoon, 70 percent of people in United
States dont know what theyre going to have for dinner
that night, Armelagos said, saying a new phenomenon of modern
women playing the role of foragers could be emerging, and this relates
to yet another research interest, which is the effect of dual incomes
on household food choices.
Still, between and often in the course of finding subjects to study,
Armelagos discovers ways to involve undergraduates in his research,
a practice that netted him the Cuttino Award. I was quite
pleased and surprised, he said of learning he won the award.
Especially since I really havent been here all that
Armelagos joined the Emory faculty in 1993, after a three-year
stint at the University of Florida. Prior to that, he served for
23 years on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts.