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Diane Bernardoni

Where are you from?

Batavia, Illinois 

What are your majors?

Physical Anthropology, Evolutionary Biology, and Mathematics

What is your minor?

Studio Art

Why did you choose to study these subjects?

I’ve always had an affinity for math, biology, and art. Anthropology and evolutionary biology are very interdisciplinary and allow me to implement methodology from all three fields.

What is your favorite class and/or faculty member, and why?

I loved the progression from ANTH 103 (Introduction to Human Evolution) to ANAT 377 (Human Osteology) to ANTH 375 (Human Evolution: The Fossil Evidence) to ANTH 370 (Field Seminar in Paleoanthropology). These courses gave my an in-depth understanding of one of my favorite topics: human evolutionary history.

Why did you choose CWRU?

In high school, I had many varied interests – math, biology, robotics, art, Latin, etc. I was very undecided on what I wanted to do. I needed a school that allowed a lot of freedom in interdisciplinary studies and choosing/switching majors. CWRU fit the bill.

What do you like best about CWRU?

I love the anthropology department. It’s one of the smaller departments at CWRU, but the professors and researchers are some of the best (in my opinion). I can’t imagine any other department would have supported or inspired me like the anthropology department has.

What do you like best about living in Cleveland?

I grew up in the same house my whole life, so I never experienced discovering a place like I have Cleveland. Slowly, over my four years here, I’ve discovered my favorite pockets of the city, such as Pacific East, Zoss’s Bakery, the metroparks, etc. Now that I’m going to graduate, I find I’m going to miss this place.

Describe any research projects, study abroad, internship or other unique experiences and opportunities you have had as a result of being a CWRU student.

I’ve done field work in Africa twice while at CWRU. First, I attended the Koobi Fora Field School, where I spent five weeks in Kenya doing running trials with the Daasenach people and learning about field techniques in anthropology. I learned about this field school through the my advisor, Professor Cynthia Beall. I also received funding for the research part of this field school from SOURCE.

I also travelled to Ethiopia for ten weeks with Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie as part of ANTH 370. During this course, I got to participate in Dr. Haile-Selassie’s ongoing Woranso-Mille project by surveying and excavating. I can’t think of a more defining experience in my life than this program, and am so thankful to Dr. Haile-Selassie for being willing to take undergraduates to his sites.

While at CWRU, I’ve also done two research projects, one for my Honors Tutorial and one for my Capstone. Prof. Cynthia Beall served as my advisor for both projects. For my Honors Tutorial, I photographed extant ape distal humeri from the Hamann-Todd collection in the Cleveland Natural History Museum (the largest collection of modern human skeleton remains in the world). I then trained several support vector machines (SVM) to classify the images based on different feature extraction methods. The goal of this project was to explore potential applications of machine learning in paleoanthropology.

For my Capstone, I designed (and began to create) an educational video game based on evolutionary mechanisms and the Out of Africa model of early human migration. Almost all evolution-based games fail to accurately depict evolutionary mechanisms, and even contribute to common misconceptions about how evolution works. My game, Homimania: Out of Africa, attempted to rectify this by balancing fun game play with accurate evolutionary theory and mechanics.

What are some of your other interests and hobbies?

I mostly spend my free time playing Overwatch or drawing.

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?

I’m very proud of my Honors Tutorial. I went in with only a math minor under my belt (which I later upgraded to a major) and minimal experience with programming and machine learning. It took a lot of independent research and meetings with EECS professors (who were very gracious in helping). Now, after I finished the project, I’m in a data mining class, which would have been very helpful a year ago.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d love to pursue a PhD in Physical Anthropology and further explore how computer science and machine learning could improve on current methodology.

 

Page last modified: October 9, 2017