Featured Students

Student Spotlight - Ananth Miller-Murthy

This Student Spotlight features Ananth Miller-Murthy, a senior in Timothy Dwight College.

 

During summer 2019, Ananth interned with the Peabody Museum and The Smithsonian in a joint program, spending a month at each institution. Ananth told us about his research of “the relationship between different populations of the lesser treeshrew (Tupaia minor), a little-studied Southeast Asian small mammal species, potentially leading to a revision of the subspecies-level taxonomy of the species.” Ananth first worked with Smithsonian treeshrew researcher Neal Woodman and then with Yale professor Dr. Eric Sargis when he got back to New Haven. He combined statistical data analysis with vertebrate zoology and biology studies. 

 

We asked Ananth what some of his takeaways were from his time at the program, and he told us “I learned about how studies in evolutionary biology are designed and carried out. Though I’ve read papers on the subject in the past, I had never been part of a formal study like this one. The experience revealed some of the subtle details and difficulties of scientific research. By reading a paper I never would’ve gained insight on how to find and gather enough specimens to compile a good data set, or how to choose the right statistical tests to fit the questions I’m asking.” 

 

When thinking about how the internship helped guide his future research and career ideas, Ananth said that through the program: “[I] got a better sense of what I like and dislike about evolutionary biology research. This was especially important to me because I am choosing whether to pursue a career in pure math or in evolutionary biology in the future. I found that the actual work of collecting data was pretty repetitive, but data analysis and the thinking involved in designing and modifying plans for carrying out a study were very engaging to me.” 

 

Ananth’s research during his internship made a real change in the discussion of the treeshrews, and he added that the “results help to clarify the subspecies-level taxonomy of the lesser treeshrew, which was previously supported only by somewhat dubious differences in coloration between populations.” Last spring, Ananth was asked to present his findings at the American Society of Mammologists conference, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ananth will be presenting his research at next year’s conference in Anchorage, Alaska.

 

Ananth told us that since the pandemic hit he has continued his research, worked in the Vertebrate Zoology collections at the Peabody, and he even co-authored a paper with one of his mentors. Despite the challenges the Yale Peabody community and students face, students like Ananth are continuing to take advantage of its amazing opportunities on and off-campus. 

 

“I’m very thankful for the support of my mentors, and for the Peabody internship program, which allowed me to work on this project in the first place.” 

 

Written by Natalie Boyer ’21, December 2020

 

 

Check out our previous Student Spotlights!

Matt Hack

Maya Juman

Sarah Adams