Student Spotlight

Within the pages of a world history encyclopedia, a young Christina Rogers found herself drawn to images of the earliest ancestors of human beings and their innovations. Today, as an emerging scholar in the Anthropology doctoral program, Christina explores the aspects of human and primate brains that determine social behavior.

“One of the most striking features of human behavior is how intensely social we are,” she states. “Primates are, on the whole, already highly social animals, but humans take this to a whole other level.” So how do we account for the difference? 

Christina’s research zeroes in on two different hormones that determine these differences. “I’m looking at two hormones that act like neurotransmitters in the brain: oxytocin and vasopressin.” These two components are key factors behind common social skills such as parenting, aggression and social recognition.

She elaborates, “These behaviors vary even among closely related apes like humans, bonobos, and chimpanzees, so I’m determining the anatomy of the oxytocin and vasopressin systems in these species.”

While investigating these differences, Christina also takes into account the complexities of human social skills. “Some of the things we think about when we consider what sets us apart from other animals, like language or complicated tool-making, go hand-in-hand with our species’ ability to cooperate, the deep bonds we form, and our reliance on teaching and learning from each other.”

Beyond her research, Christina has established a presence in Atlanta’s science community. She explains her involvement, “For the last three years, I’ve been involved with the Atlanta Science Festival--organizing two events that drew members of the Atlanta community to attend lectures by Emory anthropology professors about the latest discoveries in human evolution, and one kid-oriented event with different fun and educational activities relating to archaeology.” Through this service, she has found that the reach of research extends beyond the academy. “[The festival] has generally been a blast and reminds me that my work has meaning outside of the academic bubble.”

As Christina approaches the end of her degree program, she is excited about continuing a career in academia, but is placing no limits on her career possibilities. “I am planning to continue in a postdoctoral position, and from there, continue in the academic route. I really enjoy both research and teaching, but I’m also open to less traditional positions that would use those skills. I’m pretty open-minded at this point!”