unearths love for human evolution
she'll only be 19 when she graduates from U.Va. May 21, Amy Lynn
Rector is already engaged in world-class research that will likely
shed insights on the origins of humans.
18 she was accepted by the Institute for Human Origins to participate
in a field study in South Africa, where a team of top scholars
is attempting to reconstruct the environment that existed 3 million
years ago when hominids, the human-like species from which humans
likely evolved, roamed the area. Team members camped for six weeks
near an old hyena den, searched for fossils and identified bones
and animals in an effort to understand the ecology that supported
the early hominids.
by evolution because it encompasses so many disciplines, such
as geology, biology, philosophy and religion, Rector may be one
of the youngest people to work at such an excavation site. Rising
at dawn with the research team, she thrived on the hard work at
the South African site, such as breaking rocks with sledge hammers
to look for fossils and excavating a mountaintop site.
Courtesy of Amy Rector
Rector, who, at 19, is graduating from U.Va., worked at this
Institute for Human Origins field study site in South Africa
last year. Team members camped here for six weeks, searched
for fossils and identified bones in an effort to unearth the
ecology that supported human ancestors 3 million years ago.
recognition of such pioneering work, the institute has awarded
Rector a six-year fellowship to pursue a master's and doctorate
in paleoecology, the study of ancient environments, at Arizona
State University. It appears she will be a standout in the small,
highly competitive field of human evolution, her adviser, Jeffrey
her experience, Rector wrote a distinguished-major thesis on the
basic methods of environmental reconstruction. "Ten years
from now I think Amy will have contributed tremendous field work
and publications on our human ancestors in Ethiopia and South
Africa," predicts Hantman, director of U.Va.'s archaeology
love of archaeology began in the third grade after reading Jean
Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear -- a novel that Hantman assigns in
his U.Va. class. "After reading that book, there was no turning
back. I've wanted to study human evolution ever since," Rector
A native of Richmond, she enrolled in Mary Baldwin College's Program
for the Exceptionally Gifted at 15. She transferred as a second-year
student to U.Va. a year later at 16.
in the orientation session for transfer students teased me when
they found out how old I was, but it's never been a problem since.
I think they've forgotten how old I am," Rector said, noting
that they have been her roommates and best friends.
Rector also pursued other interests at U.Va. She has been active
in the Honor Society and in club sports. She has served as president
of Phi Eta Sigma sorority, and she is a member of the Golden Key
and the National Society for Collegiate Scholars.
Despite her many accomplishments, Rector is modest. If pressed
to offer advice to other young, gifted students, she suggests,
"Never be arrogant. Just do the work."
press release on Graduate
Unearths Truths About Human Evolution