13 November 2019

From the Department for Lifelong Learning to an MSc in Palaeoanthropology; the journey of an Archaeology student!

Last month MSc Palaeoanthropology student Rob Kenyon was invited to the Prehistoric Society Student Dissertation Awards at the Society of Antiquaries in London, where he received the runner up prize.

Archaeology student holding up archaeological find

Rob began at the university of Sheffield in 2015, entering the Department for Lifelong Learning. Prior to this he had spent most of his adult life travelling the world with the British Army, though had also worked on ships, spent time living in Australia and worked as a freelance photographer. Having always been fascinated by the boundary between natural and human history he had toyed with the idea of returning to university for some time, and even when convinced that university was the right direction, struggled to decide between the natural sciences and archaeology.

“I came to Sheffield on an open day for the Department of Archaeology and attended a talk on palaeoanthropology which immediately was the niche I was looking for. At the time it was one of the few universities - particularly among higher ranking universities - in the country to offer a more rounded route through archaeological science and human evolution”.

Through the department for lifelong learning, Rob studied a mix of sciences (chemistry and geography) and humanities, eventually completing an extended project on Homo floresiensis - the small hobbit-like human from Indonesia.

Throughout his undergraduate degree Rob made the most of the opportunities that university offered, getting involved with volunteer projects over the summers, beginning to learn Mandarin through the university’s Confucious institute and in the second year was awarded a grant to undertake a research project through the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience.

It was one of the few universities - particularly among higher ranking universities - in the country to offer a more rounded route through archaeological science and human evolution.

Rob Kenyon

MSc Paleoanthropology

Through the latter of which Rob won an award for best poster at the university conference and was invited to Westminster to take part in the ‘Posters in Parliament’ event, explaining his research to various members of parliament;  he was also invited to present at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research in Cardiff.

His undergraduate dissertation focused on evolutionary development in Southeast Asia from approximately 800,000 years ago to 100,000 years ago. This area receives comparatively little attention, compared to Africa or Europe and through this period, the mainland in particular is generally regarded as having been uninhabited. This research however identified that this is not necessarily the case, rather the dissertation argued that this conclusion may be the result of
various biases in how the research is funded, how ‘Southeast Asia’ is defined in terms of palaeoanthropology, and how relevant information is reported.

“I don’t think anybody expects their research to be nominated for a national award, let alone shortlisted. Certainly seeing the quality of some of the other research, I feel particularly humbled to have had my work recognised at that level. As much of a cliché it may be to say, this wouldn’t have been possible without the tuition, guidance and feedback of the staff within the department, and the array of opportunities that are made available outside the standard degree pathway”.

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