Amy Chase - Graduate Student of Month - September 2015
Amy Chase is a second year MA student in archaeology at Memorial. She originates from Victoria, British Columbia, where she completed her BA in Anthropology at the University of Victoria. Amy studies prehistoric art and Neandertal and modern human cognition and interaction. In her spare time, Amy likes to eat sushi, watch Netflix, and memorize random things for fun.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
To be honest, coming from Victoria, British Columbia, it had never occurred to me to study on the east coast of Canada. I became very interested in studying prehistoric art, and found out that one of the top experts in Canada (my supervisor Dr. Oscar Moro) was working out of MUN, so I started looking into it, and MUN seemed like a great school. It was a good fit.
What was your first impression of Newfoundland and St. John’s?
The first thing I noticed was how nice everybody is here in Newfoundland. My partner and I joke about how the personality in Newfoundland is the real version of what Vancouver Island thinks it is — very laid back, with people who are so kind and interested in talking to each other- everyone is so welcoming and ready to get to know each other. If a Newfoundlander says they want to hear your story, they mean it. It’s really wonderful, but strange to get used to. Another thing I noticed was the vibrant culture here — St. John’s is a very culturally rich place to live, and the Newfoundland culture is so interesting.
What drew you to study archaeology?
I have always been interested in understanding the past, but once I realized that archaeology can encompass so many different things (different places, times, subjects, and theoretical viewpoints), I realized how special it was. I took one Paleolithic art course in the last year of my undergrad, and I knew I wanted to learn more about the subject every day.
Can you tell us a bit about your current research?
My current research is focused on the cognitive abilities and symbolic behaviours of Neandertals. It has long been believed that only our own species exhibited symbolism and created art, but now there is evidence that Neandertals had symbolic behaviour of their own. I am particularly interested in the site of El Castillo cave (Cantabria, Spain), where a cave painting has recently been dated to be old enough that either Neandertals or modern humans, who were both in the area at the time, could have been the painters. I am looking at the archaeological evidence from the site and combining multiple lines of evidence to see if it’s really plausible that Neandertals created the art. I am very fortunate to have received a Scotiabank Travel Bursary to help fund my fieldwork in Spain this summer. I am also very grateful to have received a SSHRC CGS Masters Scholarship.
Who is your supervisor and how would you describe your relationship?
My supervisor is Dr. Oscar Moro. I would describe our relationship as very friendly — he’s an awesome supervisor who cares very much for his graduate students. He’s supportive and helpful and very knowledgeable; I am lucky to have him as a supervisor.
Have you attended any conferences/delivered any papers this year? Can you give details?
Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend conferences, but I am certainly planning to do so over the next year.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
Back home I was involved with different organizations, but I’ve been spending some time trying to get acclimated to Newfoundland (it’s SO different here!), so I haven’t had a chance to get more involved, but it’s something I’m planning to do in the future for sure.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
The archaeology department is full of wonderful faculty, staff, and graduate students — it’s a very supportive environment where anyone can thrive. The low tuition fees are also a bonus at MUN.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
I would like to attend a PhD program once I’m done, and continue to do what I love, eventually becoming a professor and researcher of prehistoric art.