Melton Press Photo(1)

Anthropology

Research Interests

I am an anthropological archaeologist who uses plant remains to investigate daily life amidst major sociopolitical changes that took place in the New World, such as colonial contact and urbanization. I have in progress or completed projects in the Midwestern/Southeastern United States, California, Peru, and Guatemala, where my dissertation sites are located. I use both burned macrobotanical remains (that you can see with the naked eye) and microbotanical remains (starch grains and phytoliths) to reconstruct diet at the household level, facilitating intra-household comparisons that can shed light on social relationships and sociopolitical dynamics in the settlement as a whole. 

Mentoring Experiences

I was lucky to have very dedicated faculty mentors in my undergraduate program at UNC Chapel Hill who provided me with a degree of guidance that I did not previously have in my life. When I entered graduate school, I had a strong drive to give back the amazing support I had received. I am a first-generation student, a former McNair scholar, and a student with disabilities, so I felt that it was especially important to support students from diverse backgrounds and demonstrate to these students that it is possible to be successful in academia in spite of (and sometimes because of) the personal hardships you have overcome. I am proud to say that in my five years at UCSB I have mentored 16 undergraduate students in the Integrative Subsistence Laboratory, including nine students from minority backgrounds, two first-generation college students, and three non-traditional students. One of the most rewarding parts of the mentorship process is seeing the students become independent in their work, take ownership of the project, and start generating creative solutions to problems they have encountered along the way. I also enjoy watching students progress over the years and supporting them in their pursuits, whether they are in archaeology or other fields; seeing them graduate is a priceless feeling.

What the Award Means to H‚Äčer

Winning this award represents one of the most important accomplishments in my graduate career. It means so much to be honored for the work that I do with undergraduates. Mentoring and advising students is the most fulfilling aspect of my career as a graduate student, and it plays a major role in my teaching philosophy. I have already grown so much personally and professionally from mentoring and I owe it all to the bright undergraduates that I am grateful to work with every day. I would like to dedicate this award to two of my former undergraduate interns (UCSB alumni) who passed away this year, Tyler Collins and Matt Medeiros. To everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you, you will always be missed but never forgotten.