Polypilot product mascot

Introducing PolyPilot:

Our AI-Powered Mentorship Program

Start your trial today

Learn More
profile picture

Makenna L

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)


Evolution, biology, medicine, anthropology, growth & development, public health, epidemiology


Hi, I'm Makenna and I am a PhD candidate at the Pennsylvania State University in the Anthropology department! My research spans across biology and health. Previously, I did work examining childhood skeletal growth patterns and how we can use bones to forensically identify remains (think the TV show Bones!). I briefly worked on brain and skull development in genetic diseases, where I combined laboratory work with mouse models with coding and engineering to understand how the brain and skull develops over time. Now, I am focused on public health and epidemiology, where I use evolutionary medicine approaches to understand how diet contributes to gastrointestinal disorders. I am pursuing a PhD and an MPH. When I'm not busy at school, I love to cook, bake, and eat! The science and anthropology of food excites me just as much as making it. I also am an avid writer, and love to be creative with blogging, marketing, and photography on social platforms. Mentoring has always been incredibly important to me, because I know I never would be in my program without mentors myself. I love helping people reach opportunities that they may not even know about!

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

How Rad Is The Fad? Investigating Popular Diets

This project will look at Fad Diets and evaluate their health benefits, history, and longterm effects. We will approach this topic from an anthropological perspective, looking at food ways around the world and our evolutionary history, to see if humans are really even meant to eat this way! We will supplement this with statistical and nutrition work. With a meta-analysis, we will review scientific literature to see if clinical trials find this to be a beneficial diet for your health, and look at the nutrition of the diet plan. This can be done on anything from Keto to the Mediterranean Diet (both have fascinating evolutionary histories and health trends).

Coding skills

R, Matlab

Teaching experience

I have experience in both teaching and mentoring roles. As a PhD candidate, I have taught 3 different Anthropology courses both online and in person, and my responsibilities included answering questions, lecturing, and preparing lessons. I was also a lab instructor in my undergraduate days. I am involved in a mentorship organization through my graduate association where I meet once a month with undergraduate anthropology majors to assist in career, internship, and research concerns. Finally, during my undergraduate, I was a Peer Mentor, where I assisted other college students in their college courses.


Work experience

Bryn Mawr College (2017 - 2019)
Research Assistant


Bryn Mawr College
BA Bachelor of Arts (2019)
Anthropology, Biology
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
MA Master of Arts
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
MPH Master of Public Health candidate
Global Health
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

Interested in working with expert mentors like Makenna?

Apply now