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Feb 03
Student Spotlight: Luke Fannin

Luke Fannin is a third generation Buckeye and is undoubtedly making his alumni relatives proud. Fannin holds leadership roles in student organizations, does research, can speak Swahili fairly well, and maintains a 4.0 GPA all the while.

Fannin is from Sharon Center, Ohio and is an Eagle Scout. Unsurprisingly, he enjoys outdoor activities such as running, biking, rock climbing, and camping. Though he leads an active lifestyle, he certainly doesn't mind sitting down to read a good book by Stephen Jay Gould or watch some Star Wars. (To answer the inevitable follow-up question, his favorite is The Empire Strikes Back.) His musical taste includes bands like ELO, The Hollies, and The Beatles.

Carrying on his family's Buckeye legacy, Fannin chose OSU for its wide variety of opportunities and connections. He is majoring in zoology with a minor in physical anthropology; his goal is to later earn a PhD in biological anthropology, with a focus on primatology. His interest in primates began when he first started photographing them—along with other animals— during trips to the zoo. He has since made it a goal to get involved with primate conversation outreach, saying, "I am concerned about the future of primate diversity as a whole and I wish to show other people just how amazing they are as a group, from the largest gorilla to the smallest mouse lemur." Fannin is excited about the idea of continuing to engage in research while also having the same influence on students as his professors have had on him.

In fact, Fannin is already positively impacting students in his role as a peer tutor for Chemistry 1210/1220, taught by Dr. Fus, one of his greatest mentors. Dr. Fus helped inspire Fannin to teach science to others, including his sisters. Fannin recalls one of his favorite memories from peer tutoring, when over 200 students showed up for an exam review session in McPherson. "I must have run half of a mile between the classes for the whole night to help students with questions," he recalls.

Fannin serves as chair of primatology for the Undergraduate Anthropology Club and treasurer of the Swahili Club. He is also a member of Honors & Scholars, specifically Dunn Sports and Wellness Scholars. He credits the program with providing volunteer opportunities in Columbus and connecting him with students who have a strong work ethic and similar talents. The community of not only students but also faculty mentors, he believes, is what makes the program so successful. "The program's ability to provide a feeling of inclusiveness and guidance—including guidance from our Scholars advisor, Brendan—was one of the key reasons that my first year at OSU was so enjoyable," he says.

In addition to his extracurricular involvement, Fannin is pursuing two research opportunities relevant to his field. He studies primate dentition under Dr. Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg and Dr. Scott McGraw of the Department of Anthropology. Fannin is currently studying Anthropoid primates to determine how their social interactions influenced the evolution of their teeth. So far, he has observes that female species who use their canine teeth as weapons for intergroup conflict tend to have larger premolar honing surface lengths. This suggests that the feature was needed in order for females to use their teeth in fights for the purpose of protecting territory and resources. He has been able to access samples from other cities thanks to funds from the STEP program. "This past August, I used a portion of my funding to go and collect data from the skeletal collections housed at the Field Museum, Chicago," he says. "I am using the remainder of my stipend to travel to Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology to collect more data from the collections there." He is particularly fascinated by the influence females within primate societies, noting that they have a strict hierarchy, choose who they want to mate with, and often compete fiercely to defend resources, a behavior formerly attributed only to males. This is just one example of how rigorous research can dispel commonly held beliefs. Fannin hopes to continue learning about primate social behavior and competition in his future studies, in addition to being involved with conservation efforts.

Fannin is also involved in a second research project under Dr. Song Xing, who is visiting from the Chinese Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. Fannin explains that this project involves testing a model of the genetic development of molar teeth, specifically in ancient human populations from an archeological site in China.

Even for a talented and hardworking student, being involved in two research projects and other campus activities while keeping up straight A's does not come easily. "As I started to take more challenging classes, I had to develop a consistent and focused study schedule that allowed me to prepare for my classes, while still being involved in outside activities on campus such as student orgs and research," Fannin says. However, even the rigorous studying needed to maintain a 4.0 does not always have to be 100% boring. Fannin still vividly remembers spending two hours studying for chemistry with his friends, Spencer Talentino and Long To, while listening to "Final Countdown" by Europe…the entire time.

"We all did fine on the exam," he recalls, "but I still can't listen to that song without thinking about complex ion formation and solution chemistry."

By Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer