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ASU student to present at Harvard College Research Conference

January 28, 2013

Megan Best, a biological sciences and anthropology major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, has been selected to present her research on Islamic radicalism at the prestigious Harvard College Undergraduate Research Conference in Boston.

The research stemmed from her time as a fellow in ASU's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, and specifically focuses on whether or not receiving an education from an Islamic education institution has a relationship with the propagation of Islamic radicalism.

To begin her study, Best and her colleague turned their focus to the United States, Pakistan and Indonesia as test subjects. The pair researched scholarly journals and media outlets, as well as contacted experts in the field.

“What we found is that the media was mostly responsible for propagating ideas that students who receive an education from an Islamic institution go on to commit what one would consider religious terrorism,” said Best.

The Arizona native also states that in conducting this work, she was shocked by the number of think tanks and organizations within the United States that perpetuate these ideas and the sense of danger that Islamic institutions pose to the safety of the United States after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

But this is just the tip of the research iceberg for Best. She spends countless hours in labs across the university assisting with many projects, including one that involves studying color patterns in veiled chameleons when placed in familiar and unfamiliar situations. Another favorite study of Best’s includes creating casts of extinct mammalian mandibles for the purpose of identifying if there was competition for food, and whether or not the occupation of a niche influenced evolution in primates.  

“I love all the research projects I’m doing," Best says. "Knowing that the stuff I’ve learned in the classroom is applicable to what I want to do in my career makes it so much easier to learn. I go to class and I remember more because I think about how I can apply the lessons to my research projects."

As a junior in Barrett, the Honors College, Best is already thinking about her future career. She says that she would like to work with primates in a capacity of study or conservation. For now though, her sights are set on staying warm in the cold Boston weather during the Harvard College conference.

“I heard it can be around 20 degrees. I’m more nervous about that than actually presenting my work. Speaking to the group will just be exciting,” she said.