Justin MyrickCaption: Justin Myrick is set to complete his master's degree in August and has already accepted a full scholarship to UCLA’s Ph.D. program in anthropology. Photo by Greg Andersen

Becoming an Anthropologist

Graduate Student Accepts Full Ride to UCLA Doctoral Program, Heads to Namibia to Conduct Research

JUSTIN W. MYRICK is putting the finishing touches on his thesis as he completes his master’s degree in anthropology this summer. While he has yet to turn it in and defend it, he’s already accepted a full ride to UCLA’s Ph.D. program in anthropology.

By mid-July, he’ll be in Namibia conducting research alongside his future UCLA adviser, biological anthropologist Brooke A. Scelza.

He is excited about his future, one he didn’t picture as a 15-year-old, going through tough times at home after his parents split up and becoming the primary breadwinner for his family — his mother and two younger brothers.

As the first in his family to attend college, he wasn’t sure how to go about applying for or navigating higher education, but dating the smartest girl in his high school more than a decade ago, inspired him to push himself in academics. By his senior year, his GPA soared to 4.8.

After several years at community colleges, the south Pasadena resident transferred to Cal State Fullerton in 2007 and completed his bachelor’s degree in anthropology two years later.

He credits his anthropology professors, especially Sara E. Johnson, John Bock and John Q. Patton for their guidance, advice and teaching that turned his curiosity in the discipline into his passion.

“I got a lot out of my education at Cal State Fullerton,” Myrick said. “I got a much deeper understanding of theoretical perspectives, and I was able to produce good research. My professors are very active in their fields and because of that, I was introduced to my future UCLA adviser, who is a nop-notch researcher in her field — human behavioral ecology.”

Ultimately, he said, “I want to be able to teach and do research at the university level because I want to increase the opportunities to undergrads and grad students to participate in research and demonstrate how research can be used to solve specific social problems.”

His thesis focuses on reconciliation among preschool-age children. He collected his data at CSUF’s Children’s Center.

The president of the university’s Anthropology Student Association, Myrick also helped develop the center’s garden. An advocate of sustainability efforts, he maintains his own community garden in east Los Angeles, where he grows a variety of vegetables to keep himself healthy and to share with others.

“I’m interested in the unique human adaptations, physically and socially,” he said. “I want to study the human ability to be altruistic by observing early development of cooperation. … I plan to utilize anthropological methods to find out what are those obstacles, such as limited access to higher education, that communities are facing. Such human variations, the universality of humans and human culture, are what anthropologists strive to understand.”

Bock called Myrick “one of our most outstanding students.”

Myrick’s accomplishments include being awarded several merit awards and grants. In addition, he presented his thesis research at a human evolutionary behavior science workshop at Cal State San Luis Obispo in May and at an urban agriculture symposium in San Marino last year.

“As a first-generation college student of Mexican-American background, Justin exemplifies all that is good about Cal State Fullerton,” Bock said. “His life changed because he came to CSUF and was able to apply his considerable talent toward his scholarship. He is remarkable.”

Top of Story