I first started to become involved in research in the Classics department in my first semester at Pitt. I emailed the chair of the department, Dr. Possanza, describing some of the topics that I was interested in and asked if there were any professors in the Classics department that he thought would be worth reaching out to about potential research. He recommended my current mentor, Dr. Bromberg, who I emailed and described my interests in Homer, Greek poetry, and music and that I would be interested in working with him to design a research project. I was so happy to receive a response from him and we were able to start constructing a research project and figure out what direction I wanted to take my interests. Through a lot of exploration of different questions and different primary sources (primarily looking at two ancient texts that had markings that would be interesting to explore) Dr. Bromberg and Dr. Edwin Floyd (emeritus professor of the Classics Department) helped me to discover the papyrus that I have based my research primarily upon, the Bankes Homer Papyrus. To our surprise, we discovered that no scholar to date has made an extensive study of this text, and the only critical edition is nearly two centuries old. As a result of this process, with the help of Dr. Bromberg, I was able to decide upon a research topic that I wanted to pursue and was able to construct a project that was uniquely my own that I have been developing ever since.
Some of the uncertainties that I encountered were based upon the nature of the topic that I am researching. There is not much that we can definitively make conclusions about in the topic of the reconstruction of ancient music. As such, it was hard to tell if I was going in the correct direction with my project. With the help of my mentors and constructive feedback from scholars that I had presented my research to at various conferences, I was able to gain confidence and learn to construct arguments that can be used to make conclusions about such a topic. I remember at the first conference I presented at, one of the scholars mentioned that my project was just a “creative fantasy”. Comments like these have pushed me to find new ways to approach my topic and create arguments that, though certainly creative in many ways (as much of work in this field is), are also rigorous and grounded in scholarly methods.
The biggest advice that I can give students wanting to start researching is to approach it with an open mind. Reach out to professors that you are interested in working with or to the chair of the department or the undergraduate advisor to ask them for advice, explore different topics and research questions that interest you, and don’t be afraid to pursue a research question, find out that it is a dead-end, and have to start again from scratch.
In the future, I plan on pursuing a masters and PhD in Europe and the UK. This will enable me to learn and interact from leading scholars who specialize in the reconstruction of ancient music, and I will have direct access to the original artifacts, specifically ancient papyri, which are essential to my research.