“I have the coolest form of arrested development. Every child at some point wants to dig dinosaurs, work with dinosaurs, or in my generation, visit Jurassic Park. I never had to grow up! I get to work with dinosaurs every day.”
- Aja Carter
Aja Carter is a Biology major specializing in Paleobiology going into her senior year at Drexel. She began her research experience during her freshman year with the STAR Scholars program, but her paleo-career began in kindergarten. Aja told her mother, teacher and librarian that she was going to be a paleontologist, but little did they know that at the age of thirteen she would be volunteering at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Today, she is still volunteering there preparing fossils and teaching visitors. Aja has gone on to gain field paleontology experience in Montana and New Jersey and present her research at nine research conferences. Research has become an integral part of her life and she can be found doing it year round.
Aja has conducted all of her research on an extinct form of crocodile; Hyposaurus rogersii. This is a gavial type crocodile that is found in New Jersey. Her research began with identifying the specimen and the project taught her the cranial anatomy of an extant alligator. She then went on to compare this to extant crocodiles, extinct crocodiles and gavial braincases. This next step in her research taught her comparative cranial anatomy. Aja’s next project was to provide a description of the specimen. This is a very common project in paleontology. In her last project with the specimen she recreated the rest of the skull. The specimen only had the braincase portions preserved and researchers were curious as to the rest of the face. Through maya and traditional paleontology techniques, Aja and her fellow researchers created portions of the skull that were missing.
Today, Aja is conducting research with ichnofossils (trackways) and their makers. The majority of Aja’s research has been with paleoneurology in the extinct crocodile, but she hopes to go on to graduate school and study Biomechanics with a focus in Locomotion of Sauropods, the long-neck, long-tailed dinosaurs. Her ultimate career goals include working in applied research and later return to academia and teach. Even in her free time, Aja can be found working in the lab, preparing fossils or having in-depth discussions with the bones.