October 18, 2022
Basira Mir Makhammad graduated with a degree in Anthropology from AUCA in 2017. After AUCA, she went on to complete her Master’s degree in Archaeological Materials Science by studying at the University of Evora in Portugal, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and Sapienza University of Rome in Italy. Currently, she is studying at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany for her PhD. In this interview, Basira shares the story of how she managed to achieve her academic goals.
Reminiscing about the time at AUCA
When I think about AUCA, I have only the best memories, it was the best time in my life. I enjoyed every day that I spent at the university. The faculty of the Anthropology Department was extremely supportive and welcoming. I loved that the department organized different activities, fieldwork, and internships that gave me the opportunity to expand my experience. I had a chance to explore Kyrgyzstan entirely because of different archaeological and ethnographic projects that were taking place within the department. Before AUCA, I have never been abroad but I could explore several countries because of the fieldwork and exchange programs that were offered by the university. I also enjoyed FYS class at AUCA, I believe it was one of the most important courses that developed my critical thinking. To my knowledge, AUCA is the only university that offers such a great course in Central Asia.
Life after graduation
After I completed my study at AUCA, I immediately started my Master’s. I was lucky to get an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship that allowed me to study in three countries including Portugal, Greece, and Italy; in addition to the numerous workshops in Spain. Even though I wasn’t a student of AUCA anymore, I’ve always been supported by my former professors, Aida Abdykanova, Cholpon Chotaeva, and James Plumtree, and my mentor from our library, Elena Turdieva. Those people motivated me to move forward and never give up. After successfully graduating and getting 2 Master's degrees in 2 years, I was employed and joined an amazing team at the Bioarchaeology Centre of Vilnius University under the supervision of Dr. Giedre Motuzaite. I was lucky to work with Dr. Motuzaite as she is a great scientist who shared a lot of her knowledge with me. I believe being under her apprenticeship helped me to advance further in my academic journey. After 5 months of working there, I was accepted for my PhD in Germany by one of the leading scientific institutes – the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. My main goal was to work with Dr. Spengler because I was familiar with his work and was eager to learn from him. I was told numerous times that it's impossible to get that position but I decided to apply anyway. I was crying from happiness upon receiving my dream email from Dr. Spengler saying: “I am just emailing to let you know that your application was selected for the PhD candidate position. There were many highly qualified applicants, but you showed the most promise and determination. I look forward to working with you more in the future.” I am one of the luckiest people in the world as I am working with such a great scholar and learning something new from him and our team at the institute every day.
I would like to stay in academia and continue my projects in Central Asia. I enjoy my work and research; therefore, I would like to continue working in the same field. In addition, I plan on learning new methods such as residue and stable isotope analyses to make archaeological studies in Central Asia more comprehensive. I will definitely continue my collaboration with AUCA scholars and build stronger relationships with other universities in Central Asia for future collaborations. I hope I will establish a paleoethnobotanical laboratory in Kyrgyzstan in 10 years. Since it requires big funding I should first become a successful scholar and later apply for a grant that could be used for laboratory establishment.
Basira’s advice for AUCA students
Enjoy every day you stay at AUCA. Don’t be shy to ask questions, only by asking questions you will learn more. If you are planning to continue your education (MA, MS, or PhD), then I would advise you to study very hard and get as much experience in your field as possible. Don’t be afraid to follow your dream! Remember, you are the only one who can make yourself happy. If you have decided to apply for a Master’s, then please follow your heart, don’t think about how prestigious that field is. In addition to advice, I have several important tips that help me right now: