Cobb's Corner: Research Assistant Sierra Williams

Cobb’s Corner is a reoccurring feature of the CRL Newsletter featuring a brief interview about the lab experience of a current researcher. In addition to learning more about their research, we learn how Dr. Cobb’s vision and mission is carried on through our efforts in the CRL today.


Our researcher is Ms. Sierra Williams, who graduated in May 2015 from Howard University with a B.S. in Sports Medicine,  Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ms. Williams was interviewed by Nicholas Guthrie, a two year veteran of the CRL.

Nicholas Guthrie (NG): So how did you hear about the CRL?

Sierra Williams (SW): My friend Alexis Payne is also a research assistant at the CRL. She told me about the amazing work that you guys were doing at the lab and she invited me to check it out. I started working on the CRL in June and spent most of my summer doing research there.

NG: I know that some of the records on our patients are very scarce.  Did you findthat aspect difficult?

SW: At first it was a little difficult! We have some records here on most of the patients and following their research, we went to the Moorland-Springnard Research Center where they had boxes ofDr. Cobb’s records and documents that we were able to look through.

NG: I know how expansive the amount of material that the library housed relating to Dr. Cobb (because I was with you on the first trip over!), but can you share with us how much there was and the types of information housed?

SW: There were over 70 boxes, so it took a while on to go through them all. I only had the opportunity go through around 10 of them, and the topics ranged from Dr. Cobb’s involvement with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to his membership with Omega Phi Phi Fraternity Incorporated. Additionally, there were anatomical board cadaver documents from various hospitals. He also had correspondence from the NAACP, as he was the president at the time. There are also personal documents photos and publications in the collection.

NG: This sounds like a good segue into your work here at the CRL! Can you tell me about that?

SW:  When I started working on the lab, I got the opportunity to work with Dr. Carolina and Antonio De la Cova from the University of South Carolina. They were conducting research on African Americans in the Cobb Collection and looking at trauma and disease and the bones. I was able to learn a lot about how these traumas were analyzed and reported

NG: Wow this sounds like a lot of useful information! How do you think it is going to be utilized back in the lab?

SW: All the information being gathered is going to give us a better understanding of who Dr. Cobb was as a professional and individual. It will also help us with funding, as we can use some of the information to fuel our grant proposals and support solicitation. The information that we find specifically on the Cobb Collection will tell us more about the individuals in the collection.

NG: How does working with the CRL align with your future goals? I don't see very many sports medicine graduates inbioanthropology labs!

SW: I have always had an interest in anthropology and, since I was a kid, I used to go to the anthropology museums and archaeology camps at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. I've always wanted to be in the medical field, so this was a great opportunity to get research experience along with something that aligned with my career path. Working with the CC each day and looking at all of the different pathologies has allowed me to get a better understanding of some diseases and how they manifest in bone.

NG: That sounds really interesting! Well, thank you for taking the time to talk with us!

SW: Thank you very much, Nick! ****