Anderson earned his B.A. in Geology at Carleton College and his Ph. D. in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. His Ph. D. thesis was on the feeding mechanics and functional morphology of placoderm fishes. He continued his research on a series of fellowships at the University of Bristol in the UK (Royal Society International Incoming Fellowship and a Marie-Curie Incoming Fellowship). His research has continued to expand, incorporating experimental, theoretical and comparative techniques to explore the evolution of complex biomechanical systems in both modern and extinct animals including fishes, early amphibians, mammals and now mantis shrimp.