Laboratory for Human Biology Research
Northwestern University

Graduate Student Members




Marco Aiello (PhD Candidate):My research interests include health and nutrition, Medical Anthropology and the anthropology of children. My current research explores notions of sickness and health among the Tsimane' of lowland Bolivia and the impacts of cultural breastfeeding practices on the nutritional and biochemical make up of breastmilk in two populations, the Tsimane' and chicago-land women.




Dan Eisenberg:My work is strongly influenced by evolutionary theory and international public health. I am particularly interested in rapid functional evolution, local adaptations, comparative methods, gene-culture co-evolution and balanced polymorphisms. Current research includes exploring the evolutionary function of cholesterol, evolutionary history of dopaminergic genes and systematically evaluating the book, “Where There Is No Doctor”. My primary field experience is in lowland Bolivia with the Tsimane’. See for more details.




Lee Gettler: Previously, I have researched and published on mother-infant bedsharing as an evolved human behavioral norm with large implications for infant health and development, particularly as it relates to increases in breastfeeding frequency and duration resulting from mother-infant nighttime proximity. At present and going forward, my research interests are centered around reproductive ecology and the evolution of male parental investment in humans. I am particularly interested in the extent to which male physiology is responsive to a variety of shifting socio relational cues and contexts, including pair-bonding status and becoming a father. I hope to elucidate the means by which the advent of increasing direct male care of offspring could have been a significant contributing factor to the success of the genus Homo and the rise of human life history characteristics.




Aryeh Jacobsohn: I study medical anthropology and stress in human societies. I am interested in applied work, and in integrating theory and methods from cultural and biological anthropology. My current project revolves around the distribution of stress in Israel and the Palestinian territories, with particular regard to the spacial and cognitive relationship between missile strikes and physiologic markers of stress pathology.




Aaron Miller(PhD Candidate): My research involves working from an evolutionary theoretical background that examines the plasticity of human biology and asks how do aspects of biology respond to the environment in adaptive ways.  I am specifically conducting research on a population of indigenous Bolivian woman and studying how their reproductive functioning responds to varying energetic conditions.  A large portion of my current work is exploring possible hormonal ways to measure energetic states, with a particular focus on the hormone leptin and its variation across populations.  More recently I have become involved in a collaborative project comparing the breastfeeding practices of lowland Bolivian and Chicago women.
My research interests include Human reproductive ecology, energetic's, nutrition, breastfeeding, and research methods (both laboratory and field).




Colleen Nyberg (MA, PhD Candidate): Colleen is a fifth year graduate student in biocultural anthropology and is completing her dissertation on "Stress, market integration and child health among the Tsimane' of the Bolivian Amazon." Her research interests include the ontogeny of the human stress response, child growth and development, acculturation and health, developmental plasticity, and quantitative statistical methods (HLM) for analyzing longitudinal and hierarchical data. She has also conducted fieldwork in Dominica, West Indies for her Master's Thesis "Social contact and childhood morbidity in a Caribbean village."




EA Quinn (PhD Candidate): EA Quinn is a fifth year graduate student studying developmental plasticity, intergenerational transmission of information, and human milk. Her work focuses on looking at the natural variation in milk nutritional composition from a developmental and life course approach. One of her primary goals is applying key ideas about natural variation between individuals and groups to the study of human milk, and appreciating the sources of variation in milk composition and how behavior and biology may compensate for these differences. She recently finished her fieldwork on the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS) in the Philippines, and is in the process of writing up, developing new collection methodologies, and analyzing data.




Lauren Slubowski:I am interested in nutrition as a crucial intersection of society and biology which moderates health outcomes. I am distressed by the strikingly disparate rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes among social groups in the United States and other developed countries; I am convinced that they are not merely due to physiological differences, but are rather consequent of the social and cultural context in which particular populations are embedded. I believe that only a comprehensive understanding of nutrition, with emphasis on social and economic factors that dictate food choice, food availability, and physical activity can lead to effective solutions to the "obesity crisis" which disproportionately impacts persons of low socioeconomic status and particular racial/ethic groups within the United States. I am currently enrolled in a joint Anthropology PhD/Masters in Public Health program with the aim to merge both social science and healthcare perspectives and techniques in addressing these issues.

Generally, I am interested in social disparities in health, nutritional health physiology, food and culture, stress as a health modifier, nutrition and development, social ecology, and the relevance of biological variation and adaptation to understanding health outcomes.



Sarah R. Taylor: Sarah's undergraduate research, under the tutelage of Dr. Peter S. Ungar of the University of Arkansas, focused on orangutan dental morphology and the use of dental topographic analysis to infer hominid diet. For her graduate work, under the guidance of Drs. Matt Sponheimer and Arthur Joyce of the University of Colorado at Boulder, she conducted an interdisciplinary bioarchaeogical study that utilized both stable isotope and dental microwear analyses to reconstruct pre-Conquest Mesoamerican diet from a museum collection housed in the Centro Bodega of Cuilapan in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Currently, Sarah is interested in the ways in which biology and culture intersect and can be studied in tandem to better understand the health of various human groups and their present lifeways. More specifically, her academic and research interests include: biocultural studies of diet and nutrition; human biology, physiology, and ecology; medical anthropology; public health and obesity; human rights and inequality; issues of "race" and class; eugenics and bioethics; human variation and adaptation; foods, food processing, and food systems; and the social and biological aspects of aging.




Zaneta Thayer: I am broadly interested in evolutionary biology and the importance of development in bringing about evolutionary change. At present I am interested in studying the influence of maternal stress on fetal development. Aside from investigating the differences in outcome depending on the timing and type of stressor, I am also interested in the mechanisms by which maternal experience is relayed to the developing fetus. One of the mechanisms that I am interested in investigating is change in epigenetic status in offspring of mothers that are stressed as opposed to those that are not. I hope that this research can ultimately be applied to the health disparities literature to demonstrate that the underpinning of disparities are laid during early development.


    Melanie Vento(PhD Candidate): Currently in the Field...