Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Center forHuman Evolution and Diversity

One of the strongest evolutionary influences on humans has been largely invisible: microbes. Interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate evolution, microbiology, genetics, physiology, and more are necessary to reveal how we interact with microbes and how these trans-kingdom interactions affect both evolution and health.

Emily Davenport – Assistant Professor of Biology

Our history of conquest, colonization, and massive forced migration has created a profound and long-lasting social and cultural legacy, and these actions also left a genomic legacy. Transdisciplinary research is necessary to fully appreciate human diversity, to combat health inequity, and to advance wellbeing for everyone.

Zachary Szpiech – Assistant Professor of Biology

David Puts Headshot

"No factor is more fundamental to human variation than biological sex, and its importance to our health and well-being is becoming increasingly appreciated. A transdisciplinary approach rooted in evolutionary principles is the surest path to understanding the development of sex differences and how these processes contribute to human diversity and influence our lives."

David Puts – Associate Professor of Anthropology

Mark Shriver Headshot

"Our Center is important for two reasons: 1) There are many interesting questions yet to answer about human evolution and physical, behavioral, and genetic variation, and 2) There seems to be a continuing divide between what anthropologists know and how they think about human evolution and diversity and how the general public and academic colleagues in other fields think about these topics."

Mark Shriver – CHED Co-Director and Professor of Biological Anthropology

Nina Jablonski Headshot

"Human beings are products of rich and complex interactions between biology and culture that have developed over millions of years. Human evolutionary history informs our understanding of human behavior and culture, and vice versa. Examining only one side of this set of reciprocal interactions risks missing the plot entirely."

Nina Jablonski – CHED Co-Director and Evan Pugh University Professor of Anthropology

Heather Toomey Zimmerman Headshot

“Bringing together multiple disciplines to understand how people learn and reason about complex topics such as human evolution is important for today’s schools, museums, and other educational settings. The Center offers multiple perspectives of how research in this area is conducted, which will enhance young people’s views of how scientific knowledge is developed and of human diversity.”

Heather Toomey Zimmerman – Associate Professor of Education

Peter Hatemi Headshot

"If we are to make any headway in fighting diseases, reducing inequalities and the internecine fighting that appears to emerge so endemically when resources are scarce, values differ, and political approaches conflict, we must utilize multiple approaches, methods, be transdisciplinary and take into account the nature of human diversity, at every level, from our genes to our social identifications."

Peter Hatemi – Professor of Political Science

Eric Plutzer Headshot

"For problems ranging from infectious disease to racial tensions in American cities, understanding that evolution matters but that genes are not deterministic and differ in their effects depending on social behavior and environment is a powerful way to better understand and solve many human challenges. Interdisciplinary research holds great promise for using our knowledge of evolution effectively to improve the human condition."

Eric Plutzer – Professor of Political Science

David Almeida Headshot

"A transdisciplinary study of human evolution and diversity not only helps us understand how and why we became who we are, it is necessary for determining how we function day-to-day. My research examines the effects of biological and self-reported indicators of daily stress on health. How we experience and respond to daily life challenges is intricately tied to the evolution of human diversity."

David Almeida – Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

2021-2022 CHED RFP

2021-2022 CHED RFP

The Penn State Center for Human Evolution and Diversity (CHED) invites proposals for grants for multidisciplinary projects aimed at the development of innovative methods for visualizing and/or studying the human phenotype (including human behavior) and human contextual information using common handheld and wearable devices. Recognizing that mobile devices such as smartphones and smartwatches are ubiquitous and capture enormous amounts of data on human behavior and interactions with the physical and social environment, we seek multidisciplinary research teams interested in designing methods of harvesting and processing mobile data in order to shed light on previously poorly understood aspects of human health, behavior, or human interactions with the environment. We encourage teams to design novel approaches to such questions, utilizing automated methods such as machine learning or deep learning algorithms, voice recognition, natural language processing, and/or digital image processing.

It is anticipated that there will be two successful proposals funded, for up to $20,000 each. Applications describing novel and risky, but defendable, methodological approaches are strongly welcomed. Projects involving undergraduate researchers are encouraged and can be funded up to $5,000 extra. Successful teams will be expected to showcase their research project in an episode of CHED’s “Tracking Traits” podcast series.

Applications are invited from multidisciplinary teams of Penn State researchers representing at least three departments, including one from computer science or engineering. Prospective applicants are encouraged to reach out to Nina Jablonski ( or Mark Shriver ( if they have any questions about this RFP.

Applications consisting of a one-page summary (NSF-style, with separate headings for the overview, statement on the intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activity), NSF-style biographical sketches of all co-investigators, a budget, and project timeline should be sent to Nina Jablonski ( and Mark Shriver ( on or before Friday 10 December 2021. Final selection of projects for funding will be based on internal peer review of written applications.