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

CHED Request for Proposals

CHED Request for Proposals

Request for Proposals from the Penn State Center for Human Evolution and Diversity

Academic Year 2020-21

The Penn State Center for Human Evolution and Diversity (CHED) invites proposals for small grants for innovative, multidisciplinary education projects promoting public knowledge about human evolution, modern human diversity, the evolution of health and disease in humans, and the nature and future of human-environment interactions.

Successful projects will showcase research conducted at Penn State, including but not limited to research previously supported by CHED, through a series of short (about 10 minute) podcasts. The podcasts will feature individual scientists and/or science educators at any faculty level who work to conduct innovative transdisciplinary research in the aforementioned fields. Applicants may propose the creation of one or two podcasts representing their research. The scientists will be interviewed by undergraduate students during Spring Semester 2021.

Ten to fifteen successful awards, of $2,000 each, will be disbursed to the university research accounts of the successful applicants.

Applications should describe the specific topic and transdisciplinary context of the research that the applicant seeks to explore in their podcast(s), and specifically how they plan to make their work interesting to general audiences, including K-12 learners.

Applications consisting of a two-page project summary, an NSF-style biographical sketch of the primary applicant, and a project timeline should be sent to Nina Jablonski ( and Mark Shriver (mds17@psu.eduon or before Friday 6 November 2020. Final selection of awards will be based on internal peer review.