Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Center forHuman Evolution and Diversity

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Historically studies in neuroscience have presented their findings regarding how the brain works as universal to all humans, whereas studies in anthropology have focused on the great cross-cultural diversity in behavior and thought. Furthermore, studies of the human brain and mind are typically conducted with samples that are highly unrepresentative of the global population. Therefore, in order to truly understand the functions of the brain and mind across the spectrum of human diversity, it is necessary to integrate theory and methods from anthropology, psychology and neuroscience.

Elizabeth Losin, Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health

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There is an urgent imperative to unbias human microbiome studies across the diversity of all of us to solve the major challenges relating to health disparities and inequities. More precise and personalized approaches must take into account microbial influences on and responders to our lived experiences. Without a sense of urgency and mission, the generalizability of microbiome findings across populations will be limited and likely generate new cascading health disparities.

Seth Bordenstein, Director of the Microbiome Center, Professor of Biology and Entomology

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Reconstructing human ecosystems of the past and their evolution provides not only a window into the past but helps us better plan for the future. We can use information from our ancestors to improve our lives tomorrow.

Laura Weyrich, Associate Professor of Anthropology

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Quite simply, the only way we will make meaningful progress in solving “wicked problems” of today and tomorrow is to take a holistic approach, drawing upon both depth and breadth of expertise from multiple disciplines and recognizing the importance of diverse perspectives and experiences.

Jennifer Wagner – Assistant Professor of Law, Policy, and Engineering

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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

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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

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"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 – CHED Co-Director, Professor of Anthropology

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"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, Professor of Biological Anthropology

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"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 – Atherton Professor, Evan Pugh University Professor Emerita of Anthropology

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“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

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"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

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"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

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"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

Podcast

Podcast

Penn State undergrads interview research scientists forging new pathways to understanding human evolution. A production of Penn State’s Center for Human Evolution and Diversity.

https://trackingtraits.buzzsprout.com/

Sun, 07 Jan 2024 16:00:00 -0500 ◦ 39 minutes

Penn State undergrad Thomas Sontag interviews associate professor Asher Rosinger about his research, which explores how people in different parts of the world meet their water needs.

Thomas Sontag
Undergraduate student at Penn State double majoring in Microbiology and German

Asher Rosinger
Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State

Tue, 31 Oct 2023 08:00:00 -0400 ◦ 33 minutes

Penn State undergrad Emma Sieminski interviews professor Jennifer Wagner about her research at the interface of emerging science and law.

Emma Sieminski
Undergraduate student at Penn State majoring in Forensic Science

Jennifer Wagner
Assistant Professor of Law, Policy and Engineering at Penn State

Sat, 30 Sep 2023 21:00:00 -0400 ◦ 32 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate Tom Sontag interviews professor Seth Bordenstein about his pioneering research in the burgeoning field of microbiomes

Thomas Sontag
Undergraduate student at Penn State double majoring in Microbiology and German

Seth Bordenstein
Professor of Biology and Entomology, Huck Chair in Microbiome Sciences, and director of the One Health Microbiome Center at Penn State

SAT, 04 MAR 2023 16:00:00 -0500 ◦ 40 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate Hannah Marchok interviews professor Pete Hatemi about his pioneering, interdisciplinary research investigations into the role narcissism plays in contemporary American politics.

Hannah Marchok
Undergraduate Biobehavioral Health student at Penn State with a minor in Global Health.

Pete Hatemi
Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Microbiology and Biochemistry at Penn State.

MON, 29 JAN 2022 ◦ 29 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate Alexis Capel interviews professor Jenae Neiderhiser about her long-term, interdisciplinary  research investigations into the interplay between genetic and environmental factors that shape the personalities of children as they grow into adolescence. By focusing on the development of adopted children and twins raised in different situations, Dr. Neiderhiser (an adopted person herself) is able to observe how these different factors play out. 

Alexis Capel
Undergraduate Biological Anthropology student at Penn State. 

Jenae Neiderhiser
Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State. 

MON, 28 NOV 2022 22:00:00 -0500 ◦ 40 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate Kassi Bradburn interviews assistant professor of biology Emily Davenport about her unique approach to researching the complex relationship that human beings have with our microbiomes. Her lab uses high-throughput sequencing technologies and novel computational and statistical techniques to approach this material from a genomic perspective. 

HOST:
Kassie Bradburn, Penn State undergraduate student double majoring in Forensic Science – Biology Option and Biobehavioral Health with a minor in Chemistry.

GUEST:
Emily Davenport, Assistant Professor of Biology at Penn State working to understand the complex relationship humans have with our microbiomes. Her lab uses 

MON, 10 OCT 2022 13:00:00 -0400 ◦ 38 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate Hannah Marchok interviews postdoctoral researcher Dr. Tina Lasisi about her her efforts to fill in gaps in our understanding of human hair morphology, as well as possible explanations for the evolution of different hair types, and the importance of approaching biological anthropology from a more inclusive standpoint.

HOST:
Hannah Marchock, Penn State undergraduate student majoring in Biobehavioral Health with a minor in Global Health

GUEST:
Dr. Tina Lasisi, postdoctoral researcher, University of Southern California

MON, 22 AUG 2022 08:00:00 -0400 ◦ 36 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate Alexis Capel interviews Dr. David Plutzer, Professor of Political Science and Sociology, about his continuing research on the teaching of evolution and climate change in public schools across the United States.

HOST:
Alexis Capel, Penn State Undergraduate Student, Biological Anthropology

GUEST:
Dr. David Plutzer, Penn State Professor of Political Science and Sociology

MON, 04 OCT 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 30 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate Samantha Muller interviews Dr. David Puts, Professor of Anthropology about his research. Puts’ Behavioral Endocrinology and Evolution Lab focuses on the evolutionary and neuroendocrine bases of human sexuality and sex differences.

HOST:
Samantha Muller, Penn State Undergraduate Student, Forensic Science, minor in Anthropology

GUEST:
Dr. David Puts, Professor of Anthropology

MON, 27 SEP 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 21 MINUTES

Recent Penn State graduate Amy Mook interviews Dr. Marta Tomaszkiewicz, Assistant Research Professor of Biology about her innovative research on male infertility.  Marta is particularly interested in understanding the potential of using RNA information and RNA-based technologies to answer important biological questions. She is currently testing the hypothesis that variation in ampliconic gene expression can explain differences in semen characteristics between fertile and infertile men. Her work can be followed at: https://twitter.com/amplicomics

HOST:
Amy Mook, Penn State Alum, Genetics and Developmental Biology

GUEST:
Dr. Marta Tomaszkiewicz, Assistant Research Professor of Biology

SUN, 19 SEP 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 26 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate student Samantha Muller interviews Postdoctoral Fellow in Physiology Tony Wolf about his research on variance in cardiovascular responses to thermal stressors. Tony is particularly interested in understanding the various factors underlying population disparities in cardiovascular function that lead to increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Among these factors are skin pigmentation and socioeconomic background.

HOST:
Samantha Muller, Penn State undergraduate student in Forensic Science, with a minor in Anthropology; member of the MicroARCH Lab

GUEST:
Dr. S. Tony Wolf, Postdoctoral Fellow, Penn State Physiology

MON, 13 SEP 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 30 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate student Hannah Marchok interviews Assistant Professor of Geography, African Studies, and Anthropology Bronwen Powell about her research into factors that may drive dietary practices across different groups of people in different regions of East Africa. Powell also shares her passion for wild foods, international collaborations, and inter-disciplinary approaches to dietary behavior change.

HOST:
Hannah Marchok, Penn State Biobehavioral Health, with a minor in Global Health; member of the Shriver Lab hair team

GUEST:
Dr. Bronwen Powell, Assistant Professor of Geography, African Studies, and Anthropology

TUE, 07 SEP 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 25 MINUTES

Penn State undergraduate student Samantha Muller interviews PhD student Natalia Grube about her research exploring the potential of the tapeworm as a proxy to more accurately pinpoint humanity’s adoption of meat eating and cooking with fire. Their conversation also covers Natalia’s passion for youth outreach, the importance of  diverse collaborations, and strategies to improve scientific literacy nationally.

HOST:
Samantha Muller, Penn State Forensic Science undergrad, with a minor in Anthropology; member of the microARCH Lab

GUEST:
Natalia Grube, Penn State graduate student in Biology, member of the Anthropological Lab

MON, 30 AUG 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 42 MINUTES

Recent Penn State graduate Amy Mook interviews Nina Jablonski about her ground-breaking research into the evolution of skin pigmentation, and the promise of that research to help to heal the damage inflicted over generations through misguided racist constructs perpetuated by the scientific establishment of the past.

HOST:
Amy Mook, 2020 graduate of Penn State’s Genetics and Developmental Biology program

GUESTS:
Dr. Nina Jablonski, Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology, Penn State
Co-director of the Center for Human Evolution and Diversity

MON, 23 AUG 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 38 MINUTES

Undergraduate student Hannah Marchok interviews Dr. Mark Shriver about his work tracking down what he calls “superficial” physical traits that distinguish people from one another – and about his life as a research scientist.

Host:
Hannah Marchok, Penn State Biobehavioral Health major, minoring in Global Health

Guest:
Dr. Mark Shriver, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Penn State University
Co-director of the Center for Human Evolution and Diversity

MON, 16 AUG 2021 06:00:00 -0400 ◦ 27 MINUTES

In this debut episode, the co-directors of Penn State’s Center for Human Evolution and Diversity (CHED) are interviewed by Amy Mook, a recent graduate of the university, about the origins and mission of their Center – and this podcast.

HOST:
Amy Mook, 2020 graduate of Penn State’s Genetics and Developmental Biology program

GUESTS:
Nina Jablonski, Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology, Penn State 
Mark Shriver, Professor of Anthropology, Penn State