Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Center forHuman Evolution and Diversity

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

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 – 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

Request for Proposals

Request for Proposals

Request for Proposals from the Penn State Center for Human Evolution and Diversity for Academic Years 2022-23 and 2023-24


Date: 04 October 2022


The Penn State Center for Human Evolution and Diversity (CHED) invites proposals for seed grants for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years. Funds awarded to successful projects will need to be spent completely before the end of fiscal year in which they are awarded.


For 2022-23: CHED seeks proposals for small grants of up to $5,000 from multi- and transdisciplinary research teams (representing at least two Penn State departments) working on projects related broadly to the understanding of human evolution and diversity. Successful proposals will describe new or ongoing projects which require a piece of equipment, reagents, and/or funds to pay for undergraduate research assistance in order to advance a promising project. Proposals are welcomed from new research teams or teams who have been previously awarded CHED seed grants. Proposals should follow NSF or NIH style and comprise a one-page summary, biosketches of all co-investigators, a budget, and a project timeline, and should be sent to Theresa Wilson ( on or before the deadline of Friday 18 November 2022. Final selection of 4-5 projects will take place in December, based on peer review by CHED-affiliated faculty. Funds will be disbursed in January 2023 and must be spent before 30 June 2023.


For 2023-24: CHED seeks proposals for projects which seek to explore the human use of psychoactive substances from an evolutionary perspective. Successful proposals will come from multi- and transdisciplinary research teams (representing at least three Penn State departments) that explore the reasons for the seeking or dependence on psychoactive substances (including but not restricted to caffeine or other stimulants, nicotine, and alcohol or other intoxicants) in an evolutionary context. It is anticipated that 2-3 proposals will be funded, for up to $20,000 each. Proposals for workshops, which will result in external funding applications and/or collaborative publications, will be considered. Proposals should follow NSF or NIH style and comprise a one-page summary, biosketches of all co-investigators, a budget, and a project timeline, and should be sent to Theresa Wilson ( on or before the deadline of Friday 27 January 2023. Proposals will be reviewed by Penn State faculty experts chosen for their knowledge of the subject matter. Final selection of 2-3 projects will take place in March 2023, and awardees notified by the end of March 2023. Disbursement of funds will occur as soon as possible after 1 July 2023, and all funds will need to be spent by 30 June 2024.


Questions about ideas or logistics for potential projects should be directed to Nina Jablonski (, Mark Shriver (, or David Puts (