Comparative Human Biology

Mission statement

Our laboratory is dedicated to a multi-level, comparative biocultural approach to understanding the human condition and the pathways to and consequences of human diversity. Our approach is explicitly interdisciplinary, collaborative, and engaged, with the goal of contributing to understanding and alleviating global inequalities in human suffering and well-being.

We carry out this mission in three ways:

Mission 1

Our research probes cultural, cognitive-behavioral, and biological bases of differential human well-being, and investigates the relationships among them. We rely heavily on comparative analysis—between populations and species, and across time (acute, developmental, evolutionary)—to reveal unexpected sources of human variation and discover putatively innate features as environmentally mutable and contingent.

Mission 2

We increase access to the use of biological measures in social science through technical assistance and collaboration with non-laboratory based researchers. Our laboratory welcomes collaborations with researchers at varying stages of seniority (students to senior investigators) and from a wide range of disciplines—pediatrics, psychiatry, clinical chemistry; medical, cultural, and physical anthropology; developmental and social psychology.

Mission 3

We innovate methods to overcome barriers to biological measures in social science and answer emergent questions. We have expertise in the measurement of biological measures relevant to research examining stress and well-being, including endocrine, immune and physiological measures and function. We innovate methods that allow this research to be conducted outside of the lab in difficult to reach populations, including the use of non-conventional tissue samples, such as blood spots and hair, and mobile technologies to measure actigraphy, stress reactivity, and more.

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Laboratory Description

The Laboratory is located within the Department of Anthropology, in roughly 1300 sq ft of well-equipped laboratory space, along with adjoining cold room (50 sq ft), laboratory office, and equipment/storage room. Capacities include radioimmunoassay, enzyme-linked immunoassay, and fluoro-immunometric, spectrophotometric, and turbidimetric assays. Available are secure refrigerator and freezer space, and appropriate small equipment (pipettors, nutators, balances, pH meter, vortexers, incubators, etc.). The Laboratory also features state-of-the-art hardware and software for data reduction and analysis.