Biological anthropologist, human reproductive ecologist, pregnancy researcher
I am a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at Northwestern University and a member of our research group, E2HD (Evolutionary and Ecological Approaches to Health and Development) as well as the Interdisciplinary Cluster for Society, Biology,
and Health. Along with my advisor, Dr. Christopher Kuzawa, I apply evolutionary theory and a developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) framework to reproductive biology and health. I also collaborate with Dr. Julienne Rutherford of the University of Illinois at Chicago on research related to placental development across populations.
Learn more about my work by checking out
my current projects.
Evolutionary and ecological perspectives on human pregnancy
Inflammatory balance in pregnancy and fetal growth
Elevated levels of inflammation in pregnancy are known to be associated with adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, however pregnancy itself is an inflammatory process. My work in this area has investigated the impact of relative levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in pregnant women and found that the ratio of these counterbalanced immune signals predicts birth weight in a sample from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey in the Philippines. This suggests that dynamic maintenance of inflammation via cytokine signaling is necessary for pregnancy.
Placental programming of maternal life experience
Nutrition and other environmental factors that influence a girl's growth and development have been observed to predict various measures relating to the health of her future offspring. As the biological bridge between maternal and fetal systems, the placenta is an ideal candidate pathway linking maternal experience with offspring biology. I am interested in investigating the mechanisms by which the developmentally responsive placenta may communicate biological information across generations.
A phylogenetic framework for human placental disorders
The staggering global health burden of placental disorders is well-recognized, however the underlying reasons for humans' high susceptibility to these conditions are poorly understood. Placental dysfunction is relatively uncommon outside of the great apes. A comparative perspective that takes into account the life history traits most primates still share with our closest phylogenetic neighbors suggests that evolutionarily novel increased body size in the human lineage may place significant strain on the physiological capabilities of our ancestral, "small-bodied" placental type.
The IGF axis as a regulator of energetic investment over the life course
I am investigating the ways in which the maternal metabolism adjusts to changing resource availability throughout her life course and mediates maternal-fetal conflict over prenatal investment. Maternal and fetal hormones compete for control of the IGF axis that drives fetal growth, but maternal strategies for inhibiting offspring growth are poorly understood from both a theoretical and mechanistic basis. In my dissertation research, I will explore the IGF axis as a potential candidate pathway linking a mother's early nutritional and energetic status with altered patterns of resource investment in offspring that lead to reduced fetal growth.
Thanks for your interest in my research.
Please email with any comments or questions!
Department of Anthropology
1810 Hinman Ave
Evanston, IL 60208
A statement from Native American and Indigenous Initiatives at Northwestern University:
"Northwestern is a community of learners situated within a network of historical and contemporary relationships with Native American tribes, communities, parents, students, and alumni. It is also in close proximity to an urban Native American community in Chicago and near several tribes in the Midwest. The Northwestern campus sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa, as well as the Menominee, Miami, and Ho-Chunk nations. It was also a site of trade, travel, gathering and healing for more than a dozen other Native tribes and is still home to over 100,000 tribal members in the state of Illinois."