New PhD Program at Baylor

New PhD Program at Baylor

The Department of Anthropology at Baylor University is accepting student applications for a new PhD program in the Anthropology of Health (broadly conceived, including biomedical anthropology, evolutionary medicine, global health, medical anthropology, and other applied disciplines to understand past, present, and future populations). The program emphasizes training in quantitative and qualitative methods, values diversity and inclusion, and aims to prepare graduates for jobs in academia, research, business or industry, government, and other vocations.

Unique aspects of the program include:

  • An emphasis on mixed methods in both field and laboratory settings
  • Rigorous training in statistical methods
  • Required electives in communication and management
  • Targeted pedagogical and professional skills training
  • Required internship with a local community organization
  • An emphasis on professional publishing prior to graduation
  • A small program with multiple advisors for each student

Benefits include five years of guaranteed funding for each student, guaranteed funding for professional travel and research, newly renovated facilities with a world-class core laboratory, diverse research groups focusing on a variety of health-related topics with multiple field sites, and a supportive institution known for research in global and community health.

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For questions, please email:

Four ClubEvMeds in November–sign up now

Four ClubEvMeds in November–sign up now

Club EvMed: Postdoc Spotlight

Wednesday, November 4th at 1pm EST

Join us for a special Club EvMed where we’ll be highlighting some of the exciting work done by postdoctoral researchers in the field of evolutionary medicine. We will hear 12-minute research talks from Caroline Amoroso, Amrita Bhattacharya, and Angela Garcia (see abstracts below). There will be a brief Q&A period at the end of each talk, plus breakout rooms after all 3 talks to allow for more in depth conversations with the speakers. Sign up here for the meeting link:

Evolution of host behavioral resistance to pathogens” by Caroline Amoroso, University of Virginia

Evolutionary theory about host resistance to pathogens has typically focused on physiological mechanisms of resistance, yet strategies that hosts use to prevent pathogen infection can also be behavioral. Using a framework established in previous work on physiological resistance, I develop a model of behavioral resistance to a socially transmitted disease and use it to explore evolutionary dynamics under different assumptions about the avoidance strategy and nature of costs. I discuss the parallels between behavioral and physiological forms of resistance, and the limitations of physiological resistance theory for explaining the evolution and disease dynamics of behavioral resistance.

Exceptions to the rule: Why does resistance evolution not undermine antibiotic therapy in all bacterial infections?” by Amrita Bhattacharya, Pennsylvania State University

Antibiotic resistance is among the greatest public health crises of the 21st century, but the phenomenon of resistance evolution is not surprising. Antibiotics impose strong selective pressure on bacteria to survive, reproduce, and transmit in their presence leading to the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Yet not all human bacterial infections are affected by resistance evolution. Why? Here we attempt to understand (a) in which cases resistance evolution has not undermined treatment-efficacy, and (b) which factors, if any, can explain these patterns of resistance evolution. We are surveying the scientific literature over the last five years to determine variation in the prevalence of resistance across 57 species of human bacterial pathogens and the subset of 79 antibiotics from 15 different drug classes used to treat them. We examine the variation in resistance across these ‘pathogen x antibiotic’ combinations, and determine how factors such as mechanism of drug action, pathogen classification, mode of transmission, human-to-human transmission, presence of pathogen in the human microbiome, natural competence, and aerobic/anaerobic growth correlate with the observed patterns of resistance.

Evidence for height and immune function trade-offs among pre-adolescents in a high pathogen population” by Angela Garcia, Arizona State University

In an energy-limited environment, investment in one trait should trade-off with investment in other traits. In high pathogen ecologies, biasing energy allocation towards immunity over growth would be predicted, given strong selective pressures against early-life mortality. Here, I examine trade-offs between adaptive immune and height among young children in the Bolivian Amazon. Tracking tradeoffs between growth and immune function is enormously complex, particularly due to the changing relationships between distribution of body fat and mass relative to height, and shifts in allocation between life history traits, that occur during this period of active growth and development. However, the consistent negative associations across the numerous markers of adaptive immune function and height-for-age documented in this research prompt consideration of whether there may be a threshold of investment into adaptive immune function required for survival in high pathogen environments. 

Club EvMed: The Nature of Fear

Thursday, November 12th at 12pm ET

Join us for a conversation with Daniel Blumstein, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California Los Angeles. Fear, honed by millions of years of natural selection, kept our ancestors alive. Whether by slithering away, curling up in a ball, or standing still in the presence of a predator, humans and other animals have evolved complex behaviors in order to survive the hazards the world presents. But, despite our evolutionary endurance, we still have much to learn about how to manage our response to danger. Delving into the evolutionary origins and ecological contexts of fear across species, Blumstein’s book The Nature of Fear considers what we can learn from our fellow animals—from successes and failures. By observing how animals leverage alarm to their advantage, we can develop new strategies for facing risks without panic. Sign up here for the meeting link:

Club EvMed: Social immunity: cooperative disease defense in social insect colonies

Tuesday, November 17th at 11am EST

Join us for a presentation by Sylvia Cremer, Professor at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, followed by a conversation with Nathalie Stroeymeyt, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol, and Chris Pull, Lecturer at the University of Oxford. Infectious disease can easily spread when hosts live in social groups. On the other hand, the members of social groups can fight disease together. The social insects — the social bees and wasps, ants and termites — have evolved a special form of social group living: the colony. Dr. Cremer will present how ant colonies are protected against disease by the combination of the individual immune defenses of all colony members and their collective hygiene behaviors performed jointly or towards one another. This social immunity is achieved by cooperative actions to reduce pathogen load of the colony and to prevent transmission along the social interaction networks of colony members. Attendees are encouraged to read Cremer 2019, “Social immunity in insects,” Stroeymeyt et al. 2018, “Social network plasticity decreases disease transmission in a eusocial insect,” and Konrad et al. 2012 “Social transfer of pathogenic fungus promotes active immunization in ant colonies.” Sign up here for the meeting link:

Club EvMed this week

Pathogen selection for HLA gene diversity and its consequences for autoimmunity and cancer immunotherapy. Sign up here for the meeting link.

Tuesday, October 27th at 1pm EDT

headshot of Tobias Lenz

Join us for a conversation with Tobias L. Lenz of the Research Group for Evolutionary Immunogenomics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Ploen, Germany. Pathogen-mediated selection is a major driver of human evolution in general and of immune gene diversity specifically. A key component of the adaptive immune system are the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, coding for molecules that present antigenic peptides to immune effector cells. The exceptional polymorphism at the HLA gene is assumed to reflect the need for diverse antigen presentation. However, an optimal immune response requires a delicate balance of maximizing recognition of pathogens while minimizing damage to self tissue by the immune machinery. As HLA molecules present both non-self and self antigens, depending on which antigens are presented by an individual’s HLA variants, this can trigger either pathogen resistance or autoimmunity. HLA-presentation of a broader antigen repertoire should thus be beneficial for pathogen recognition, but might also increase the risk for autoimmunity, leading to antagonistic selective pressures that shape the optimal antigen repertoire and thus HLA diversity in an individual.

Here Dr. Lenz will discuss this evolutionary trade-off for individual HLA diversity and present some examples from his work on the role of pathogens in the evolution of HLA diversity, but also on its consequences for autoimmunity and its role in immune checkpoint blockade therapy against cancer, a striking example for the success of evolutionary medicine. Attendees are encouraged to read Pierini and Lenz 2018, “Divergent allele advantage at human MHC genes: signatures of past and ongoing selection” and Chowell et al. 2019, “Evolutionary divergence of HLA class I genotype impacts efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.” Sign up here for the meeting link.

Four ClubEvMeds in November–sign up now

ClubEvMed: James DeGregori on Cancer

How recent characterizations of somatic mutations in humans inform an evolutionary understanding of aging and cancer

Monday, October 19th at 1pm EDT. Sign up here for the meeting link.

James DeGregori and his dog

Join us for a conversation with James DeGregori, Courtenay C. And Lucy Patten Davis Endowed Chair in Lung Cancer Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. In the last five years, multiple studies have demonstrated that apparently healthy tissues in humans are patchworks of clones bearing somatic mutations, and the sizes and frequencies of these clones increases dramatically in old age. Often, there is clear evidence for positive selection for variants, which are frequently in genes frequently mutated in cancers, and yet the vast (VAST!) majority of these mutation-bearing clones will never develop into a cancer. We will discuss the implications of these findings for different evolutionary theories of aging and cancer. Attendees are encouraged to read Martincorena et al. 2018, “Somatic mutant clones colonize the human esophagus with age” and Kakiuchi et al. 2020, “Frequent mutations that converge on the NFKBIZ pathway in ulcerative colitis.” Sign up here for the meeting link.

Evolution and Medicine Program in Lyon, France

Evolution and Medicine Program in Lyon, France

Introducing evolutionary thinking in the health professions

This diploma is aimed at all professionals in human and animal health and life sciences, as well as students (validated 4th year) and, by extension, all enthusiasts of evolutionary sciences. Full information is here. See the detailed program here.

The discovery of the importance of microbiota, antibiotic resistance, new obstetric practices, the increase in the prevalence of psychiatric illnesses, the obesity epidemic, emerging viral diseases, new demographic and environmental pressures, and many others current topics, make it necessary to introduce evolutionary thinking in clinical practice.

Based on the observation that evolutionary sciences are not yet taught in the faculty of medicine, the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL1) and the laboratory of excellence (Labex) ECOFECT have decided to jointly ensure the high patronage of this diploma which is the first of its kind in Europe.

A word from the ECOFECT labex

“Evolutionary biology and medicine”: a unique DU in Europe  at the initiative of Ecofect
Discussions within the Ecofect LabEx and the bringing together of researchers from different disciplines naturally led to a reflection on the place of biology developments in medical training. This reflection led to the proposal for a University Diploma entitled “Biology of evolution and medicine” within the Faculty of Medicine of Lyon. This proposal was very well received by the evaluation commission of the faculty of medicine which underlined its innovative character .

This is the first time that a course in evolutionary biology has been integrated into the medical studies curriculum. It illustrates the pioneering work of LabEx Ecofect. The objective is to place the various medical disciplines in the larger framework of ecology and evolution. Integrating evolutionary reasoning into the initial and continuing training of physicians, researchers, practitioners and clinicians in human or animal health should lead to the opening up of new avenues of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

About thirty high-level French – speaking speakers participate in this teaching: researchers and practitioners, doctors, evolutionary biologists, philosophers, epistemologists, methodologists. This DU is under the responsibility of Gérard Lina (PU-PH at UCBL1 and CIRI), Luc Perino (Doctor, essayist) and Dominique Pontier (PU – UCBL1, CNRS – UMR 5558, co-director Ecofect), all three members of Ecofect .