About Me

I am a biological anthropologist specializing in biological aging in humans. Specifically, I  investigate aging as a biocultural phenomenon entangled with our social, behavioral, and physical environments. My research program leverages diversity within and between populations to understand how social environments (Tennyson et al., 2016), physical environments (Tennyson et al., 2018), and behavior (Tennyson, Nanda, et al., In Prep) influence biological aging, connecting lived experiences to molecular, immunological, and demographic processes.

This approach often produces findings that challenge traditional biomedical predictions from White, American “reference” populations. For example, I found that higher childhood psychosocial stress is associated with having longer telomeres for more active individuals, indicating younger biological age with more stress. In contrast, the opposite was true for less active individuals. Findings like this lead my collaborators and me to challenge what we know about stress and aging, how we know it, and how diverse populations and methods can improve our understanding of human health and evolution.

My ongoing research focuses on groups both outside and within the US. Outside the US, I work with  The Vietnam Health and Aging Study (VHAS) (PI’s: Zachary Zimmer, Mount Saint Vincent’s University; Kim Korinek, University of Utah; and Alan A. Cohen, Columbia University) and, more recently, I joined the Orang Asli Health and Lifeways Project (PI: Amanda Lea, Vanderbilt University). I also often collaborate with researchers on the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Study in the Philippines. In the US, I work with The Einstein Aging Study (EAS) based in the Bronx, NY investigating stress, immunity, and cognitive aging (PI’s Dr. Jennifer Graham-Engeland and Dr. Christopher Engeland, both at Penn State). Further, I founded the Human Biology of Stress and Sports research team (HBSS) in 2020, funded by the Center for Leadership in Athletics at UW, which has since expanded across several institutions nationwide.

I have received specialized training in biological aging as a pre-doctoral trainee for the Biological Mechanisms of Healthy Aging at the University of Washington (supported by NIH/NIA T32 AG066574). I also received demographic training as a trainee with the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the UW (previously supported by NICHD T32 HD007543). Alongside my academic positions, I’ve also worked as a Research Associate at Casimir Trials, where I helped utilize qualitative data in research on rare diseases and disorders.

I have also worked on research teams investigating global mental health methodologies, associations with mental health and biology both inside and outside the US, connections between genotype and health, and the anthropology of sports. I am also very fortunate to have worked on projects focused on improving equity in STEM fields and continue to center equity in my research and professional service.

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