I am a Postdoctoral Researcher for the Vietnam Health and Aging Study (vhas.utah.edu) based at the University of Utah, working with Principal Investigators Dr. Kim Korinek (U of Utah), Dr. Zachary Zimmer (Mount Saint Vincent University), and Dr. Alan Cohen (Columbia University). For this project, I am focusing on how exposure to armed conflict during the Vietnam War predicts epigenetic aging in Vietnamese war survivors. I am also working with Dr. Cohen on a project investigating differences in immune aging in industrial and non-industrial populations.
I received my Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from the University of Washington (UW). My personal research centers on how and why humans differ in their biological responses to psychosocial stress and trauma. Specifically, I focus on how differences in microbial environments and physical activity alter the relationships between psychosocial stress and biological aging (e.g., immune aging, telomere shortening, and epigenetic aging). My work utilizes large (N>1,000) longitudinal cohorts as well as smaller, purposive samples of collegiate athletes and non-athlete students (N~100s).
I was a pre-doctoral trainee for the Biological Mechanisms of Healthy Aging at the UW (supported by NIH/NIA T32 AG066574). I was also a trainee for the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the UW (previously supported by NICHD T32 HD007543). Alongside my academic positions, I previously worked as a Research Associate at Casimir Trials, where I helped utilize qualitative data in research on rare diseases and disorders.
My dissertation project examined whether physical activity modifies the relationships between psychosocial stress, inflammation, and telomere length. These relationships are posited to connect psychosocial stress to various adverse health outcomes, including mental health disorders, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Uncovering how physical activity modifies these relationships could offer a better understanding of how psychosocial stress impacts health across the US and globally and what roles stress played throughout human evolution. To address these questions, I purposively sampled NCAA student-athletes and non-athlete students from the same schools in the US. This strategy allowed me to isolate important societal and cultural factors while examining differences in physical activity.
Importantly, my dissertation also allowed me to begin work in the Biological Anthropology of Sports. The Anthropology of Sports is a relatively new field that utilizes anthropological theories and methodologies to better understand the influences and roles of sports in society. The roles of sports in society, particularly in the United States, are rarely challenged or critically examined, even in academia. However, studying sports as an academic topic allows myriad strategies for researchers to better understand human biology as well as how society, behavior, and biology continually feed back into each other. All while providing an accessible avenue for students to learn about our field, engage our research participants, and integrate with practitioners and other stakeholders.
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 a couple of projects focused on improving equity in STEM fields and continue to center equity in my research and professional service.