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Christopher Kuzawa Elected to National Academy of Sciences

IPR anthropologist given one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States

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Christopher Kuzawa
IPR anthropologist Christopher Kuzawa

 IPR anthropologist Christopher Kuzawa has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Membership in the academy is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States. Kuzawa is among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. 

Kuzawa, founding member of Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health, Northwestern’s interdisciplinary center for the study of health disparities, uses principles from anthropology and evolutionary biology to gain insights into the biological and health impacts of human developmental plasticity. 

As a biological anthropologist with training in epidemiology, Kuzawa focuses on the roles that the intrauterine and early postnatal environments have on development and long-term health. This work shows that when women experience nutritional or psychosocial stress during or even prior to pregnancy, this can have durable effects on the biology and health of her offspring, including risk for hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. An important message of this work is that today’s social inequalities can contribute to health inequality in future generations.

Kuzawa’s primary field research is conducted in Cebu, the Philippines, where he works with a large birth cohort study that enrolled more than 3,000 pregnant women in 1983 and has since followed their offspring into adulthood (now 35 years old). The study has recently begun following the third (grandoffspring) generation. 

He, his students, and his collaborators use the 35 years of data available for each study participant to gain a better understanding of the long-term and intergenerational impacts of early life environments on adult biology, reproduction, and health. 

Kuzawa’s other projects include a long-running study of the psychobiology of social relationships and fatherhood, studies of genetics, epigenetics, and molecular biology, and the evolution and development of the human brain.

Christopher Kuzawa is professor of anthropology (on leave, 2017–18) and an IPR fellow. 

Article by Megan Fellman and Hilary Hurd Anyaso, originally published by Northwestern Now.

Published: May 30, 2018.