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Anthropology Faculty

This is a photo of Katherine Wander    Katherine Wander

   Assistant Professor of Anthropology
   PhD, University of Washington, 2012
   MPH, University of Washington, 2009
   Biological anthropologist
   Science 1, Room 233
   CV (126 Kb)

Research interests

Dr. Katherine Wander is a biological anthropologist and epidemiologist working at the intersection of human evolutionary biology and health. In particular, much of her research seeks to understand how humans in general and children in particular cope with nutritional and infectious disease stress, and the immediate and developmental impact of malnutrition and infectious disease on the protective and pathological capacity of the immune system. Some of the research questions her past and current projects have addressed include:
  • Do infectious disease episodes during infancy lead to stronger protective immune responses later in childhood among children in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania?
  • Do infectious disease episodes during infancy lead to higher or lower risk for allergic disease later in childhood among children in Kilimanjaro?
  • Do evolutionary theories of parental investment (e.g., the Trivers-Willard hypothesis of sex bias) predict which children are weaned before the recommended age of two years in Kilimanjaro? Is weaning before the age of two years dangerous for children's health in Kilimanjaro?
  • Can dietary iron deficiency decrease risk for infectious diseases among East African children (by restricting iron availability to protozoa and bacteria)?
  • Can dietary iron deficiency increase risk for infectious diseases among East African children (by compromising protective immune responses)?
  • What are the multiple pathways by which local infectious disease ecology affects iron nutrition among East African children?
  • How do iron status and infectious disease experience affect immune system development independently and together?

A Mother, a Midwife and triplets at the Lambo Dispensary in Machame.

Dr. Wander's population-based research within this theoretical framework requires use of techniques to characterize multiple aspects of children's health—growth, inflammation and infectious disease status, immune function, and micronutrient status—outside of a clinical setting. As such, she employs many "rough-tech" laboratory techniques—those that are minimally-invasive and robust to challenging field conditions (e.g., high humidity, limited access to clean water, unreliable electricity). She works (together with colleagues in multiple research laboratories) to adapt assay techniques and interpretation parameters to allow population-based research in the developing world to capitalize on technology developed for clinical use in a wealthy, industrial setting.

Dr. Wander has additional research interests in the practice of female circumcision, or female genital cutting/mutilation (FGM/C) in West Africa. She was part of a large project investigating the dynamic process of decision-making and behavior change around female circumcision in the Senegambia. As part of this project, she served as a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO); in addition, she served as a consultant to UNICEF in the development of an updated report and research agenda on the practice of FGM/C in sub-Saharan Africa.

Laboratory for Anthropometry and Biomarkers

For Prospective Students:

Prospective PhD students interested in working in Katherine's laboratory or at a field site should contact her early in the process of preparing an application to our program.

Last Updated: 12/19/17