Sam Urlacher, PhD – Principal Investigator


PhD, Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 2016

MA, Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 2012

BS, Human Biology and Anthropology, Brown University, 2009

Courses taught

Intro to Human Evolution (ANT 1404)

Human Biological Variation (ANT4314)

Child Energetics & Health (ANT 4369)

Evolutionary Medicine (ANT 4371)

Sam joined the Baylor faculty and started the HEBHL in 2019. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Biology. He serves on the Baylor Global Health Steering Committee and is a founding faculty member of the Baylor Global Health Academy. He co-directs the Shuar Health and Life History Project (Ecuador) and the Garisakang Evolutionary Anthropology Project (Papua New Guinea). He is also currently a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar in the Child and Brain Development Program. He holds editorship roles for the journals Annals of Human Biology, Scientific Reports, and Human Behavior.

Sam is dedicated to the field of human evolutionary biology, science education/communication, and science translational impact (particularly reducing disparities in child health). Originally from Montana, he loves hiking, fishing, kayaking, and all things outdoors. He, his wife Sophie, and his daughter Olivia also enjoy museum-going and the performing arts. Sam is a proud alumnus of the Brown University Track and Field Team. He supports all traditionally-underrepresented students.

Sam’s CV can be viewed here. See his department profile and follow him on Twitter.

Graduate Students

Marcela Pfaff Nash

Marcela joined the HEBHL in January 2021. She is a student in the Anthropology PhD program. She received a BS in Physical Anthropology from Universidad de Chile in 2018. Originally from Chile, she worked as a field assistant studying nutrition transition in indigenous peoples in the Atacama Desert. She also did research characterizing the diet of past populations from bioarchaeological contexts in the same area. Her current research interests include the transition to obesity that accompanies market integration among indigenous children, gut energetics, and the nutritional and cultural role of fermented foods. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, biking and reading good novels.

Elizabeth Kim

Elizabeth joined the HEBHL and the Biology Ph.D. program in Fall 2021. She received a M.S. in Integrative Anatomical Sciences and a B.A. in Environmental Science and Health from the University of Southern California. Elizabeth worked as a research assistant at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles in the marine invertebrate and mammalogy labs. She also conducted research on the Laetoli “Site A” fossilized hominin footprints as a graduate student. Her research interests include understanding how environmental and cultural stressors effect metabolism, total energy expenditure and behavior in children from different populations with varying energetic resources. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys skateboarding, iced coffee and brunch.

Anna Samsonov

Anna joined the HEBHL and the Anthropology Ph.D. program in Fall 2022. She received a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Georgia. Prior to her time at Baylor, Anna worked as a research assistant for the Athens Wellbeing Project, a community needs assessment project in Athens, GA. She has a background in cultural heritage protection, having conducted research for the Penn Museum Cultural Heritage Center and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. Her research interests involve socioeconomic context’s impact on child development, women’s health, and feminist approaches to healthcare. In her free time, Anna enjoys rollerskating, painting, and reading sci fi.

Shinina Shani

Shinina joined the HEBHL and the Anthropology Ph.D. program Fall 2023. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Education from Moi University. Shinina is a dynamic professional with over 25 years of varied public service in government, international and local non-governmental organizations in Kenya. She has a vast experience in community health where she has been an educator and leader in policy and advocacy programs specifically working among children, youth and women. Her work has earned her a recognition by the government of Kenya for outstanding services rendered to the nation and awarded the prestigious Heads of State Commendation (HSC) medal by the president in 2019. She is interested in studying how environmental, social, economic, cultural factors and market integration affect child health among the minority communities. She is specifically interested in food absorption and lifestyle change impact on under and over nutrition among children and keen on how the studies can contribute to strategy and policy development for the improved maternal and child survival among vulnerable populations worldwide.

Undergraduate Students

Thanmayi Parasu

Thanmayi is a ’24 Business Fellows Major from Plano, Texas. She is on the pre-med track with a minor in Biochemistry and Poverty Studies. Thanmayi joined HEBHL to learn more about adiposity amongst various populations and to develop a more comprehensive understanding of human’s energy expenditure. Outside of the lab, Thanmayi enjoys volunteering, iced coffee, and cooking!

Srihan Somepalli

Srihan is a ’24 Business Fellows major from Plano, Texas. He is on the pre-med track, pursuing additional minors in Biology and Medical Humanities. Srihan joined the HEBHL to explore his research interests in growth patterns, immune response, and metabolic trade-offs within populations. Outside of the lab, he enjoys attending Baylor sporting events, playing basketball, and scouting out new coffee shops.

Kate Pogue

Kate is a ‘25 Public Health and Statistics major from St. Louis, Missouri. She hopes to research public health disparities as they relate to diet transitions in her future career. Kate joined HEBHL to study human biological responses to market integration and to learn how to become a better scientist. Outside the lab, she enjoys thrifting, plants, and trail running.

Sai Sagireddy

Sai is a ’24 Public Health, Medical Humanities, and Economics major. He joined HEBHL as he is interested in the intersection of medicine and global health. As a student researcher, Sai hopes to study energy changes in remote populations and how the environment affects the human body. Outside of the lab, Sai enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and camping!

Laila Fahed

Laila is a ‘25 University Scholars major with concentrations in Anthropology and Medical Humanities. She is on the pre-med track. Laila joined HEBHL to enrich her understanding of human biology and development in terms of energy expenditure and other anthropometric measures. She is from Houston, Texas. Outside of the lab, Laila enjoys tea-making, crocheting, and cooking.

Kamila Montenegro

Kamila Is a ‘24 Medical Humanities major with a minor in Biochemistry from Cypress, Texas. She is on the Pre-Med track with a minor in Biochemistry. Kamila joined HEBHL to pursue a deeper understanding in energy expenditure across populations and how the gut microbiome varies when considering different genetic and environmental factors. She plans to gain insight on how this research can be impactful for those living in LMIC. Additionally, Kamila enjoys running, photography, and baking.

Luna Orozco

Luna is a 25’ Anthropology major from Simi Valley, California. She hopes to pursue medical school after graduating. Luna joined the HEBHL to deepen her critical thinking skills as a scientist through problem solving, hypothesis testing, and creativity. As a student researcher, Luna is interested in understanding the implications of environmental differences during childhood on human brain and heart activity within a constrained model of energy expenditure. In her free time, Luna enjoys cooking new recipes, running, and watching the TV series Survivor.

Emma Shoemaker

Emma is a ’25 Science Research Fellow with a Biochemistry minor from Beaumont, Texas. She joined HEBHL to engage and develop her research interests in nutrition and metabolism. She also seeks to grow as a critical and analytical thinker. As a student researcher, Emma seeks to understand the biochemical relationships and health implications told by the human gut microbiome in the context of dietary shifts, energy expenditure and underlying environmental variables. When not in the lab, Emma enjoys writing, baking banana bread, and spending time with her family. 


Brian Adjetey

B.A. 2022

Tiffany Luan

B.S. 2023

Lauren Young

                      B.S. 2023                        Biology PhD Program,   University of Notre Dame