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.

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 and entered the Biology PhD program in January 2021. She transferred to the Anthropology PhD program in August 2021. 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, energy balance, 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.

Undergraduate Students

Brian Adjetey


Brian is a ’22 Business Fellows major from Corpus Christi, Texas. After Baylor, his goal is to either attend graduate school or medical school and to contribute to research in global health. Brian joined the HEBHL because he is interested in the intersection between global health, economics, and healthcare policy. He is primarily working on a project investigating childhood Environmental Enteric Dysfunction (EED) burden and its relationship with growth failure. Outside of lab, he is involved in the Crane Scholars Program, the McNair Scholars Program, and  Baylor’s GSSA chapter.

Tiffany Luan


Tiffany is a ’23 Neuroscience major from Fort Worth, Texas. She joined the HEBHL to pursue  in-depth approaches examining how the body changes over a life course.  As a member of the HEBHL, she hopes to formulate ideas as to how genetic and environmental determinants influence the gut microbiome and explore the tangible impacts this kind of research holds. She is grateful to be working alongside a fun and driven group with diverse interests! Outside of the lab, she enjoys poetry, tennis, and swimming.

Lauren Young


Lauren is a ’23 Biology major from Atlanta, Georgia. She is on the pre-med track, with a minor in french. Lauren initially joined the HEBHL so she could gain research experience and explore her interests in human evolutionary biology. Currently, she is studying the relationship between the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis and its influence on cortisol levels and stunted growth to better understand the impact of chronic stress on child development. Outside of the lab, Lauren enjoys paddle boarding, cooking, and cappuccinos.

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.