My research focuses on how humans became reliant on technology and the effect that this reliance had on our place in the world. I am particularly interested in the origin of our own genus, Homo, nearly two million years ago, and how shifts in technological behavior at that time changed our diet, our social organization, our land use patterns and our relationship to other animals around us. Studying this important transition from our earlier ancestors' chimpanzee-like form and lifeways to that of our own lineage is critical to understanding how we as a species and genus are unique, what drove our evolution and why we are the way we are today.
In my work, I use experimental studies of modern humans and living apes to understand how major shifts in anatomy alter the performance of crucial behaviors such as throwing, tool making, stick digging, and climbing. Using my experimental findings, I am able to supplement missing fossil and archaeological data and interpret behavioral shifts using anatomical changes found in the fossil record. With these data, I also seek to address long-ignored topics such as the mechanical demands of women's work and the origins of the division of labor.
I also actively conduct fieldwork in the Turkana region of northwestern Kenya. This work focuses on how our ancestors' place in the broader faunal community shifted with increased reliance on tools and meat. My ongoing field research includes the description of new hominin remains, examining hominin social organization, studying land use/movement ecology using 1.5 million year old fossil footprints and studies of throwing and hunting in the Daasanach people.
Finally, I am interested in how changes in our technological evolution and the tech heavy modifications of our modern environments affect human health. I currently co-lead a collaborative project investigating the evolutionary and mechanical causes of rotator cuff disease, a prevalent and debilitating disorder which affects more than half of the population over the age of 60 years.
I am a dedicated and talented teacher and love introducing students to human evolution and studying the human body. I currently teach three course, Human Evolutionary Anatomy, Building the Human Body, and Human Adaptation. I have been honored by Harvard College for teaching excellence ten times.
I have also served as the primary academic advisor to more than 25 early stage undergraduates interested in STEM fields. These students have ranged from those on academic probation to future Rhodes scholars. I currently serve as a faculty representative on the Harvard College Honor Council, adjudicating and educating on issues of academic integrity and honesty.