Blackwell to lead new human biology program

Aaron Blackwell.An expert in human evolution and immune function development, Aaron Blackwell, associate professor of anthropology, will direct the new human biology degree program at WSU, consisting primarily of courses in anthropology and biological sciences.

CAS launched the four-year, interdisciplinary bachelor of arts program this fall to help meet global demand for skilled professionals in health, social and environmental sciences and public policy. It melds approaches and content from social and biological sciences to provide students a vibrant understanding of the roles of culture, the dynamics of natural and social systems, and the biological attributes that shape human beings.

“The human biology degree is an opportunity to create bridges between evolutionary, medical, and cultural approaches to understanding human health,” Blackwell said. “Since the program builds on existing classes, the major is available for many continuing students, as well as new freshmen, and we expect to see the major grow quickly now that it is available.”

Numerous career options for Human Biology graduates include areas of medical and health sciences, social work and support, and public policy development and analysis. An increasingly popular degree nationwide, the human biology program offered at WSU’s Pullman and Vancouver campuses is the first of its kind in the state and virtually the entire Pacific Northwest.

Formerly an associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Blackwell earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in biological anthropology at the University of Oregon.

He joined WSU faculty in August 2018 and has led an active research agenda focused on human biology, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary medicine. His research examines health in Honduras, Bolivia, and Ecuador and is focused on understanding how the immune system responds to different environments and interacts with reproductive health and child growth. His work also investigates how the modern human environment differs from the conditions under which humans evolved, and the consequences of the mismatch between modern and ancestral environments for health and disease.

Top image: Aaron Blackwell in the field.

By Adrian Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences, for WSU Insider