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Samuel Urlacher

Samuel Urlacher


  • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2020-2022
  • Child & Brain Development




Samuel Urlacher studies global variation in childhood development and the early life origins of metabolic health disparities from an evolutionary and bioenergetic perspective.

His work in the lab and in the field (primarily in Ecuador and Papua New Guinea) draws from many disciplines, including evolutionary biology, anthropology, immunology, nutrition science, psychology, economics, and epidemiology. He is particularly interested in how children allocate calories to competing physiological tasks (e.g., brain development, immune activity, and growth) and the impact of early adversity on lifetime metabolic disease risk (e.g., obesity and chronic inflammation). Much of his current work uses stable isotope-tracking methods to investigate the changes in children’s energy expenditure that may underlie the global nutrition/epidemiologic transition. An important goal of this work is to apply research findings to improve health outcomes.


  • National Science Foundation SPRF Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Harvard University Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellow
  • Human Biology Association Edward E. Hunt, Jr. Award

Relevant Publications

  • Urlacher S.S. et al. (2019). Constraint and trade-offs regulate energy expenditure during childhood. Science Advances 5(12):eaax1065. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax1065.
  • Urlacher S.S. et al. (2018). Tradeoffs between immune function and childhood growth among Amazonian forager-horticulturalists. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115(17):e3914-3921. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1717522115.
  • Urlacher S.S. et al. (2018). Global variation in diurnal cortisol rhythms: Evidence from Garisakang forager-horticulturalists of lowland Papua New Guinea. Stress 21(2):101-109. DOI: 10.1080/10253890.2017.1414798.
  • Urlacher S.S. & Kramer K.L. (2018). Evidence for energetic tradeoffs between physical activity and childhood growth across the nutritional transition. Scientific Reports 8(369):1-10. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-18738-4.
  • Urlacher S.S. et al. (2016) Heterogeneous effects of market integration on sub-adult body size and nutritional status among the Shuar of Amazonian Ecuador. Annals of Human Biology 43(4):316-329. DOI: 10.1080/03014460.2016.1192219.

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