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Human Health and Biology

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Graduate Anthropology Program

Human Health and Biology

Contemporary challenges in human health require interdisciplinary approaches to understand the complex interplay of social and biological processes. Our graduate program in Human Health and Biology is designed to prepare students to engage in work at the interface of biological and medical anthropology.

Across our program, faculty have expertise in:

  • Community engaged research
  • Ethics (bioethics; ethics and death; ethical, legal, and social implications)
  • Infectious disease (emerging and evolving)
  • Anthrozoology (human-animal interaction, contemporary and ancient)
  • Death and dying
  • Life course development (childhood and aging)
  • Reproduction and fertility
  • Anthropological demography
  • Food and nutrition

Biological anthropology faculty have specific expertise in:

  • The Microbiome
  • Molecular Anthropology
  • Ancient DNA
  • Multi-omic methods (aka, panomics and integrated omics)
  • Population genetics
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Antibiotic resistance

Medical anthropology faculty have specific expertise in:

  • Applied medical anthropology
  • American Indian health and mental health
  • Rural health
  • Health disparities
  • Health systems, clinical and translational research
  • Reproductive politics
  • Political economy
  • Health crises in fragile states
  • Bioethical quandaries at the beginning and end of life

The Human Health and Biology Ph.D. track is an integrative Biological and Medical Anthropology program focusing on human adaptation, evolution, health-related behavior, and health outcomes.  Viewing the evolution of humanity through biological and cultural interactive processes provides an understanding of how humans adapted and are adapting to the dynamic worlds of the past and present. With its interdisciplinary faculty of biological and medical anthropologists, our Ph.D. program in Human Health and Biology is designed for students interested in the complex interplay of biology and culture. We welcome students interested in investigating health-related topics from a biological, medical anthropology, or integrative perspective.  Students focused on biological anthropology can research human biological evolution and variation, including skeletal biology, genetics, and infectious disease. Students pursuing medical anthropology can research all aspects of medicine, medical technologies, affliction, suffering, and healing in cross-cultural perspective. An integrative perspective might take the form of a largely culturally focused project that is strongly grounded in disease biology or a biological project that seriously considers the community context and implications of its findings.

community based health education in Peru

The University of Oklahoma offers a broad range of graduate-level biological and medical anthropology courses including special topics courses and seminars (click here for the OU course catalog; click here for courses offered during the current and upcoming semester). Ph.D. students in the Human Health and Biology track take core courses in biological anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, and sociocultural anthropology, if they have not already done so in their Master's program. They also take an advanced theory course (Theoretical Foundations of Biological and Medical Anthropology) as well as two additional methods courses. Ph.D. requirements include 90 hours of credit (47 - 61 credit hours of course work plus 29 - 43 credit hours of dissertation research). For more information, please see the application procedures and graduate program requirements.

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Thesis, dissertation, and other graduate-level research is conducted in consultation with faculty. To aid in this process, each graduate student is assigned a faculty mentor upon entry into the program. Ultimately, this individual may or may not serve on or chair the student's graduate committee. Students have a wide variety of independent research opportunities in biological and medical anthropology for the Master's and Ph.D. programs. These include research at the Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research (LMAMR), the Center for Applied Social Research, the Oklahoma Archeological Survey, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and research with Anthropology faculty members.


  • A Hybrid Approach to Assessing Giardia Intestinalis Genetic Diversity in Two Traditional Human Populations.  (MA, 2020).  Abigail Gamble
  • Impact of Sample Collection Preparation On Metabolomic And Microbiome Profiles.  (MA, 2019).  Jacob Haffner
  • Choice and Patterns in Midwife Use in the United States.  (MA, 2019).  Kelsey Stewart
  • Biomolecular Preservation in Dental Calculus from the Teotihuacan Ritual Landscape.  (MA, 2019).  Sterling Wright
  • Using Anthropological Perspectives to Integrate the Social and Medical Models of Disability.  (MA, 2017).  Mary Williams



  • Museum Biomolecules: Examining Human Pathogens and Assessing Differential Collection Preservation with Dental Calculus from the National Museum of Natural History.  (PhD, 2020).  Rita Austin
  • Factors Influencing Ecological Dynamics of the Human Microbiome.  (PhD, 2020).  David Jacobson
  • Chinese International Students’ Migration Experiences: A Biocultural Analysis of Health, Food, and Migration.  (PhD, 2019).  Dong Yue
  • Novel Techniques for the Description and Interpretation of the Modern Human Gut and Ancient Human Oral Microbiome.  (PhD, 2018).  Allison Mann