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PHS Monday Seminar- Colter Mitchell, PhD: Biosocial Approaches to Examining Health Inequalities
February 17, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Research Assistant Professor
Population Studies Center
Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan
Measures of social disadvantage such as poverty, neighborhood violence, and parental incarceration have well documented health and behavioral consequences for children, which can even reach into adulthood leading to health inequalities. Social disadvantage likely operates through both social and biological mechanisms; however, only in the last decade and a half have we seen a rapid increase in the integration of social science and biology. I investigate biological correlates of social disadvantage using the Fragile Family and Child Wellbeing Study (n=4898), a population-based sample of children born in hospitals in 20 cities in the US. Families have been studied at birth and ages 1,3,5,9, and 15, with additions of genetic, epigenetic, and neuroimaging data collected more recently. Due to the study design the sample is racially and ethnically diverse and has lower SES levels than most large national studies— making it exceptionally rare within biosocial research. Of particular interest here are the correlations with genomic (polygenic scores, and changes in epigenetic profiles and telomere length) and functional and structural neuroimaging measures with the effect of cumulative disadvantage and timing of social disadvantage.
Colter Mitchell is the Director of the Institute for Social Research Biospecimen Lab, the Associate Director of the Biosocial Methods Collaborative, and is a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. He has a broad background in sociology, demography, statistics, genetics, and molecular biology. His research utilizes population-based studies to examine the influences of demographic, individual, family, and social environmental influences on health and behavior—specially focusing on development over the life course. He examines how social contextual factors interact with and influence genetic, epigenetic, and neurodevelopment data and how those in turn predict later life health and wellbeing. He co-directs the NIA funded R25 course on Genomics for Social Scientists and leads the collection and analysis of the biological data for the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing project. He recently won the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering for his work on social epigenetics funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities.