Current Research

The Human and Evolutionary Biology research laboratories are divided into these areas of study:

Dr. Boehm

Professor Boehm is a cultural anthropologist with a subspecialty in primatology, who researches conflict resolution, altruism, moral origins, and feuding and warfare. Specific interests include evolutiary theory including social selection and group selection conscience origins, evolution of political behavior in apes and humans, language evolution, and the role of rational decisions in evolutionary process. He has done field research with Navajos and tribal Serbs, and also with wild chimpanzees. In conjunction with the Jane Goodall Research Center at USC, he is presently creating a database to further the evolutionary study of hunter-gatherer social and political behavior.

Dr. Delgado

Professor Delgado's primary research interest has been to utilize an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the basis of human social behavior. His current focus is on sexual selection, the evolution of communication, and geographic variation. He studies these topics from an ecological and evolutionary perspective, examining social structure, vocal signaling and reproductive strategies among extant primates in the wild and exploring the implications for early human societies and their ancestors.

Dr. Donovan

The efforts of Dr. Donovan's lab are directed at understanding the mechanisms by which the body detects low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and how it integrates that information to generate corrective responses and maintain bodily homeostasis. They are particularly interested in peripheral glucose sensors located in the gut, which play a prominent role in detecting small or slow changes in blood glucose. They have characterized various aspects of these sensory neurons (i.e. type, origin, metabolism), and have begun to exam their role in pathological states (e.g. diabetes). In collaboration with Dr. Alan Watts (Biological Sciences - Neuroscience), they are also examining the interaction between these peripheral glucose sensors and those located in the brain. Because brain function is central for the proper integration of neural and endocrine signals, the two labs are working to unravel the mechanisms that integrate information from peripheral-central "networks" of nutrient sensors during homeostatic challenges.

Dr. Kanoski

Dr. Scott Kanoski’s research focuses on the neurophysiological control of food intake and body weight regulation. More specifically his interests are centered on understanding how the brain processes peripherally-derived neuroendocrine signals (e.g., leptin, ghrelin, GLP-1) to control “higher-order” aspects of feeding behavior, as well as how these neuroendocrine systems contribute to and are compromised by obesity and metabolic disorders. Dr. Kanoski's lab also focuses on understanding how obesity and consumption of unhealthy "Western diets" contribute to the development of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's pathology.  


Dr. McNitt-Gray's research is truly interdisciplinary in nature. In collaboration with Dr. Flashner (Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering) and Dr. Requejo (Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center) and Dr. Mathiyakom (VA Greater Los Angeles), she has developed and uses experimentally-validated dynamic musculoskeletal models to study control and dynamics of physically demanding movements (elite performers, clinical/ergonomic populations, extinct organisms). In addition, she has co-mentored Jack Tseng (IEB graduate student, recipient of Fulbright and NSF scholarships as well as a National Geographic Society grant) with Xiaoming Wang (Curator, National History Museum of Los Angeles Country) to study the relationship between form and function in carnivoran mammals. She has received national and international recognition for her use of multimedia tools to communicate results of these studies to faculty and researchers with diverse backgrounds and to facilitate the translation of basic science into practice. Most recently, USC awarded her the Mellon Mentoring Award for faculty mentoring undergraduate students. She currrently serves as the Past-President of the American Society of Biomechanics.

Dr. Stanford

Professor Stanford's work has often focused on the ecological relationships among the primate species sharing a tropical forest ecosystem. He has conducted field studies in East Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. In addition to 15 years research on chimpanzee behavioral ecology in East Africa, he has recently been collaborating in studies on endangered Asian primates and other animals. He also holds a research appointment in vertebrate biology at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, and is involved in the biology and conservation of endangered tortoises in southeast Asia.

Dr. Turcotte

Dr. Lorraine Turcotte investigates the importance of signaling cascades in the regulation of fuel use. To investigate this, energy intake or energy output are manipulated using different dietary regimens and various exercise protocols. In both cell lines and mouse models, manipulations of energy state and of genetic profile allow for the testing of different hypotheses on the pivotal roles played by specific signaling cascades and cellular mechanisms to maintain energy homeostasis in the face of perturbations in energy intake or energy output. Turcotte is also collaborating with Dr. Alicia McDonough of the Keck School of Medicine to investigate research questions about the cellular mechanisms that lead to perturbations in potassium homeostasis and lead to muscle fatigue.

If you wish to work with one of the Human and Evolutionary Biology faculty members above while earning a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences or Biomedical Engineering, please visit the faculty members’ profiles and contact them directly to discuss research and funding possibilities. Undergraduates interested in exploring research opportunities in these labs, click here.

  • Department of Biological Sciences
  • University of Southern California
  • Allan Hancock Foundation Building
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371