Thomas McDade is a biological anthropologist specializing in human biology and population health. He is recognized for research on the developmental and ecological factors that shape the human immune system, for advancing life course research that integrates perspectives from the biological and social sciences, and for developing minimally-invasive methods for assessing markers of endocrine and immune function in non-clinical, field-based settings. McDade was born in Des Plaines, Illinois, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He graduated from Pomona College with a degree in biosocial anthropology and from Emory University with a Ph.D. in anthropology. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and joined the faculty of Northwestern University in 2000. In 2002 he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Thomas McDade's research emphasizes the importance of understanding human biology in context. He has developed theoretical and conceptual models that have advanced research in human ecological immunology, as well as the biosocial paradigm in population health. Comparative, field-based studies in a range of international settings have led to the discovery that microbial exposures early in development shape the regulation of inflammation in adulthood. Parallel studies in the United States have documented long term effects of birth weight and breastfeeding duration on chronic inflammation later in life, with implications for social inequities in chronic degenerative disease risk. New methodological tools that bridge field- and laboratory-based approaches have served as the foundation for much of this work, and McDade's lab is recognized for innovating protocols that probe multiple aspects of human immune and endocrine function. Many of these protocols require only a drop of blood from a simple finger stick, lowering the costs and burdens of blood collection to facilitate research into the social and ecological determinants of health across diverse community-based settings.

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Section 51: Anthropology