This week we’re pleased to welcome a big group of new contributors to the blog. By way of introduction, I asked each of them to answer a few quick questions about him- or herself. —Jeremy
Who are you? Is this an existential question? I guess my answer is that I’m Noah Snyder-Mackler – a researcher who studies non-human primate genetics and genomics at Duke University, but that’s not that deep, is it? A bit more: I received my BA in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007 and my PhD from the same department and institution in 2012. My dissertation work focused on understanding social and genetic structure of the complex society of the gelada monkey.
What do you study? My cocktail party answer is: I study why stress is bad for you and why having good friends helps alleviate some of the negative effects of stress.
The more detailed answer is: I study why humans and non-human primates are so prosocial and how this confers benefits to health and fitness – particularly when individuals are faced with acute and chronic stress. To do so, I integrate theory and observational methods from behavioral ecology with cutting-edge genomics tools – such as RNA-seq and ATAC-seq. My work mainly involves three non-human primate species: rhesus macaques – in captivity and free-ranging on the island of Cayo Santiago; yellow baboons – in collaboration with the Amboseli Baboon Research Project; and gelada monkeys – in collaboration with the University of Michigan Gelada Research Project. In the wild populations primary tissue is hard to come by – so I work mainly with fecal-derived DNA samples. In captivity – we’re able to easily obtain primary white blood cells, which are perfect for addressing the question of how stress and social behaviors “get under the skin” to affect health and fitness.
What do you do when you’re not studying it? When I’m not working – I can be found pretending to know how to grow a successful vegetable garden, playing soccer or basketball, watching sports, talking to my dog like he is a person, brushing up on my hip hop dance moves, being a snob about beer, and cooking delicious food with my girlfriend.