Department or Program

Biological Sciences

Additional Department or Program (if any)


Title of Approved Individual Major

Health and Society

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Andrew C. Webb

Additional Advisor(s)

Didem Vardar-Ulu

Additional Advisor

Adam Van Arsdale


Epigenetics is an up and coming field that investigates heritable changes in gene expression that are a result of our environment and, in many cases, our lifestyle and culture. In an effort to look at the current obesity epidemic from multiple disciplines, this thesis encompassed both a biological and an anthropological study. The biological aim was to investigate a possible correlation between lifestyle and the expression of genes related to obesity. The anthropological aim was to investigate mechanisms of lifestyle change and social understandings of epigenetic phenomena. The project resulted in a refined protocol for future multi-disciplinary research into obesity epigenetics as well as suggestions for social means of reversing the obesity epidemic.