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Human Genetics Seminar Series

Grand Rounds Cryptic Effects at a Distance - Sarah Richardson

Friday 1/17 12:00PM - 1:00PM
Public Health Lecture Hall (A115)

Sarah Richardson

Professor of the History of Science and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University

Cryptic Effects at a Distance: Constructing Causal Claims in Fetal Epigenetic Programming Research

This talk offers a critical analysis of three touchstone research streams linking epigenetic markers with prenatal exposures and later life health in human populations: studies from 2008-2018 of individuals gestated during the Dutch Famine; research on individuals prenatally exposed to a 1998 ice storm in Quebec; and studies of the offspring of Jewish Holocaust survivors. In human studies, maternal intrauterine effects are what Richardson calls cryptic: they are small in effect size, vary depending on ecosocial context, and occur at a great temporal distance from the initial exposure. The fetal epigenetic programming hypothesis functions as a narrative glue that coheres disparate cryptic findings into plausible causal stories. Through close analysis of these research streams, Richardson examines precisely what inferences scientists believe epigenetic studies can support, and how, in practice, scientists construct causal claims in fetal epigenetic programming research, despite the crypticity of their findings.

Last Updated On Monday, January 13, 2020 by Roberts, Jessica Elizabeth
Created On Monday, January 6, 2020