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Anthro News Newsletter

Anthropology Alumni Spotlight

Caitlyn Placek

Placek (seated) with a collaborator from the Public Health Research Institute and Jenu Kuruba adolescents during an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship, 2016-2017. (click to enlarge photo)

Since graduation I have stayed busy juggling academic and non-academic work, both within anthropology and in global health. For my first year after graduation, I served as an NIH Global Health Equity Scholars fellow with the Department of Epidemiology at Florida International University and the Public Health Research Institute in Mysore, India, where I conducted collaborative mixed-methods research on gender differences in drug use among two populations.

After that, I began my position as an Assistant Professor at Ball State University, where I teach biological and medical anthropology courses. Since beginning this position, I have forged connections in the College of Health where my colleagues and I are conducting ongoing community-engaged research on maternal polysubstance use in Indiana. This project has generated internal and external funding, research opportunities for students, and the development of a biocultural anthropology lab in my department.

In 2019, I co-led a service-learning course where BSU students partnered with a local organization to study community perceptions of maternal drug use. The students generated final “products” to share with the local community with the aim to de-stigmatize addiction in pregnancy. In addition to this local work, I continue to conduct collaborative research in India on maternal dietary patterns from a biocultural perspective (specifically pregnancy fasting), and women’s polysubstance use in urban India. To date, my research has generated over 30 publications in anthropology and public health journals, with some papers that include undergraduate students as co-authors.

In addition to my academic work, I have a part-time gig as a program evaluator for Centerstone Research Institute. In this role, I oversee grants focusing on opioid use disorder and medication-assisted treatment across Indiana, Illinois, and Florida. This opportunity allows me to use my anthropological research skills in an applied setting, and to mentor post-graduates on mixed-methods research, R, and publishing.


Placek, C. D., Place, J. M., & Wies, J. (2021). Reflections and Challenges of Pregnant and Postpartum Participant Recruitment in the Context of the Opioid Epidemic. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 1-5.

Placek, C. D., Magnan, R. E., Srinivas, V., Jaykrishna, P., Ravi, K., Khan, A., & Hagen, E. H. (2021). The impact of information about tobacco-related reproductive vs. general health risks on South Indian women’s tobacco use decisions. Evolutionary Human Sciences3.

Placek, C. D., Jaykrishna, P., Srinivas, V., & Madhivanan, P. (2021). Pregnancy Fasting in Ramadan: Toward a Biocultural Framework. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 1-25.

Urassa, M., Lawson, D. W., Wamoyi, J., Gurmu, E., Gibson, M. A., Madhivanan, P., & Placek, C. (2021). Cross-cultural research must prioritize equitable collaboration. Nature Human Behaviour5(6), 668-671.