A biological anthropologist whose research revolves around the dynamic maternal environment, Dr. Julienne Rutherford is fascinated by the early design of bodies and the lives they go on to lead.
Focusing on the placenta as an interactive signaling interface between mother and fetus, and studying its development, anatomy, and function in her lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), she works with both humans and monkeys to address questions regarding the effect of maternal ecology (nutrition, life history experience, behavior) on placental functional morphology and birth outcomes, and the downstream consequences for health later in life.
Her cutting-edge work is demonstrating that adult females’ reproductive performance is shaped by the environments they experienced as fetuses. As a pioneer of this ‘womb to womb’ approach to women’s health, Julienne recently received a prestigious $1.75 million dollar research award from the National Institutes of Health.
Since completing her PhD at Indiana University in 2007, she’s published 14 articles in scientific journals and 4 book chapters. Along with her colleagues Kate Clancy, PhD (University of Illinois) and Katie Hinde, PhD (Harvard) she co-edited the landmark volume Building Babies: Primate Development in Proximate and Ultimate Perspective. Her research has been highlighted on CNN and in Science Daily, Science Magazine, The East African, Illinois Health Magazine, and The Telegraph (UK), and she recently appeared in the documentary, Sex and Nature: The Evolution of Mating, Childbirth and Parenthood. Recognized as an emerging leader in her field, she’s received research and leadership awards from the American Anthropological Association, American Society of Primatology, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Perinatal Research Society, and the International Federation of Placenta Associations.
She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Women, Children, and Family Health Science in the College of Nursing at UIC, where she teaches midwifery students the ins and outs of maternal reproductive biology and anatomy. In addition to her intellectual and educational pursuits, Julienne is passionate about eradicating sexual harassment and gender inequity from the sciences.