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Katharine Marie Lee

Assistant Professor, Tulane University


Katharine MN Lee is a biological anthropologist and engineer studying women's health using theoretical perspectives derived from feminist biology and anthropology. She completed her PhD in Anthropology with a graduate minor in Gender and Women's Studies and a certificate in Science Communication in summer 2020. Katharine earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University and her Master’s of Science in Business Administration from Texas A&M – Texarkana as part of a fellowship with the Department of Defense. She has worked as an engineer at the Center for Military Biomechanics Research at Natick Soldier Systems Center and the Biophysics and Biomedical Modeling Division of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. Her two main research projects while at UIUC focused on bone health in adult women and the experiences of underrepresented groups in STEM. Working with Polish and Polish-American women, the first project focused on how physical activity and reproductive hormones across the lifespan affect bone in healthy adult premenopausal women. The second project interrogated how identity – gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, ability, and religion – interacts with experiences of hostile work climate and harassment for people in astronomy and planetary sciences. Katharine works to combine her experience in engineering to optimize data collection and manipulation techniques with anthropology to situate that data in complex social and historical contexts. Her dissertation research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Philosophical Society, and multiple internal UIUC funding mechanisms.

Research Description

I am interested in bone health in women of reproductive age. I focus on how physical activity and estrogen interact to affect bone in healthy adult women. I measure both bone density (which changes slowly) and biological markers of bone turnover. Bone is broken down and rebuilt all the time in order to keep it healthy, and the bone turnover markers allow me to see how much building and dissolving is happening at the present time in women. Overall, my goal is to understand how normal women maintain their bones during their entire life.


Tulane University: B.S. Biomedical Engineering

Texas A&M - Texarkana: M.S. Business Administration

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: PhD Anthropology



  • Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
  • National Science Foundation, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
  • American Philosophical Society
  • National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Awards and Honors

  • 2022 Early Career Fellowship to attend Energetics in Anthropology workshop at Duke University
  • 2022 Postdoc Poster Award Finalist American Association for Anatomy Annual Meeting at
  • Experimental Biology 2022
  • 2019 Special Recognition in Graduate Student Leadership Graduate College at the University of
  • Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 2017 American Association of Physical Anthropologists First runner-up as Graduate Student Liaison to AAPA Executive Committee


Recent Publications

  • 2023. Wiedenman, Eric; Lee, Katharine MN; Hunleth, Jean. “The adult in the room: The push and pull of parental involvement in research with children.” Childhood. 
  • 2023. Lee, Katharine MN; Hunleth, Jean; Rolf, Liz; Maki, Julia; Lewis-Thames, Marquita; Oestmann, Kevin; James, Aimee. “Distance and Transportation Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening in a Rural Community.” Journal of Primary Care & Community Health 14 (January 2023): 215013192211471. 
  • 2022. Danielsen, Anne Caroline; Boulicault, Marion; Gompers, Annika; Rushovich, Tamara; Lee, Katharine MN; Richardson, Sarah S. “How cumulative statistics can mislead: The temporal dynamism of sex disparities in COVID-19 mortality in New York State.” Int J Environ Res Public Health, no. 21: 14066. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192114066.
  • 2022. Eyre, Alexander W; Zapata, Isain; Hare, Elizabeth; Lee, Katharine MN; Essler, Jennifer
  • L; Otto, Cynthia; Serpell, James A; Alvarez, Carlos E. “Genome scanning of negative selection in a canine model of complex learning.” Sci Rep 12, 14984. doi: 10.1038/s41598- 022-18698-4.
  • 2022. Lee, Katharine MN; Junkins, Eleanor J; Fatima, Urooba A; Cox, Maria L; Clancy, Kathryn BH. “Investigating trends in those who experience menstrual bleeding changes after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination.” Science Advances. Vol 8(28). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abm7201. News Coverage (partial list): New York Times, Science News, Popular Science, Marie Claire (Brazil), BBC’s “The Naked Scientists” podcast, NBC News,, Medical News Today