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Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease



Faculty and Staff

Sheila Walker, PhD
Research Associate
Phone: 410.955.4140
Fax: 410.502.5831

Research and Professional Experience

Sheila Walker’s doctoral research in the field of Behavioral Genetics examined the relative influence of genes and the environment on educationally-relevant behavior. Specifically, her work focused on the respective influences of “nature” and “nurture” on behavioral traits such as academic achievement, cognitive abilities, and children's perceptions of their classroom environments. As well, her work explored teacher and parent perceptions of the importance of genetic and environmental influences on various aspects of behavior relevant to the field of education.

Currently, Dr. Walker's interests involve examining ways to harness genomic and epigenetic research early in development to promote healthy behavior and optimal health outcomes. Specifically, she is interested in the intersection between genomics, epigenetics, nutrition and exercise in developing research-based solutions to address the obesity epidemic in order to enhance quality of life and decrease commensurate health complications such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Walker also enjoys teaching, and has devoted most of her academic career to teaching an undergraduate course in Behavioral Genetics focused on the relative influence and interplay between nature and nurture in human development.  Prior to entering academia, Dr. Walker was a mutual fund Portfolio Manager in Denver, Colorado. Her first job after college was as a professional tennis player in Europe. Dr. Walker is married with three boys and lives in the District of Colombia.


  • Wang, G. Walker, S.O., Hong, X., Bartell, T.R., Wang, X.  Epigenetics and early life origins of chronic non-communicable diseases.  In press, Journal of Adolescent Health.
  • Walker, S.O., Petrill, S., Plomin, R. "A genetically sensitive investigation of the effects of the school environment and socio-economic status on academic achievement in 7-year-olds." Educational Psychology 25.1 (2005): 55-73.
  • Walker, S.O., Plomin, R. "The nature - nurture question: Teachers’ perceptions of how genes and the environment influence educationally relevant behaviour." Educational Psychology 25.5 (2005): 509-516.
  • Walker, S.O., Plomin, R. "Nature, nurture and perceptions of the classroom environment as they relate to teacher-assessed academic achievement: A twin study of 9 year-olds." Educational Psychology 26.4 (2005): 541-561.
  • Walker, S.O., Petrill, S., Spinath, F.M., Plomin, R. "Nature, nurture and academic achievement: A twin study of teacher assessments of 7-year-olds." British Journal of Educational Psychology 74.3 (2004): 323-342.
  • Oliver, B., Harlaar, N., Hayiou Thomas, N.E., Walker, S.O., Petrill, S.A., Spinath, F.M., Dale, P.S., Plomin, R.  "A twin study of mathematics disabilities and abilities in 7-year-olds." Journal of Educational Psychology 96.3 (2004): 504-517.
  • Plomin, R. & Walker, S.O. "Genetics and educational psychology." British Journal of Educational Psychology 73 (2003): 3-14.


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