David Samson

David Samson

Monday, September 10, 2018 - 1:39pm

POSITION: Assistant Professor, Tenure Stream

ACADEMIC UNIT: Anthropology

PLACE OF BIRTH: Fredericton, NB


“My dream is to build a natural human sleep database that spans the globe.”


Although David Samson’s father is Quebecois, his mother is American, and he grew up in Indiana, never anticipating that his career would bring him back to Canada.

“I consider myself really lucky to be here,” Samson says. “U of T is an amazing institution and Toronto is a cultural hub. I had multiple offers, but there was no debate. U of T punches with the heavyweights.”

During his first year on campus, Samson received research grants from UTM and the Connaught Foundation, but is excited about landing his first grant from the federal government’s Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council. It will enable him to fulfil his ambition of establishing his own sleep lab.

“I have two research assistants for the fall and two graduate students coming in,” he says enthusiastically. “My dream is to build a natural human sleep database that spans the globe. I’ll be looking at populations outside economically developed economies to examine sleep in environments with fewer barriers.” Sleep barriers include 24-hour access to lighting and temperature regulation.

Samson maintains that hunter-gatherer populations are the best proxies for our ancestors and their more natural sleep patterns. He is currently working with a colleague at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver to explore the sleep patterns of a Mayan population in Guatemala that has a less modernized lifestyle than that in North America.

“No matter what we find, it will be interesting,” he says. “And the students coming to work with me already have populations they are eager to research.”

In addition to his enthusiasm for research, Samson loves teaching and is delighted to be in the classroom. “It’s great that at UTM there is a real commitment to pedagogy; it is taken as seriously as research. You can integrate so many media, such as podcasts, into your classroom and there is the opportunity for extended deep dialogue to flesh out nuances.

“I want my students to see how they can use evolutionary theory to empower their own lives.”

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