Van Andel Institute welcomes epigeneticist Dr. Nick Burton to its faculty

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Oct. 12, 2021) — Van Andel Institute has recruited Nick Burton, Ph.D., to its growing faculty, further expanding its research into the interplay between environment, epigenetics and health.

Nick Burton, Ph.D.

Burton will arrive in Grand Rapids this autumn as an assistant professor in VAI’s Department of Epigenetics. Prior to joining the Institute, he was an independent Next Generation Fellow at University of Cambridge’s Centre for Trophoblast Research.

“In the last decade, it has become increasingly clear that an individual’s environment and their epigenetics play a major role in determining whether or not they will go on to develop many different pathologies ranging from diabetes to autism,” Burton said. “We are now beginning to understand the mechanisms underlying many of these observations. At Van Andel Institute, I look forward to working alongside many world-class researchers looking to solve these mechanisms and find new ways to improve human health.”

Burton’s research explores how a person’s environmental exposures can impact the health of their children and subsequent generations. These factors, called intergenerational effects, influence physiological development and may help offspring adapt to the environment into which they are about to be born. However, many of these adaptations can also have negative consequences in mismatched environments and may even predispose individuals to certain diseases. He is particularly interested in how microbes and the microbiome — the complex population of bacteria and other microorganisms that call the human body home — can contribute to and interact with these processes.

Burton hopes to reveal the mechanisms that govern intergenerational effects and leverage his findings to improve health and combat disease.

“Dr. Burton’s cutting-edge research has major implications for revealing new insights into how the experiences and exposures of one generation may predispose the next generation to health or disease,” said J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D., chair of VAI’s Department of Epigenetics. “We are delighted to welcome Dr. Burton to the VAI team and look forward to his future accomplishments.”

Burton is the fourth faculty member to join VAI in 2021. His recruitment is part of an ongoing strategic initiative to expand and bolster VAI’s research programs.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through cutting edge biomedical research and innovative educational offerings. Established in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1996 by the Van Andel family, VAI is now home to nearly 500 scientists, educators and support staff, who work with a growing number of national and international collaborators to foster discovery. The Institute’s scientists study the origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translate their findings into breakthrough prevention and treatment strategies. Our educators develop inquiry-based approaches for K-12 education to help students and teachers prepare the next generation of problem-solvers, while our Graduate School offers a rigorous, research-intensive Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. Learn more at vai.org.