Human Evolutionary Biology

Professor David Pilbeam, Head Tutor
Dr. Carole Hooven, Concentration Adviser

Evolutionary theory provides a powerful framework for investigating questions about why humans are the way they are. Human evolutionary biologists seek to understand how evolutionary forces have shaped our design, our biology, and our patterns of behavior. Examples of questions in which we are interested:

Human Evolutionary Biology (HEB) provides a general foundation in human and organismic biology as part of the life sciences cluster of concentrations. Students interested in addressing questions about human and non-human primate cognition from the perspective of human evolutionary biology may pursue a special program of study affiliated with the University-wide Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative.

We encourage our students to get involved in research in HEB, and we offer many small, advanced courses for students to work intensively with members of the faculty. Opportunities vary from primarily lab-based research—such as in behavioral endocrinology, dental histology, evolutionary genetics, phylogenetics, anatomy, or primate and human nutrition—to field-based work—such as studying hunter-gatherers in South America or primates in East Africa. Our faculty work closely with undergraduates on research projects of all kinds, for senior theses, research seminars and tutorial classes.

HEB offers a rigorous background in human evolutionary biology while encouraging interdisciplinary work. We offer students three options: the basic non-honors degree, thesis honors, and non-thesis honors. All students take Life Sciences 1a, Life Sciences 1b, a sophomore tutorial, and a junior research seminar.

REQUIREMENTS

Basic Requirements: 12 half-courses

  1. Required Courses:

    1. Life Sciences 1a and 1b (normally in freshman year).

    2. Four half-courses, selected from those offered in HEB, or approved half-courses in related fields such as Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.

    3. Four additional half-courses in related fields. These can include: up to three half-courses from Physical Sciences 1, 2, and 3; up to two half-courses of math and/or bio-statistics; one half-course of organic chemistry; up to two half-courses in approved courses in additional related fields (e.g., organismic and evolutionary biology, molecular and cellular biology, psychology).

  2. Tutorials (All letter-graded)

    1. Sophomore year: Sophomore tutorial (ordinarily taken in the spring term of the sophomore year). This seminar integrates the field with modules on each of the major sub-fields within the discipline; it also provides a joint experience for all concentrators in an intimate seminar environment.

    2. Junior year: Junior research seminar. A small course, normally taken in the junior year (may be taken senior year), which includes an independent research component and is taught by a member of the faculty.

  3. Thesis: None

  4. General Examination: None.

  5. Other information:

    1. Pass/Fail: Two courses may be taken pass/fail and counted for concentration credit with permission from the concentration adviser or head tutor. These ordinarily include courses in related fields. All tutorials are letter graded.

    2. Languages: No requirement.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 14 half-courses

Thesis Track Honors

  1. Required Courses:
        a-c. Same as Basic Requirements.

  2. Tutorials (All letter-graded):

    1. Sophomore year: Sophomore tutorial (ordinarily taken in the spring term of the sophomore year). Same as Basic Requirements.

    2. Junior year: Thesis candidates must take a thesis research-related course, either a junior research seminar or a supervised reading and research course (91r).

    3. Senior year: HEB 99 (full course, letter graded), culminating in the submission of a senior thesis, followed by an oral examination on the thesis.

  3. Thesis: Required

  4. General Examination: The department will administer to each student a one-hour examination covering primarily the substance of the thesis as well as general knowledge of the field.

  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Non-Thesis Track Honors

  1. Required Courses:

        a-c. Same as Basic Requirements.

        d. Two additional half-courses in HEB or related fields approved in advance by the concentration adviser. These courses are ordinarily advanced lectures, seminars, or supervised reading courses on a focused topic; the topic should be related to one half-course selected from the Basic Requirements.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: Same as Basic Requirements.

    2. Junior year: Junior research seminar. Same as Basic Requirements.

    3. Senior year: None.

  3. Thesis: None.

  4. Submission of written work: Prior to reading period in the eighth term each student will submit to the department a substantive piece of writing in the field, ordinarily a term paper or report on original research, as well as a senior essay assigned by the concentration adviser that integrates the advanced courses selected for the focused topic.

  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

Human Evolutionary Biology/Mind Brain and Behavior Track
14 half-courses

  1. Required Courses:

    1. Life Sciences 1b (normally in freshman year).

    2. Science of Living Systems 20 or Science B-29 (or Science B-62 for classes of 2012 and 2011).

    3. MCB 80 (formerly Biological Sciences 80).

    4. Two half-courses, to be chosen from among the following subfields: human evolution, human anatomy and/or physiology, human reproductive biology, primate behavioral ecology, human behavioral ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics and genomics.

    5. Two additional half-courses in Mind, Brain, and Behavior.

    6. Three additional half-courses in related fields. These can include: up to three half-courses from Physical Sciences 1, 2, and 3; up to two half-courses of math and/or biostatistics; one half-course of organic chemistry; up to two half-courses in approved courses in additional related fields (e.g., organismic and evolutionary biology, molecular and cellular biology, psychology).

  2. Tutorials (All letter-graded):

    1. Sophomore year: Sophomore tutorial (ordinarily taken in the spring term of the sophomore year). Same as Basic Requirements.

    2. Junior year: One half-course MBB-approved seminar.

    3. Senior year: HEB 99 (full course, letter graded), culminating in the submission of a senior thesis, followed by an oral examination on the thesis.

  3. Thesis: Required.

  4. General Examination: One-hour oral defense (see Thesis, above).

  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.

ADVISING

Dr. Carole Hooven, the concentration adviser, is available to provide guidance on matters such as course selection, research, fulfillment of concentration requirements, summer plans and career goals. Visit www.lifescience.fas.harvard.edu/ for more information. The Head Tutor and members of the HEB faculty also provide mentoring on academic and career issues.

For up-to-date information on advising in Human Evolutionary Biology, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

Concentration adviser: Dr. Carole Hooven, Peabody 55F, hooven@fas.harvard.edu. David Pilbeam, Head Tutor: pilbeam@fas.harvard.edu.

CORE AND GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Quantitative Reasoning

†Historical Study A

Science A

†Historical Study B

Science B

†Literature and Arts A

ONE of the areas marked †.

Literature and Arts B

 

†Literature and Arts C

 

Moral Reasoning

 

Social Analysis

 

For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS

Number of concentrators as of December

Concentrators

2006

2007

2008

Human Evolutionary Biology

72

110

132

HEB + another field

0

1

1

Another field + HEB

0

1

0