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Cornell University    
  Nov 17, 2017
Courses of Study 2015-2016 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Human Biology Program

In the College of Arts and Sciences .

 Course Offerings 

Human biology integrates the methods and theories of many disciplines, such as biological anthropology, nutrition, neurobiology, physiology, psychology, demography, ecology, genetics, and paleontology into a comprehensive study of biological diversity in Homo sapiens. A central focus of this interdisciplinary approach to the study of the human organism is an understanding of evolutionary processes that explain our biological variation through space and time. The curriculum of study seeks to educate future biological scientists to address the concerns of a society that is becoming more demanding of the scientific community to place its specialized biological knowledge in a broad context. The human biology curriculum is of particular relevance to undergraduate students in premedical and predentistry programs, biological anthropology, nutrition, human development, ecology and evolutionary biology, psychology, physiology, genetics, and the health-related sciences. It serves to bring together students who have a common interest in humankind as defined from these diverse fields and to provide a forum for student–faculty interaction on various topics relating to human evolution and biological diversity. Human biology is not a major but a curriculum of study that provides majors in various departments and colleges with a program for selecting elective courses that deal with the biology of the human species. Students after their freshman year may develop a program of study in human biology while majoring in any one of a number of different departmental fields.


J. Haas, nutritional sciences, director (220 Savage Hall, (607) 255–2665); A. C. Arcadi (anthropology), A. Clark (molecular biology and genetics); P. Cassano (nutritional sciences); B. Finlay (psychology); J. Fortune (physiology/feminist, gender, & sexuality studies), R. Johnston (psychology), D. Levitsky (nutritional sciences), D. L. Pelletier (nutritional sciences), W. Provine (ecology and systematics/history), S. Robertson (human development), N. Russell (anthropology), R. Savin-Williams (human development), M. Small (anthropology)

Basic Requirements:

The requirements for a program of study in human biology are designed to ensure sufficient background in physical sciences and mathematics to enable the student to pursue a wide range of interests in the fields of modern biological sciences, anthropology, and fields related to the evolution and biological diversity of the human species. Adjustments may be made in these requirements, depending on the student’s academic background and affiliation with colleges and schools within the university.

The basic requirements are:

One year of introductory biology (choose from the following options):

Additional Requirements:

It is recommended that students planning graduate study in biological anthropology, psychology, and related fields in the medical and nutritional sciences take a course in statistics. Students should consult their faculty advisor in human biology for help in selecting appropriate courses.

Elective courses should be taken that enable the student to acquire breadth in the subject matter of human biology outside of their departmental major. Therefore only 6 of the 15 human biology elective credits may also fulfill requirements for the major. Courses should be selected that also provide sufficient exposure to the integration of basic anatomical and physiological sciences with the behavior of individuals and groups within the context of evolutionary theory and ecology. The courses listed below are representative of the offerings in human biology and are included to assist the student in organizing a curriculum of study. They are organized into three groups that reflect the three levels of integration noted above: (1) human anatomy and physiology, (2) human behavior, and (3) human evolution and ecology. Students should choose at least one course from each of these areas of integration. It is anticipated that the student will include in a program of study at least one of the laboratory courses offered. It is expected that a student will take a minimum of 15 credits from among these courses.

There is no foreign language requirement for human biology beyond what is dictated by specific departments and colleges. The requirements for the human biology curriculum are set alongside requirements of the undergraduate majors as these are defined by different departments. Students with independent majors may design their own programs of study under the guidelines provided by their college. Although a student may indicate an interest in human biology in the freshman year and be able to obtain early guidance from a faculty advisor representing the curriculum of study, it is more usual for students to establish their course programs in the first semester of the junior year. The student may request one of the faculty advisors in his or her department who is listed as faculty in human biology to be their principal advisor, or he or she may have an advisor in the department of the major and seek the advice of a human biology faculty advisor in matters pertaining to satisfaction of the requirements. In certain cases a faculty advisor may represent both the major and the curriculum of study in human biology.