In the College of Human Ecology .
Our interdisciplinary unit studies human development across the lifespan and integrates lab-based and real-world research to enhance development and well-being in diverse environments and populations. Human development majors explore the psychological, social, cultural, and biological development of people from conception to old age, focusing on the processes and mechanisms of growth and change over the life course. An important emphasis is the role that social institutions such as schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods play in human development, as well as the influence that developing people have on their environments. The human development major provides an excellent foundation for many professional careers, such as law, medicine (pediatrics, geriatrics, neurology, and psychiatry), clinical psychology and other mental health professions, education, social work, other health-related professions, business, nonprofit management, and advocacy. Many human development graduates attend graduate school in the fields of human development, psychology, and sociology.
Classes in human development cover a wide range of issues and approaches, and are organized into three different areas: (1) Law and Human Development; (2) Health and Well-Being; and (3) Cognition in Context. The faculty in the Department of Human Development come from multiple disciplines, including developmental psychology, neuroscience, clinical psychology, education, political science, and sociology. The research of the department’s faculty is extensive and world renowned and addresses issues such as the neurobiological basis of personality, the role of childhood attachments in the development of adult romantic relationships, the acquisition of language in infants, the effects of environmental stressors on children’s cognitive development, interventions to prevent and mitigate the impacts of child maltreatment, risk-taking during adolescence, risk and resilience factors across the life course, the epidemiology of elder mistreatment, memory and the legal system, health care decision making among older people, and strategies to prevent social isolation and promote social integration among older people.
Starting Fall 2021, the Department of Human Development and the Department of Psychology will merge into a cross-college department. As a result, HD majors will have even more opportunities to take classes on a broader range of topics and to learn from faculty with more diverse areas of expertise.
Q. Wang, chair; C. Loeckenhoff, director of graduate studies; E. DeRosa, director of undergraduate studies; A. Anderson, L. Bian, C. Brainerd, A. Burrow, D. Casasanto, M. Casasola, S. Ceci, G. Evans, M. Gonzalez, C. Hazan, W. Hobbs, K. Kinzler, T. Kushnir, J. Mendle, B. Ojalehto, A. Ong, K. Pillemer, V. Reyna, R. Sternberg, F. Thoemmes, W. Williams.
Human development is one of the most diverse majors in the College of Human Ecology. The major is flexible enough to give students ample opportunity to meet the requirements for admission to professional degree programs, including medical, dental, law, public health, social work, and business schools. Requirements specified by the College of Human Ecology make up part of each student’s curriculum, and include classes in the social and natural sciences, statistics, humanities, and writing. To fulfill department and college requirements, Human Development majors must take at least one biology course.
Beyond the required formal course work, students in human development have many other opportunities that involve ongoing individual work with Cornell faculty or other professionals. Academic credit can be earned through all of them, up to the limit specified by the college (with some restrictions noted below).
Laboratory courses. Human development students may earn credit toward the major by taking formal courses designed to teach laboratory and other research techniques, including study design, data collection, and data analysis. Students may count one of these courses toward the credits required for the Human Development major. Additional elective credits can be earned toward graduation by enrolling in individual faculty research programs, as described below.
Faculty research. Many human development students work for several semesters as research assistants on faculty projects. On these projects, students get further training in research techniques such as laboratory experiments, surveys, and scientific behavioral observation. Participation in faculty research provides the type of experience that many graduate and professional schools expect from their top applicants. Recent projects involving students have included (1) language acquisition among infants in bilingual households or settings, (2) experimental studies of risky decision making among teens, and (3) the impact of poverty on stress responses in children and teens. Participation in faculty research for credit counts as elective credit toward graduation in the College of Human Ecology (up to the limit specified by the college). By the time they graduate, approximately 80% of human development undergraduates have had lab or community outreach research experience.
Independent research. Under faculty supervision, some advanced students complete an honors thesis. Applications to enter the honors program are due in the first semester of the junior year. Honors theses typically involve a topic related to faculty research, and all applicants must have experience working on research projects and must meet other program requirements for research methods and advanced statistics. Seniors in the honors program register for an honors seminar and for honors thesis credits. The seminar and honors thesis credits count as elective credits toward graduation in the college (up to the limit specified by the college).
Field Placements. Human development majors can arrange internships with Urban Semester in New York City, Cornell in Washington, and Cornell Abroad programs. Students may also arrange internships during the fall and spring semesters in the Ithaca area. All such field placements are required to be under the supervision of a human development faculty member. In recent years, human development students have participated in projects with the Tompkins County Office on Aging, the Tompkins County Human Service Coalition, Kendal of Ithaca, local schools, the Tompkins County Youth Bureau, and the Law Guardian’s Office of Tompkins County. Summer internship credit is not allowed in Human Development unless the student is enrolled for Cornell University credit over the summer. Field Placement credits count as elective credits toward graduation (up to the limit specified by the college).
Undergraduate Teaching Assistantships. Advanced students can serve as undergraduate teaching assistants. The teaching assistantship requires work with the professor teaching the course as well as contact with students. Undergraduate teaching assistantships are for credit only. Teaching assistantship credits count as elective credits toward graduation (up to the limit specified by the college).
HD Honors Program
All HD majors have the option to complete the Human Development Honors Program, which is a two-year program where students are expected to defend an original research thesis. You must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher and complete your first statistics class before applying in the Fall of your junior year.
Human Development Major
In addition to college requirements , students in the Human Development Major must complete specific requirements listed here.
The requirements listed below pertain to all students matriculating in August 2021 and January 2022.
HD Intro Courses
HD Introductory Courses (6 credits)
Take both of the following:
HD 1150 Intro to Human Development: Infancy & Childhood
HD 1170 Intro to Human Development: Adolescence & Emerging Adulthood
HD Breadth Requirement
Breadth requirement (6 credits)
Students must take two courses to fulfill this requirement, one course from Mind, Health & Emotion AND
one course from Cognition, Brain & Behavior
Breadth courses can be found online: https://www.human.cornell.edu/hd/academics/undergraduate click Degree Requirements, (curriculum sheets)
Note: Courses taken for this area cannot also count in HD 3000/4000 level Electives or Additional HD Electives.
HD 3000/4000 Electives
HD 3000/4000 Electives (18 credits minimum)
6 of these credits must be at the 4000-level.
Note: This may include up to 3 credits of HD 4000, 4010, or 4020. This may also include up to 3 credits of HD 4990.
HD 4030 and HD 4980 cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.
Note: Courses taken for this area cannot also count in Breadth requirement or Additional HD Electives.
HD Additional Electives
Additional HD Electives (6 credits minimum)
Minimum of 6 additional HD credits (any level) not used for any above requirement. HD 2830 cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.
Note: HD 4000, 4010, or 4020 cannot be used for this requirement if 3 credits are used for HD 3000/4000 Electives
HD Scientific Research Methods
Scientific Research Methods (Variable)
Can be fulfilled by one of the following:
HD 2830 Research Methods in Human Development
BIOG 1500 Investigative Biology Laboratory
Score of 5 on AP Biology
Note: This requirement must be fulfilled before the senior year.
Note: Students who plan to complete the HD Honors Program requirements must take HD 2830. Biology laboratory courses may not be used to fulfill the Research Methods requirement for the HD Honors program.
HD Social Science
Social Science (6 credits)
This fulfills the college distribution social sciences requirement.
Any 2 courses with the Course Distribution SBA or KCM
Note: Courses cross-listed with Human Development cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.
Statistics (3-4 credits)
This fulfills the college distribution quantitative and analytical courses requirement.
Must be taken at Cornell, AP Statistics is not accepted
Choose one of the following:
AEM 2100 Introductory Statistics
BTRY 3010 Biological Statistics I
ILRST 2100 /STSCI 2100 Introductory Statistics
MATH 1710 Statistical Theory and Application in the Real World
PAM 2100 Introduction to Statistics
PSYCH 2500 Statistics and Research Design*
* PSYCH 2500 is strongly recommended for HD majors. Students planning to do honors in HD, must take the additional 4th credit in PSYCH 2500.
HD Natural Science I
Natural Science I (3-4 credits)
This fulfills the college distribution natural sciences requirement.
Choose one of the following:
(a) BIOG 1140 Foundations of Biology
(b) BIOMG 1350 Introductory Biology: Cell and Developmental Biology
(c) BIOG 1440 Introductory Biology: Comparative Physiology OR
BIOG 1445 Introduction to Comparative Anatomy and Physiology, Individualized Instruction
(d) AP Biology score of 5
Note: If AP isn’t used to satisfy the requirement, then the course must be taken at Cornell.
Note: No lab is required.
HD Natural Science II
Natural Science II (3-4 credits)
This fulfills the college distribution natural sciences requirement.
Any 3-4 credit course with a Course Distribution PBS, BIOLS-AG, or BIONLS-AG
(HD courses with Course Distribution PBS-HE courses cannot be used)
Note: No AP credit allowed, course must be taken at Cornell.
HD Additional Requirements
Additional Requirements (12 credits)
Any course with the Course Distribution PBS, BIOLS-AG, BIONLS-AG, SBA, KCM, MQR, LA, CA, or HA. Language courses may count here.