Human and Evolutionary Biology

Website with Track Requirements: Human Evolutionary Biology Concentration on Science Education website

Advising and Assistance: Prof. Erin Hecht, Dr. Neil Roach, and Dr. Daniel Green

The Intellectual Basis: Evolutionary theory is a pillar of modern science and 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. Human evolutionary biology is also beginning to influence medical science through the nascent field of evolutionary medicine. Evolutionary insights also influence other areas such as economics, linguistics, psychology, and political science, and there are even seeds of engagement with traditionally humanistic disciplines such as religion and literature. 

Examples of questions in which we are interested:
• Why do humans walk upright?
• Are humans adapted to eating cooked food?
• How do biology and environment interact to affect the timing of puberty?
• Why do human males invest in their offspring?
• Are culture and language uniquely human?
• What are the genetic bases for uniquely human traits?
• When, where, how and why did Homo sapiens evolve?
• What has been the impact of environmental change on our human ancestors? 

This is an exciting time to tackle questions of how evolution made us human, and research in HEB provides you the opportunity to learn and contribute. HEB faculty lead projects spanning a spectrum of interests and methods, ranging from research in the high-tech labs in the Peabody Museum, to field-based research in the rainforests of Western Uganda, to work requiring sample collection in the field and analysis in the lab. Our faculty work closely with undergraduates on research projects of all kinds, for senior theses, research seminars and tutorial classes. 

Examples of research opportunities in HEB include:
• human and primate nutrition
• reproductive and behavioral endocrinology
• dental histology
• evolutionary genetics and phylogenetics
• human anatomy
• primatology
• paleoanthropology
• human behavioral ecology

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 Mind/Brain/Behavior track.