Undergraduate Track in Biological Anthropology

Undergraduate Track in Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology is the study of humans in an evolutionary perspective, covering areas such as primatology, paleontology, and human biology, ecology, and behavior. Together with sociocultural anthropology, it attempts to capture the complex interplay of the human condition in a way that encompasses all humans, living or dead.

So what made me choose biological anthropology — the course I took on a whim? I like the idea of learning more about human behavior and different cultures. Plus, it could lead to even more new experiences, like traveling around the world and working with endangered primates.

Davide NardiCAS, 2011

The undergraduate track in biological anthropology starts with an introductory course (AN 102) that exposes students to the entire field. Students can follow up with a variety of 300-level courses (two are required), ranging from primate adaptations, to human behavioral evolution, to human population variation, to human origins. The 500-level courses, which students normally take in their junior or senior years, are largely lab oriented and give students hands-on experience with anatomy field methods in human biology, brain and language, and human reproductive ecology. Students are required to take two of these courses as well.

Additional requirements for the concentration include AN101 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology) or AN103 (Anthropology Through Ethnography), an additional course in sociocultural anthropology, a linguistics course, and one course in archaeology. These courses are essential to providing a broader perspective on human cultural variation, both past and present, and the social processes that figure so prominently in the human experience. Two upper-level (200-level or above) biology courses are also required of concentrators.

In addition to teaching, the biological anthropology faculty is actively engaged in research projects ranging from paleontology and primate anatomy, to neuroanatomy, to human biology and reproduction. All actively encourage undergraduate involvement in their research. Students may choose to do independent research for a semester or get involved in more substantial projects during the senior year as part of work for distinction. Projects to date have included gorilla hand use, the anatomy of the ape shoulder, disease patterns among Turkana nomads of Kenya, traditional versus Western concepts of illness in Ghana, and comparative study of human mate choice. Students may apply for funding for research expenses through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

The biological anthropology program appeals to students interested in focusing on the human dimension of biology from a variety of angles, including ecology, evolution, anatomy, and physiology. Such training provides a strong background for careers in the medical and related fields, in addition to biological anthropology itself. Graduates of the bioanthropology track have gone on to medical school, schools of public health, and graduate school in biological anthropology.