Health and Human Biology

The AB in Health and Human Biology is an interdisciplinary concentration whose goals are to provide a rigorous foundation in the biological sciences with substantive course work in humanities and social sciences within a subfield of Human Health and Disease.  This program includes: Background courses, five (5) Biology courses, four (4) Theme courses, and a senior Capstone course.

Background courses provide the essential foundations in chemistry, mathematics, methods, and basic biology. These support the Biology core comprised of a flexible menu of intermediate and advanced courses. A required portion of the Biology core is Genetics, which is considered a cornerstone of human biology and its interface with other fields.

The Biology core underscores the related coursework within the Health and Disease Theme. This course grouping is comprised of social science and humanities courses and must form a cohesive, thoughtful cohort. Suggested theme subfoci must be discussed and approved by an advisor. It is expected that these course selections will evolve over the course of the student's college career, as each semester's experience builds on the previous one.


Finally, the human biology program requires a senior year Capstone course or experience, which should build on the program's theme.


Statement on Honors Thesis Projects in Health and Human Biology

Health and Human Biology (HHB) Honors thesis projects should address an interdisciplinary question of relevance to human health.  They should derive conceptually from the core components of the concentration program and represent a substantial scholarly investigation.  Suitable projects are distinct from Biology or Public Health (or Anthropology, CLPS, Sociology, etc.) thesis projects in their interdisciplinary.  

An honors thesis in the concentration should reflect a scholarly integration of concepts and methodologies learned during the previous three years of study. Theses might address a specific question using non-reductionist approaches to science, test a formal hypothesis, investigate a historical question in science and medicine or implement a relevant program. Regardless of the methodology employed, the primary goal of the HHB Honors theses is to develop and pursue a project that demonstrates an in-depth investigation that draws on interdisciplinary thinking central to the concentration.

Students should have significant intellectual engagement with all phases of their honors work: the initiation and design of the project, development of questionnaires, interview protocols, archival work, and so on, analysis of the results, and writing of the thesis. It is not enough for students to analyze data collected by someone else and to present this as a thesis.

Successful theses are initiated early (typically in the summer prior to the senior year) in collaboration with a faculty member.  A thesis proposal, outlining the research questions and methodological approaches, is part of the honors application for HHB, which is due by or before mid- September of the 7th semester.  Link to the Honors guidelines, requirements and application in the Biological Sciences is here.

The proposal will be reviewed by a committee, consisting of the Concentration Adviser, the Thesis Sponsor (PI) and the Second Reader*.

*Second Readers should be acquainted with the field of research described by the project, and be willing and able to provide input and critique that will challenge and strengthen the thesis. The Second Reader should be at the doctoral level, from Brown (but there are exceptions), and not from the same laboratory or research group where the project originates.