Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology is one of the world’s leading programs to study the fundamental question “How did evolution make humans the way they are?” Our program evolved from the subfield of biological anthropology (sometimes called evolutionary anthropology), but we are more than that because we address issues in human evolutionary biology by bringing together and integrating scholars and students engaged in many fields of research relevant to our core question including:
- Anatomy and physiology of primates and humans, including the evolution and function of the human microbiome, and physiological ecology
- Primate and human behavior and ecology, including cognition, behavioral development, cultural transmission, and evolution
- Molecular, developmental, and population genetics and genomics
- Paleontology and the physical record of primate and hominin evolution
Further, in all of these fields, we explore relationships between human evolution and contemporary health and disease.
The PhD program in Human Evolutionary Biology takes an interdisciplinary approach that includes field and laboratory programs in many sub-disciplines including:
Evolutionary approaches to psychology, decision-making and culture
Human behavioral biology and ecology
Ape behavioral ecology and biology
Human and primate paleobiology
Genetics and genomics of humans and primates
Human and non-human primate neuroscience
We are proud to continue a long and distinguished record of innovative graduate training that dates back more than 100 years and that prepares students for careers in teaching and advanced research. Our graduate students receive generous funding for their entire degree program to get hands-on training in both laboratory and field-based research, as well as training to teach. In addition to the extraordinary resources within the department, graduate students in human and evolutionary biology also benefit from the unparalleled resources of Harvard University, including strong collaborations with related departments such as anthropology, organismic and evolutionary biology, and psychology, and access to the rich collections of the Peabody Museum and the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Each year, the department accepts a small cohort of outstanding doctoral students from a broad range of undergraduate backgrounds whose research interests correspond with those of the department's junior and senior faculty. Our graduate students come from many different undergraduate programs, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, engineering, genetics, and psychology. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree and take the verbal, quantitative, and analytical aptitude tests of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test. Each application is judged on its own merits, and our graduate students have a variety of backgrounds. Successful applicants typically have strong backgrounds in math and the sciences, particularly in biology, some familiarity with statistics, and some laboratory or field research experience. Students may find it beneficial to establish direct contact with faculty prior to applying.
The department considers a period of five or six years in residence to be the norm for PhD candidates. For those students conducting international fieldwork, a seventh year may be necessary to complete the degree. More information regarding the research areas is available from the department. The GSAS Student Handbook details program requirements.