Organismic and Evolutionary Biology is one of the programs in the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences, which facilitates collaboration and cross-disciplinary research. Visit HILS for additional application instructions.
Research in organismic and evolutionary biology (OEB) involves studying biological processes that span a continuum from single cells to entire ecosystems, conducting field and laboratory studies that are key to understanding the evolution of organisms, how biodiversity is generated and maintained, how organisms work, and how organisms interact with their environment.
You will have access to an impressive array of resources, from modern research facilities to extensive biodiversity collections in the Herbaria and Museum of Comparative Zoology, with the ability to conduct plant and animal research at the Concord Field Station, the Harvard Forest, and the Arnold Arboretum. Many students conduct extensive fieldwork around the world at locations as varied as Antarctica, Kenya, and Brazil.
As part of the program, you will benefit from OEB’s broad connections in the life and physical sciences, including the Broad Institute; the Departments of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Human Evolutionary Biology, Systems, Synthetic, and Quantitative Biology, Psychology, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Physics; and the Center for Brain Science and Broad Institute, as well as the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Examples of student dissertation topics include “The Structure, Function, and Evolution of the Fern Vascular System,” “Adaptations to Life on an Oxidizing Planet: Insights from the Evolutionary Ecophysiology of Iron-Respiring Bacteria,” and “High-Throughput Functional Characterization of Regulatory Variants Related to Human Evolution and Disease.”
Graduates have secured academic positions at institutions like Yale University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago. Others have begun their careers with leading organizations like Ginkgo Bioworks, Whole Biome, and USDA Health.
Please review GSAS admissions requirements and other information before applying. You can find degree program-specific admissions requirements below and access additional guidance on applying from the Department of Organismic and Evolution Biology.
Students do not normally do rotations, but instead are admitted to work with a specific faculty member. Before applying, prospective students should review the department’s research page and reach out directly to their faculty of interest with a personal note, including a CV and a description of their research experiences and interests. Faculty may ask to speak on the phone or by Zoom or may extend an invitation to visit campus before the admissions cycle begins. These contacts are critical as part of the application process.