Objectives


The Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) in Human Biology is designed to achieve the following objectives for the benefit of the students involved:

1. To prepare a small, select group of undergraduates to address the ethical, legal and policy issues raised by developments in the life sciences. To this end, students will be required to establish a solid foundation in biology and a range of related courses in the social sciences and humanities. Students will also be required to perform laboratory or library research on a topic of biological and sociological importance to gain hands-on experience in the integration of traditionally separate disciplines.

2. To facilitate the students' integration of studies in biology, humanities and the social sciences by participation in a 4th year capstone seminar and the submission of a major's thesis. The capstone will be co-taught by faculty from several schools and departments and will build upon the foundation of previous coursework completed by the students. The thesis, based on the student's research and directed or co-directed by faculty outside of the Department of Biology, will synthesize the relevant scientific, ethical, legal, and policy issues of the project described.

3. To prepare students for further study in law, medicine, bioethics, public health, health policy, and health evaluation sciences, or for careers in business sectors such as the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

     Many majors at the University could be used to achieve the stated goals of the DMP in Human Biology. What sets Human Biology apart from these other majors, such as the Minor in Bioethics and the program in Political and Social Thought, is our commitment to studying the interface between science and society. Students interested in studying how science imposes itself on society, and how society in turn imposes itself on science, are strongly encouraged to apply to the Human Biology program. Students who truly wish to tackle deep philosophical or political issues that only touch on biology but which don't interact directly with biological issues are encouraged to explore other major options. Similarly, students interested primarily in biology or medicine, and only peripherally in ethics, law or policy, are encouraged to pursue degrees in the proper scientific department.

     Human Biology is not a physiology program or a program in infectious disease. If you define yourself as pre-med and want a course of study suitable for medical school, and have little interest in studying anything other than what is necessary for medical school, then it is suggested you pursue a degree in biology or chemistry. It should also be noted that the DMP in Human Biology is not a theological degree program. Courses with religious roots may be applied to Area Concentration requirements if they meet the approval of the major advisor, but the major is not designed to promote, support, or restrict discussions to any one particular religious view. This major program is intended to bridge the gap between the sciences and the humanities and as such encourages diversity of thought and dialogue.

     Through its administration by the Department of Biology, the Human Biology program demands rigor on the part of its students and their respective thesis projects. This does not mean that students have to do laboratory-based research, but it does mean that students are expected to deeply explore a research topic from both sides of the discourse - science and the humanities. Ideas should be integrated across the traditional divide existing between the sciences and the humanities with the intent of at least providing a rubric for useful discourse (we don't expect you so solve the problems you research, but we do expect you to think about what is necessary if a resolution is to be found). Thus, many types of research projects and theses can be explored and submitted for fulfillment of the requirements for the major. To get a sense of this range of topics, please see our student pages where you will find thesis topics and summaries for the 2004 - 2006 graduating classes in Human Biology.