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Choosing HumBio

Why do students choose HumBio? 

First of all, our community is really special. Our students also appreciate the flexibility to construct a unique course of study that meets their goals. They are intentional about their own education and intellectual development, and they learn to wrestle with difficult problems rooted in complex systems. And HumBio’s culture is welcoming, collaborative, and community-oriented. Alumni often reminisce about the life-long friends and supportive community found in the HumBio Major.


What is the difference between HumBio and Biology?

The Human Biology curriculum provides an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the human being from biological, behavioral, social, and cultural perspectives. The Biology curriculum focuses on understanding life, from molecules to cells, and organisms to ecosystems.

What can I do with a degree in HumBio?

HumBio majors have incredibly diverse interests and go on to careers in fields such as medicine, technology, public service, education, community law, allied health fields, and much more. The curriculum is designed to equip you with skills in Communication, Scientific Literacy, and Data Analysis that prepare you well for future pursuits.

Find out more about what previous students have done at our Alumni Stories.

Does HumBio have a minor?

Yes, the HumBio minor offers students the option to focus on a specific subplan. To declare a HumBio minor, students should complete the minor plan form once they have declared a major.

Minor forms and requirements are detailed here

HumBio Core

What is the HumBio Core?

The Human Biology Core delves into the natural and social sciences and, most importantly, the relationship between the two. It is a year-long sequence of six courses for a total of 30 units typically started in the Fall of Sophomore year. In general, the "A-side" focuses on the biological sciences such as Human Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, Cellular Development, and Human Physiology, and the "B-side" focuses on Human Culture, Society, Environmental & Health Policy, Behavior, and Development.

Why should I take the Core?

The HumBio Core will change the way you think about biology. By bringing together the A-side (biology) and the B-side (social and behavioral sciences and policy), the Core teaches you to consider human biology from a variety of perspectives. Facts you may recall from high school appear in new and often surprising contexts, while new concepts are anchored in significant real-world examples. Core students arrive with a range of backgrounds and interests, and the faculty strive to make their lectures accessible and interesting to everyone. Over the course of the year, you will also become a better scientific communicator, build a foundation in statistical analysis, and learn to critique experimental designs and comprehend scientific papers.

What makes the HumBio Core special?

In the HumBio Core you will build a strong foundation in basic biology while learning how societies and cultures interact with biology. You will go beyond what a gene is and how genes are sequenced; you will debate the ethics of genetic testing and use of genetic information. You will see examples of how cancer drugs work and learn how health insurance policies and drug prices affect who gets treated. You will learn how different brain structures interact to produce language, and why language learning is crucial for cognitive and social development. 

What will I learn in the HumBio Core this fall?

In the fall you will grapple with some very fundamental questions: who are we as humans, how did we get here, and why do we live the way we do? And you will practice a lot of useful transferable skills, such as scientific literacy and communication. During the first hour of each day (2A) you will study genetics, molecular biology and evolution. In the second hour (2B) you will learn about human evolution, population dynamics, the human roots of our social and political systems, and the social and ecological forces that have influenced human health during our entire evolutionary history. Both courses touch on the ways that genes and ideas inherited from the past continue to shape our present and future.

Am I prepared for the Core?

We have designed the HumBio Core to promote your success! The interdisciplinary nature of the Core means that everyone will encounter something they have never studied before, and everyone will be challenged to reconsider what they thought they knew. There are no course prerequisites for the HumBio Core, although some chemistry background is assumed for HumBio 3A. If you haven’t taken chemistry recently or if you want to brush up, you can take the online chemistry series designed specifically for HumBio. (The 15 videos will be available on the HumBio 2A Canvas site and are approximately 10 minutes each.) 

Check out the question below to see some of the amazing support resources available to you.

What kind of support will I get in the Core?

There is an entire team to support your learning in the HumBio Core. Course Associates are full-time teachers who are themselves recent graduates. They lead discussion sections and office hours and are available to help you with the material. The faculty are eager to talk with you outside of class. The Core Coordinator, Dr. Annette Salmeen, will help you navigate the logistics of the course and connect you with resources. 

There is also CTL tutoring available (free) specifically for the Core. You will have access to practice exams and exam preparation sessions, and we encourage you to form study groups.

What are the assignments and exams in the Core?

The wide variety of assignments in the Core enhance your learning and build academic and professional skills. Weekly assignments help you review foundational material and practice answering exam-type questions. In-class exams test key concepts to ensure that you maintain a strong foundation in the material. Throughout the year you will write and speak with different purposes and audiences in mind. You may produce explainers for the general public, a policy analysis with recommendations, and research proposals. The three B-side courses cover HumBio’s Writing in the Major (WIM) requirement.

Do I have to take the A-side and B-side of the Core together?

There are so many great connections between the A- and B-sides, why wouldn’t you take them together? Really, though, HumBio majors must take all the Core courses eventually, and the teaching team works hard to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. 

Taking the two sides at different times is possible but you may miss some interesting connections. There is no petition or waiver needed in order to take the courses separately. Majors should indicate in SFACT their plans to complete the Core. 

When can I start taking the Core?

Most people start the core in the fall of the sophomore year. Freshmen are strongly advised to wait to start the HumBio Core sequence until sophomore year. Some people start mid-year, although you may find it useful to start with the fall quarter material if your high school biology is a little rusty.

We also welcome transfer students and upperclassmen in the Core! Just be sure to talk with our student services team early to make an academic plan that will keep you on track.

Who can I talk to if I have questions about the Core?

If you want to learn more about Core content, you can talk to the Core Coordinator, Dr. Annette Salmeen, HumBio Director Dr. Lianne Kurina ,or Associate Director Dr. Katherine Preston. Logistical questions should go to Dr. Salmeen. Any of them can answer questions about the major in general, and you can also visit our student services staff or our peer student advisors in Building 20!

Advising & Declaring

How do I start the declaration process? When can I declare?

Students can start the declaration process with our student advisors. Once they have completed two core courses, students have access to SFACT, our course planning tool.

For more details and the declaration policy, visit: Declaring the Human Biology Major.

How do I know if a course is Breadth or Depth eligible?

First, a course in Breadth or Depth must be related to the student's chosen area of concentration. Beyond that, Human Biology is unique because every class used in the Depth requirement has been reviewed for its eligibility. Each Depth class must be 3 or more units. If it is listed under Human Biology’s Program, you will know it is Depth eligible if it is a 100+ number.

You can find a list of depth-eligible courses on Finding Courses. If a course is not listed, ask a Student Advisor or Student Services Officer to verify its eligibility. Our advising team will need a syllabus of the class if it has not been reviewed before.

Can I make changes to my course of study after I declare?

Yes. Any changes you make require approval from Student Services, though. Student Advisors are excellent resources to get preliminary approval, but Student Services Officers give final approvals.

Where can I find the deadline information?

You can find details about advising and deadlines on our Advising Page.


Can I do research in HumBio?

Absolutely! HumBio offers a research exploration program for rising Juniors who have completed all of or part of the Core. You do not need to have a pre-existing relationship with a lab to participate! In fact, this program is a great opportunity for students with no prior research experience.

Do I have to be declared to participate in HB-REX?

It is expected that you declare the major in Human Biology prior to starting HB-REX if you are eligible. HB-REX is only open to majors and minors in HumBio.