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Course Descriptions

Interdisciplinary in Human Biology

P.O. Box 400328
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4162
Phone: (434) 982-5803

Overview Studies and advances in biology have had broad societal implications for as long as this discipline has existed. Over the centuries, debates have raged about when human life begins. The elucidation of evolutionary theory in the nineteenth century focused attention on the seminal questions of the origins of life and the human species, and had a profound influence on the way we view the development of society. Recent breakthroughs in contemporary biology including the human genome project, stem-cell research, and mammalian cloning, raise numerous ethical and regulatory questions. The increased longevity resulting from medical advances poses major challenges as our society must allocate increasing resources for an expanding elderly population. The spread of viruses such as HIV and Ebola, the increasing prevalence of multi-drug resistant bacteria, and the specter of pathogens being utilized as agents of bioterrorism, raise daunting social and scientific questions. Human-generated pollution contributes to many cancers, ironically just at a time when we have made enormous strides in elucidating the molecular causes of this disease and developing new therapies. Addressing such issues, questions, and challenges requires not only an understanding of biology, but an appreciation of its context within the humanities and the social sciences. To allow students to study the extraordinary interplay between modern biology and society, we have developed a new, interdisciplinary, distinguished, major in Human Biology which will encompass virtually every school at the University. This program will prepare a select group of students to address ethical, legal and policy issues raised by developments in the life sciences. The major requires a solid foundation in biology and interrelated, complementary courses in the social sciences and humanities. Students will integrate their studies through participating in a capstone seminar, co-taught by faculty from several schools and departments, and by writing a thesis that encompasses scientific, ethical, legal, and policy issues relevant to the student's topic of independent study. The human biology major will prepare students for further post-graduate studies or careers in law, medicine, bioethics, public health, national and international health policy, the health evaluation sciences, and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

Students The major is comprised of outstanding, creative, independent, and enthusiastic students with diverse backgrounds in biology, the social sciences and humanities who wish to pursue an intellectually challenging and genuinely interdisciplinary program. Approximately 20 students will be admitted into the program during the spring semester of their second year. Students are chosen based on their academic record; a statement describing the student's purpose and goals in pursuing this major and how it will prepare them for their immediate post-graduate academic or career plans; and a faculty recommendation. During their fourth year, students will participate in a one semester capstone seminar course and a one semester thesis writing course. These small enrollment courses will facilitate interactions among students and faculty representing diverse interests and areas of expertise.

Faculty Although the major will be administered through the Department of Biology, other departments and centers including; Anthropology, Environmental Science, Politics , Philosophy, Religious Studies, the Institute for Practical Ethics, and the Center for Global Health, will play significant roles. Faculty from several departments will administer and participate in the major. The program co-directors are Robert Grainger and Elizabeth Machunis-Masuoka, Dept. of Biology. Other faculty associated with the program and its advisory committee include: James Childress of Religious Studies; Ruth Gaare of the Institute for Practical Ethics; Richard Guerrant of the Center for Global Health; and Susan McKinnon of Anthropology. The interdisciplinary nature of this program will enable numerous faculty throughout the University community to participate in courses and to serve as advisors and mentors.

Requirements for Major The major has six basic components:
Core courses 9 hours
Biology electives

6 hours

Statistics 3 hours
Independent Research or Study 3 hours
Capstone Seminar Course and Thesis 6 hours
Related courses 12 hours

Core Courses Each student must complete the following courses:

RELG 265 Theology, Ethics and Medicine 3 hours
BIOL 300 Core I:Cell and Molecular Biology 3 hours
BIOL 301 Core II: Genetics and Evolution 3 hours

Students considering the human biology major should complete the following prerequisites for BIOL 300 and BIOL 301 during their first two years: BIOL 201, BIOL 202, CHEM 141/141L (or CHEM 181/181L), CHEM 142/142L (or CHEM 182/182L). Advanced placement credit can substitute for one or more of these prerequisites as appropriate.

Biology Electives Each student must complete two additional BIOL courses (6 hours) at the 300 level or higher. Selected topics (BIOL 385 or BIOL 386) or independent research (BIOL 491-498) courses cannot be used to satisfy this requirement. These courses will be chosen based on the student's interests and in consultation with a faculty advisor.

Statistics Each student must complete a 3 hour course in statistics. Any one of the following courses will satisfy this requirement: STAT 110, STAT 112, SOC 311, PSYC 305, PSYC 306, ECON 371, ANTH 589, EVSC 503.

Independent Research or Study Each student must complete 1 course (3 hours) undertaking an independent research project (e.g., BIOL 491) or independent study (e.g., ANTH 496, PLAP 595, RELS 495) under the direction of two faculty advisors, one of which will be from the Biology department. This research or independent study will provide the basis for the student's thesis and will be completed during the fourth year.

Capstone Seminar Course and Thesis Students will complete 6 hours consisting of HBIO 481 and HBIO 482 during their fourth year. The thesis will be a substantial, independent year-long project that builds upon the student's coursework and independent research or study.

Related Courses Each student must complete four upper-level courses (12 hours) that integrate biology with the social sciences and/or humanities. Courses will be chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty advisor and will provide an in depth exposure to a particular area of concentration. It is assumed that each student will develop a unique focus of study, examining their topic of interest from a variety of disciplines. This coursework and independent research or study will be the basis for the student's thesis. Examples of area concentrations that students may select, include, but are not limited to the following:
Research Ethics
NUIP 416 Basic Research Concepts in Health Disciplines
PHIL 245 Scientific Methods
PHIL 359 Research Ethics
RELG 578 Human Genetics, Ethics and Theology
Medical Ethics
ANTH 228 Culture, Healing and Health
PHIL 252 Bioethics, A Philosophical Perspective
PHIL 453 Ethics of Human Reproduction
RELJ 334 Jewish Medical Ethics
Science and Technology
ANTH 529 Cultural Studies in Science
HIEU 337 Science in the Modern World
PHIL 546 Philosophy of Science
TCC 313 Scientific and Technological Thinking
Science and Public Policy
EVSC 465 Environmental Policy Making in the United States
PLAP 424 AIDS: Politics and Epidemiology
PLPC 567 Comparative Science and Technology Policy
TMP 352 Science and Technology Public Policy
Health Care and Public Policy
ANTH 535 Folk and Popular Health Systems
ECON 416 Economics of Health
HES 710 Health Care Policy and Management
SWAG 417 Economics, Gender and Family
Environmental Policy
ANTH 334 Ecology & Society: An Introduction to the New Ecological Anthropology
ARCH 389 Environmental Choices
ECON 443 Energy and the Environment
EVSC 222 Conservation Ecology

Admission Interested students currently in their fourth semester in the College of Arts and Sciences are invited to apply for admission to the Human Biology major. As this is a distinguished major, the program will admit only 20 new students a year and all applicants must have attained, and majors must maintain, a 3.40 or higher cumulative grade point average. It is highly recommended, but not mandatory, that prospective applicants complete the prerequisites for BIOL 300 and BIOL 301, and to have completed at least one of the core courses by the end of their second year. Students interested in applying to the major should submit:

1. An official copy of the student's transcript.
2. A one page statement describing the student's purpose and goals in pursuing this major and how it will prepare them for their immediate post-graduate academic or career plans.
3. A letter of recommendation from an instructor, faculty advisor or dean.

All application materials should be submitted by March 1, to the Human Biology program coordinator, Dept. of Biology, 229 Gilmer Hall. Applications will be reviewed by the faculty advisory committee. Students accepted into the major will be notified by April 1. This will allow students to declare a major and select courses during the spring semester advising session. The program director holds an informational meeting for prospective majors in early February to answer questions pertaining to the application process and the major.

Additional Information For more information, contact one of the program co-directors: Robert Grainger, (434)-982-5495; rmg9p@virg; or Elizabeth Machunis-Masuoka, (434)-982-5592; eam4n@virginia.edu; Department of Biology, Gilmer Hall, P.O. Box 400328, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4328, www.virginia.edu/humanbiology/

Course Descriptions


Note These courses are open only to Human Biology majors.

HBIO 481 - (3) (Y)
Capstone Seminar in Human Biology

A weekly seminar co-organized by participating faculty to integrate student's independent research and coursework with contemporary issues of relevance in biology, the humanities and social sciences. Students will have the opportunity to present their ongoing research and meet with outside speakers. This course will be taken in the fourth year.

HBIO 482 - (3) (Y)
Thesis in Human Biology

A weekly discussion and workshop co-organized by participating faculty to provide guidance and advice to students on completing their research or independent study and writing their thesis. This course will be taken in the fourth year.

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