Why HEB?

What current graduate students say about HEB:

“Funding for all students was a major factor when I decided to apply to HEB. The elimination of competition for funds facilitates camaraderie between graduate students and allows us to focus on our research instead of how we're going to feed ourselves. Departmental friendships help keep us grounded and remind us there is life outside of the lab.”

“The amount of time I spent working in the lab my first year gave me a view of what my future in research would be like. HEB contains so many people at different stages in their careers (undergraduates, visiting scholars, research assistants, post-docs, junior and senior faculty, etc.) that the graduate students get a really good understanding of what it's like to work one's way up through academia.”

“HEB is a unique kind of department, because rather than representing a single discipline, we are a small community united by a question that spans the social and natural sciences: "How and why are humans the way they are?" We each tackle some different dimension of this monolith - the morphological aspect of humanness, or the physiological or bio-behavioral, etc. - running off and building relationships with the various departments and programs scattered throughout this university (and others), all the while remaining grounded in a community of question-askers who, running parallel in their investigations, can inform and critically assess our own academic progress. Consequently, we benefit from, on the one hand, an intellectual vigor that uses a multidisciplinary approach to answer our questions, and on the other, a communal environment that enjoys familiar and friendly relationships among students, professors, and researchers."

"The aspect of HEB that I’ve appreciated the most has been the faculty’s support of my academic undertakings. Not only have they encouraged my pursuit of expertise in wide-ranging fields like game theory and cultural anthropology, but they have also provided me with the trust and resources to start my own field site in Indonesia. This support consequently creates a space of great intellectual freedom.”

“The diverse expertise of the HEB faculty encourages an interdisciplinary approach to the study of human health. Synergy among HEB labs and the broader Harvard research community catalyzes the development of novel methods to reveal the evolutionary dynamics that predispose contemporary human populations to emerging infectious diseases.”

“I really appreciated the level of funding and the freedom to pursue my own research interests. Additionally the program offered a strong cohort of other students working in human evolutionary biology. While our specific research questions vary substantially, there have always been several other graduate students who were knowledgeable in my particular subfield, and I appreciated being able to bounce ideas off of them. With such a broad field, this might not have been possible in a department with less folks working in human evolution. Finally, I appreciate the flexibility and support our department has offered me as I incorporate my young children and family into my graduate education.”

“I was initially drawn to HEB because of the top-notch faculty and research facilities. Furthermore, HEB allowed me the freedom and flexibility to design the research course that was right for me, and the financial support to see it through. What I've come to appreciate most about HEB is the unparalleled mentorship I've received as well as the overall congenial and collaborative atmosphere of the department. I've also really enjoyed the diversity of perspectives our faculty and students bring to studying human evolution. My training in HEB not only taught me to think critically and methodically about biological questions, but it also gave me the analytical tools to figure out how to answer those questions."

“HEB is exceptional in the support that it provides to graduate students; yes the funding and financial support is amongst the best – but it is the emotional and intellectual support that I believe to be unsurpassed. I love the freedom the program’s structure and requirements allow each individual student and the community within the department."

"One thing that makes HEB and Harvard so special is the location. Cambridge and Boston offer a fantastic number of resources, sporting events, museums, music venues, cultural activities, and culinary options! While these may not be vital or essential to your research or studies, they are an important part of enjoying your life while in graduate school – and this should not be overlooked when committing the next 5-7 years of your life to such an endeavor. With so many other universities, colleges, research facilities, and hospitals in the immediate area, not to mention the draw that Harvard alone has, you will not find a more stimulating environment to call home during your graduate career.”

“HEB is small and supportive; we fit in one room every week for lunch seminars and it feels like a family meal. It's stimulating and continually fascinating to be in a department with people of such diverse research interests and methods, who are still unified by a few fundamental shared questions. I can talk about lemurs at the water cooler. Why would I work anywhere else? In short, I love HEB because it is both diverse in content but unified in underlying questions.”

“One thing that really attracted me to HEB was the department’s interdisciplinary approach. This, coupled with the vast and surprisingly accessible resources that Harvard has to offer translated into impressive freedom to explore my interests as an incoming PhD student. The faculty and staff do a great job of encouraging students to take courses offered by other departments and schools at Harvard (e.g., the medical school, the school of public health, etc.) to broaden the scope of their training."

"I was interested in joining a department that made a strong commitment to the development of graduate students, and HEB really stood out in this regard as I was considering different PhD programs. Particularly appealing to me were the department’s low student to faculty ratio, weekly lunches encouraging interaction across labs, and excellent student pilot research funding.”

“Before coming to Harvard I had a limited understanding of the breadth and scope of biological anthropology. I was interested in primate - particularly chimpanzee - behavioral ecology and this is what drew me to the program. By the time I graduated that changed. I was still very much keen on primates but my fascination with and understanding of other areas of HEB research had grown immensely. The ability to interact on a daily basis, formally and informally, with scholars with very distinct research programs, who shared a common language and appreciation for their respective areas of research is something that allowed me to explore topics that I hadn’t considered relevant to my work and goals. Through coursework, weekly Departmental seminars, lab meetings and journal clubs, HEB fosters a scholarly community that is bigger than the sum of its parts. The academic freedom to determine my path through the program and the unwavering support from faculty and students, whenever that was needed, was key to making my 7 years at HEB an unforgettable experience. The opportunity to travel to Africa and study bonobos and chimpanzees in the wild was an immensely satisfying, if at times, lonely, endeavor. Using great apes as models for understanding the selective pressures that affected our human ancestors was the closest I would ever get to time-travel. Since graduating, my training and experience at HEB placed me in a great position to undertake a series of studies of reproductive physiology and behavior of another primate, the rhesus macaques of Cayo Santiago in Puerto Rico (as a postdoc at The University of Chicago). My theoretical interests in primate life history and reproductive strategies have now also extended to examine human variation via a long-term study in Cebu, The Philippines (as a postdoc at Northwestern University). This was an opportunity, which despite the more narrow focus of my dissertation research on primate behavior, was not entirely out of reach for me precisely because of the rigorous and broad preparation as a biological anthropologist in the HEB Graduate Program.”