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Science of Living Systems


Courses in Science of Living Systems teach central concepts, facts and theories in the life sciences and engineering, and relate them to problems of wide concern. These courses may explore a range of topics relating to understanding life -- its origins, the way it adapts to and changes the environment, and the ways in which human interventions can affect its trajectory. These courses provide students with the tools to evaluate scientific claims, consider alternative accounts for empirical findings, and appreciate the ambiguity that often surrounds such findings. Whenever possible, students examine the nature of experiments on living systems through laboratory, field, or other hands-on experiences.

Science of Living Systems

Science of Living Systems 11. Molecules of Life
Catalog Number: 9478 Enrollment: Limited to 200.
Jon Clardy (Harvard Medical School) and David R. Liu (Chemistry and Chemical Biology)
Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 10-11:30, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 12, 13
Molecules form the basis of heredity, govern how our bodies develop, allow us to respond to changes in our environment, and carry our thoughts. This course explores the roles of molecules through case studies of our bodies’ messengers, modern drugs, and the future of medicine. Examples include sexual development, metabolism, behavior, nerve transmission, infectious disease, cancer, diabetes and stem cells. Students will connect to lecture material in discussion section through hands-on activities and role-playing scenarios.
Note: Expected to be omitted in 2011–12. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 12. Understanding Darwinism
Catalog Number: 5523
Janet Browne (History of Science) and Andrew J. Berry (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 10–11:30, and a weekly section/laboratory to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 12, 13
An interdisciplinary exploration of Darwin’s ideas and their impact on science and society. The course links the history of Darwin’s ideas with the key features of modern evolutionary biology. Darwin’s celebrated book On the Origin of Species provided a compelling solution to one of science’s most prominent problems–the origins of biological diversity and of our own species–and a whole new way of viewing the world. The course reviews the development of the main elements of the theory of evolution, highlighting the areas in which Darwin’s ideas have proved remarkably robust and areas in which subsequent developments have significantly modified the theory. By also analyzing the historical context of the development of evolutionary thought beyond Darwin, the course emphasizes the dynamic interplay between science and society.
Note: Expected to be omitted in 2011–12. This course fulfills the requirement that one of the eight General Education courses also engages substantially with Study of the Past. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 15 (formerly Science B-60). Origins of Knowledge
Catalog Number: 8280
Elizabeth S. Spelke (Psychology) and Susan E. Carey (Psychology)
Half course (spring term). M., W., F., at 11, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 4
This course explores the origins and development of knowledge in the human child, in relation to two larger time scales: biological evolution and historical/cultural change. Drawing on evidence from experimental, comparative, and developmental psychology, cultural anthropology, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and history of science, it focuses on the development of knowledge of objects, number, space, language, agency, morality and the social world. Questions include: How does human biology constrain and support human cognition? How variable are human knowledge systems across different cultures and times? What aspects of knowledge are unique to humans? How does knowledge change as children grow and adults gain expertise?
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 16. Human Evolution and the Human Body
Catalog Number: 0470
Daniel E. Lieberman (Human Evolutionary Biology)
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 1–2:30, and a 90-minute weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 15, 16
How and why did humans evolve to be the way we are, and what are the implications of our evolved anatomy and physiology for human health in a post-industrial world? To address these questions, this course reviews the major transitions that occurred in human evolution, from the divergence of the ape and human lineages to the origins of modern humans. Also considered are the many effects of recent cultural and technological shifts such as agriculture and industrialization on human health.
Note: Expected to be omitted in 2011–12. Students who have taken Science B-27 may not take this course for credit. This course fulfills the requirement that one of the eight General Education courses also engages substantially with Study of the Past. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 17 (formerly Science B-23). The Human Organism
Catalog Number: 6581 Enrollment: Limited to 75.
Joseph D. Brain (Harvard School of Public Health) and Stephanie A. Shore (Harvard School of Public Health)
Half course (spring term). M., W., at 12, plus three two-hour laboratories and periodic section meetings to explore special topics in depth. EXAM GROUP: 5
The physiology and pathology of the human body are presented with an emphasis on cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, and reproductive biology. Besides learning human biology, students will explore critical determinants of their own health as well as the health of diverse communities in rich and poor countries. Topics include the normal functioning of the human body and its responses to infection, injury, and environmental stress. We will analyze the relative power of diagnosis and treatment of disease (medicine) versus primary prevention of disease (public health) in promoting global health. Activities include classroom discussions and demonstrations, laboratories, and a directed term paper.
Note: Expected to be omitted in 2011–12. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

[Science of Living Systems 18 (formerly Science B-65). Evolutionary Biology: Sex, Survival, and the Orgy of Species]
Catalog Number: 9680
Jonathan Losos (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 11–12:30, and a 90-minute weekly section to be arranged.
Five to ten million species roam the earth today–or maybe ten times that many. Where did these species come from? What processes regulate their diversity? We now know that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is correct, but many other processes also affect evolutionary change. Competition for mates is particularly important and evolutionary divergence of species is often driven by differences in reproductive biology. This course will examine theories of how evolution occurs, including runaway sexual selection, sperm competition, adaptive radiation, disruptive selection, sympatric speciation and host-parasite interactions.
Note: Expected to be given in 2011–12. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 19. Nutrition and Global Health
Catalog Number: 50018
Christopher P. Duggan (Harvard Medical School; Harvard School of Public Health), Clifford W. Lo (Harvard Medical School), and Wafaie W. Fawzi (Harvard School of Public Health)
Half course (spring term). M. 3–5, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 8, 9
This course will introduce students to nutrition and global health problems through exploration of demographic, epidemiological, biological, social, political, and economic determinants of nutritional status. Emphasis will be placed on the role of nutritional status and dietary intake, both as a determinant and as a consequence, of these health problems. Students will be encouraged to think critically about the major challenges to improve nutrition and health at a global level, with a focus on nutrition and infectious diseases, maternal and child health, and chronic diseases. Nutritional assessment, study design, and efficacy of nutrition interventions, will be explored in detail.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 20. Psychological Science
Catalog Number: 16308
Fall: Jason P. Mitchell (Psychology); Spring: Steven Pinker (Psychology)
Half course (fall term; repeated spring term). Fall: Tu., Th., 10-11:30; Spring: Tu., Th., 2:30-4, and a weekly section to be arranged . EXAM GROUP: Fall: 12, 13; Spring: 16, 17
An introduction to the sciences of mind, including foundational concepts from neuroscience, evolution, genetics, philosophy, and experimental methods, and specific topics such as perception, memory, reasoning and decision-making, consciousness, child development, psychopathology, personality, language, emotion, sexuality, violence, and social relations.
Note: Students who have taken Science B-62 or Psychology 1 may not take this course for credit but may use those courses to satisfy the General Education requirement for Science of Living Systems or the Core area requirement for Science B. This course, as well as Science B-62 and Psychology 1, meet the Tier 1 requirement for Psychology. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 21. Evolutionary Medicine - (New Course)
Catalog Number: 58084
Charles Nunn (Human Evolutionary Biology) and Peter Ellison (Human Evolutionary Biology)
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 1–2:30, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 15, 16
Evolutionary medicine is a new field seeking to apply the principles of evolution to understanding human health and disease. This course will be equally divided among lectures and case studies. Lectures will focus on general principles including: elements of evolutionary theory; interpreting data in relation to specific hypotheses; major human infectious, chronic, and genetic diseases; and human anatomy and physiology in evolutionary perspective. Case studies will be chosen to illustrate these principles and will engage students in small discussion groups and independent research.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 22. Human Influence on Life in the Sea - (New Course)
Catalog Number: 42977
Robert M. Woollacott (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology) and James J. McCarthy (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Half course (fall term). Tu., Th., 11:30–1, and a weekly two-hour section or lab to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 13, 14
Many important marine fish stocks are over-harvested and their futures are in doubt. Other human activities, such as pollution and anthropogenic climate change, are also affecting the stability and productivity of marine ecosystems. This course will ask what we need to know about the causes and effects of anthropogenic change to best protect marine ecosystems and ensure sustainable harvests from the sea.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

[Science of Living Systems 23. Outbreak: Evolution, Genomics and Infectious Disease] - (New Course)
Catalog Number: 66072
Scott V. Edwards (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology) and Pardis Sabeti (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Half course (fall term). M., W., F., at 11, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 4
In today’s rapidly changing and interconnected world, deadly infectious diseases and global pandemics are an ever growing threat. Students gain scientific, medical, and public health knowledge to prepare themselves for these dangers and learn the fundamentals of pathogens - biology, genomics, clinical symptoms, evolution, and bioterrorist potential - and our measures of detection and combat - diagnostics, prevention, drugs, vaccines, and intervention campaigns. We study cases from the world’s deadliest historical and emerging pathogens including smallpox, yellow fever, bubonic plague, SARS, Lassa, and Ebola finishing with a series of simulations where you work to save yourselves and the world from a deadly outbreak.
Note: Expected to be given in 2011–12. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

*Science of Living Systems 24. From Neurons to Nations: The Science of Early Childhood Development and the Foundations of a Successful Society - (New Course)
Catalog Number: 81179 Enrollment: Limited to 100.
Jack Shonkoff (Harvard Graduate School of Education; Harvard Medical School; Harvard School of Public Health), Charles A. Nelson (Harvard School of Public Health), and Holly Schindler (Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Half course (fall term). Tu., 1–3, and a weekly section to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 15, 16
This course is designed to bridge developmental science and social policy. It will begin with an overview of basic concepts of embryonic and neurobiological development, with particular attention focused on experience-dependent changes in brain architecture, and proceed to investigate how early experiences influence lifelong learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health. Students will then learn how broader understanding and effective translation of these scientific concepts can inform evidence-based policies and practices that advance the healthy development of children, families, and communities as well as bring high returns to all of society. Faculty affiliated with the Center on the Developing Child.
Note: Permission of the instructor is required. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Science of Living Systems 25 (formerly Science B-40). Trees, Forests and Global Change
Catalog Number: 2635
Donald H. Pfister (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology) and Andrew Richardson (Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Half course (spring term). Tu., Th., 10–11:30, and a weekly section/laboratory to be arranged. EXAM GROUP: 12, 13
Trees are prominent and important organisms in the ecosystem. By photosynthesis, trees convert carbon dioxide into organic molecules that are used as energy reserves and as structural components of these plants. Oxygen is also released. Trees, carbon cycling, and the greenhouse effect are intimately intertwined. This course uses trees as examples to explore several facets of plant biology as they relate to identification, growth, reproduction, physiology of transport, ecology, management, and use of plant products.
Note: This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Science B.

Cross-listed courses that satisfy the Science of Living Systems Requirement. Some of these courses may have prerequisites or assume familiarity with the subject matter.

Chemistry 27. Organic Chemistry of Life
Life and Physical Sciences A. Foundational Chemistry and Biology
Life Sciences 1a. An Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology
Life Sciences 1b. An Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution
Life Sciences 2. Evolutionary Human Physiology and Anatomy
MCB 52. Molecular Biology
MCB 54. Cell Biology
MCB 80. Neurobiology of Behavior
OEB 10. Foundations of Biological Diversity
OEB 52 (formerly OEB 124). Biology of Plants
Science of the Physical Universe 20. What is Life? From Quarks to Consciousness
Science of the Physical Universe 22. The Unity of Science: From the Big Bang to the Brontosaurus and Beyond
SCRB 10. Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology