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OEB Concentration Renamed Integrative Biology

By Jessica A. Barzilay, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: March 2, 2014, at 7:47 p.m.

While most Harvard students graduate with a degree in the concentration they initially declared sophomore year, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology concentrators are poised to have a different experience.

The concentration, known as OEB for short, will be renamed Integrative Biology, according to an email announcement sent to concentrators Thursday.

“We feel that IB better represents our undergraduate curriculum and experience,” wrote OEB concentration advisor Andrew Berry in the emailed statement.

Formed six years ago when the science departments at Harvard reorganized into the nine concentrations that now make up the Life Sciences cluster, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology is known for its all-encompassing and interdisciplinary approach to the study of the life sciences. The Life Sciences website said the OEB concentration has been designed with an appreciation of the need for both learning in breadth and learning in depth.

While the name of OEB concentration will change, the department will continue to go by the name OEB and the requirements and courses will not change. Seniors graduating this spring will have the option of either title on their diploma, according to James D. Carey ’14.

“I don’t have a strong preference either way,” Carey said. “I think I’d opt for IB just so it’s easier for people down the line to understand.”

Berry listed three chief reasons behind the department’s change in his email to the concentration. Primarily, “the word ‘integrative’ emphasizes the breadth of research approaches and systems of study embodied in the course offerings of our concentration, as well as the flexible nature of our concentration requirements,” he wrote.

In addition, the new name is designed to be less daunting to potential concentrators deciding between several related life sciences concentrations.

“I think it better encompasses the material in the concentration,” said Andrew D. Clark ’16, who declared OEB as his concentration last fall. “Also, it’s definitely less of a mouthful to say.”

Finally, Berry cited a desire to engage more students who may not want to specialize in specific systems or types of biology upon declaring their concentration.

“I think the rationale is to make it more inclusive,” Carey said. “One of the strengths of the concentration is its flexibility and variety of academic offerings, and making this more clear would help convey this to prospective concentrators.”

—Staff writer Jessica A. Barzilay can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jessicabarzilay.

—Staff writer Antonio Coppola can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AntonioCoppolaC.

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