There Are 7 Biology Concentrations And Here's How to Choose
Why in the world does Harvard have seven concentrations related to biology? Does anyone outside of Harvard care if you studied Chemical and Physical Biology or Molecular and Cellular Biology? What does Integrative Biology even mean? Did you randomly take LS1A your freshman year and now you have no clue what to study? With the concentration declaration deadline upon us, we’ve created a procrastinator's guide to understanding obscure biology concentration abbreviations before November 19.
MCB: Molecular and Cellular Biology
What it’s about: We start with the smallest units of life: cells. If you really enjoy classes full of premeds, you’re bound to love this concentration. Most sophomore concentrators take MCB 60 to get a taste of the MCB concentrator’s life.
Who do I talk to?: Fill out the CPB-MCB plan of study and talk with Dominic Mao, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for CPB/MCB.
Fun Fact: Other abbreviations that would work well for MCB include: My Cell Bae, Mitochondria is a Cool Box, and Many Cool Biologists.
CPB: Chemical and Physical Biology
What it’s about: This is great if you care about more than molecules, but not a whole lot more. Also, you have to be hardcore to want to study chemistry, physics, and biology all at once. Everything you do is eerily similar to MCB, and you have some of the coolest open houses and study breaks with every imaginable food under the sun.
Who do I talk to?: Same as MCB! Complete CPB-MCB plan of study and meet with Dominic.
Fun Fact: They have a ~biochemically-inspired~ right-handed helical staircase at their offices in Sherman-Fairchild.
What it’s about: This one’s for the nerds who like the body’s most complex organ: the brain. You have to have a big brain to think about thousands of neurons that make up big brains. Plus, it’s one of two concentrations that doesn’t mandate independent research, if you don’t want to be stuck in a lab through college.
Who do I talk to?: Ryan Draft, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for Neuroscience
Fun Fact: Lots of bonus points in the Flyby book because this is the only concentration without an obscure abbreviation.
HDRB: Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology
What it’s about: If you actually like fully developed people and not just cells and brains, this might be the concentration for you. This is a great choice if you’re committed to doing some form of research in an up-and-coming area and like lots of photoshopped pubs.
Who do I talk to?: Have a four-year plan of study and meet with Amie Holmes, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for HDRB.
Fun Fact: Some of the coolest upper-level courses you can take include “The Scientific Search for the Fountain of Youth” and “Glucose: From Molecule to Society.”
HEB: Human Evolutionary Biology
What it’s about: You like humans, but you also like how they’ve changed over hundreds of years and how they form little groups and give themselves creative names like Flyby, Editorial, and News. If you’re interested in arguing with anti-evolutionists, this might also be the move.
Who do I talk to?: Carole Hooven or Neil Roach, Co-Directors of Undergraduate Studies
Fun Fact: You’ll be surrounded by some of the wackiest people on campus — Professor Joe Henrich from the department even wrote a book called “The WEIRDest People in the World”!
IB: Integrative Biology (formerly OEB)
What it’s about: Does everything above sound like one amazing puzzle you want to fit together? Do you have trouble making decisions and tend to sample a bit of everything? IB will help you integrate your interest in cells, organs, people, animals, and evolution in the past and present.
Who do I talk to?: Andrew Berry, Undergraduate Advisor
Fun Fact: Party concentration? Through its connection with the Harvard Museum of Natural History, IB gets to throw the coolest parties — after hours, in the dinosaur hall.
BME: Biomedical Engineering
What it’s about: This one is for all the math people masquerading as biologists. If you enjoy creating, visualizing, and spatial thinking and want to take advantage of SEAS resources, this might be the best choice for you.
Who do I talk to?: You’ll need an eight-semester plan of study to meet with either Linsey Moyer, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies or Professor Demba Ba, the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Fun Fact: You can take a HUGE variety of courses, ranging from tissue engineering to studying food fermentation.
I’m honestly not certain I’ve covered them all, but seven’s a lucky number at least? Perhaps your calling will be some of the other biology-adjacent concentrations, like Cognitive Neuroscience or Evolutionary Psychology or Chemistry. Still unsure? Considering the incredible degree of overlap across these concentrations, you can comfortably take some common requirements and postpone making a commitment, too! All in all, whether you’re an aspiring physician, researcher, or just someone who loves life, you’re bound to satisfy your cravings with Harvard’s buffet of life science concentrations.