LS50A and LS50B: Integrated Science (2015 - present)

Instructors: Cassandra Extavour, Andrew Murray, Erel Levine, Michael Desai, Sean Eddy, Ben de Bivort

Lectures: MTuWThF 10:00 – 11:30

Notes: Lab is currently scheduled for Tuesdays OR Thursdays. Life Sciences 50a and 50b, when taken together for a letter grade, fulfill the General Education requirements of Science of Living Systems, Science of the Physical Universe, and Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning. LS 50a taken alone fulfills two of these requirements.

Course Description: This is an intensive two-semester, double course that introduces the natural sciences as an integrated whole to students who have a very strong interest in science. Our goal is to teach students how to solve scientific problems by drawing methods and concepts from biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The course uses examples from biology as an integrating theme, principles from physics and mathematics to reduce complex problems to simpler forms, and computer simulation to allow students to develop their intuition about the behavior of the dynamical systems that control the physical and biological universe. The course includes bootcamps to introduce students to biological experiments and the computer language, Matlab. Each semester will include a project lab, in which students will work in small teams to do original research on unsolved biological problems.

Course iSite:

OEB 51: The Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals (2009 - present)

Instructors: Cassandra Extavour, Gonzalo Giribet

Lectures: TuTh 10:00 – 11:30

Labs: W, 3:00 - 6:00

An introduction to invertebrate diversity. This course will emphasize the development, adult anatomy, biology and evolutionary relationships of the main animal phyla including sponges, mollusks, annelids and arthropods. Special emphasis is placed on understanding the similarities and differences in embryonic development, the broad diversity of animal forms and their adaptations to different ecosystems, and how these phenomena shape animal evolution. The aim of this course is to understand animal diversity from a phylogenetic perspective as well as from a developmental and functional morphology point of view, and to be able to put in context general concepts such as body layers, coeloms, ground patterns, and their roles in animal evolution. Lectures will be complemented with a mandatory weekly lab and a field trip to different areas of outstanding marine diversity in Panamá.

Course iSite:

Download a recent course syllabus here.

See pictures of the Panamá field trips. The class goes to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Bocas del Toro.

Read the feature article on student enthusiasm for the teaching of Profs. Extavour and Giribet in OEB51 here.

OEB 399: Topics in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (2008 - present)

Instructors: all OEB faculty members

Presents the research interests and experiences of scientists in organismic and evolutionary biology. Specific topics treated vary from year to year. Required of all first-year graduate students in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.

Download the course schedule for 2011 here.

Read more about this and other OEB courses here.

OEB 275r: Frontiers of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (offered in 2009 and 2010)

Instructors: Scott Edwards, Charles Marshall, Arkhat Abzhanov, Ann Pringle, Cassandra Extavour, Gonzalo Giribet, Chris Organ, Hopi Hoekstra, Marcus Kronforst, Chris Marx, Kevin Foster, Paul Moorcroft, Brian Farrell

Lectures: M, W 1:30 – 3:00

A survey of the foundations and frontiers of ecology and evolutionary biology, delivered by OEB faculty. Topics covered in lectures and Professor-led sessions focused on paper discussions, debates or computational analysis of evolutionary data.

Download the course syllabus for 2010 here.

iDB Nanocourse: Developmental Mechanisms of Evolutionary Change (offered in 2009, 2014)

Instructors: Arkhat Abzhanov, Elena Kramer, Cassandra Extavour, Terence Capellini

Are you curious about the old-new science of Evo-Devo? Do you wonder how a combination of two disciplines, evolutionary biology and developmental biology, can contribute to understanding the laws of Nature? This course will look at the way the mechanisms of development have been influenced by evolutionary forces and how understanding developmental genetics can help us understand evolutionary concepts. BBS nanocourses are intensive introductions to specific topics consisting of one three-hour lecture and a three-hour discussion one week later.

Download the course announcement for this nanocourse as it was offered in 2009 here.

Nanocourses at the Harvard Medical School change every year. For a complete current nanocourse schedule see

MCB 291: Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution (2008 - 2013)

Instructors: Cassandra Extavour, Andrew Murray

Lectures: MW 10:30 – 12:00

Discussion: F 10:00 – 12:00

This is a graduate student class that will provide an integrated introduction to the interface between genetics, genomics, and evolutionary biology.  Our aim is to assume a minimum of background information and progress rapidly to a sophisticated level of understanding by focusing on a few examples rather than trying to provide a comprehensive view of a very large subject.  The course will begin with three lectures on applying quantitative approaches to understanding biological problems (Murray), touch on Darwin/Wallace and Mendel in their historical contexts (Andrew Berry/Murray), discuss how to find and analyze genetic elements that control traits of interest (Extavour/Murray), introduce some key concepts in population genetics (Murray), cover the evolution of developmental processes, biological regulatory networks, and proteins (Extavour), and close by discussing some unsolved problems in evolution.

Course iSite:

Download the course syllabus here.