Health & Human Biology AB

Health & Human Biology AB

(14 courses)


Promoting health and well-being in the 21st century requires depth of expertise in the life sciences as well as breadth of knowledge in the social sciences and humanities. Brown's concentration in Health & Human Biology (HHB) is designed to offer students the chance to examine human health issues from a multidisciplinary perspective. HHB provides students with a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, quantitative methods, genetics, structure & function and organismal biology. Students delve more deeply into biology through advanced electives and add breadth of understanding through theme-based coursework intentionally based outside of the biological sciences.

Students are expected to take courses that will count toward the concentration ABC/NC. Students should discuss the S/NC option with their concentration advisor if circumstances warrant special consideration. Students should not register S/NC for a concentration course without advisor pre-approval (mandatory S/NC courses may count toward the concentration).

Scroll down to see the course and capstone requirements of the Health & Human Biology concentration.

The flexibility of the HHB concentration allows students with diverse interests to achieve their academic goals at Brown and prepare for subsequent career choices. Nearly half of HHB graduates pursue advanced degrees in health related fields. Approximately 20% go on to Master's and PhD programs in the life sciences. HHB students who identify as pre-med, or who intend to pursue graduate school, have the opportunity to further engage in STEM coursework and independent research in the senior year. Students aiming to pursue graduate school in the social sciences or humanities, or who intend to work in non-academic sectors, have the freedom to add more breadth to their thematic studies or pursue other interests such as a foreign language and sometimes a second concentration.

HHB themes are built upon Brown's faculty strengths in the brain, environmental, global health and social sciences. Students select a cohesive group of courses in one of several thematic areas: 1) Brain Health and Behavior, 2) Environmental Health, 3) Global/International Health, or 4) Social Context of Health and Disease

The Brain Health and Behavior theme provides a framework for understanding how brain activity drives behavioral actions that in turn influence health and well-being. Brain function can be examined from a neuroanatomical, neurodevelopmental, neurochemical and/or a neurophysiological perspective. Students pursuing the Brain Health and Behavior theme have interests ranging from traumatic brain injury to nervous system disorders. They draw on courses from many departments including CLPS, Education, and Sociology and often pursue research with faculty in Brown's Institute for Brain Science.

Environmental Health is concerned with the biological, chemical and physical factors that reduce the quality and length of life for humans. Environmental factors that influence health and well-being are diverse, far reaching, and often intertwined with sociocultural factors. Students pursuing the Environmental Health theme are interested in the health implications of toxicants in natural systems and the built environment, natural disaster, climate change, the loss of biological diversity and ecosystem function, and more. Many students simultaneously explore the social dimensions of environmental health from sustainable and equitable development perspectives. HHB Environmental Health concentrators often take courses with faculty associated with the new Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.

Global/International Health is the study, research and application of practices that prioritize health equity for all people worldwide. Global Health draws on many disciplines within and beyond the health sciences including sociology, anthropology, international relations, and economics. A thematic focus in Global Health allows students to address emerging diseases, vaccine development and delivery, and the economic factors that impact the diagnosis, prevention, surveillance and treatment of disease. Students studying Global/International Health enroll in a number of courses offered by the School of Public Health and learn from faculty involved in Brown's Global Health Initiative.

The Social Context of Health and Disease theme allows students to study the myriad social, cultural, and historical factors that shape our health and how we prevent and treat disease. Students with interests in topics such as health inequality, the history of medicine, health communication, and the diverse methods of healing benefit from the breadth of opportunities in this theme.


Part A. Background Courses  



MATH 0090

- AP/IB may substitute

- MATH 0050/0060, 0100 or 0170 may substitute

BIOL 0200

- AP/IB may substitute

CHEM 0330

- IB may substitute

Statistics or Methods Course

- e.g., APMA 0650, BIOL 0495, CLPS 0090, EDUC 1100, PHP 1510, SOC 1100; others with approval

Part B. Core Courses 



Genetics (1)

- Satisfied via (1) BIOL 0470 OR (2) BIOL 0480 plus ONE of the following: BIOL 0500, BIOL 0510, or BIOL 0280 

The latter option involves TWO courses, both of which would count towards the Biology course portion of the program; BIOL 0480 can count as the organismal/population biology requirement

Structure/Function/ Development (1)

- Choose one: BIOL 0400, 0800, 1310, 1800, 1880; NEUR 0010

Organismal/Population Biology (1)

- Choose one: BIOL 0380, 0390, 0410, 0415, 0420, 0480; 1470, 1880; NEUR 1940; ENVS 0490

Biology Electives  (2)

- Two BIOL or NEUR courses that relate to/support the chosen Theme

- At least one must be an advanced BIOL/NEUR course (i.e. BIOL 1000+)

- BIOL 1950/1960 may not be used here

- Note that courses used to fulfill other requirements cannot also be used as an elective credit

Part C. Theme Courses 

Theme Courses (4)


- Students choose from one of four theme options: 1) Brain Health and Behavior, 2) Environmental Health,  3) Global/International Health, or 4) Social Context of Health and Disease

- Advisor-approved cluster of 4 cohesively grouped courses from non-BIOL non-NEUR offerings

- Approved courses must be above the introductory level and at least one must be 1000+

- No more than TWO courses from a given department may be included in the theme portion  

- See PDF attachment below for examples of courses students have used in each theme.

Part D. Senior Capstone

Senior Capstone


HHB concentrators pursue a capstone experience in the final year. The purpose is to provide students with an opportunity to draw on the depth and breadth of knowledge gained in the concentration to complete a project or engage at a high level in an appropriate advanced seminar.

Capstones may be fulfilled through ONE of the following three options and should be approved by the concentration advisor.

Advanced Seminar - Below is a PDF document that includes a list of seminar courses HHB students have used to fulfill the senior capstone requirement. These courses are pre-approved by the HHB concentration advisors. Not all of these courses are offered every year so students should consult [email protected] for the most up to date schedule. Additional seminar courses, not listed here, may better suit student interests in fulfilling their capstone requirement. Students are encouraged to discuss potential capstone seminars early with their concentration advisor. Capstone Seminar Requirements: Seminars that students identify which are senior/graduate level, capped to a size that facilitates advanced discussion (max 15 students), and which have assignments that offer a clear opportunity to demonstrate critical and independent thinking in the concentration (i.e. final papers and projects) are also possible. Students should discuss these with their concentration advisor and obtain formal approval to use the seminar as a capstone via the ASK declaration.

Independent research/study - Students may develop an independent research or independent study experience with a Brown faculty member. The project may take place over one or two semesters and should build on the student’s biological and/or thematic interests in the concentration. Students should register for BIOL 1950/1960 if working with a BioMed faculty member. Students pursuing independent course work with a faculty member outside of Biology will register for the appropriate independent study course in that faculty member’s department. Students writing a senior thesis may use this to satisfy the capstone experience if the project is related to the concentration pursuits.

Off campus experience coupled with independent study - Students may couple an off campus experience related to the concentration with a semester of independent study mentored by a Brown faculty member. For example a student may spend time over the summer prior to the senior year, or during the academic year, volunteering at a human health related organization, working on off campus research (perhaps in the hospitals or at RI Department of Health), or pursuing a similar in depth experience. Such experiences should culminate in a formal faculty-mentored independent study (i.e. BIOL 1950/1960) where the work is fully developed and presented based on a set of goals agreed upon by the student and mentor. Capstones such as these embrace many possibilities. Students should work with a faculty sponsor and the concentration advisor to determine what best suits their personal learning goals.

*The HHB Concentration Worksheet may be a useful tool for course planning and can be found as an attachment below.