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BS in Human Health and Biology

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Undergraduate Anthropology Program

B.S. in Anthropology: Human Health and Biology

Please see the OU Course Catalog for a complete list of Anthropology courses. The list of courses offered during the current and upcoming semester can be found here. The official checksheet for the Bachelor of Science in Anthropology: Human Health and Biology can be found here.

old image of the four humors

An early European perspective on health: the four humors in relation to elements and the zodiac. From "Quinta Essentiaā€¯ by Leonhart Thurneisser zum Thurn (gen. Leonhard Thurneysser), 1574. Image source.

Health is shaped by biology, environment, and behavior. Human evolutionary history impacts infectious and other disease risk. Culture also plays a role in disease risk, and shapes etiologic, diagnostic, and treatment frameworks used by both patients and health care personnel. Culturally appropriate interventions are a cornerstone to addressing health disparities. There is increasing evidence for the role of the microbiome in health, and for the role of behavioral factors in shaping microbiome.

Anthropology is uniquely situated to examine health from a holistic perspective that takes into account biological and cultural diversity. The Department of Anthropology offers a Bachelor of Science option in Human Health and Biology. The objectives of this program are to foster an awareness of human biological and cultural diversity, to promote an understanding of biocultural and evolutionary perspectives on health and disease, and to enable students to obtain the foundation in chemistry, biology, and mathematics needed for medical school, for graduate study in health-related fields, and for a range of entry-level health professions. In addition to connecting students with interests in the life sciences to biological and medical anthropology, the program requires additional coursework in other areas of anthropology (cultural anthropology; archaeology; linguistic anthropology) to provide a deeper understanding of the human condition.

The 36 hours of anthropology required for the degree must include Anth 1113 "General Anthropology," Anth 3203 "Introduction to Biological Anthropology," and Anth 4113 "Anthropology Capstone." Majors must take 29 hours of supporting courses in Biology, Chemistry, and Math or Statistics. The also must take 21 hours of Anthropology electives. The following rules apply to the choice of Anthropology electives:

  1. Must have at least 15 hours of electives at the 3000- and 4000-levels.
  2. At least 9 of those 15 hours of upper division Anthropology electives must be classified as "Human Health and Biology" (HHB). The list of classes that count towards HHB can be found here.

Also, it is possible to count of to 3 hours of Independent Study, Internship, Thesis, Honors Research, or Mentored Research as electives. Up to 3 hours of electives can be filled by non-Anthropology courses. The allowable courses are listed at Anthro Electives.

In addition, anthropology majors are strongly encouraged to take relevant support work in related fields. For example, students interested in biological or medical anthropology benefit from coursework in zoology, anatomy, history, sociology, and other behavioral sciences. These courses may also satisfy general education requirements, and in fact may count towards a minor in any of these other departments.

Anthropology electives are chosen based on the student's interests, abilities, and Honors program participation. 120 semester hours are required for the bachelor of arts degree, and a student can have any number of major hours. Choosing the right courses and combination of courses is very important, and the student should consult with the Anthropology Department's advisors as well as other faculty members. Ideally, the student should formulate a tentative program of coursework during his/her sophomore year (or earlier) in consultation with the advisors and then make adjustments as necessary in following semesters.

Directed readings or research courses may be taken in order to pursue in-depth study of a single topic, either in the form of original research or research based on library resources. Development of research skills can be very helpful for students interested in graduate study. Independent study and internships in anthropology must be coordinated with a faculty member in the subfield of focus. These courses are Independent Study 4990, Honors Reading 3960, and Honors Research 3980. Honors courses require admission to the Honors Program. An appointment with Dr. Hirschfeld is necessary for instruction on how to enter the Honors program. Visit the Honors Program site at