Graduate Training

Educational Philosophy

Because fossils, artifacts and genomes are complex and mostly indirect sources of data for testing evolutionary hypotheses, important research questions in human evolutionary studies exemplify the importance of an interdisciplinary approach. To prepare students to develop new ways of addressing these questions effectively, HEB’s objective is to train future scholars to draw on research tools from disciplines that are traditionally taught in different departments, by emphasizing approaches that combine areas of study such as archaeology, biomechanics and engineering, cognitive science, comparative and experimental functional morphology, ecology, evolutionary and developmental biology (evo-devo), evolutionary theory, genetics, geochemistry, geometric morphometrics, life history, molecular biology, neuroscience, and paleoclimatology. The research and training experience offered by the HEB focus on three major themes, which include the interdisciplinary study of:

  1. evolution of the human brain, behavior and cognition,
  2. evolution of human diet (food acquisition and processing), and
  3. human behavioral responses to environmental change.

The HEB uses problem-based learning methods within these thematic research efforts to encourage students to develop new approaches for testing hypotheses using the fossil, genetic, anatomical, and archeological records. Finally, because of the public profile of human evolutionary studies, HEB trains students so that they have the skills needed to convey information about the processes and discoveries of evolutionary science to the public. HEB graduates acquire a wide range of experience and competencies that will allow them to pursue teaching and research careers in anthropology, biology, geology, and anatomy departments, and in museums and other institutions involved in the advancement and dissemination of knowledge about our species’ evolutionary history.


Overview of Educational Structure

The HEB is designed to be a five-year doctoral program that combines:

  • Core training in hominin paleobiology, Paleolithic archaeology, genetics/molecular evolution, geoscience/vertebrate paleontology, animal behavior/ecology, statistical and research methods
  • Additional training in evolutionary biology, developmental biology, hominin paleontology, biomechanics, and other fields not traditionally studied by graduate students in anthropology programs
  • A focus on innovative problem-based learning, significant opportunity for international research experience, and hands-on training in cutting edge research methods
  • Training and internships in the effective communication of science to the public

As a multi-institutional graduate training consortium, students in the HEB are enrolled in either GW’s Hominid Paleobiology Doctoral Program or HU’s Neuroscience Doctoral Program (broken) in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. The HEB structure is compatible with both programs.

HU students are obligated to fulfill a different set of mandatory and elective course requirements for HU’s Neuroscience Doctoral program (including Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Developmental and Evolutionary Neurobiology, Neuroanatomy and Functional Organization of the Nervous System). HEB requirements for HU students include:

  1. core courses in Hominin Paleobiology, Animal Behavior or Ecology, Genetics or Molecular Evolution, and Research Methods in Human Evolutionary Studies
  2. one Problem-Based Learning Seminar
  3. a Public Understanding of Science Internship, and
  4. application to “Preparing Future Faculty” at HU.

**Please see the GW and HU program websites for more specific information about requirements.