IB Info for Freshmen

Integrative Biology (IB) is concerned with the study of biological systems at all levels from molecules to ecosystems, united by a shared foundation in evolutionary biology. This concentration offers courses in a broad range of topics, including (in alphabetical order): anatomy, biomechanics, botany, genetics, genomics, behavior, development, ecology, entomology, evolution, forestry, marine biology, microbiology, mycology, oceanography, paleontology, physiology, systematics, and zoology.

Students are ordinarily expected to complete the three introductory half-courses (Life Sciences 1a or Life & Physical Sciences A, Life Sciences 1b, OEB 10) by the end of their sophomore year. Life Sciences 1a, Life & Physical Sciences A, and OEB 10 are offered in the fall semester whereas Life Sciences 1b is offered in the spring semester. These courses do not have prerequisites and can be taken in any sequence. Students who wish to take Physical Sciences 1 in freshman spring should take Life Sciences 1a or Life & Physical Sciences A in their first semester at Harvard.

IB concentrators are required to take four half-courses introducing broad areas of biology and at least two advanced half-courses in biology. Most students will take these courses in their sophomore, junior and senior years, but an enterprising student might consider taking one of the following courses in their freshman year.


MCB 80. Neurobiology of Behavior
OEB 150. Vertebrate Evolution & Development


OEB 57. Animal Behavior
OEB 52. Biology of Plants

These courses all count for credit in the IB concentration but do not have prerequisites. Also, MCB 80 and OEB 52 meet the General Education requirement for Science of Living Systems if taken for letter grade. Therefore, if you eventually choose not to concentrate in the sciences,  these courses would help to satisfy your general education requirements.

Freshmen Seminars

In addition to taking mainstream courses, interested freshmen may consider taking freshmen seminars run by OEB faculty members. This is a wonderful opportunity to study a topic in depth and to get a good sense of the opportunities available within the concentration and, more generally, within the OEB department. The following freshmen seminars are taught by OEB faculty members; note that many other seminars taught by non-OEB faculty are relevant to IB. This listing, then, by no means includes all the seminars that might be of interest to potential IB concentrators.

FALL 2013:

FRSEMR 21i. Evolution, Buddhism, and Ethics  John Wakeley
FRSEMR 24p. Getting to Know Charles Darwin  Ned Friedman

SPRING 2014:

FRSEMR 21q. Nature and Impostors: Mimicry and Crypsis  Michael Canfield
FRSEMR 21w. Research at the Harvard Forest: Global Change Ecology -- Forests, Ecosystem Function, and Future   David Foster
FRSEMR 22t. Why we Animals Sing (the ways we do)  Brian Farrell 

Choosing a Concentration

Freshmen are required to consult with advisors from their potential concentrations at the end of their freshman Spring semester. Please contact us for IB pre-concentration advising.