Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology

Dr. William J. Anderson, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology (HDRB) is a life science concentration that educates students on how human beings develop from a fertilized egg, are maintained and repaired throughout adulthood, and age till life’s end. Students will be given a broad education in modern life sciences by studying important biological principles within the specific rubric of the developing and regenerating body. By adding an explicit and heavy emphasis on hands-on research opportunities in all four undergraduate years, HDRB will engage students with an interest in research and take advantage of Harvard’s special strengths as a teaching college and research university.

To the extent that “translational” or “applied” research focuses on the application of discoveries made in model systems to humans, the HDRB concentration will embrace the opposite approach. Its emphasis will be on rigorous basic science with a focus on what the study of humans reveals about fundamental biology and reciprocally, what a greater understanding of biology teaches us about ourselves. We believe that a fundamental understanding of how the human organism develops and maintains itself requires foundational knowledge in life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences, which are in turn dependent on a fundamental knowledge of mathematics. The requirements for the concentration reflect this view.

Students begin their study via foundational courses in the life sciences. Ordinarily, students next will enroll in Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (SCRB) 10, which is a gateway course for the HDRB concentration. SCRB 10 introduces concentrators to concepts presented in depth by later electives. Students will delve deeper into more focused topics through at least three upper level lecture or laboratory courses. SCRB 91r, which serves as the concentration tutorial, is ordinarily taken in the junior year. SCRB 91r is a semester-long course of independent laboratory research. Honors candidates must also enroll in SCRB 99 and submit a thesis.

The framework of the concentration takes advantage of faculty strength in both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Harvard Medical School through the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. The curriculum provides a range of courses that will benefit students interested in medicine and biomedical research, as well as other fields in which a comprehensive understanding of human biology is needed.

Basic Requirements: 13 courses (52 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Life Sciences (2 courses): Life Sciences 1a (or Life and Physical Sciences A) and Life Sciences 1b.
    2. Quantitative Science (1 course): Above the level of Mathematics 1a. Ordinarily, this is fulfilled by Math 1b, Math 19a, Math 21a, or equivalent. This can also be fulfilled with a course in Statistics (Stat 102, 104, 107, 110, 115, or equivalent).
    3. Chemistry (1 course): Physical Sciences 1, Physical Sciences 11, or equivalent.
    4. Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology (1 course): SCRB 10. Concentrators would ordinarily take this course in the first semester of their sophomore year.
    5. Molecular Biology (1 course): MCB 60, SCRB 20, or equivalent.
    6. Physics (1 course): Physical Sciences 2 or equivalent.
    7. Organic Chemistry (2 courses): Chemistry 17 and Chemistry 27, or Chemistry 20 and Chemistry 30.
    8. Advanced courses: Three courses above the introductory level. Any of the 100-level SCRB courses may be used to fulfill these requirements. Certain advanced courses in molecular and cellular biology, chemistry and chemical biology, and organismic and evolutionary biology may also be used to fulfill this requirement. Consult the concentration office for a list of courses categorized by area of inquiry.
    9. Research experience and tutorial: SCRB 91r. All concentrators will be required to carry out at least one semester of supervised undergraduate research in the lab of a SCRB faculty member, Harvard Stem Cell Institute Principal faculty member, or others with the permission of the Head Tutor. Consult the concentration office for a list of approved faculty members. Concurrently with this research experience, students will meet with their undergraduate research adviser twice per month to discuss progress in their coursework, their research, and current literature in their field of inquiry. Ordinarily, these two components will be combined in one term of SCRB 91r, usually taken in the junior year. Students carrying out thesis research ordinarily enroll in two terms of SCRB 99, one of which may be used to fulfill this requirement.
  2. Thesis: None. See Requirements for Honors Eligibility.
  3. General Examination: None.
  4. Other information:
    1. Pass/Fail: Courses counted for concentration credit may not be taken Pass/Fail.
    2. Advanced Placement credits may be counted (with or without Advanced Standing), provided the total number of concentration courses taken at Harvard does not fall below twelve courses, and provided the student does not enroll in a course for which the advanced placement credit was granted. Advanced Placement credit for Physical Sciences 1 may ordinarily be counted if the student begins with Chemistry 17 or 20.
    3. Certain courses offered by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and by the Division of Medical Sciences may also be counted for concentration credit if appropriate.
    4. Courses required to fulfill General Education subject areas (most notably Science of Living Systems) may also be counted toward concentration credit where appropriate.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 15 courses (60 credits)

  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements.
  2. Thesis: Required. Students enroll in two terms of SCRB 99 during the senior year.
  3. See 1I under Basic Requirements.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.


The Director of Undergraduate Studies for HDRB, Dr. Bill Anderson, is available to concentrators and pre-concentrators to provide guidance on course selection, laboratory research, and the fulfillment of concentration requirements. To learn more, visit, or contact Dr. Anderson ( or 617-495-0950).


The Director of Undergraduate Studies for HDRB is Dr. Bill Anderson, and the Co-Head Tutors are Professors Kevin Eggan and Doug Melton. For more information about the HDRB concentration, visit Students may also contact Dr. Bill Anderson (Fairchild Biochemistry Room G55, 7 Divinity Avenue; 617-495-0950; for more information.

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology* 50 95 141 146 159 176 172 146 123




*Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology does not participate in joint concentrations.