Integrative Biology

Professor Gonzalo Giribet, Director of Undergraduate Studies 

The concentration in Integrative Biology (IB) is designed to provide students with opportunities to explore topics across all of biology, and also to focus in detail on areas of particular interest. 

IB asks questions about the function, evolution, and interaction of organisms, both now and in the past. What kinds of organisms are there and how are they related? How is an organism's functional design and behavior related to its environment? What are the genetic and morphological mechanisms underlying an organism's development, and how is evolution influenced by development? Integrative biology can be approached in many ways, reflecting an interest in a specific group of organisms (e.g., plants, animals, microorganisms), in level of organization (e.g., ecological systems, population genetics), in approach (e.g., systematics, biogeography, biomechanics, developmental biology, mathematical theory, neurobiology), or in sampling broadly across multiple areas. IB is, therefore, inherently an interdisciplinary field, ranging over different levels of biological organization, evolutionary processes, taxa, and physiological and molecular systems. Courses emphasize student learning, critical thinking, and may include participation in research and field experiences, with the goal of fostering a foundation of knowledge and appetite for life-long learning, as students prepare for careers in the life sciences and related fields and professions. 

Students who are considering IB as a concentration are encouraged to complete the three introductory courses (Life Sciences 1a, 1b, OEB 10) by the end of their sophomore year. From the foundation of these introductory courses, students explore one or more areas in depth by taking upper-level courses. Students are encouraged to consult the concentration website for further details on various pathways through the concentration (i.e., suggested combinations of mid-level and upper-level courses) and lists of faculty who can provide advice in these areas. Students may also design their own pathway. 

For many students, the concentration will culminate in independent research leading to a senior thesis, but a thesis is not the only means by which a student may participate in research. The concentration website provides information on research opportunities in IB as well as general advice about how to identify and contact faculty whose research is of interest. The concentration also provides opportunities to study biological diversity in the field, whether close to home or abroad. IB does not participate in joint concentrations but will consider senior theses that incorporate work from a secondary field. 

13 courses (52 credits)

  1. Required courses: 
    1. Three courses in introductory biology: Life Sciences 1a, Life Sciences 1b, OEB 10. (Life and Physical Sciences A can substitute for Life Sciences 1a; Life Sciences 50a and 50b can substitute for Life Sciences 1a and 1b). 
    2. At least four courses introducing broad fields of biology to be chosen from OEB 11, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60; MCB 60, 63, 80, 121; Life Sciences 2; SCRB 10. 
    3. Two advanced-level courses in biology, one of which may be a supervised research or reading course. 
    4. At least four courses (two courses for students who have taken Life Sciences 50a and 50b) to be chosen from offerings in applied mathematics, chemistry, computer science (above the level of Computer Science 1), mathematics (above the level of Math 1a), physics, and statistics. 
  2. Thesis: Optional but required for Highest Honors in Field. 
  3. Supervised Reading and Research Courses: (OEB 91r, 99r). Any supervised research and reading course undertaken with mentors outside of OEB must be approved and co-sponsored by an OEB faculty member 
  4. General Examination: None. 
  5. Pass/Fail: All concentration requirements must be taken for letter-grade credit. 
Questions should be addressed to the IB Concentration Adviser (Andrew Berry; 617-495-0684; or Director of Undergraduate Studies (Gonzalo Giribet; Students considering doctoral studies in the life sciences should consult with Andrew Berry and other relevant faculty to ensure that their undergraduate program is appropriate to their interests and goals. Those contemplating careers in medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine are encouraged to consult with the Office of Career Services and appropriate pre-professional advisers regarding entrance requirements for these programs. 
In addition to faculty research laboratories, several special facilities offer unique and exciting opportunities for IB concentrators. These include a supercomputer cluster, a state of the art high-throughput DNA sequencing facility, imaging centers, greenhouses, and animal facilities. The Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) houses extensive systematic collections of recent and fossil vertebrates and invertebrates. The Harvard University Herbaria (HUH) houses the Farlow reference library and Farlow Herbarium, the Gray Herbarium, and the Orchid Herbarium of Oakes Ames. The Botanical Museum houses the Ware collection of botanical models (“glass flowers”). The Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, the Harvard Forest in Petersham, and the Concord Field Station in Bedford also provide research facilities. Links to these and other facilities can be found on the OEB Department website
Director of Undergraduate Studies, IB: Professor Gonzalo Giribet, MCZ Labs 502, 26 Oxford Street ( More information about the IB concentration can be found at The IB Concentration Adviser is Dr. Andrew Berry, Biological Laboratories, Room 1082B (617-495-0684, 
Number of Concentrators as of December
*Integrative Biology
*Integrative Biology does not participate in joint concentrations.