Research Courses

One of the best ways to learn science is to engage in research!  A variety of research opportunities are open to you, regardless of whether you concentrate in science.  At Harvard, you can gain hands-on laboratory experience in a variety of ways:  1) Courses with a lab component, 2) Courses devoted almost exclusively to research, and 3)  Research with a faculty member.  

Courses with a lab component
The foundational life sciences courses (e.g. LS1a, LPSA, and LS1b), as well as many intermediate level courses (e.g. MCB 60) and some upper-level classes (e.g. MCB 121), include a lab component that allows you to gain hands-on experience while exploring concepts from class.

Research-based courses
You can immerse yourself in original research in a variety of courses.  Some of the options include:

  • Freshman Seminar 25o:  Freshmen explore synthetic biology in this hands-on course.
  • Life Sciences 100r and Chemistry 100r:  Small groups of students undertake a semester-long research project derived from a faculty member’s current work.

The SCRB Department offers several laboratory-based courses, including:

  • SCRB 160:  Experimental Embryology
  • SCRB 162:  Experimental Regenerative Biology
  • SCRB 165:  Directed Differentiation of Stem Cells

A number of OEB classes take students to the field over spring break to study biological diversity.  Recent examples include:

  • OEB 51 (Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals): Panama
  • OEB 167 (Herpetology): Costa Rica
  • OEB 190 (Biology & Diversity of Birds): Panama

HEB junior tutorials include a research component, and all psychology concentrators enroll in a research-based course. 

Research with a faculty member  
Many students join a faculty laboratory during their time at Harvard; visit the Research pages for more information.  If you do research with a faculty member, you can volunteer, receive payment, or receive academic credit.  If you enroll in a research course (such as CPB 91r or Neuro 98r), you typically are expected to spend 15-20 hours per week doing research and then write a research paper at the end of the semester.  Many students also choose to write a senior thesis as a culmination of several years’ of original research.  While you can begin research at any time, thesis writers usually begin their thesis project no later than spring of the junior year and spend the summer before senior year working on their project.