PhD in Human Paleobiology

 

2 graduate students working on laptop in a lab

 

The PhD in Human Paleobiology program trains students to address key research questions surrounding human evolution. The STEM-designated curriculum draws on research tools from archaeology, behavioral ecology, genetics, hard tissue biology, morphology, neuroscience, paleoecology, paleontology, social cognition and more. Research is conducted both on site and through the Anthropology Department’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology housed in our cutting-edge lab facility.

The curriculum incorporates professional development opportunities outside the classroom, including workshop presentations and weekly peer research discussions.

The PhD program in Human Paleobiology is suspending admissions for this year, and will not be considering applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. We are taking this pause on admissions due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our wish to support our current students as fully as possible. We note that our Master’s program will continue admissions as usual this year and our faculty would be pleased to discuss this option with interested applicants.

 


 

How to Apply

Interested students are encouraged to contact a core faculty member in human paleobiology to discuss their interests and learn more about the curriculum and resources. Find the complete application requirements on GW's Graduate Program Finder.

The five-year PhD program offers fully funded fellowship opportunities, including a stipend and teaching assistant salary. However, for some PhD funding packages the university continues to require that GRE scores be submitted. For this reason, we currently recommend that applicants to the PhD program take the GRE, but with the understanding that your scores will not affect your chances of admission into the program. We hope that, in the future, the GRE will no longer be required for any funding packages and we are actively working to make this happen.

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Program Goals

The PhD in Human Paleobiology degree program strives to provide students with:

  • Relevant scientific expertise and experience with cutting-edge instrumentation
  • An appropriate ethical compass
  • An environment that emphasizes the importance and effectiveness of collaborative research
  • An ability to work and collaborate internationally
  • Transferable leadership and management skills

 

 


"One of the reasons I chose to get my PhD at GW was the human paleobiology program’s emphasis on educational outreach. The program requires a Public Understanding of Science internship for all doctoral students, [which provides] an opportunity to work closely with an organization dedicated to presenting science to the public."

Meagan Vakiener

MS ’18
Current PhD Student


Program Timeline

The first and second years primarily consist of coursework, a professional skills and ethics seminar, a grant-writing course focused on preparing a dissertation proposal and internship or lab experiences that integrate original research and coursework.

Students participate in two different laboratory rotations to broaden their research skills. One laboratory must be at an institution other than GW, and students are strongly encouraged to undertake at least one project outside the United States. General examinations in hominid paleobiology and paleolithic archeology should also be taken at the end of the second year, and no later than the end of the third year.

In the third year, students begin directed research on their doctoral dissertations while participating in a capstone seminar, laboratory rotation and internship. General examinations, including the dissertation proposal defense, must be successfully completed by the end of the third year. After successfully completing general examinations, the student may advance to candidacy.

Once students reach candidacy, they proceed to completing the doctoral research plan and writing the dissertation.

Students complete and defend their dissertation. If they pass, they submit their electronic dissertation by the end of the fifth year.

Learn More in the CCAS Doctoral Student Handbook

 


Course Requirements

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.  

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy program.

72 credits, including a minimum of 45 credits in courses selected in consultation with the advisor prior to advancing to PhD candidacy and 6 to 27 credits in dissertation research.

Required
Foundations core (8 or 9 credits)
HOMP 6202Lab Techniques: Paleoanthropology
HOMP 6203Ethics and Professional Practice I
ANTH 6413Analytical Methods in Human Evolutionary Studies (or an alternative course selected with the approval of the advisor and program director)
ANTH 6491Topics in Biological Anthropology (Topic: Grant Writing)
Modern and paleobiology core (15 credits)
Five courses selected from the list below. Of these five courses, one course exemption may be allowed depending on prior education, for which program approval is required. When an exemption is granted, the student is still held to the requirement that they take 45 total credits of coursework.
HOMP 6201Hominid Paleobiology
ANTH 6403Primate Behavior
ANTH 6404The Evolution of Primate Life Histories
ANTH 6407Anthropological Genetics
ANTH 6491Topics in Biological Anthropology (Topic: Evolution of the Human Brain)
ANTH 6801Paleolithic Archaeology
Engagement and application core (6 credits)
HOMP 8302Public Understanding of Science Internship
HOMP 8303Paleobiology Lab Rotation
Electives
At least 15 or 16 credits in coursework should be selected in consultation with the advisor from among various disciplines, including but not limited to, ANAT, ANTH, BISC, BIOCHEM, BIOSTAT, CHEM, GEOL, HOMP, PHYS, or PSYC.
The following courses may be repeated for elective credit, not to exceed a total of 12 credits:
HOMP 6995Independent Research
HOMP 8998Advanced Reading and Research (Taken for no more than a total of 6 credits. This course is graded on a CR/NC basis.)
Dissertation research
HOMP 8999Dissertation Research (taken for 6 to 27 credits)

Advanced Requirements

Students must successfully complete general comprehensive examinations, a dissertation proposal defense and examination, and a final dissertation defense and examination.

General examinations prior to PhD candidacy

General examinations must be successfully completed before the end of the third year of the program, prior to advancing to candidacy. These comprise two written comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation proposal defense and examination. 

The first comprehensive examination includes written questions that integrate comprehension across all thematic areas in the modern and paleobiology core and tests foundational knowledge, concepts, theory, and/or methods learned in the core curriculum.

The second comprehensive examination is written in the form of an authoritative review of a chosen topic, including a history of previous relevant research, discussion of theoretical issues, and identification of outstanding questions or directions for future research. 

For the dissertation proposal defense, students must prepare a research proposal that meets funding agency guidelines and successfully complete an oral defense and examination of this proposal.

After PhD candidacy

After candidacy, students proceed to completing their doctoral research plan and writing the dissertation, in consultation with their dissertation committee.  Successful completion of a final dissertation defense and oral examination is required to earn the PhD degree.