MCB Concentration Requirements
Honors Info
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  • MCB Concentration Requirements

    The MCB concentration requirements are summarized in the table below. The complete listing of requirements is published in the Student Handbook.

    REQUIREMENTS

    Foundational courses
    2 half courses

    Intermediate biology
    2 half courses

    Upper level biology
    2 half courses

    Chemistry
    1 General chemistry
    1 Organic chemistry

    Math and computation
    1 or 2 half-courses

    Physics
    1 half course in mechanics

    Physics
    1 half course in electricity and magnetism

    Research
    1 semester

    Tutorial

    HONORS
    1+ Advanced*
    1+ Organic Chemistry
    Thesis

    SELECTIONS

    LS 1a (or LPS A) and LS 1b

    MCB 60 and either MCB 63, 64, 65 or 68

    2 courses, at least one of which must be an MCB 100-level course.
    A list of courses that fulfill this requirement is posted here.

    General chemistry: PS1, PS10, PS11, or Chem 40
    Organic chemistry: Chem 17 or Chem 20

    Math 19a (or higher) or Statistics 110 or Statistics 111


    or


    Math 1b and Math 19a or Statistics 102 or CS50 (or higher)

    PS2, PS12a, Physics 15a or 16, or Applied Physics 50a

    PS3, PS12b, Physics 15b or Applied Physics 50b

    At least one chosen from: LS 100r, MCB 91, MCB 99, or approved summer research experience. For more information on getting started in research, click here. For a list of MCB faculty and their research interests, click here.

    Click here for more information.

    1 additional course from the list posted here*
    1 additional organic chemistry (Chem 27 or 30)
    Thesis: Required for highest honors eligibility

    *One semester of MCB 99 (thesis research) counts as one of the 3 advanced courses required for honors eligibility.

    REQUIREMENTS
    SELECTIONS

    Foundational courses
    2 half courses

    LS 1a (or LPS A) and LS 1b

    Intermediate biology
    2 half courses

    MCB 60 and either MCB 63, 64, 65 or 68

    Upper level biology
    2 half courses

    2 courses, at least one of which must be an MCB 100-level course.
    A list of courses that fulfill this requirement is posted here.

    Chemistry
    1 General chemistry
    1 Organic chemistry

    General chemistry: PS1, PS10, PS11, or Chem 40
    Organic chemistry: Chem 17 or Chem 20

    Math and computation
    1 or 2 half-courses

    Math 19a (or higher) or Statistics 110 or Statistics 111


    or


    Math 1b and Math 19a or Statistics 102 or CS50 (or higher)

    Physics
    1 half course in mechanics

    PS2, PS12a, Physics 15a or 16, or Applied Physics 50a

    Physics
    1 half course in electricity and magnetism

    PS3, PS12b, Physics 15b or Applied Physics 50b

    Research
    1 semester

    At least one chosen from: LS 100r, MCB 91, MCB 99, or approved summer research experience. For more information on getting started in research, click here. For a list of MCB faculty and their research interests, click here.

    Tutorial

    Click here for more information.

    HONORS
    1+ Advanced*
    1+ Organic Chemistry
    Thesis

    1 additional course from the list posted here*
    1 additional organic chemistry (Chem 27 or 30)
    Thesis: Required for highest honors eligibility

    *One semester of MCB 99 (thesis research) counts as one of the 3 advanced courses required for honors eligibility.

  • Honors Info

    Concentrations make “English honors” (Honors, High Honors, and Highest Honors) recommendations to the College. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences makes Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude) recommendations based on the overall record. A complete description of the Harvard College honors process is described in the Student Handbook (see “Academic Information: Requirements for Honors Degrees).

    We encourage students to remember that distinctions among levels of Honors in fact make little difference in the outside world. The biggest difference between a “summa” and a “cum” may be in the reaction of family and friends on commencement day, and some of our most promising students graduate “cum”. So please do not design your plan of study with distinctions of honors in mind. A sensible and exciting program of courses and research is what matters – not a bit of Latin on your diploma.

    The most important advice we can give is to construct a creative and challenging academic program based on your interests and the concentration requirements, engage in laboratory research so that you can experience the excitement of contributing to the discovery of new knowledge in the field, and take tutorial seriously as an opportunity to be mentored by a senior scientist.

    With that in mind, the following outlines how honors recommendations are made for MCB concentrators:
    1. A preliminary ranking is established, based on a numerical average of courses accepted for concentration credit that is calculated as follows:

    Thesis candidates: 2/3 average of all concentration course grades + 1/3 average of the three thesis grades

    Non-thesis candidates: average of all concentration course grades

    2. Tutors are asked to provide brief recommendations for their tutees, including information on topics such as performance in tutorial and research not presented as a thesis.

    3. A concentration honors committee meets and considers each candidate. Precise numerical cutoffs are not established in advance. Moreover, a student whose numerical average is a bit lower than a classmate’s may receive a higher recommendation if their record shows more rigorous courses, improvement over four years, and a strong recommendation for performance in tutorial. Although assessing the rigor of each student’s course selections is inevitably a bit subjective, we believe that individual consideration of each student’s overall record is
    fairer than a purely computerized approach. The quality of the thesis project (if applicable) and the strength of the tutor’s recommendation are given due consideration.

    4. In recommending Highest Honors, we look both for a first rate thesis and an interesting program of challenging courses. Rarely have we recommended Highest Honors with a numerical average of less than 3.9, but a ranking above 3.9 in no way guarantees such a recommendation.

    5. In recommending High Honors, we again look for more than “just grades”, and we try especially hard to reward good theses (if applicable), challenging courses, etc. The lower limit for a High Honors recommendation varies a bit from year to year, but in general is around 3.7 for thesis candidates and 3.8 for non-thesis candidates.

    6. The lower limit for an Honors recommendation is generally around a 3.5 for thesis candidates and 3.6 for nonthesis candidates. Research experiences, participation in tutorial, and the rigor of the plan of study are important factors in our final recommendations.

  • Board of Tutors

    MCB students are assigned a Tutor from the Board of Tutors in Biomedical Sciences to provide both intellectual support and professional mentorship. An MCB student typically meets with his or her assigned Tutor regularly throughout the semester, either individually or in small groups, to read and discuss primary literature or relevant texts tailored to the student’s interests.

    Click here to view a handout that describes the history, goals, and format of the tutorial program.