Graduate Program in Biological Anthropology

Why biological anthropology?

Biological Anthropology is the study of humans from a biological perspective.  This entails investigation of the evolution, ecology, adaptations and behavior of humans and their non-human primate relatives, both living and extinct.  Central areas of focus within Biological Anthropology are Paleoanthropology, Primatology, and Human Biology.  Graduate students may work primarily within one of these areas or across them.

Washington University in St. Louis is widely considered a center for research and graduate training in Biological Anthropology.  Graduate students engage in cutting-edge research, present their findings at international conferences, and benefit from collaborations with some of the leading figures in the discipline.  Job placement and the development of professional skills are considered key components of the training program.

The Biological Anthropology faculty and graduate students at Washington University in St. Louis conduct research in both laboratory and field settings.  Our field research takes place in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia in diverse locales ranging from Himalayan villages to the rainforests of central Africa to caves on the Mediterranean coast.  Our laboratories include: the Biomarkers and Milk Research Lab, the Reproductive Ecology and Behavioral Endocrinology Lab (REBEL), the Primate Genetics and Molecular Ecology Lab (PGAME), the Primate Behavior Lab, the Evolutionary Morphology Lab, the Paleoanthropology Lab, and the lab of the Anatomy Research Group.

Graduate Student Highlight: Kristena Cooksey

Graduate Student Highlight: Kristena Cooksey

group of people in Nepal

Department of Anthropology Research

Research in Biological Anthropology

Research strengths in biological anthropology include primate ecology and conservation, primate evolution, biomechanics and energetics, human evolution and diversity, and the study of early modern humans. Our program has six research labs and many partnerships, including the St. Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Garden

Learn more about our research

Your Path to a PhD

Year 1

First semester: 4 courses, covering broad areas of biological anthropology and related topics, plus courses in the other subfields of Anthropology.

Second semester: 4 courses, covering broad areas of biological anthropology and related topics, plus courses in the other subfields of Anthropology. The student should be doing background research towards formulating a doctoral dissertation research project.

Summer: Refine proposed dissertation ideas with preliminary field/lab work

Year 2

First semester: Coursework, establish three-person doctoral committee, fulfill language requirement, and continue background research for second year paper and doctoral dissertation. The student will take an independent reading course (Anthropology 525) with her/his major advisor.

Second semester: Coursework, including the completion of the second-year review paper, and work with the doctoral committee to assemble the theoretical and methodological background for the doctoral dissertation, through a continuation of the independent reading course (Anthropology 525).

Summer: Fieldwork to establish a field site or lab work to do a pilot study, both as background to the doctoral dissertation proposal.

Year 3

First semester: Write doctoral dissertation proposal and defend the proposal before the doctoral committee by the end of the fall semester.

Second semester: Submit finished proposals to granting agencies, advance to candidacy. Prepare for thesis work. Begin fieldwork and/or laboratory data collection as appropriate.

Year 4

Collect data for dissertation.

Years 5 and 6

Write dissertation and defend before full doctoral dissertation committee -- we expect final defense of the thesis to be done between the 5th and 6th year.

Consult the program requirements for more specific information. For questions about transfer credits for coursework completed at another institution, see the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Transfer of Credit Policy.