About the HBS way

The Human Biology and Society major at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics is a unique major that challenges students to learn the best of both the life sciences and the social and human sciences in addressing urgent problems facing the world today. As part of their major (and minor!), most students take a large capstone course that challenges students to address a real-world problem with the tools they’ve been given throughout their undergraduate major. Many other students pursue independent research projects with various faculty at UCLA.

The “HBS Way” is their mantra and their goal: how can they frame a problem in ways that integrate instead of separating issues of life science, social and cultural science, historical and cultural contact? Students ask “how does learning the details of a biological topic change how I think about a social or political question” and at the same time “How does inquiring into a political or cultural problem raise new questions about the biology we know or need to know?”

In SocGen 108, over the course of 10 weeks, students propose topics, sort into groups, research the biology and the social/political aspects of a problem, and then compose a final project that can take different forms: podcast, magazine, website, board game, even a proposed non-profit!

The projects on this website are entirely researched, written, and created by the students in the course. Most students had no training in design, audio, or illustration—what you experience here is the result of their own hard work and self-study, as well as their experience in the major.

Any questions or inquiries about this material should be directed to Professor Christopher Kelty (ckelty@ucla.edu)

“I have been reading through the final research projects you created. As I read, listened and watched, I was struck with the nuance and precision that define Human Biology and Society. Creating this work while in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, finding ways to connect with each other and continue to be scientists, writers and critical thinkers, is a monumental achievement distinct from the end result (which is also humblingly impressive).

This unique program teaches us Process — to examine the ways we know what we know, to recognize and deconstruct the many forces, societal and biological, that influence our cultures, our collective knowledge, and our lives. This year, you each lived human biology and society. Graduation doesn’t mark your entrance into the world - you’ve been here. And I am so grateful for it! Congratulations class of 2020 - you’ve already gone down in history.

–Rosa Valan, HBS Major, 2017