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Are you interested in exploring our evolutionary past? 

The MPhil in Human Evolutionary Studies is an interdisciplinary course lasting ten months, which allows students to form and follow their own area of interest in the field, complemented by training across the broad discipline of Biological Anthropology.
Whereas the thematically-related MPhil in Biological Anthropological Science is a research MPhil, Human-Evolutionary Studies is a taught MPhil. Students are required to take core papers in human evolution, human behavioural ecology, human biology and quantitative methods. You are also encouraged to sit in on one-term papers most relevant to your interests. These vary from year to year, but generally include specialist topics in the fields of palaeoanthropology, cultural evolution, evolutionary genetics, human behavioural ecology, evolutionary psychology, primatology, human biology and osteology, and evolutionary medicine.




Teaching on the course covers: 

  • evolutionary anthropology
  • human and hominin morphology 
  • primate behaviour and evolution 
  • human behavioural ecology
  • evolutionary genetics
  • palaeoanthropology
  • quantitative methods

This unique combination is taught through a demanding programme of courses, statistical training, communication, and research training, as well as writing a dissertation. Students eager to develop their analytical and research skills are welcomed on the course from a range of disciplines. 
The course is primarily for students who are prepared for graduate work yet do not have enough relevant education to be considered for the research MPhil or research work. This MPhil gives you the opportunity to gain specialist knowledge of human evolutionary studies within a condensed time frame.

Experience in Biological anthropology is not a prerequisite for the course, however an understanding of evolution is beneficial. 




You are required to submit the following five assignments across the year, which altogether count for 50% of the overall assessment. You take the following modules:

  • B2 Human ecology and behaviour
  • B3 Human evolution
  • B4 Comparative human biology

For each of these, you are given the choice between 3 essay topics. 

You then take the fourth assignment, a quantitative exercise for this module:

  • B5 From Data to Interpretation

This is followed by a scientific communication essay, usually within the remit of B2-4, in the style of a Nature ‘News and Views’ piece, balancing the tone between public science and academic writing.

You are also encouraged to take any of the following one-term papers (B12-17), which you have a particular interest in or which may be relevant to your dissertation:

  • B12 Human Palaeobiology
  • B13 Evolutionary Medicine 
  • B14 The Co-Evolution of Humans and Stone Age Culture 
  • B15 Human Sociality
  • B16 Genomes: Ancient, Modern and Mixed
  • B17 Our Extended Family: Primate Biology and Behaviour

The dissertation accounts for the remaining 50% of the overall module grading and can be up to 20,000 words. There is the option of writing in a paper style, with which you can seek publication.



Learning outcomes

The MPhil in Human Evolutionary Studies aims to:

  1. give students the chance to learn about the major topics in human evolution and related fields, at an advanced level
  2. provide students with the opportunity to review, discuss, and consider major research questions in human evolution 
  3. give students the appropriate intellectual and mentoring context for the development of an independent research project
  4. help develop students’ intellectual skills that will allow them to undertake independent research, and give students a range of important transferrable skills such as data analysis, marshalling an argument, and presenting it
  5. prepare students for research at doctoral level and equip them to be future leaders in Human Evolutionary Studies and adjacent fields around the world



Some previous dissertation topics

  • The Evolutionary Genomics of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Does interspecific competition for niche space select for tool use in Pan?
  • Just another ape? Our Miocene ancestors in the context of hominoid evolution
  • CT scanning of internal bone structure of fossil phalanges from Sterkfontein Caves (South Africa): implications for hominin locomotion and tool use
  • The Evolution of Genetic Immune Variation in Island Southeast Asia
  • Climatic Effects on External Auditory Exostosis: A Multi-Variable Analysis
  • The relationship between mortality salience and fertility in a life history perspective
  • The Effects of Individuals' God Concepts on Altruistic Behaviour



Further information

Dr Nikhil Chaudhary is the co-ordinator for this MPhil option. Please get in touch for further information. 

Key information

Course length

10 months, full-time


5 x assignments

Research Skills

Dissertation of up to 20,000 words

Course co-ordinator

Dr Nikhil Chaudhary

Postgraduate Study at Cambridge

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