Teaching

Dr. Theodore Schurr, LMAP Director

Dr. Schurr teaches a variety of courses that focus on a broad range of topics within the field of biological anthropology, including molecular anthropology, health and disease, human origins, human adaptation, and primatology, among others.

In the list below, undergraduate courses are numbered from 000-400, and graduate courses are numbered 500-700. Undergraduates can take 500-level graduate courses with permission, and graduate students can take 400-level undergraduate courses, although they must complete additional work such as a term paper along with other course assignments for them.

Based on revisions to the School of Arts & Sciences curriculum, all course numbers were changed to a four-digit system beginning in Fall 2022. Thus, ANTH 104 became ANTH 1040 and ANTH 655 became ANTH 6550.

Dr. Schurr’s teaching schedule for the next two academic years is shown below. Please also see the Anthropology Department website for more information about these and related courses in biological anthropology taught by other faculty members: https://anthropology.sas.upenn.edu/pc.

Undergraduate Courses

Current Courses

This course introduces the concepts and facts of physical anthropology as they relate to the issue of human variation, past and present.

It covers a broad range of topics, including

  • Darwinian evolution
  • Mendelian inheritance
  • Primate biology and behavior
  • Hominid evolution
  • Neanderthals and modern humans
  • Human behavioral ecology
  • Human biological diversity

This is an introduction to the anthropological and scientific study of sex in humans.

Within an evolutionary framework, the course examines the genetic, physiological, ecological, social and behavioral aspects of sex in humans. After reviewing the basic principles of evolutionary biology, the course will examine the development of sexual anatomy and physiology.

It will explore a number of important questions:

  • Why do we reproduce sexually?
  • How is biological sex determined?
  • What is the physiology of the sexual response?
  • How are males and females biologically different and similar?
  • What factors shape sexual orientation?

The role of ecology and social life in shaping human mating patterns will also be evaluated through the use of ethnographic and cross-cultural materials. Topics relevant to human sexuality today, such as sex education, sexual violence, contraception, the hook-up culture and sexually transmitted diseases will also be discussed. Examples are drawn primarily from traditional and modern human societies, while data from studies of nonhuman primates may also be considered.

This course is an exploration of human biology from a biocultural and evolutionary perspective.

The class will provide you with an understanding of basic quantitative methods through an examination of questions concerning what it means to be human. We will explore how humans came to exhibit such a wide range of variation, and discuss what biological anthropology can contribute to your understanding of the world. In this class, you will learn to integrate the theory and methods used in human biology research through lectures, assifgnments, and lab sessions. During the course, we will explore topics including human genetics, growth and development, nutrition, disease, and reproduction. We will also use the course as an opportunity to introduce you to the important concepts in biological anthropology, such as race, inequality, sex and gender, and health, among others.

This course will explore the role played by disease in human evolution, from the emergence of the human lineage to the present day.

We will evaluate both infectious and non-infectious diseases, and examine the way in which populations and disease organisms have co-evolved.  Related issues to be explored include the nature of the virulence and pathogenicity of infectious agents and the impact of vaccination on pathogen evolution.  In addition, we will discuss the epidemiological transitions through which human populations have passed, and the rise of complex diseases of modernization (e.g., diabetes, cancer) that has occurred in the past several centuries.  Overall, the course will provide you with an in-depth perspective on the influence of disease processes on the evolution of the human species, and a broader understanding of the impact that diseases continue to make on the economic, medical, political systems of contemporary societies.

This course examines the new insights into human origins, evolution and biological variation that molecular approaches have given us.

Among the issues that are addressed in the course are modern human migrations, Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans, non-human primate taxonomy and behavior, disease and nutritional adaptations, and ancient DNA studies.  Emphasis is placed on reading the primary scientific literature in which molecular anthropological findings are published.

This course provides an introduction to evolutionary (or Darwinian) medicine, a relatively new field that recognizes that evolutionary processes and human evolutionary history shape health among contemporary human populations.

The field of evolutionary medicine emphasizes ultimate explanations, such as how natural selection and other evolutionary forces shape our susceptibility to disease, in contrast to biomedicine, which generally focuses on identifying the immediate mechanisms that give rise to diseases and malfunctions.  The course will examine a variety of diseases using an evolutionary perspective, including infectious diseases, mental disorders, and cancers.  It will emphasize chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, and focus particular attention on the role of diet and psychosocial stress in the development and progression of these conditions.

The proposed course will explore the peopling of the Americas from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The peopling of the Americas is a subject that has intrigued scholars and laymen for over 500 years. The origin of Native Americans was also a seminal issue during the emergence of American Anthropology as a discipline at the turn of the 20th century, with research on this topic animating current studies of ethnohistory, indigenous archeology, post-colonialism and repatriation.

This course will explore the roots of Native Americans in the expansion of modern humans into Eurasia, evaluate the new archeological and genetic research that has fundamentally altered our understanding of the migration history and diversity of indigenous peoples in the American continents, and examine issues of identity, ethnicity and cultural heritage in contemporary Native populations that extend from this knowledge.

The course will further draw on the instructor’s fieldwork experience working with indigenous communities in Alaska, Canada, the Lower 48, Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as native Siberians in Russia, where the cultural and biological roots of ancestral Native American populations lie.

In this course, we explore the history of native Siberian peoples, from the initial human settlement of northern Eurasia some 40,000 years ago to their contemporary situation in post-Soviet Russia.

To better understand this history, we examine evidence from archeological, linguistic, physical anthropology, genetic, and ethnographic studies conducted over the past three hundred years, including field research by the instructor.

Past Courses

This course explores the patterns and causes of human biological variation from genetic and evolutionary perspectives.

Among the areas of genetics to be explored are dermatoglyphics (fingerprints), anthropometrics (body dimensions), simple Mendelian traits (e.g., tongue rolling), complex traits (skin color, height, obesity), polymorphic systems (blood groups, immune genes, etc.), population genetics, and human genetic diversity.  These areas will be examined from both methodological and quantitative perspectives, and involve the statistical analysis of data collected in class.  The history of the study of human variation will also be discussed, both in terms of past notions of race and human origins and a more modern understanding of human genetic variation and evolution.  In addition, the role of natural selection and population history in shaping human variation will be examined.

This course will explore the impact that genetic research is having on our culture, society, health practices and understanding of human variation.

Genetic research is unquestionably making a profound impact on the modern world.  It has led to many new and exciting insights in the field of biological anthropology, particularly those subfields concerned with human origins and biological diversity, and is having an equally important influence on the biomedical sciences.  Furthermore, through the use of new molecular biology technologies, the entire human genome has been recently sequenced, giving us an opportunity to better understand the nature of human development, disease and biological variation at the molecular level.  This course will explore the new findings in biological anthropology resulting from the use of molecular methods, as well as examine the social and political implications of these advances.  The topics to be covered in the course include the Human Genome Project, genetic testing in forensic and criminal cases, race and biological variation, genetic engineering, the genetic basis of disease, and modern human origins.

Graduate Courses

Current Courses

This course provides an overview of human evolution through a survey of evidence from the various subfields of physical or biological anthropology.

Special attention will be paid to current issues and problems in these subfields, and the different ways in which researchers are attempting to understand and uncover the details of human evolution and diversity.

Among the subjects to be covered in this course are:

  • Paleoanthropology
  • Primatology
  • Human biology
  • Behavioral ecology
  • Molecular anthropology
  • Life history theory
  • Human reproductive ecology

Some of the specific issues to be explored will include the primate roots of human behavior, human brain and language evolution, the hominin phylogeny, the origin of anatomically modern humans, and biological and cultural influences on human biological variation.

This graduate level seminar will cover topics in human population history, including migration, demographic transitions, variation and adaptation, spanning from the Paleolithic to recent history.

Strong emphasis will be placed on integrating phenotypic and genomic data to pose questions about the chronology and geography of human population movement, population structure, local and global human adaptations and variation through time, and modern human and hominin population admixture.  Readings will mostly draw on recent journal articles.  Students will be responsible for leading weekly discussions, which will be directed towards exploring theoretical and methodological approaches.

In this course, we will explore the molecular revolution in biological anthropology. In particular, we will examine how molecular data can be used to illuminate anthropological question concerning human origins, evolution and biological variation. Some of the specific topics to be covered in this course are the phylogenetic relationships among primates, kinship in apes and monkeys, the hominoid trichotomy, modern human origins and migrations, Neanderthal and Denisovan admixture with modern humans, biogenetics of skin color, and physiological, phenotypic and disease adaptations.

This course is designed for third- and fourth-year graduate students in anthropology who are working on their dissertation research proposals and submitting grants. Graduate students from other departments who will be submitting grant proposals that include an ethnographic component are also welcome. Students will develop their proposals throughout the course of the semester, and will meet important fall submission deadlines. They will begin by working with various databases to search funding sources relevant to the research they plan to conduct. In class sessions, they will also work with the professor and their peers to refine their research questions, their methods, the relationship of any previous research to their dissertation fieldwork, and the broader theoretical and “real-world” significance of their proposed projects. Finally, students will also have the opportunity to have live “chats” with representatives from funding agencies, thereby gaining a better sense of what particular foundations are looking for in a proposal.

Teaching Schedule for the Current and Upcoming Academic Year

Fall 2022

ANTH 6550: Methods and Grant Writing for Anthropological Research

Spring 2023

ANTH 1040 Sex and Human Nature

ANTH 6020 Evolutionary Anthropology

Fall 2023

ANTH 0030 Introduction to Human Evolution

Spring 2023

ANTH 1430 Exploring Human Biology

ANTH 6020 Evolutionary Anthropology