Instructor: Profs. Ajit Varki and Uma Ramakrishnan
Time: 10:30-12 h and 14-16 h
Duration of the course:
23rd Jan 2017 to 27th Jan 2017
Credits: 1
Class Room: Safeda
Course Outline:

Where did we humans come from? How did we get here?  Anthropogeny refers to the transdisciplinary study of these key questions regarding human origins.  The term is not just a synonym for human evolution via natural selection.  Many other factors beyond biological evolution were involved, ranging from climatic, geographic, ecological, social, and cultural ones.  A systematic approach to anthropogeny requires one to draw on information and approaches from a number of traditional disciplines spanning the humanities, social, biomedical, biological, computational and physical sciences.  This brief course will provide an overview of some key facts and questions in anthropogeny and the current state of the field, as well as some implications for the human condition.  As a part of the course, we will also investigate differences between human ancestors using fossils, discuss concepts of evolution, reconstruct genetic relations between us and discuss the implications of human evolution on disease. The first part of this course is for 1 credit. There will be a follow-up course where we explore human evolution in more detail. This will count for an additional 2 credits, making the full course 3 credits.

Jan 23, 10-11am: General Introduction: an Agenda for Anthropogeny (Ajit)

                        Intro to CARTA Symposium Resources (Ajit)

Jan 23, 11-12pm: ExploringFeatures Unique to the Human Lineage(Ajit)

                        Intro to MOCAResource (Ajit)

Jan 23,    2-4 pm: Evolution lab (Uma)

Jan 24, 10-11am: Overview of The Fossil Record of Human Origins (Ajit)

Jan 24, 11-12pm: Emergence and Diaspora of Behaviorally Modern Humans (Ajit)

Jan 25,   2-4 pm: Fossil Human Lab (Uma)

Jan 25, 10-11am: Genetic Features Unique to the Human Lineage: MOCA (Ajit)

Jan 25, 11-12pm: Other Features Unique to the Human Lineage: MOCA (Ajit)

Jan 25,    2-4 pm: Human Origins Lab (Uma)

Jan 26,10-12pm: Implications of Anthropogeny for Human Health (Ajit)

Jan 26,    2-4pm: Human Evolution and Disease Emergence: Lab (Uma)

Jan 27, 10-12pm: StructuredPresentations/Discussionby Students

      Summation/Synthesis  (Ajit/Uma)


The main sessions (AjitVarki) will be in a Lecture-Discussion Format

For the First Session, Enrolled Students Should Come Prepared with:

A list of 10 Features of Humans you think are unique or highly unusual relative to other species

Your favorite theor(ies) about what events or processes made us uniquely human

Evaluation will be based on attendance and participation


Lab component (Uma Ramakrishnan): You will need a laptop, with Wifi

Evaluation: Students will be required to provide a detailed (3-4 pages, with statistical analyses) write up of any one of the lab exercises, and a one-page summary of all other lab exercises.

Lab 1: What is evolution?

We will discuss the essential components of natural selection, and then try and address whether humans are currently evolving. We will use examples of traits and then discuss evolution of those traits.

Lab 2: Fossil human lab

We will make measurements on human ancestors and non-human primates, and use these measurements to infer relationships.

Lab 3: Human origins lab

We will download whole mitochondrial genomes and build a phylogenetic tree using mega. The pattern of the tree (using African, Asian, European sequences) will be investigated, and migration routes for humans will be inferred.

Lab 4:Human Evolution andDisease Emergence

We will investigate distribution maps of disease prevalence in the context of evolutionary history. We will then investigate whether there is genetic evidence for these patterns. We will try and explore alternative evidence for these patterns through a few case studies.


Course Term: Jan 2017
Course Year: 2016/2017