Interdisciplinary Curriculum

Core Curriculum


Five core courses completed in G1, with flexible additional requirements

First Year Advising: A faculty Academic Advisor is assigned to each first year class to assist in course selection.


  • G1 Fall: SHBT 200, Acoustics, Production, and Perception of Speech; SHBT 201, Biology of the Inner Ear; SHBT 301qc, Speech and Hearing Lab Visits


  • G1 January: SHBT 203, Anatomy of Speech and Hearing


  • G1 Spring: SHBT 202, Clinical Aspects of Speech and Hearing; SHBT 205, Audition: Neural Mechanisms, Perception & Cognition


  • G2 Fall/Spring: MEDSCI 300qc, Conduct of Science; SHBT 333r, Research Rotation in Speech and Hearing


  • G2, G3: Electives for the area of concentration and research


  • G5 Fall: MEDSCI 302qc, Conduct of Science Refresher Course



The five core courses are briefly described below:


Acoustics, Production and Perception of Speech - SHBT 200

(H. Nakajima and S. Ghosh, Directors)

Reviews the physical processes involved in the production and propagation of sound, and acoustics related to hearing. Particular attention is paid to how the acoustics and mechanics of the speech and auditory system define what sounds we are capable of producing and how we sense sound. Introduces acoustic theory of speech production, digital speech processing, and neural mechanisms of speech production and perception. Exposes students to applications including automatic speech recognition, and speech disorders. The material is taught through lectures and recitations, weekly problem sets, discussions of classic papers and take-home laboratory assignments.


Biology of the Inner Ear - SHBT 201

(M.C. Liberman, Director)

Surveys the normal structure and function of the peripheral auditory system, as well as the mechanisms and consequences of sensorineural hearing loss. The material is presented through lectures, discussions of the primary literature, written assignments and laboratory exercises. Topics include inner ear development and regeneration; functional anatomy and cell biology of the inner ear; stria vascularis and the endolymphatic potential; cochlear mechanics; mechano-electric transduction by hair cells; outer hair cell electromotility and the cochlear amplifier; otoacoustic emissions; synaptic transmission; stimulus coding in the auditory nerve; efferent control of cochlear function; damage and repair of hair cell organs; sensorineural hearing loss; the molecular biology of the ear in normal hearing and disease; and genetic hearing loss.


Anatomy of Speech and Hearing - SHBT 203

(B.C. Fullerton, Director)

Anatomical dissection of the head, neck, and thorax in human cadavers with an emphasis on structures important for speech and hearing. Lecture topics include the thorax and respiration; structures of the neck, including the larynx and pharynx; the anatomy of the face and jaw; the oral cavity; the cranial cavity; the eye; and the ear. Basic neuroanatomy of the brain is covered, along with cranial nerves and major fiber tracts. Head and neck radiographic imaging is introduced to bridge the gap between gross anatomy and clinical case analysis.


Audition: Neural Mechanisms, Perception and Cognition - SHBT 205

(J. McDermott and D. Polley, Directors)

Neural structures and mechanisms that mediate audition, combining perspectives from neurophysiology, psychoacoustics, cognitive neuroscience, and cognitive science. The material is presented via a combination of didactic lectures and laboratories, directed readings, student-led discussions of primary literature, and critical literature reviews. Topics include auditory masking and frequency selectivity, temporal coding, sound localization, neural maps, coding transformations across the auditory system, learning and plasticity, the role of feedback, cochlear implants, effects of hearing impairment on neural representation, musical pitch, speech perception, auditory scene analysis, attention, and auditory working memory.


Clinical Aspects of Speech and Hearing - SHBT 202

(K. Stankovic and B. Welling, Directors)

An extensive exposure to clinical approaches to speech and hearing disorders as practiced by physicians, audiologists, speech clinicians, rehabilitation specialists, pathologists, and bioengineers. The course includes a series of didactic lectures, as well as extensive observations of patient care in clinic and operating room. Clinical and surgical experience includes observations of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in otology, laryngology, audiology, voice and speech clinic, and vestibular neurology.


The five Core courses are normally taken in the first year of study and must be completed by June of G2 year. Students who earn at least three A's and two B’s in the core courses automatically pass the Core requirements. Students who fail to meet this criterion may be assigned a remedy at the discretion of the Curriculum Committee.


Successful completion of the Core component is a prerequisite for taking the Oral Qualifying Exam.


Additional Required Coursework


Speech and Hearing Laboratory Visits – SHBT 301qc

This Year 1 course consists of weekly visits to various research laboratories of SHBT faculty. Each session lasts approximately one hour and includes presentations and demonstrations by both faculty and their trainees of ongoing research projects and approaches. The course familiarizes first-year students with the breadth of research opportunities available through Program faculty and helps them choose mentor(s) for research rotations and, ultimately, dissertation research.


Responsible Conduct of Science – MEDSCI 301qc
Responsible Conduct of Science Refresher – MEDSCI 302qc

(R. Kucherlapati, Director)

The Division of Medical Sciences at Harvard Medical School requires all G2 students to participate in a Responsible Conduct of Science course during their second fall semester. This course outlines best practices for the ethical conduct of scientific research. All students are required to participate in the Conduct of Science Refresher course during their G5 year.

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