Review Comment

[W1010] Human Origins and Evolution

August 05, 2020

Shapiro, Jill Silver_nugget
[W1010] Human Origins and Evolution

I can not say enough good things about Professor Shapiro. She is organized, passionate, hilarious, serious, and helpful. However this class is not for the faint of hear. I originally took this course because I thought I wanted to major in Evolutionary Biology of the Human Species but have since switched to Environmental Biology. Not due to Shapiro, just due to circumstances.

She provides almost everything you need in lectures. GO TO EVERY LECTURE! Not only are they easy to follow, detailed - but not overly detailed, and exciting, but you must go to at least 50% of them.

The first half of the course is understanding the basics of what will be covered in the course and the very beginnings of the history of Human Origins and Evolution. The midterm was relatively straightforward with our class median being 87% and the average being 92%. It does get a bit more labor intensive the second half of the course just because you need to memorize information (names, dates, regions fossils are found in, evolutionary patterns, etc), however there is almost NO math so this is a great "science" course for humanities students with a knack for memorization.

Contrary to the other review, I waited until 3 days before my final to study, crammed it all in and got a 100% on my final. But I have a good I might be biased.

DO THE READINGS. They are short and SUPER EASY but she quizzes on them, literally just to see if you did them.

She takes attendance at lecture and discussion sections and gives mandatory assignments that don't count for a grade (in that they don't hurt your grade unless you don't do them).

I ended up with an A.


33% Midterm
67% Final

January 04, 2019

Shapiro, Jill Silver_nugget
[W1010] Human Origins and Evolution

Since the most recent review is quite old, I though I'd add my take on this class for the future humanities students trying to figure out how to survive the science requirement. For reference, I'm a 4th year history major, who has never enjoyed a STEM class in her life. I took this class for the simple reason that I was told there would be very minimal math and a biochem friend of mine told me that evolution classes are generally light on the scarier parts of sciences. I tell you truly: I was passionately disinterested in the idea of human origins - I don't even like Ancient History courses, and I cared even less about PRE history.

I was very surprised that from the start I actually really enjoyed this class. I ultimately got an A. I do want to give an objective and helpful review on this class, though I could simply gush about how much I love Dr. Shapiro, but I thought for transparency's sake I should note this as well.

I concur with the Dear Helpful Slacker reviewer that this class is not for the faint of heart with regard to workload. The best way I can describe this class is that it is a humanities class being taught on a scientific topic. The first half of the semester sketches early historical debates on evolutionary theory and very rudimentary primatology, while the second half is a history of human evolution from our earliest ancestors 65 million years ago to 40,000 years ago. This sounds daunting, but 1) the final is non cumulative and 2) the farther back in time the less fossils there are, and therefore there's really not that much to know before 6 million years ago, and even then you're dealing with broad swaths of time rather than needing to know exact things that happened at exact times. For example: you'll never need to know when Mary Leakey discovered a fossil, but you do need to know that Homo Erectus was kicking around from 1.8 million years ago to 200,000 years ago. I'd suggest approaching it like a humanities class. Know the material and know the debates about the material. And read the required articles.

Dr. Shapiro is an excellent professor, more than worthy of her gold nugget. She is the perfect person to teach a class populated by many non-science types. Yes, she does expect you to know the information very well - the exams force you to, it is in a - in my opinion- perfectly reasonable way. There are no attempts at trickery in this class. If you take Dr. Shapiro at her word, you will ultimately succeed in this class. She says at the very beginning of class to read the required articles, take some notes on each of them, and revise before exams, because they will show up on them. And they did!! She said that anything related to the headings she wrote on the board and overheads could appear on an exam, and they did!! She is absolutely sincere in her wish that all students not only learn but love the subject, and therefore she does not aim to cause anyone stress and anxiety. I agree with her assessment that there is nothing fundamentally difficult about this class, even if memorizing all the material is challenging.

I do warn that Dr. Shapiro is very, very particular in everything she does. Personally, as someone with some of her own perfectionist quirks, I really didn't mind, but I know some people do. For me, I appreciated the crystal clarity that came with every aspect of this class, especially as I was entering uncharted waters. However, the ban on electronic devices save for one corner in the lecture hall, the strict no questions in lecture policy, the mandatory attendance policy, and some other features of the class might be grating if you're seeking a more relaxed classroom environment. Dr. Shapiro uses every milisecond of lecture for lecture, and if you're not on it and ready to write like the wind you might have trouble keeping up. That being said, Dr. Shapiro is very prompt and thorough in email replies and more than happy to see folks in office hours, so I never had any trouble.

The main drawback of this class is the fact that your grade really relies only on your midterm and final grades. If you're someone with test anxiety, or if you're a bad test taker more generally, I would not recommend this class. The midterm and final are grueling experiences, even if you're well prepared and have studied very hard. Also, unless you're really good at holding yourself accountable and you're not a procrastinator, you will also struggle. Keeping up with the reading and reviewing your notes with the study questions is essentially if you don't want to suffer during midterms and reading week. If getting an A really matters to you, it is certainly possible, but you have to be committed to keeping up with reading and reviewing your notes- which isn't that time consuming but still needs to get done. If you're not looking to put a decent effort in, this is not the class for you. I really don't recommend cramming, as the amount of detail is pretty substantial. As I stated above, the material is not outside of anyone's capabilities, but you need to approach it carefully.

Finally, this class is a lot of fun. At the optional labs, you get to see bones, there are some fun videos to watch, some interesting issue debates, and overall just a lot of interesting material. There's a philosophical weightiness about this class that I have never experienced before. Something about understanding how coincidentally humans arose from our tiny proto-primate ancestors is a pretty thrilling ride, and the fact that debates are ongoing means you'll have plenty of interesting fodder for dinner conversations is nice. All these things considered, I do recommend this class.


Midterm: 33%
Final: 67%
Mandatory lecture attendance: You must attend at least half the lectures and there is a sign in sheet.
Read the articles - they will appear on the midterm and final. On the final especially, you need to name drop articles and show you've read them on both of your two essays or you will not pass.
Mandatory ungraded assignments that are not graded but are required to pass. Honestly, the assignments are all geared toward giving extra practice and internalizing concepts that will definitely show up on the final, so take them seriously.
Textbook optional - if you go to lecture consistently, take good notes, and make a friend or two who can give them to you when you skip, you won't need the textbook. I did like the REVEL site for practice though, something to consider.
Optional Section meetings: You have to register but you only need to attend if you're worried about your grade. Those with consistent attendance at section who had borderline grades- say a B on the midterm and a B+ on the final, would get the B+. But if you feel confident about your test taking abilities, you don't need to go.
Optional surveys: pretty self evident. Gives you one section attendance credit.

January 08, 2018

Shapiro, Jill Silver_nugget
[W1010] Human Origins and Evolution

I took Human Origins with Professor Shapiro because the science class that I really wanted to take was full and I was hoping to finish my science requirement this semester, so I randomly signed up for this class. Professor Shapiro is a wonderful professor, but DO NOT take this class if you're just trying to fulfill the science requirement. It seemed to me that most students that did well in the class were genuinely interested in the material, even if the class happened to fulfill a requirement. This class is REALLY HARD, so I wouldn't recommend what I did even though it happened to work. If you're not that interested in learning about Human Evolution and the class you want is full, wait another term for it or take Art Hum or Music Hum in the meantime. My point is that considering how difficult this class is and the volume of material presented, I think you're going to need to be genuinely interested in the material so that you go to lab and keep up with the work. Somehow, despite a high C on the midterm, I did well on the final and ended up with an A- as my term grade. Looking back, the material on the midterm is actually much easier than on the final, but I think the upward trend is really just that students have a better idea of what Shapiro is looking for. Tips: always keep up with the articles (because you WILL need them for the midterm and final), and it's really not too much work if you keep up, DO NOT fall behind in any way (go to class, getting the notes from a friend isn't the same) because you need to hear how Professor Shapiro explains everything) and review the material thoroughly and often). Don't let the work pile up, because you'll regret it once you need to study for the midterm or final.

Fantastic professor, genuinely cares about her students and is extremely available. If you show even the slightest interest in doing well in this class, she will help you. I'm still shocked that this class didn't single handedly ruin my GPA, but I think that's because she saw the effort I was putting into the class, I had a much clearer idea of how she tested and the kind of answers she wanted to see and to be honest, pure luck. Bottom line: ONLY TAKE THIS CLASS IF YOU ARE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN THE MATERIAL, NOT JUST IN FINISHING THE SCIENCE REQUIREMENT AND YOU MUST BE WILLING TO PUT IN THE WORK. Otherwise, this is going to be a rough class and looking back, I would not have taken it, not because Professor Shapiro isn't a wonderful instructor, but because I just wasn't interested in the material and that made this class even harder than it would have been otherwise.


One midterm, one final. KEEP UP WITH THE WORK. She assigns very little work (maybe I think that because I didn't do the textbook reading), but look at the textbook for specific issues if you didn't understand a unit or something she said during class. Articles are essential and she has a couple ungraded assignments that you definitely need to complete. Even though they're ungraded, make sure you put effort into them because she's basically telling you exactly what's going to be on the exam and if you can't do it when she asks you for it, you will fall behind. Go to office hours and go to lab, if nothing else, just to show her that you care about the class.

April 19, 2016

Shapiro, Jill Silver_nugget
[W1010] Human Origins and Evolution

TL/DR: Go for it! The class, professor, and even major program are all fantastic.

Professor Shapiro is hands-down one of the best professors I have ever had -- the best so far. The only reason she isn't the best is I have yet to finish all my degrees. This is a good thing. She cares about her students and lives to teach.
Are her classes difficult? Yes. Does she have specific and strict rules regarding electronics and general classroom respect? Yup. Are her classes amazing? Absolutely.
While, yes, you will likely have to memorize ALL of your notes for her classes (especially Human Origins), it is a genuine pleasure to do so.

Here is an example of how great her classes are: I had surgery one semester right before finals. I was taking Human Origins that semester. I woke up from anesthesia and one of my friends/classmates in Human Origins was there to help me get home. What did I do before they even took the IV out of my arm? Started drilling Human Origins flashcards with my friend, of course. I didn't have to -- I knew my stuff and so did she -- but I WANTED to. Professor Shapiro kindles a kind of respect in her students that they simply cannot bear to let her down.

Of note, Prof. Shapiro is the major coordinator for the Evolutionary Biology of the Human Species (AKA Physical/Biological Anthropology) program as well. A better coordinator could not exist. Take Human Origins early to see if you like it -- the major is great and often missed until it is too late!

If you are on the fence, give Prof. Shapiro and her Human Origins class a shot. As long as you work for the classes you pay for, you will have one of the best experiences in your college life.


-Memorizing all of your notes and having perfect attendance to get an A- is normal. The thing is, seriously, you will WANT to do so.
-Do the required readings.
-Attend all the "lab" sections with the TAs. The TAs are always great.
-Worth it!

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
EEEB / EEEB EEEB EEEB V1010: Human Species-Place in Nature Jill Shapiro 2012 Fall MW / 11:40-12:55 PM 1
EEEB / EEEB EEEB EEEB V1010: Human Species-Place in Nature Jill Shapiro 2010 Fall MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
EEEB / EEEB EEEB EEEB V1010: Human Species-Place in Nature Jill Shapiro 2009 Fall MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
EEEB / EEEB EEEB EEEB V1010: Human Species-Place in Nature Jill Shapiro 2007 Fall MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
EEEB / EEEB EEEB EEEB V1010: Human Species-Place in Nature Jill Shapiro 2006 Fall MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
EEEB / EEEB EEEB EEEB V1010: Human Species-Place in Nature Jill Shapiro 2005 Fall MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
EEEB / EEEB EEEB EEEB V1010: Human Species-Place in Nature Jill Shapiro 2004 Fall MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1