At Duke Kunshan University, each major consists of an interdisciplinary set of courses that integrate different forms of knowledge and a distinct set of disciplinary courses that provide expertise in specific areas.

The Global Health/Biology major introduces students to global health as an area of study that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. The major combines elements of natural science and social science. From the natural sciences, studies include the physical components of global health, such as biological bases of disease and the underlying factors in the physical world that incubate and spread disease. From the social sciences, classes provide an understanding of the social, political, economic and cultural elements that shape health, such as the study of cultural practices around sickness and healing, and the political factors that may influence international response to epidemics. The Biology track in Global Health provides specific additional training and expertise in the biological sciences.

Required Courses

Divisional Foundation Courses
Interdisciplinary Courses
And choose one from the following three courses
And choose one from the following four courses
Disciplinary Courses

Recommended Electives for the Major

Courses listed below are recommended electives for the major. Students can also select other courses in different divisions as electives.

Career Path

Career Path Graduates can enter global health professions at the national or international levels such as non-governmental organizations, government agencies, biotechnology companies, consulting companies, and research institutions, and can pursue graduate study in global health, public policy, biology, public health, law, and policy.

Mathematical Foundations 1

The fundamental concepts and tools of calculus, probability, and linear algebra are essential to modern sciences, from the theories of physics and chemistry that have long been tightly coupled to mathematical ideas, to the collection and analysis of data on complex biological systems. Given the emerging technologies for collecting and sharing large data sets, some familiarity with computational and statistical methods is now also essential for modeling biological and physical systems and interpreting experimental results. MF1 is an introduction to differential and integral calculus that focuses on the concepts necessary for understanding the meaning of differential equations and their solutions. It includes an introduction to a software package for numerical solution of ordinary differential equations.

Integrated Science 1

This course focuses on the concept of energy and its relevance for explaining the behavior of natural systems. The conservation of energy and the transformations of energy from one form to another are crucial to the function of all systems, including familiar mechanical devices, molecular structures and reactions, and living organisms and ecosystems. By integrating perspectives from physics, chemistry, and biology, this course helps students see both the elegant simplicity of universal laws governing all physical systems and the intricate mechanisms at play in the biosphere. Topics include kinetic energy, potential energy, quantization of energy, energy conservation, cosmological and ecological processes.

Mathematical Foundations 2

The fundamental concepts and tools of calculus, probability, and linear algebra are essential to modern sciences, from the theories of physics and chemistry that have long been tightly coupled to mathematical ideas, to the collection and analysis of data on complex biological systems. Given the emerging technologies for collecting and sharing large data sets, some familiarity with computational and statistical methods is now also essential for modeling biological and physical systems and interpreting experimental results. MF2 is an introduction to probability and statistics with an emphasis on concepts relevant for the analysis of complex data sets. It includes an introduction to the fundamental concepts of matrices, eigenvectors, and eigenvalues.

Integrated Science 2

This course focuses on the collective behavior of systems composed of many interacting components. The phenomena of interest range from the simple relaxation of a gas into an equilibrium state of well-defined pressure and temperature to the emergence of ever increasing complexity in living organisms and the biosphere. The course provides an overview of some fundamental differences between traditional disciplines as well as indications of how they complement each other some important contexts. Topics include thermodynamic (statistical mechanical) equilibrium, fundamental concepts of temperature, entropy, free energy, and chemical equilibrium, driven systems, fundamentals of biological and ecological systems.

Integrated Science 3

Integrated Science 3 emphasizes the physics and chemistry concepts of oscillating systems, waves, and fields, and includes applications to human perception. In addition to their fundamental importance to physics and chemistry proper, these ideas are essential for developing an awareness of the principles employed by engineers in the construction of the electrical and optical devices that are ubiquitous in modern civilization. Topics include harmonic oscillators, sound waves, light, and reaction-diffusion patterns.

Integrated Science 4

Integrated Science 4 has more of a chemistry/biology emphasis, with physics brought to bear as needed. It treats topics relevant to understanding organisms, biochemical engineering, and the environment. Topics include evolution, modern biology, ecosystems, hydrology, and climate.

Scientific Writing and Presentations

The course covers some of the areas of scientific communication that a scientist needs to know and to master in order to successfully promote his or her research and career. Students will learn to recognize and construct logical arguments and become familiar with the structure of common publication formats. It will help students to advance their skills in communicating findings in textual, visual and verbal formats for a variety of audiences.

Introduction to Global Health

This course introduces students to the essential features of global health from the varying perspectives of natural science, social science, and the humanities, drawing from a variety of conceptual frameworks at different scales (individual, community, country, and global). This course examines the global burden of diseases, how this burden is measured, and debate the utility of interventions used for disease mitigation and prevention. This course also introduces the state of the world’s global health infrastructure and explores how that infrastructure might or should adapt to the future world.

Global Health Ethics

This course introduces students to ethical theories and frameworks in the context of historical and current issues in global health. As part of this context students learn about best practices and standards of care in clinical settings, so that they can make cross-cultural and transnational comparisons and use these to set up difficult ethical questions about health disparities. The course emphasizes self-reflection, cultural sensitivity, and flexibility in thinking about ethical issues in a globalized world. In the context of historical and current issues, students analyze and critique the choices of multinational, national, and local policymakers; clinicians; and researchers, with an eye to the impact these choices have on individuals, families, and communities. Students also explore ethical issues of conducting research on or working with marginalized/stigmatized populations, using case studies and the theoretical frameworks introduced in the course. Students are encouraged to think creatively about the relationship between ethics and health and to explore solutions to what appear to be ethical dilemmas in a variety of contexts. Topics include: human rights and development; the ethics of aid; differential standards of care; protection of human subjects; access to essential medicines; genetic information and confidentiality; pharmaceutical development; health information technology; placebo controlled trials; best outcomes vs. distributive justice.

Global Health Research Methods

This course introduces research methods in global health. Global health is a multi-disciplinary field, so the course considers approaches common to the behavioral and social sciences, public health, and medicine. Primary interest is the study of causal inference. Global health researchers, practitioners, and donors need to know what programs and interventions “work” and why. To answer questions of impact, the course explores randomized controlled trials, a mainstay of medical research, and spends significant time helping students understand the rationale, process, and limitations of field experiments. Randomization is not always possible or advisable, however, and researchers must build a causal argument using non-experimental methods. The course reviews several approaches, considers relevant threats to causal inference, and discusses how to improve non-experimental research designs. The course also covers research basics, such as developing and testing theory, asking good questions, understanding variability, designing good measurement, and selecting research participants. The latter part of the course turns to more specialized topics in global health research, such as cost effectiveness, community based participatory research, research on humanitarian aid, and monitoring and evaluation. Students will learn how to evaluate published and unpublished research and how to design a global health research project.

Social Determinants of Health

This course introduces students to the major social factors that affect public health at both the global and national level. Globally, students study a wide range of topics from the health impact of global income inequality, gender, and access to education, to the role of specific work place policies, among other topics. Lectures introduce a social variable (such as race or gender), discuss its theoretical underpinnings, and then link it to the current empirical evidence to health outcomes. Students learn to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the empirical evidence. The course considers the implications for intervention strategies and policy, with a focus on applicability to lower and middle-income country settings. Students also study how social factors influence health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on national context in specific countries. Topics could include obesity, aging, socioeconomic disadvantage, access to health insurance, public health systems, the role of the media, and racial/ethnic and gender inequalities. The course provides descriptive assessments of health inequalities and analytic examinations of the mechanisms through which social factors affect health.

Cell and Molecular Biology

Introduces major concepts in eukaryotic cell biology with a focus on molecular biology. A major emphasis is placed on transcription, translation, protein targeting and transport. In addition, the structure and function of organelles and how they function in metabolism and energetics will be examined. The role of the cytoskeleton and extra cellular matrix in governing cell shape and motility will be addressed as well as the genetic regulation of DNA replication and its place in the cell cycle and how disruption of either can lead to cancer. The laboratory portion of the class would introduce common laboratory molecular biology techniques like DNA isolation, PCR, cloning, sequencing, immunocytochemistry and fluorescent microscopy.


This course examines a number of different types of microbes including bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses. Classical and modern approaches to the study of microorganisms and their roles/applications in everyday life, food, medicine, research and the environment. Topics covered include microbial cell structure/function, growth, genetics, energetics/metabolism, evolution and ecology. Virology topics include structure, life cycle, modes of transmission and host ranges. Additional examination of the role of microorganisms in disease, infection and immunology. The laboratory portion would stress aseptic technique and microbial culture; molecular, cytochemical, and physiological tests for microbial identification; and fermentation and its products for food and industrial production.

Ecology of Human Health

Humans are the dominant species on Earth and ecology is key to understanding the multiple feedbacks through which their activities affect human health. Fundamental principles of ecology, from population to ecosystem levels, will be examined through the lens of human health. Topics include human population growth and carrying capacity, why we age, infectious disease dynamics, the microbiome and human health, sustainable agriculture and food security, sustainable harvest of wild foods, dynamics of pollutants in food webs, ecosystem services to humans, and human impacts of climate change.

Genomics and Evolution

Examines the structure and function of genomics and the flow of genomicgenetic information from parent to progeny and through populations. Changes in genetic makeup underlie important biological processes from disease to adaptation and evolution. Topics include classical transmission genetics (inheritance, assortment, recombination), bacterial and phage genetics, gene regulation, genome structure and stability, mutation and repair, population geneticsgenomics, complex trait inheritance and genomic technologiesevaluation and modern genomic techniques. The laboratory portion examines genetic inheritance in common laboratory model systems like yeast and Drosophila with projects that show what can be learned about gene function by the examination of mutants. Mutants will be created by random mutagenesis as well as targeted recombination and CRISPR.

Introduction to Biochemistry

Provides an introduction to the chemistry of biological macromolecules from the single molecule to cellular metabolism to the whole organism level. Protein biochemistry topics include protein synthesis, folding and structure, enzyme catalysis and kinetics, and analysis methods. Cellular metabolism topics include glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, the Krebs cycle, oxidative phosphorylation, and fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. Whole organism biochemistry/physiology topics include glycogen storage, insulin signaling and diabetes. The laboratory portion will focus on protein purification and enzymatics. Students will isolate specific proteins from both native sample and E. coli and characterize the enzyme kinetics of their purified samples.

Cell Signaling and Diseases

During the past several decades, exploration in basic research has yielded extensive knowledge about the numerous and intricate signaling processes involved in the development and maintenance of a functional organism. In order to demonstrate the importance and processes of cellular communication, this course will focus on cell signaling mechanisms and diseases resulting from their malfunction, such as cancer, stroke, and neuron degeneration (including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Students will be exposed to current literature and cutting edge knowledge.

Cancer Genetics

Overview of the genetic changes associated with cancer and the molecular events that transform normal cellular processes into tumor-promoting conditions. Topics include: tumor viruses, oncogenes, growth factors, signal transduction pathways, tumor suppressors, cell cycle control, apoptosis, genome instability, stem cells, metastasis, and current therapeutic approaches.

Evolution of Infectious Diseases

Covers the physiology and the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of a suite of infectious diseases. Case studies include influenza, cholera, HIV, and myxomatosis, among others, with an emphasis on pathogens infecting humans. Topics include: basic immunology, the physiology of different disease processes and transmission, the role of population size on disease transmission, the effects of climate and behavioral changes on disease dynamics, networks of disease spread, spatial spread of disease, evolution of virulence, antigenic evolution, emerging infectious diseases.

Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy

The structure, function and evolution of the vertebrate body systems including skeletal, digestive, circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems. Emphasis on understanding the functional, evolutionary and developmental basis for the similarities and difference observed among living vertebrates. In addition, examination of the physiological principles that function within these systems using examples like neural control, gas exchange, movement, excretion and metabolism. The laboratory portion will examine the various systems (muscular, skeletal, nervous, etc.) of human and non-human anatomical specimens. It will also include experiments examining the physiological aspects of the nervous, and respiratory systems.

Developmental Biology: Development, Stem Cells, and Regeneration

Mechanisms of fertilization, control of cell divisions, diversification of cell types, organization and differentiation of cells and tissues of the organism, and patterning necessary to establish the body plan of many organisms including vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Included among these mechanisms are the roles of transcription factors in controlling the trajectories toward tissues, signal transduction, morphogenetic movements, and other mechanisms used by different plants and animals to build a functional adult. Also includes stem cell biology, regeneration of tissues, sex determination, and evolutionary mechanisms of diversification.

Global Disease Control Programs and Policies

This course presents the history, social and political context, organization, technical content, funding and evaluation of current, major, global initiatives for disease control. This course emphasizes programs focused on health problems of the developing world and includes, initiatives for vaccines and immunization, non-communicable diseases, safe motherhood and reproductive health, malaria, Neglected Tropical Diseases, HIV, emerging infectious diseases, TB, tobacco control, nutritional interventions and injury control. This course also examines the process of policy formulation and resource allocation to international health and disease control.

Global Comparative Health Care Systems

This course introduces students to the components of health systems (populations, financing, payment, workforce, service delivery, information, medicines and technologies, governance) as they appear in various health system frameworks, and to the ways in which these components and their combinations vary from country to country around the world. The course focuses on comparisons across countries at the same economic level (high-, middle-, and low-income), as well as on comparisons across levels. The course also considers how to assess health system performance, with attention to how measures of performance are invariably tied to often implicit and varying conceptions of health from country to country and culture to culture. Students will learn about the most significant challenges facing health systems within each economic level and about successes and failures in meeting these challenges with health system reforms. The latter part of the course introduces students to the role of politics and policy in strengthening health systems. Throughout the course, students learn not only about health systems but also about what systems (physical, biological, social) are, how they function, and about how systems thinking can be applied fruitfully to the study of health systems.

Global Health Governance and Policy

This course introduces global health governance and policy in four modules: 1. Globalization; 2. Health; 3. Governance; 4. Policy. Draws on faculty from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, economics, history, medicine, political science, public policy, and sociology, to situate the concept and practice of “global health” within these four broad themes. This course introduces students to the primary governmental, intergovernmental, private, and civil society actors in global health, and provides an understanding of current issues in global health policy, including the political economies of health care, decision-making processes, governance structures, and the resource-constrained realities of global health policy-making.

Biological Basis of Disease

This course covers the basics of the structure and function of major organ systems of the human body in health and disease. The course is geared towards any students who are interested in learning more about how the human body works, how disease develops, and how mind-body connections can alleviate the progression of a disease process.

Evolution of Health and Disease

Covers evolutionary approaches to understand human health and disease at a global scale. Integration of evolutionary thinking and medical science provides new insights to a wide array of medical issues including obesity, cancer, allergies, and mental illness. Evolutionary perspectives reveal why some pathogens are more harmful than others, shed light on the origins and spread of infectious diseases in humans, and help in controlling antibiotic resistance. Evolutionary approaches provide insights as to why we age and provide solutions to alleviate human health problems that often differ from modern medical practice. Course will place these perspectives in the context of global health challenges.

Ecosystem Health and Human Well-Being

Explores interactions between ecosystem health and human well-being in context of global change and human population growth. Effects of climate change on food supply, water availability, land degradation and human well-being; impact of species distribution, disease spread, and human health; ecosystem services and human well-being. Case studies used to illustrate the scientific process and to evaluate supporting evidence.

Global Mental Health

Course examines global mental health from perspectives of culture, public health, epidemiology, human rights, policy, and intervention. Readings in the course focus on peer-reviewed research literature highlighting topics such as the prevalence of mental health disorders worldwide, the role of culture in mental health, and the interventions backed by strong evidence for prevention and treatment. Students will discuss and critique study methodologies and explore the needs for future research in this emerging field. Course is designed for students with prior research methods and psychology coursework.

Molecular, Behavioral and Social Evolution: Evolution of Genomes, Traits, Behaviors and Societies

Looks through the lenses of different disciplines to examine Darwin’s theories on natural selection and evolution, and explore current ideas about the evolution of complex social behaviors and societies. This course starts with an introduction to the key concepts of biological evolution; variation, inheritance, fitness, natural selection and the modification of physical traits, followed by an examination of how simple behaviors evolved in animals and humans. Discussion of these topics also considers ideas from other disciplines that influenced Darwin, such as those of economist, Thomas Malthus and geologist, Charles Lyell. The second part of the course investigates how Darwin’s theories might also explain the evolution of social behaviors such as cooperation, altruism and language, and considers some contemporary theories about the evolution of societies. Finally, the course will end with an investigation of Darwin’s influence on important ideas within other disciplines such as those of political theorist; Karl Marx, psychologist; William James and philosopher/sociologist; Herbert Spencer.