Graduate students, fellows, staff, and faculty without direct training in public health often have limited opportunities to gain a basic understanding of the multiple areas of study within public health and the role each plays in improving health. Many want to learn more about areas of public health but are unable to devote the 30 to 40 hours of classroom time required for a full-length course.

To bridge this gap, the Postdoctoral Association at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health launched a condensed educational tool: the Public Health 101 Nanocourse.

Nanocourses are condensed mini-courses that meet for a minimum of 6 hours over two days. First session is lecture-based, the second session is discussion-based with flexible format such as homework evaluation, paper discussion, case studies, data analysis, lab work, etc.


These courses are led and developed by Harvard Chan postdocs and research associates, under strict guidance and evaluation from faculties and curriculum fellows. A secondary objective of this initiative is to create opportunities for postdocs and research associates interested in gaining teaching experience

Typically we start the academic year with the Flagship Public Health 101 nanocourse, inviting participants from the Greater Boston area. In this short course, using both lectures and case study, the team tackles real world problem while introducing the core concepts of public health such as:

  • Public health history and anthropology
  • Epidemiology and statistical reasoning
  • Environmental health and safety
  • Social and behavioral health
  • Health systems, policy, and management


Following the flagship course, we offer a PH101 nanocourse series. Courses offered in this series dive deeper into the specific topics within public health. The list of courses are  proposed based on the availability of subject matter experts in these specific areas. In the past, these series had offered courses in malaria, nutritional epidemiology, decision analysis, or health and human rights.



More information available from a recent publication in American Journal of Public Health by Ramirez et al. and a recent news coverage. Prospective students of the Public Health 101 nanocourse can stay informed on future nanocourse offerings by joining our mailing list. Postdocs and Research Associates at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health interested to develop and offer a nanocourse should contact pda@hsph.harvard.edu

Harvard Chan Postdoctoral Association, Nanocourse development core team:

  • Tia McGill Rogers, PhD, MPH (Team Leader, Educational Initiative Chair)
  • Bradley Coleman, PhD (Nanocourse Curriculum Fellow)
  • Catherine Kreatsoulas, PhD (Senior Advisor, Educational Initiatives Program)
  • Christian Suharlim, MD, MPH (PDA President)
  • Usheer Kanjee (PDA Special Advisor)


Photo credit: Bradley Coleman