Frequently Asked Questions

What is a nanocourse?

Nanocourses represent a dynamic way of teaching specific subjects at an advanced level in a condensed fashion. These courses are an educational tool meant to bring students and other interested individuals in the Harvard community up to date on a particular field, to provide insight into the current problems in that field, and to in general, define a solid basis for further study in that field, in a short time period.  The idea behind creating such a teaching tool, is to develop a curriculum that will stay fresh, will be easily updated in response to the changing nature of the field and the needs of the students, will take maximum advantage of the scientific potential of the faculty across the Harvard campus, and will appeal to a wide-variety of students, post-docs, fellows and faculty who don’t traditionally participate in classes.  

For credit purposes, 3 nanocourses are equivalent to one quarter course.  Nanocourses meet for a minimum of 5 hours over a period of 2 days. The first session is lecture-based and taught by 2 or more faculty members over 3-4 hours. The lectures are contiguous and aim to provide an advanced level of knowledge on current research areas, specific experimental approaches and new technologies. This lecture-based session is open to the entire Harvard community. The second session is discussion-based and is intended only for students taking the nanocourse for credit. The format of this second session, which lasts for 3 hours, is flexible. It may include discussion of relevant papers, brainstorming about future research, or whatever is deemed appropriate by the course director to assess student progress.

Given the focused theme of each nanocourse topic, we anticipate that the first lecture-based meeting of each nanocourse will attract a sizeable audience. The second discussion-based meeting will likely have a smaller audience, which is practical for discussions and exploring the topic more in depth.  
Although students can take as few as one nanocourse in any semester, students cannot register on their study cards for the nanocourses they have taken until they have taken six nanocourses, or three nanocourses and one quarter course.  


Course Credit:

Although students are encouraged to take as many nanocourses as they please, official credit will be granted for up to six nanocourses only. Students must participate in all sessions of a nanocourse and complete all the assignments in order to qualify for credit.  Completion of three nanocourses will be equivalent to a quarter course credit.

Course Registration:

Nanocourse enrollment is required only for students who wish to accrue credit.  Students are required to enroll on the web site in advance of the course (as specified per course on the web site). Students may drop a course using the web site, up to one week prior to the first session of the course. Failure to attend or complete the course will result in an incomplete grade for students who do not drop the course one week before the course date.  An incomplete grade will also be given to students who do not attend both days of a nanocourse for which they have enrolled if they do not drop the course as specified above.

How do I enroll?

After each courses listing is a link to enroll in that course.

How do I register?

You will register for academic credit on your study card. Please go to the Academic Credit page for detailed information on how to register.

I want to un-enroll from a course.

You can do this two ways - from the My account link on right, or by going to the individual course listing under Nanos links.  Click Enroll and then cancel sign up.

What happens if I am on the waitlist for a nanocourse?

Enrollment for all nanocourses is capped at 15 students. Although there are no guarantees, spaces in nanocourses do often become available at the last minute, so there is a good chance that you will be able to enroll in a nanocourse for credit even if you are placed on the waiting list.

Because class rosters can fluctuate up until the first day of a nanocourse, you must attend the first session of the nanocourse if you would like to be considered for enrollment. At the first session, you will be able to find out from the curriculum fellow running the nanocourse whether or not there is space available and if you will be able to enroll in the class. Only after receiving confirmation from the curriculum fellow that you have been placed on the class roster will you be eligible to attend the second session of the course and receive course credit.

What will I see on my transcript?

You will see Cell Biology 399. Nanocourses or Cell Biology 300qc. Advanced Topics in Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology

Who is eligible to take nanocourses?

Any Harvard graduate student.  Undergraduates are ineligible to take either nanocourses or quarter courses.

What if I am an MIT, HMS or HSPH graduate student?

You are welcome to take any nanocourses that you are interested in.  You will need to cross register when you have completed enough courses for credit.  Please go to the Academic Credit page for detailed information.

Do any other departments or schools offer nanocourses?

Yes, and their popularity is growing.  Currently it seems that these types of courses are only being offered within the HILS degree programs.

What happens when I stop attending, or don't do both days of a nano?

You will receive an INC for the course.  If you registered for credit on your study card and did not drop, or missed the drop deadline you will get an INC which is easy to fix once more coursework has been completed.

Why is there an INC on my academic record?

There could be an INC (incomplete) on your academic record for two reasons.  You may have planned to take your second quarter or more nanocourses and had to un-enroll from the course, but forgot to drop the course officially through the registrar.  Therefore you did not have enough coursework to receive credit.  You may also have registered incorrectly, thinking you had enough coursework for credit.
What should I do?

Contact Leah Simons at and she will determine why you got the INC.  The INC will stay on your record until you have completed enough coursework to receive credit.  Take more nanos and once completed, e-mail DMS Courses at to let us know your INC should now be changed to a grade.  We will review your record and if eligible, send a letter to the registrar asking for the INC to be changed to a SAT.

Important information to know:

If a class is full with a waitlist the instructor reserves the right to give Division of Medical Sciences students priority over non-DMS students, Post-Docs and those auditing the course.