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More Sophomores Choose VI-2; Other Departments Also Stressed

By Brett Altschul

The majors choices of the Class of 1998, released last month, showed only one significant change from the choices of last year's class: a more than doubling of the number of students in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree section Course VI-2.

The greatest number of sophomores continued to choose majors in Course VI, the largest department in the Institute.

Professor of EECS William T. Peake '51, an undergraduate officer for the department, attributed this to the fact that "MIT students seek tough academic programs. Course VI is regarded as tougher than most and has a reputation for expecting its students to take the material seriously, and MIT students are comfortable with that attitude."

EECS is also seen as an area with good prospects for secure employment, he said

More students choose VI-2

Although the total EECS enrollment changed very little, rising from 300 to 317, the number of students who chose the VI-2 major option more than doubled to 154, despite the fact that this program is not nationally accredited. The major covers both electrical engineering and computer science. Many students chose it because it's seen as less constrained than the other options, Peake said.

"It allows them to avoid choosing between EE and CS," he said. Many students in the department also feel that the combined program will soon become a standard college offering.

Biology still stressed

Although the recent growth in the Department of Biology leveled off this year, the department still contains nearly twice the number of students it had just four years ago.

"The biggest adjustment for the department was expanding the introductory lab course, but we seem to have enough space to do it," said Graham C. Walker, professor of biology and undergraduate officer for the department.

Introduction to Experimental Biology (7.02) is required of all biology majors, and its increased enrollment caused serious problems, Walker said.

Walker said that the doubling of the department was unexpected. "We can't fully say what happened, but we can partially explain it," he said. "There has been an increase in the pre-med enrollment all across the country, and since biology became a requirement, it's become more visible here."

EAPS attracts undergraduates

Many of the smaller departments have made efforts in recent years to attract more undergraduates. For example, the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, which was chosen by only nine sophomores, has been trying to build its undergraduate program, said Daniel R. Burns, PhD '87, undergraduate administrator for the department.

"We've been working hard to increase the visibility of EAPS among undergrads," he said. EAPS offers 16 freshman seminars, for over 10 percent of the freshman class, more than any other department, Burns said.

"EAPS also has a very vibrant UROP program, and there are great opportunities to do `real' research: last year one of our UROPs was deeply involved in the Jupiter comet impact," he said. "The job market for our grads is looking better too. A big percentage go on to grad school too."

The Department of Ocean Engineering, which five sophomores chose this year, has also "been developing a new undergraduate curriculum in ocean engineering and making an effort to encourage freshman to consider it," said Professor of Naval Architecture Justin E. Kerwin '53, the undergraduate adviser for the department.