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New majors emphasize more practical experience

By Jean K. Lee

Under growing pressure from industry for employees with more practical and advanced work in their fields, both undergraduate and graduate academic programs have responded with several curriculum changes and new degree offerings over the past year.

"We must teach our students to relate analysis and theory to the practical and the concrete," President Charles M. Vest said in his annual report. Such changes to the Institute are crucial as we continue our "rapid revolution toward increased importance of professional masters degree programs ... and toward increased emphasis on design, synthesis, and process as well as analysis."

Two new Master of Engineering programs - in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering - will be offered starting in September. They are directed toward undergraduate students looking for a one-year graduate program.

"The new [masters] programs are not only innovative, but more importantly, they focus on the resources and the particular needs of the Institute," said Chair of the Faculty Lawrence S. Bacow '72. "I'm pleased with the new initiatives taken by the school this year for the interests of the students," he said.

The MEng and Master of Science "offer complementary options for graduate students," said Professor Earll M. Murman, head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "The students are now introduced to a different educational experience."

Structured to emphasize multidisciplinary instruction, product design and design theses, the new Course 16 masters programs will require students to take five aerospace engineering disciplinary subjects (three graduate and two H-level), a math subject, a subject on aerospace product design, and a 12-unit design thesis.

Similarly, the Department of Civil and Environmental's MEng program - which consists of seven conventional subjects, three project and thesis subjects, and an individual thesis - was developed to provide "a first professional degree appropriate to individuals inclined to immediately enter professional practice," said Course I Professor and Department Head Rafael L. Bras '72. About 20 students are expected to enroll in the MEng program next fall.

In addition, a new Masters of Science degree in System Design and Management has been created. A joint effort between the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, the program is aimed at training engineers with at least three years of work experience to be senior managers with a strong technical grounding in systems engineering architecture and design of complex products and systems.

The program is planned to last 13 months, beginning during one Independent Activities Period until the end of the following IAP. "This new and more practically based program provides students with opportunities to achieve a professional degree and become leaders of engineering," said Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Edward F. Crawley '76.

Departments offer new specialities

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science added three new areas of study this year. The three new areas of concentration are in geoscience, physics of atmospheres and oceans, and planetary science and planetary astronomy and will be offered in addition to 14 new undergraduate subjects.

Changes made in the undergraduate program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering have made curriculum more industry-oriented. Old classes like Mechanics of Solids (2.01) and Introduction to Design (2.70) are being phased out to give way to a series of two-part classes such as Mechanics of Materials I and II (2.001 and 2.002), according to Professor Peter Griffith ScD '56, undergraduate officer for the department.

An interdisciplinary minor program in biomedical engineering, the Institute's first, also has been established. The minor is geared toward students who "end up going to medical school and want to use their engineering background for medical research," said Professor Linn W. Hobbs, chair of the committee on the undergraduate program. Between 20 and 50 students are expected to participate in the program starting next fall, and students would be able to fulfill the minor with six to nine subjects, depending on each individual's course of study.

Changes in the core curriculum

Freshmen were able to take a combined Calculus I (18.01) and Calculus II (18.02) for the first time. Recommended for students with advanced placement background, 18.01A quickly reviews 18.01 for six weeks and then covers 18.02 for eight weeks, said Joanne E. Jonsson, academic administrator for the Department of Mathematics. The remainder of 18.02 can be completed during either Independent Activities Period or the spring semester.

Introduction to Solid-State Chemistry (3.091) has been revamped to include additional topics while maintaining a focus on solid state. The changes were made in order to give freshmen the freedom to choose a chemistry course without concerns about requirements for potential majors. The new areas covered include a unit on liquids and solutions and examples from environmentally related topics, said Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Donald R. Sadoway.