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Course XIII May Merge With Other Department

By Marissa Vogt

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

A new committee has been formed to discuss the possibility of merging the Department of Ocean Engineering with one of two other MIT departments.

Dean of the School of Engineering Thomas L. Magnanti formed the committee over the summer after he received an initial review of the department in May.

Based on that recommendation, “what I’ve asked them to do is explore the merger opportunities,” Magnanti said.

Magnanti said that the new committee is only considering a merger with one of the original choices from a 2002 committee, Courses I or XVI, and has begun exploring a merger with a department not on the original list.

The new committee consists of three faculty members from ocean engineering as well as one from each of the two departments that is under consideration, Magnanti said.

Professor of Ocean Engineering David S. Herbein SM ’87 said that the new ocean engineering committee includes a faculty member from Aeronautics and Astronautics and Mechanical Engineering.

Magnanti said that he has not yet received the final report of the original 2002 committee and that the initial report has not yet been made available to the public. A summary should be made public in the next couple of months, he said.

Professor of Ocean Engineering Arthur B. Baggeroer ’68, chairman of the new committee, was unavailable for comment.

Faculty opinions considered

The purpose of the committee is to “try to improve the environment for ocean engineering at MIT and to think about the best structure for it,” Magnanti said.

He said the members of the committee will be looking at how well the departments could match intellectual synergies, common research, and common vision.

Magnanti said that the committee is also taking into consideration the opinions of faculty from the ocean engineering department, as well as the faculty members of the two courses that are being considered for mergers.

“Part of what this committee is doing is engaging all relevant faculty,” Magnanti said. “We want to work in everybody’s best interest.”

Once the new committee reports back to Magnanti later this semester, he said he will be making a final decision with the faculty members.

“It’s a tough decision.” said Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine. “I don’t think it’s primarily an education issue. This issue really has more to do with research directions for faculty in the department.”

“As far as I’m concerned, we’d just like to maintain the name ‘ocean engineering,’” Herbein said. “It doesn’t really matter where we practice it.”

“It’s always a big step to close a department or merge a department because we don’t do it very often. So I’m sure the committee is looking at it very carefully,” Redwine said.

OE evaluations favorable

Barbara A. Masi ’86, the director of education assessment in the School of Engineering, said that she evaluated the ocean engineering department in 2001 as part of its Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology curriculum review.

This assessment of the department, which is done every five years, is “essentially giving a report card on the undergraduate curriculum,” Masi said. The results, Masi said, were “positive”.

Among the criteria for the evaluations are the students’ ability to work in teams, their ability to apply engineering theory and design, and their sense of the impact of engineering.

The undergraduate program in ocean engineering is “strong,” Masi said. “It’s small, which is their issue, but its faculty are quite engaged in undergraduate teaching.”