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Courses VI, X-B More Popular For 08’s Than in Previous Years

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The July 6 version of this article incorrectly identified one of the majors drawing more freshman than usual. It should have been Course VI, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, not Course VI-1, Electrical Science and Engineering.

By Tongyan Lin
STAFF REPORTER

Course X-B (Chemical Biological Engineering) and Course VI (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) attracted an unusually large number of freshmen this spring, according to data from the Registrar’s Office.

There was a corresponding drop in popularity of the Course X (Chemical Engineering) and Course VII (Biology) majors. The number of Course X majors decreased from 62 to 32. Six percent of the Class of 2008 declared Course VII, compared to 8 percent of the Class of 2007 and 10 percent of the Class of 2006.

The Nuclear Engineering department has continued to steadily increase in size, from only 11 students of the Class of 2005 last fall to 25 new undergraduates from the Class of 2008.

The rest of the majors have remained fairly steady in size.

The data includes undergraduates who chose sophomore standing early.

Chem-Bio major sparks to life

Course X-B showed the greatest growth, more than tripling in size after its first year as an undergraduate major, and establishing it as one of the larger majors at the Institute.

The overall number of freshmen in Chemical Engineering (including X, X-B and X-C) increased to 107 students from 86.

Professor of Chemical Engineering Gregory C. Rutledge, executive officer of the department, said that a class of over 100 was large, but not unusual for the department, which had a similar class size about 10 years ago. The department typically sees cycles in class size, and the current trajectory didn’t seem out of place, he said.

Rutledge said the popularity of X-B was a confirmation of a longtime trend the department saw in Course X majors to also pursue biology-related studies or career paths.

Moreover, the two majors have identical core classes, which have been evolving to include biology-related examples, he said.

EECS finds bottom of cycle

The percent of freshmen choosing Course VI grew from 20 percent last year to 23 percent this year, reversing a multi-year decline for the department. Course VI-II (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) remained the most common major selected by freshmen.

Course VI Department Head L. Rafael Reif speculated that the increase has “little to do with MIT or the department and more to do with outside forces,” though he said that the environment in the department has improved in the past year. Students were more involved in department events, he said.

Reif said that previous class sizes of around 35 percent of the class “stressed the department a tremendous amount” and made it difficult to promote excitement about the major.

Last year’s 205 students was “much easier [to handle] with our resources right now,” Reif said.

The increase is a stretch on their abilities, but “it’s still reasonable we can do a great job,” and the administration will help if necessary, he said.