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BE Major Approved At Faculty Meeting

By Kelley Rivoire


The long-anticipated undergraduate degree program in biological engineering was unanimously approved by the faculty at a meeting held Wednesday.

The major will be available to members of the class of 2008, via a random lottery at the end of next fall.

A motion for an undergraduate degree in mechanical and ocean engineering was also approved, with a vote on the degree program scheduled for March.

Details about the new undergraduate minor in management, which will be initiated next fall with a lottery this spring, were also discussed at the meeting.

BE major to be by lottery

The new biological engineering degree program differs from undergraduate programs at other universities in that the MIT program is “not oriented specifically toward medical applications,” according to a proposal for the degree program.

Enrollment in the major will be limited to 20 students in the first two to three years, then expand to 44, with the cap lifted for the class of 2013, according to a proposal to manage enrollment. The primary factors limiting enrollment are the lack of laboratory space and teaching staff.

Members of the class of 2008 will apply for a lottery at the end of next fall, and must pass Statistical Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Systems (BE.110) that fall to enter the lottery. This is to ensure that “students obtain some exposure to the nature of the BE SB, while also ensuring they receive adequate exposure to an alternate major.”

Presently, there are 26 faculty members and 11 joint appointments in BE. Four additional faculty members will be hired over the next three to five years, according to the enrollment management proposal.

Core subjects will include Molecular, Cellular, and Tissue Biomechanics (BE.310J); Biomolecular Kinetics and Cell Dynamics (BE.320); Biological Engineering Computation (BE.181); and a capstone design project (BE.380).

In a letter of support for the program, Dean of Engineering Thomas L. Magnanti called the field “one of the great frontiers of engineering.”

“To remain at the forefront of engineering, we need to have strong undergraduate offerings and play a leadership role in undergraduate education in this important new field,” he wrote.

Motion for Course II-MOE passed

A motion was approved by the faculty to create an undergraduate degree in mechanical and ocean engineering, the eventual replacement to the ocean engineering degree. The faculty will vote on the degree program at the next faculty meeting on Mar. 16.

The degree program was unanimously approved by faculty in the department, the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, the Committee on Curricula, and the Faculty Policy Committee.

The mechanical and ocean engineering degree program aims to “preserve the identity of OE as a field of study at MIT,” said J. Kim Vandiver PhD ’75, professor of mechanical and ocean engineering.

The degree program is anticipated to draw more students than the ocean engineering degree had because of its broader basis in mechanical engineering, Magnanti said.

In the new degree program, five subjects will contain ocean engineering content. That is half the number in the current ocean engineering degree program. The rest of the subjects will be in mechanical engineering.

Current undergraduate students in ocean engineering may choose to switch into the new degree program, though the ocean engineering undergraduate degree will remain until the last student enrolled graduates.

The new degree program would be reviewed by Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology for accreditation in the fall of 2006, following the graduation of the first student, with accreditation retroactive one year.

New management minor discussed

A new minor in management was discussed at Wednesday’s meeting of the faculty. The minor will be initiated next fall, with a random enrollment lottery for current sophomores and juniors occurring this spring.

Based on three surveys made by students and faculty and “strong demand for at least a decade,” interest in the minor in each class is expected to be between 200 and 300 students, said Professor Jeffrey A. Meldman ’65, director of Sloan undergraduate programs. Enrollment will be capped at 100 in this year’s lottery. The lottery will occur each year through the spring of 2009, when enrollment will be opened to all interested students.

The minor will include four required subjects: Principles of Microeconomics (14.01), Corporate Financial Accounting (15.501), People and Organizations (15.668), and Marketing Management (15.812), as well as two electives. One elective, a fieldwork experience, may eventually be integrated into the minor as a requirement, Meldman said.

The minor, concentrated in managerial aspects, differs in content from the management sciences major, which contains a more quantitatively intense core in operations research and information technology.

Five subjects are shared between the major and minor, allowing students to change between the two with relative ease.

Those selected in the lottery will be able to bid as Sloan students in lotteries for Sloan classes.

Any student who completes all course requirements for the minor, whether selected by the lottery or not, will be able to receive the minor, Meldman said.

Applications for the minor will be available Mar. 1 and due on Mar. 18. Applicants will be notified about their selection on Apr. 11. The department will hold informational sessions about the minor in early March.

According to the Student Guide to the Minor in Management, the goal of the program “is to create a program that mirrors the culture, management processes, leadership styles, and participant involvement found in modern, high-performing organizations.”

The minor will be a “highly valued complement to the undergraduate education” for students in any department,” Meldman said.