New Programs Reflect Emphasis on Science

Six initiatives approved since last spring

University President Lawrence H. Summers forged ahead this year in his efforts to bolster science at Harvard.

He recommended that the University create a third science campus, while he oversaw the creation of a half-dozen new science initiatives and embraced sweeping proposals to reinvigorate undergraduate science education.

The Allston science and technology task force, whose report was released last month, urged the University to invest significantly in expanding engineering, applied science and emerging areas like stem cell research as part of Harvard’s campus of the future south of the Charles River. The one-million-square-foot science hub that will serve as the campus’ academic heart will feature cutting-edge laboratories intended to encourage cross-disciplinary research.

Last June, the University entered into a historic partnership with MIT and the Cambridge-based Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research to create the $300-million Broad Institute, charged with finding clinical applications for the recently mapped human genome.

A spate of other ambitious initiatives were rolled out this year, including the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. And more—mostly intended for the Allston campus—remain in the works.

The College’s curricular review report, released in May, encourages more emphasis on the sciences, including offering more comprehensive survey courses for non-concentrators and a renewed emphasis on hands-on research.

“The present report suggests that we enhance significantly the opportunities for our students in international studies and in the sciences, two areas in which our world has arguably changed most dramatically since our last general review,” Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby wrote in a letter introducing the report.

And to fund much of this science expansion, the University plans to begin a sweeping capital campaign—with a likely goal of over $4 billion, the largest in higher education history, and with a primary goal of expanding the sciences.

Summers insisted in September that Harvard take advantage of emerging fields in science.

“We must not miss the tremendous opportunity that is inherent in this moment—excellence has its cost,” Summers said. He added that the University must ensure “that the limits of what we can accomplish are the limits on the imaginations of our scientists.”

Professors say the new initiatives, in addition to at least 15 new science faculty appointments, are likely to reshape the curriculum and make steps toward a resurgence in Harvard’s sciences.

BRANCHING OUT

Since the end of the last academic year, Summers has unveiled a plethora of new University-wide science initiatives.

The Broad Institute, which officially began operating last month, will work to bring together math and biology to apply the genome to clinical ends.

Its formation marks a major step in implementing so-called “big science” at Harvard.

“[There is] also a sociological goal—which is to allow larger collaborative efforts in both teaching hospitals, Harvard and MIT, to bring people together to take on challenges that can’t be taken on by individuals,” said Broad Director Eric S. Lander.