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SEAS Engineers Two New Concentrations

By Akua F. Abu, Crimson Staff Writer

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is expanding its undergraduate offerings, creating new concentrations in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

The new concentrations were designed to accommodate the growing student need for more focus on particular engineering disciplines, according to Joost J. Vlassak, SEAS area dean for materials science and mechanical engineering.

The two new concentrations will replace the electrical engineering and mechanical engineering tracks of the current engineering sciences SB concentration. Students will still be able to pursue an AB in engineering sciences under both tracks. These changes will both help students better explore specific interests in engineering subfields and allow the engineering sciences concentration to “truly serve as a general engineering education program,” SEAS Electrical Engineering Area Dean Evelyn Hu said.

The new concentrations are currently going through various approval processes and may be introduced as early as the next academic year, according to Hu. SEAS will apply for Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accreditation for both programs.

The proposed additions are only the latest in a movement across SEAS to expand existing tracks into independent concentrations. In 2010, biomedical engineering was incorporated as a stand-alone concentration.

The new concentrations are expected to increase the visibility of Harvard’s engineering programs.

“The goal is not to compete with other much bigger engineering schools such as MIT or Stanford,” Vlassak said. “Harvard engineering will remain much smaller than engineering at MIT for the foreseeable future, and that makes sense in the Harvard liberal arts context.”

Vlassak added that a degree in a specific engineering discipline is “more easily recognizable” and would benefit students interested in jobs in certain fields.

“Back home it’s more accredited to have an electrical engineering degree than one in the engineering sciences on the EE track,” said Marc Atiyeh ’14, a current engineering sciences concentrator and international student from Lebanon.

The structure of the new concentrations will build upon the existing infrastructure within the engineering sciences SB concentration; more courses, faculty, and advising resources for concentrators will be added in tune with growth.

According to Hu, the goal is to make the transition as “seamless” as possible for current engineering students.

Administrators also plan to incorporate reforms that aim to increase the hands-on experiences that are currently available to students.

Current engineering sciences concentrator Madhura B. Narawane ’12 called the new offerings a “good move” for the school, though she said she personally appreciates the flexibility within the engineering sciences concentration.

“I do like the opportunity, within a specific track in Engineering Sciences, to take classes in other engineering disciplines,” Narawane said. “I’m generally happy with the Engineering Sciences degree, so I’m not sure if I would have liked to switch.”

Atiyeh said he welcomes the new additions and would definitely switch.

“The new concentrations will play an important role in helping Harvard emphasize and strengthen its engineering program,” he said.

—Staff writer Akua F. Abu can be reached at

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