SEAS and Design School Plan Joint Master’s Program

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Graduate School of Design are planning to launch a joint master’s degree program in engineering design, according to three professors involved in the project.

The Faculty will likely vote on the new degree before the end of this semester, according to SEAS professor Woodward Yang, who is involved in the planning of the program.

The program will “hopefully” be launched next year, according to Materials Science professor Joanna Aizenberg, who sits on the committee spearheading the project.

Aizenberg added that the committee had hoped to launch the new program as early as this fall, but the process has been stalled by difficulties coordinating programs between SEAS and the Design School, whose curricula differ significantly.

Electrical Engineering


The new degree would join what is currntly a limited offering of master’s programs at SEAS, a school that largely offers Ph.D. degrees. Its only existing master’s programs are in Computational Science and Engineering, which focuses on data science and enrolled its first students in 2013, and in Electrical Engineering. The latter program offers admission only in “exceptional circumstances,” according to the school’s website.

According to Interim SEAS Dean Harry R. Lewis ’68, SEAS administrators are exploring possibilities to offer new certificate programs and other master’s programs. “We are exploring ways in which our intellectual strengths can be brought to bear on identifiable educational needs,” he wrote in an email.

Stephen M. Ervin, the Design School's assistant dean for information technology, said he is “extremely enthusiastic” about the idea of bringing design and engineering together.

“It’s not that these are opposite terms by any means,” he said. “Bringing together the strengths of these two schools at Harvard can only be fabulous.”

Aizenberg said she thinks there is a “natural merger” between the two schools, because design and engineering are inseparable. “[The designers] tend to sacrifice efficiency for beauty, whereas [the engineers] tend to sacrifice beauty for efficiency,” she said. “The outcome is that a lot of materials and buildings are either too expensive or ugly.”

Over the last year, SEAS and the GSD have been working closely together, resulting in greater interactions between the faculties, as well as a number of cross-listed courses, according to Design School Dean Mohsen Mostafavi.

For example, a popular Design School course on design research methods that integrated SEAS technology into its content will be cross-listed in SEAS as Engineering Sciences 291 starting this fall, according to Aizenberg.

—Staff Writer Zara Zhang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @zarazhangrui.