Thursday, April 14, 2016

20,000 visitors expected at open house

Nearly 80 departments and labs will host a total of 380 activities in 170 spaces around campus for 20,000 visitors on April 23 in an open house to commemorate the 100th anniversary of MIT’s move to Cambridge. The activities will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Open House Planning Committee has made a point of advertising the event zealously, on buses, at MBTA stations, in the Boston Globe, and even on the facade of 77 Massachusetts Avenue. The effort may explain the high levels of attendance that the organizers expect.

Program director Michael S. Berry ’10 expects the event to help showcase MIT to the outside world, but he said it should also help students, faculty, and staff to “learn about what happens at this Institute outside of their own bubble.”

“This is disneyland for nerds,” Berry told The Tech. He said it’s so easy to be focused on daily to-do lists that people at the Institute “lose sight of the magic behind the doors of MIT.”

Berry said the event is not targeted at any group in particular — it’s goal is not to solicit applications from prospective students.

It’s “an opportunity for MIT and its neighbors to engage in a cooperative exploration of the important and fun work done on MIT’s campus and how it impacts the world,” he said.

“I want visitors to walk away with a sense of wonder and appreciation for the work that goes into genome sequencing or 3D printing ice cream. I want them to see the work done by groups like D-Lab and realize that technology isn’t about the next big app or million dollar idea, but a tool to improve lives.”

The open house is one part of the MIT2016 celebration organized by the MIT2016 Planning Committee chaired by Professor John Ochsendorf.

The MIT2016 celebrations commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of MIT’s move to Cambridge from its former location in Copley Square.

The most prominent event of the MIT2016 celebration will be “Moving Day,” which will commemorate MIT’s move to Cambridge.

The May 7 event — which will involve MIT students and other members of the community crossing the river from Boston to Cambridge by various methods — is designed to be reminiscent of a similar event in 1916. At that event, students and faculty — with great fanfare — processed to Cambridge as a decked-out boat carried MIT’s charter across the river.

Gayle Gallagher, Ted Johnson, Alice Rugoletti, and Berry, all of Institute Events, have been managing logistics.

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper

Six MIT students win Lemelson-MIT prize

Six MIT students win Lemelson-MIT prize

The Lemelson-MIT Program awarded its annual Student Prize Tuesday, recognizing promising inventors from across the United States. Six MIT students were among the winners announced.

Winning undergraduate teams will receive $10,000 while teams of graduate students will receive $15,000. Prizes are awarded in multiple categories: “Cure it!”, “Drive it!”, “Eat it!”, and “Use it!” Winning inventions included space plants, plague-fighting tools, as well as communication aides for autism and gloves which live-translate ASL.

MIT’s Mechanical Engineering department can congratulate five of its students: Dan Dorsch G, a second year PhD, won the Drive It! award for a high performance, lightweight, clutchless hybrid transmission. Dorsch is also known for helping establish MakerWorks, a student-managed makerspace which opened last May.

Michael Farid G, Kale Rogers ’16, Braden Knight ’16, and Luke Schlueter ’16 received the Eat it! award for a fully automated restaurant, including a fridge, dishwasher, stove, and cook.

The Media Lab also has a student to congratulate: Achuta Kadambi G developed cameras designed to far exceed human capabilities. For example, they are able to observe light as it travels, re-create 3D scenes by detecting reflected polarization, and diagnose tuberculosis at a low cost by measuring how light bounces off sick cells.

The Lemelson-MIT Program aims to attract young people to engineering by portraying successful inventors as role models, similar to how successful athletes drive participation in sports. In addition to its college prize, the program also awards a $500,000 prize to mid-career professionals and provides grants to middle and high school initiatives.

—Olivia Brode-Roger

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper

Faculty highlight diverse ‘frontiers’ of MIT’s research

Faculty highlight diverse ‘frontiers’ of MIT’s research

Thirteen faculty from twelve departments gave snapshots of their current research — ranging from studying financial systems based on mobile phones in Africa to finding genetic pathways to improve the efficiency of biofuel production — at a symposium on the future of MIT research, “MIT’s Frontiers of the Future,” April 11.

Changing the incentives in drug markets could lead to new research that would uncover “missing” inventions — such as cures for diseases which are usually neglected, Heidi Williams, professor in economics, suggested. Her research seeks to identify the drivers of innovation in healthcare markets.

Describing the surprising persistence of some infectious diseases which have yet to be eradicated, civil and environmental engineering professor Lydia Bourouiba said that micro-level research into the disease agents and a macroscopic understanding of economic and ecological factors that influence disease transmission are both necessary. Bourouiba joined MIT in 2010 as a postdoctoral fellow in the department of mathematics.

Dina Katabi, professor in electrical engineering and computer science, is working with her team to develop wireless technology that can track a person’s breathing and movements through walls.

The symposium was part the MIT2016 celebrations which mark the one hundredth anniversary of MIT’s move to Cambridge.

—Katherine Nazemi

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper

Media Lab’s ‘Data USA’ aims to make government data easy to use


For years, the federal government, states, and some cities have enthusiastically made vast troves of data open to the public. Acres of paper records on demographics, public health, traffic patterns, energy consumption, family incomes and many other topics have been digitized and posted on the Web.

This abundance of data can be a gold mine for discovery and insights, but finding the nuggets can be arduous, requiring special skills.

A project that came out of the MIT Media Lab April 4 seeks to ease that challenge and to make the value of government data available to a wider audience. The project, called Data USA, bills itself as “the most comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data.” It is free, and its software code is open source, meaning that developers can build custom applications by adding other data.

Cesar A. Hidalgo, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab who led the development of Data USA, said the website was devised to “transform data into stories.” Those stories are typically presented as graphics, charts and written summaries.

The media lab worked with the consulting and auditing firm Deloitte, which provided funding and expertise on how people use government data sets in business and for research.

“The goal was organize and visualize data in a way that a lot of people think about it,” said Patricia Buckley, director of economic policy and analysis at Deloitte and a former senior economist at the Commerce Department.

Type “New York” into the Data USA search box, and a drop-down menu presents choices — the city, the metropolitan area, the state and other options. Select the city, and the page displays an aerial shot of Manhattan with three basic statistics: population (8.49 million), median household income ($52,996) and median age (35.8).

Lower on the page are six icons for related subject categories, including economy, demographics and education. If you click on demographics, one of the data stories appears, based largely on data from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Using colorful graphics and short sentences, it shows the median age of foreign-born residents of New York (44.7) and of residents born in the United States (28.6); the most common countries of origin for immigrants (the Dominican Republic, China and Mexico); and the percentage of residents who are U.S. citizens (82.8 percent, compared with a national average of 93 percent).

Data USA features a selection of data results on its home page. They include the gender wage gap in Connecticut; the racial breakdown of poverty in Flint, Michigan; the wages of physicians and surgeons across the United States; and the institutions that award the most computer science degrees.

Hal R. Varian, chief economist of Google, who has no connection to Data USA, called the site “very informative and aesthetically pleasing.” The fact the government is making so much data publicly available, he added, is fueling creative work like Data USA.

Data USA embodies an approach to data analysis that will most likely become increasingly common, said Kris Hammond, a computer science professor at Northwestern University. The site makes assumptions about its users and programs those assumptions into its software, he said.

“It is driven by the idea that we can actually figure out what a user is going to want to know when they are looking at a data set,” Hammond said.

Data scientists, he said, often bristle when such limitations are put into the tools they use. But they are the data world’s power users, and power users are a limited market, said Hammond, who is also chief scientist at Narrative Science, a startup that makes software to interpret data.

© 2016 New York Times News Service

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper


An article in last Tuesday’s issue stated that SpringFest will take place on Saturday, April 29. In fact, it will take place on Friday, April 29.

An article in last Friday’s issue listed 6.002 among the requirements for the new computer science minor. In fact, 6.0002 will be required, not 6.002.

An article last Friday misrepresented Sara as the commander of an entire unit in the Israeli army. In fact, Sara was one of many commanders in the unit she served in.

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper

Cycling team overcomes odds to win at Shippensburg


The MIT cycling team placed first overall at the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) Shippensburg Scurry race with contributions from each of its seven team members.

Apart from the steep climbs and sharp turns, the Engineers had to combat gusty winds throughout the weekend of racing. The numbers were not in their favor either, as the seven-strong team was up against teams that fielded over fifteen cyclists, and yet they found a way to outscore their opponents. At times it was strategic teamwork, at other times it was sheer heart-and-hustle, and at yet other times it was about playing to one’s strength. Last but not the least, valuable contributions from the battle-tested veterans helped MIT pull off its best performance so far this season.

The weekend did not go as planned for rookie Paul Cohen ’17 who crashed into the very first corner of his first competitive race. But not only did he pick himself up to complete that race, he finished third in the subsequent race.

Reflecting on an eventful outing Cohen said, “The crash definitely put a damper on my spirits for the day. I was pretty excited and hopeful about my chances going into the race, so crashing on the first corner sucked.”

The second race was a different story as Cohen got ahead and pressed home his advantage to push himself to a podium finish.

“I was surprised halfway through the race when I looked behind and saw a gap opening between me and the group behind. This was a massive confidence boost. I think the adrenaline from this helped a lot in carrying me to the finish line and clinch third place,” he said.

MIT got its biggest contribution from Justin Bandoro G. Having trained hard this past winter, Bandoro was primed to perform under challenging conditions and he came through in the clutch in a big way, bagging two individual victories in the men’s B category.

Following his victories, he underscored the importance of knowing one’s strengths and how those compared with the strengths of one’s opponents: “I am a relatively better climber than most of the racers in my field,” Bandoro said. “Going into the race I had a plan to attack on one of the laps after that decisive corner to get separation from the other racers. With just a little bit more than 20 minutes of racing left, the pack turned that corner and decided to put in an attack up the climb. At the top I looked back saw that I had around a 10 [second] gap on the group, then got as aerodynamic as possible on the bike and put in a strong effort for the next 20 minutes to stay away.”

Even in a largely individual sport like cycling, the importance of teamwork cannot be neglected.

As Bandoro explained, “I have to give huge kudos and appreciation to my teammate, Tom [Tom O’Grady G], who was with the pack of chasers. Without him I am not sure I would have been able to stay ahead of the pack for the win. He used a bike racing technique known as ‘blocking,’ whereby he interfered with the chasing group’s organization to reel me back in.”

Among other notable contributions was a maiden victory for Kathryn Olesnavage G who crossed the line first in the women’s C category amidst powerful winds. Jennifer Wilson G notched a third- and a fifth-place finish in the women’s A category to round off a successful weekend for MIT cycling.

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper

Baseball scores 31 runs in a single game against Emerson


MIT’s offense cranked out a total of 44 runs and its pitching allowed just three as the Engineers swept a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) baseball doubleheader from Emerson College to complete a three-game sweep of the series. In the first game, MIT set a new school record for runs scored in a 31-2 win and then completed the sweep with a 13-1 decision in game two. Max Lancaster ’18 hit three home runs and drove in a total of seven runs over the two games for the Engineers.

Game 1

MIT (7-8, 5-1 NEWMAC) decided things early in game one, scoring 11 runs in the first inning. All nine hitters in the Engineers’ lineup reached safely in the first trip through the order, including Alec Echevarria ’16 whose two-run single started the uprising. By the time the leadoff hitter John Drago ’17 came up again, MIT had already established a 6-0 lead. David Heller ’18 tripled and singled in the inning, with his base hit in his second at-bat delivering the 11th run of the frame.

After a solo home run from Lancaster in the second, Emerson (3-17, 0-6 NEWMAC) picked up its two runs in the third inning. A pair of singles and a stolen base put runners on the corners for sophomore Tim Quitadamo, who grounded out to plate the first run for the Lions. With two down, senior Steven Cameron doubled to center to bring home the second.

That was all the damage that MIT starter Will Loucks ’18 would allow as he went on to pick up the victory with six innings of work in which he gave up the two runs on eight hits while striking out six.

MIT responded to Emerson’s two runs with four more in the bottom of the third, with Lancaster swatting his second round-tripper, a two-run home shot that made it 16-2. The Engineers went on to score in every inning but the seventh as they broke the previous team mark of 30 runs set against Brandeis University on April 26, 1966. Heller tied the school mark with five runs scored and David Greenwood ’18 matched another mark with four doubles.

Lancaster was 3-for-3 with a walk and six RBI, while Echevarria went 5-for-6 with five RBI and Heller finishing 4-for-6 with five runs and five RBI. Cameron and sophomore Joey Jacobs both had a pair of hits to lead Emerson.

Game 2

After a pair of scoreless innings in game two, MIT put four on the board in the third to take control of the contest. As he did in game one, Echevarria brought home the first run with a base hit and Heller finished it with an RBI triple.

After a wild pitch gave the Engineers another run in the fourth, Emerson got it back in the fifth when freshman C.J. Rogers smacked a run scoring triple to right. In the bottom half the inning Lancaster belted his third homerun of the day to make it 6-1.

MIT put it away in the seventh with six runs on six hits, with Austin Filiere ’18 driving in a pair with a two-out single to left.

Alan Wang ’16 started and went the first two innings before Jack Murphy ’16 came on to earn the win for the Engineers with five innings of work, allowing the one run on five hits.

Greenwood led MIT with four hits in five trips, scoring twice. Filiere and Echevarria each drove in two runs on three hits for the Engineers. Quitadamo led Emerson with a pair of hits and a sacrifice.

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant bids farewell to NBA


This past Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers played the Utah Jazz in each team’s last game of the regular season. Without context, this would not seem like a historic night, but all eyes were fixated on the Staples Center court as an NBA legend prepared to suit up for the final game of his career.

Kobe Bryant had not played well of late, and his Lakers are currently an afterthought in terms of NBA playoff relevance. Aside from internal dissent between teammates and Bryant’s farewell tour, they seem to stay out of the news. This is certainly shocking, if only for the sole reason that during Bryant’s career, the Lakers have displayed an aura of dominance that led to their winning five NBA championships in the past twenty seasons.

After declaring for the draft out of high school, Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft and was promptly traded to the Lakers, a move the Hornets surely wish they could undo. In his rookie season, the 18 year old guard demonstrated the will and determination of an NBA superstar in the making. Sure enough, in just his sophomore year, Bryant’s play earned him the recognition of an all-star and set the stage for a monumental career.

After his first three seasons in the NBA, the league took notice of the great things this guard from Philadelphia could do. Together with legendary coach Phil Jackson and recent NBA Hall of Fame inductee Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers captured three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002 — something that only four other teams in NBA history have been able to do. Bryant exuded an exceptional amount of confidence and consistently made clutch shots for the Lakers. His teammate would get credit for leading the team and won recognition as the Final’s MVP all three years, but Bryant solidified his reputation as a force with a knack for coming up clutch. When Shaq departed for Miami in 2004, the Lakers became solely his — a team that would still go on to accomplish a lot with Bryant as its leader.

It took Bryant a couple seasons to establish himself as the major offensive focus on a winning team, but when he did he seemed to be unstoppable. Night after night he would demoralize opposing defenders and that was no more apparent than when he put up 81 points against the Raptors, a single game outburst unseen since Wilt Chamberlain had his infamous 100-point game in the ’60s. Over the course of the next four seasons, Bryant would go on to average over 30 points per game, something only a handful of players have ever been able to do successfully.

During the 2007-08 season, the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, forming another duo that would once again make the Los Angeles Lakers one of the most powerful teams in the NBA. They ended that season 57-25, and claimed the top seed in the Western Conference. Bryant’s play was admirable — good enough to win him the Most Valuable Player award. This time, Kobe was no sidekick. He became the leader and thrust his team back into playoff relevance. The team would go 12-3 in the first three rounds, breezing their way back to the finals for the first time since Shaq had departed. They would fall to the Boston Celtics in six games, but if there was one thing Bryant had done consistently throughout his career, it was using challenge and adversity as a means for fueling his fire.

The Lakers went on to win the title the next two seasons. They cruised their way past the Magic and got revenge on the Celtics. This gave Bryant the fifth title of his career and extended the Lakers’ total to an amazing 16 titles. They were arguably the best team in the NBA over this stretch and Bryant was surely the reason for that. When the team traded for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in 2012, the Lakers seemed poised to claim that sixth championship. Injuries and indifference plagued them however, and the team struggled even to make the playoffs. Despite all odds against them, Kobe carried this team on his back. He consistently played heavy minutes, often playing the entire game down the stretch. Just as it seemed that the team had what it took to make the playoffs, Bryant tore his achilles tendon — effectively ending his season and killing any dream of the Lakers moving forward. There are few moments in sports history that more powerfully demonstrate a player’s dedication on the court than Kobe limping to the line to shoot his free throws before exiting to receive medical attention.

Bryant never truly came back from his injury. Just as it seemed he had gotten over one bruise or fracture, he seemed to succumb to another. It was unsettling to see an NBA season where he was not dismantling opponents. Nonetheless Bryant had an amazing tenure and collected a mass of accolades that one can only try to quantify. With an average of 25 points-per-game (PPG), he has garnered more than 33,500 points, third all-time in NBA history. He had 18 All-Star appearances (4 All-Star MVPs), 15 All-NBA selections, and 12 All-Defensive team selections; he earned two scoring titles, two Olympic gold medals, and an MVP award. Continually, Bryant seemed to improve his game and became one of the most dominant two-way players of all time.

More than anything else, he was an influence over an entire generation. We have all done it: pulled out that turnaround fadeaway to launch a paper ball into a trash can, screaming “KOBE!!!” as we watch it go in (or miss by a foot). We only wish we could do what Bryant did, night after night after night. He has left a legacy unlike any other. In no time at all we will be talking about his entry into the Hall of Fame, looking back on the career of a one-of-a-kind player, a one-of-a-kind competitor, and a-one-of-kind presence. Farewell Kobe Bryant, you will be missed.

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper


Editor’s Note: Portraits of Resilience is a photography and interview series by Prof. Daniel Jackson. Each installment consists of a portrait and a story, told in the subject’​s own words, of how they found resilience and meaning in their life.

It was April 15, 2013, and it was my twenty-second birthday. I had just made the decision to come to MIT. I was in class in the morning, and we learned that there was a terrorist attack in Boston. It’s strange for me having a connection to the Marathon Bombing without actually having been here on campus.

I went to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. My major was chemistry, and my minor was in women’s and gender studies. That’s where I began to realize that I had this sense of duty and responsibility that led me to being the president of the student association there, and later into my current role of being Graduate Student Council President here at MIT.

One of the first things I did in the summer before I came to MIT was to make a plan for myself. In my first few weeks at MIT, I was going to go to MIT Mental Health, so that if an issue ever arose, I would have somebody here who had seen my face and talked to me before.

I sort of knew, but I had never really come to terms with the fact, that I had some sort of mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. I grew up in suburban Missouri. Different parts of the country are different with respect to views on mental health. There, people think you should pick yourself up by your bootstraps, and you can figure it out.

I’d never processed that most people aren’t keeping a running tally of every step that they’ve taken when they’re walking around. Anytime I would see a phone number in public, like on a billboard or something, I would just in one quick swoop sum all the numbers. It didn’t mean anything. Oh, there’s a phone number. Okay, 45.

When I was most stressed, things got a little bit worse. As an undergrad, I was very busy being the president of the student association, writing up my senior thesis, and taking a lot of challenging classes.

I might be in a meeting with somebody, with my advisor, let’s say. I’m sitting there and I just sort of have this running conversation in my head, thinking “What’s the worst thing I could say right now?” Something that would just ruin my professional life, such as standing up and swearing at my advisor and walking out.

Of course I never acted on those thoughts, because ultimately, I’d like to think that I’m a good, nice person and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. A lot of people have intrusive thoughts enter their head, but there’s a filter, and most people can let them go. I would sit there and be worried. My hands would start getting cold because there was always this gripping fear in the back of my mind. What if I actually did it?

One of the things I do best is getting other people into the mindset and into positions where they feel like they have adequate support and resources so they can do their best. Trying to square that up with the terrible thoughts inside my head was very difficult.

About half an hour before I went into my meeting at MIT Mental Health, I made the decision. I’m just going to talk about this, I said to myself. I’m just going to say it, and I’m going to have to face this fear, this anxiety of talking about something that might potentially be very sensitive. In the end, the discussion went fine, and they suggested I talk with someone who deals with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. At the time, I lived in Brookline, so I started meeting with someone there about once a month.

I saw her four or five times. Simply talking about all these little behaviors and patterns that I had made me feel better about it. I went to Ireland that summer, to start measuring isotope ratios of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. I was at Mace Head, in rural Western Ireland, and I was too young to rent a car; I had to bike many miles to get anywhere.

There was no real grocery store nearby, so I ended up eating about the same thing every day. It would be oatmeal and an egg in the morning, a sandwich and an apple for lunch, and then steamed frozen broccoli, rice, and smoked salmon every night.

Some people couldn’t stand eating the same thing day in and day out. The good thing is I don’t get bored with food. As an undergrad, I ate the same breakfast every morning: oatmeal with peanut butter, and eggs with Tabasco sauce.

When I came back from Ireland, I felt like I was in a much better place and I didn’t need to continue talking with the therapist in Brookline. Going to that first meeting at MIT Mental Health was one of the better decisions I made since moving here. All the changes that I’ve made, and coming to be more open with people about these experiences — everything that has followed from that decision has been transformative in my experience here.

I still get anxious when I’m stressed. During our general exam process, I was working with an instrument to look at properties of simulated clouds that form on Mars. It was late at night and I just wanted to get one more point of data out of it, but I had to check something on the inside of the instrument. I didn’t realize how heavy the part was, and I dropped it, snapping some wires. There were things that I couldn’t really handle, in that late-at-night, tired, really wound-up state.

So I sat down for 15 minutes and didn’t move. I was sort of overwhelmed. I wrote an email to the post-doc saying, “I think I broke something. I’m going to deal with it in the morning.”

I don’t get troubling thoughts nearly as frequently now. But yesterday I was in a workshop and something did come up. One of the people that was putting on this workshop — in my mind, I was saying that this person’s the size of a whale. That’s something that’s really hurtful. I just thought, “Okay, that’s destructive and that doesn’t represent how I try to interact with people.” I can let it go now.

Now, when I’m walking around, I’m not counting steps. I live in Jamaica Plain, so it’s only 45 minutes or so to get here every day. I listen to a daily podcast about baseball. While I’m intently trying to listen to that, I’m not counting. It’s more productive to get up-to-date news on something that I care about, rather than wasting time and counting numbers. Somehow the phone number thing sticks with me, though.

I’m sure that everyone’s experience is different, but if there are things that are disruptive, I think there are a lot of different things that you can do to make them less disruptive, less interfering in your life. Just talking to someone about it rather than just keeping it bottled up is really liberating. Even just a check-in with friends, having an honest conversation about things that are happening in your life.

One thing that has really helped me in my time here has been doing something active for an hour or so a day, scheduling myself every single day that I can. Somehow all the loose nervous energy that was causing issues in the past is more constrained.

We’re all in this together. Sometimes people ask me what my favorite thing about MIT is. I really enjoy our departmental Cookie Hour. This is endowed; there’s money in it that’s going to make sure it goes on perpetually. Every day, at three o’clock, we have cookies and fruit in our lounge. I get to see everybody almost every day.

I’m sure — beyond all doubt — that all the people eating cookies are dealing with issues of their own. I hope they feel comfortable confiding in someone. If not, I hope just eating cookies and cherries with friends is as much a daily highlight for them as it is for me.

Michael McClellan is a graduate student in Earth and Planetary Sciences, and president of the Graduate Student Council.

This project is supported by the Undergraduate Association’​s Committee on Student Support and Wellness, chaired by Tamar Weseley ’17 and Alice Zielinski ’16. To participate in the project, or to learn more, contact

There are many ways to find help. Members of the MIT community can access support resources at To access support through MIT Medical’s Mental Health & Counseling Service, please call (617) 253-2916 or visit​

Image and text copyright Daniel Jackson, 2016.

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper

Friday, April 8, 2016

Course 6 to offer CS Minor


Starting this fall, MIT will offer a minor in Computer Science.

“We expect the minor will better serve the needs of MIT students broadly. It will allow students to major in other disciplines and get computational depth. We don’t expect a large change in the number of EECS majors. We could see a drop in the number of double majors,” Professor Anantha Chandrakasan, EECS Department Head, said in an email to The Tech.

“Over the past few years, it has become obvious that basic skills in CS are very useful for not just all of engineering but fields as varied as linguistics and the physical sciences. The computational biology joint degree was one effort to create a new program that intersected CS and the life sciences. We received indications from students and other departments that they were interested in degree programs that intersected CS in some way. With the development of the 6.0001/6.009 entry point into CS, we felt that the time was ripe to execute on the CS minor.”

The EECS department has predicted that around 100 students will declare a minor in Computer Science this fall.

Chandrakasan says that course 6 class sizes might increase, particularly in the courses required for the minor, though he notes that the courses required for the minor are already “very large and serve non EECS majors.” He says that automated grading will help “EECS deal with a potential enrollment increase.” If more teaching resources are deemed necessary, the EECS department will request more funding for TAs from the Dean of Engineering during the annual budget process.

The minor will incorporate classes, such as 6.009 and 6.031, that are likely to be part of the new course 6 curriculum in the works, according to Professor Chris Terman on the minor’s piazza page. This new curriculum is currently being reviewed by the Committee on Curricula, commonly known as the CoC.

To complete the Computer Science minor, students must take 6.0001, 6.002, 6.009, 6.042[J], and 6.006; 2 classes total from from a list of basic classes, 6.004, 6.034, and 6.008, and advanced classes, 6.036, 6.170, 6.033, 6.045, 6.046, and 6.031. (The latter will replace 6.005 starting in spring 2017, and will count as a CS header subject for 6-3 majors). One of the two courses must be from the advanced list.

Aside from the few listed on the minor’s description page, no substitutions will be accepted for the listed requirements. Some students on the minor’s new piazza forum have expressed frustration that 6.0001 and 6.0002 are required even if a student has already completed 6.01 or upper-level computer science classes. Others hoped that courses with content similar to minor requirements would be accepted, such as 18.200A, which a student on piazza claims is a common substitute for 6.042 (a class required for the minor).

“We do not have plans to allow substitutions at this time, but this might change based on student feedback next year. One concern is the amount of work that is associated with advising in a minor program that allows significant substitution. If the minor is as popular as we would like it to be, EECS does not have the advising capacity to customize it to every student,” Chandrakasan said.

Students majoring in 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 6-7, 7, and 18C will not be permitted to declare a Computer Science minor due to significant overlap in course work, and in the case of course 7, the existence of the 6-7 degree.

EECS proposed the minor in January 2016 and the CoC approved it in late March. Professor Chandrakasan said he “received strong encouragement for [the minor]” from President Reif, Chancellor Barnhart PhD ’88, and Dean Waitz.

via The Tech - MIT's Student Newspaper