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MIT Course Catalog 2014-2015

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School of Science

The School of Science is an amazing enterprise: with approximately 330 faculty members, 1,200 graduate students, 900 undergraduate majors, and comparable numbers of postdoctoral researchers and research staff, the School is large enough to carry out research at the frontiers in every field of science. Our faculty members have won 16 Nobel Prizes and our alumni have won another 16, most of which have been awarded in the past 20 years. The six departments in the School are consistently rated among the best in the world.

The School is a prolific generator of new knowledge. Some members of our community study deep philosophical questions: What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy, which make up 95 percent of the content of our universe? How does our brain, a complex system of interconnected neurons, give rise to our mind—our consciousness and ability to learn? Other faculty members study problems that have obvious practical implications: How does global warming increase the intensity of hurricanes? Can we make adult stem cells capable of generating any cells in the body, replacing cells damaged by disease without using embryos?

However, the deep commitment to education found in the School of Science makes MIT unique among the great research universities. MIT provides each of its undergraduates with an understanding of the basic elements of biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics, and our Science faculty are devoted to doing this well. Some of our most famous faculty members, even a few with Nobel Prizes, are some of the best teachers of our freshman subjects.

Our science majors are provided with the very best introduction to their chosen field and the opportunity to participate in leading-edge research. Whether our undergraduates go on to graduate studies in science or a professional school in an area such as medicine, law, business, or engineering, they will be superbly prepared for their careers after MIT.

Many of our graduate students have pursued distinguished careers in research and education; however, others enjoy equally satisfying careers in business, industry, and government. Combining their PhD degrees in science with medical, law, or business degrees, our graduate students are uniquely capable of making creative contributions to the modern world.

For more information about the School of Science, visit


Science has been at the core of an MIT education since the Institute's founding in 1861 by the distinguished natural scientist, William Barton Rogers. The earliest offerings in chemistry, geology, and general science were expanded to include physics, mathematics, and biology, and then consolidated as the School of Science under the leadership of Karl Taylor Compton in 1932. During Compton's tenure and into the postwar years, the Institute saw vast growth in the physical sciences as federal funding for basic research increased. In 1969, the Geology Department became the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and when it merged with the Department of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography in 1983, it evolved into the present-day Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

As the life sciences attained new prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, the Department of Biology grew with the additions of the Center for Cancer Research (now the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research) and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. In 1994, the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) moved from the Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology to the School of Science. Recently, BCS joined with the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory expanding the School-wide resources for research in the neurosciences.

Science Laboratories and Centers

Much of our research in science is carried out in large research laboratories and centers like the Whitehead and Picower institutes, where the kinds of facilities necessary for research are available and collaboration among research groups is encouraged. Laboratories and centers with strong participation by members of the School of Science include:

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Center for Global Change Science
Earth Resources Laboratory
Laboratory for Nuclear Science
MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research
Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Collaboration with the School of Engineering

One of the great strengths of MIT is that school and departmental boundaries are invisible. Many School of Science faculty members carry out research in collaboration with others in the School of Engineering, often in inter-school laboratories, such as the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, the Research Laboratory of Electronics, or the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. Joint programs, such as the Singapore–MIT Alliance, the Microbiology program, or the Computational and Systems Biology program, also provide significant opportunities for inter-school collaboration. Research in science is often facilitated by the outstanding facilities developed to support engineering research and education, such as the Microsystems Technology Laboratories.

For more information about interdisciplinary laboratories, centers, and programs, see Part 3.

Office of the Dean

Michael Sipser, PhD
Professor of Applied Mathematics

Heather G. Williams, MA
Assistant Dean

Elizabeth Chadis, BA
Assistant Dean for Development

James White, MS, CPA, CMA
Assistant Dean for Finance



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