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MIT Course Catalog 2014-2015

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Academic and Research Options

Independent Activities Period

Independent Activities Period (IAP) is a four-week period in January during which faculty and students are freed from the rigors of regularly scheduled classes for flexible teaching and learning and for independent study and research. IAP is part of the academic program of the Institute—the "1" month in MIT's "4-1-4" academic calendar. Students are encouraged to explore the educational resources of the Institute by taking specially designed subjects, arranging individual projects with faculty members, or organizing and participating in IAP activities. They may also pursue interests independently either on or off campus.

Departmental programs may require students to complete a subject (of no more than 12 units) during one IAP.


More than 600 activities are offered each year on a wide range of topics, both academic and nonacademic. In addition, "special subjects" exist in most departments, for which students can arrange credit for individual work.

Many IAP activities, both credit and noncredit, are organized each fall. They are advertised, beginning in early November, on the IAP website at

Organizing Activities

Nonacademic activities may be organized or attended by members of the MIT Community: faculty, students, and employees. Tips on organizing an IAP activity are available on the web at Organizers may approach MIT departments and organizations to help defray expenses.

Students find organizing IAP activities a rewarding challenge. For many, it is their first opportunity to develop and teach a program from their own ideas. In doing so, they acquire organizational and leadership skills that prove invaluable to their careers.

Tuition, Room, and Board

Regular students paying full tuition in either the fall or spring term do not have to pay additional tuition or room fees to the Institute during IAP. Students who have not been charged full tuition in either the fall or spring term are subject to additional tuition charges and should consult the Registrar's Office, Room 5-119, 617-258-6409. MIT Dining provides food service options through retail, house dining, and catering services throughout the entire academic year, including IAP. (The regular meal plan program does not include IAP, but students may pay the cash door price). For operating hours and locations, visit

Academic Credit and Grades

Students should follow directions published on MIT's IAP website at regarding registration for subjects. In addition to regular subjects, students may make arrangements to earn credit for independent work under faculty supervision. No student may earn more than 12 units of credit during IAP. Credits received by freshmen during IAP are not counted toward their credit limits for fall or spring term.

All credit-bearing subjects are graded according to the grading rules approved for that subject number. A subject can be graded P/D/F only if it has been approved with P/D/F grading. Similarly, the number of units awarded must be as specified for that subject. However, faculty sometimes teach new classes under special subject numbers for which credit units are arranged.

For students to receive credit for work done in IAP, instructors must submit grades to the Registrar's Office by the deadline given in the academic calendar. If a grade is received after the Add Date of the succeeding term and the student did not register in the subject during IAP, the student must petition to receive credit. IAP credit will not be given if the grade is received after the end of the succeeding spring term.

Students may view their IAP grades on WebSIS shortly after the start of the spring term. Students who do not receive grades when expected should check promptly with their instructors or the Registrar's Office to ensure the grades are submitted and recorded.

Special Students

Applications for special student status solely for IAP will not be accepted. Special students admitted to the fall or spring term must consult the Admissions Office concerning their status during IAP; they do not automatically have IAP privileges. If the special student has paid full tuition during the fall term or is admitted to do so in the spring, there will not be an additional tuition charge for IAP. If the student has not been paying full tuition, a charge for the IAP units will be added to either the fall or spring term up to a maximum of full tuition for the term.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) invites undergraduates to participate in a wide range of research activities that are available in every academic department and most interdisciplinary laboratories and centers in collaboration with MIT faculty.

There are many advantages to becoming involved in such pursuits as early as possible in an undergraduate career: establishing ties to faculty, investigating a potential major, acquiring data-gathering and laboratory techniques, exploring the frontiers of a field, undertaking topics not amenable to the classroom, facing a real-world problem, and establishing a focus for educational experiences. Through UROP, students may gain a better understanding of the intellectual process of inquiry, while having the opportunity to experience personal and professional growth. Students may earn pay or academic credit, or may work on a volunteer basis. Whatever the chosen mode, all UROP work is expected to be worth academic credit.

Guidelines for participating are available online at This website lists UROP contacts for Institute departments, laboratories, and centers. While these people are prepared to assist students, a certain amount of footwork and negotiation is required to achieve a satisfying collaboration. The UROP experience is unlike any other; its benefits and rewards are great, but expectations and standards are commensurate. For advice and assistance, contact UROP staff in the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming, Room 7-104, 617-253-7306, fax 617-258-8816,

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Freshman Advising Seminars Program

The Freshman Advising Seminars (FAS) program is available only to first-term freshmen through an online application. Freshman Advising Seminars are one option for freshman advising. A Freshman Advising Seminar is typically led by a faculty member who also serves as the freshman advisor to the small group of seminar advisees. While FASes vary in style and topic, most are oriented to group discussion and offer an opportunity to interact closely with faculty. All Advising Seminars receive six units of credit and are graded P/D/F.

Information about the Freshman Advising Seminars program, including titles, descriptions, and application information for incoming freshmen, can be found at This website is maintained by the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming, Room 7-104, 617-253-6771,

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Interphase EDGE

Interphase EDGE (Empowering Discovery|Gateway to Excellence) is a two-year scholar-enrichment program that includes a seven-week summer session as well as programming during the academic year. The focus of the summer program is to give scholars an introduction to the MIT experience by exposing them to the rigors of a full subject load and to life on campus.

In addition, the Interphase EDGE curriculum is uniquely designed to impart pivotal concepts that will increase long-term academic success. The program is designed not only to give students an "edge" on their MIT experience, but also to catalyze their successes beyond MIT. During the summer and academic year, scholars will participate in a range of personal and educational development seminars and activities designed to ensure their smooth transition to college life. Throughout the academic year, scholars will continue to build upon the relationships created during the summer by attending biweekly meetings with EDGE advisors and monthly professional and academic enhancement events, including programs that expose them to various career pathways.

For more information, contact the Office of Minority Education at 617-253-5010 or visit

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Edgerton Center

The Edgerton Center offers a wide variety of courses for both undergraduate and graduate students, and provides resources and opportunities for students to pursue hands-on projects, UROPs, and other activities.

Named for Professor Harold Edgerton, whose high-speed photography legacy lives on with the Strobe Alley exhibition of Edgerton photographs, the center can provide students with a workplace, a place to test equipment, access to the Student Machine Shop, or simply advice and encouragement. The laboratory, classroom, and studio are located in Strobe Alley on the fourth floor of Building 4. For more information on using facilities, contact Jim Bales at or Amy Fitzgerald at

The Student Shop is located in Room 44-023 and offers regular training sessions for use of CNC mills, lathes, a 3D printer, and more. Contact manager Mark Belanger at for access and training.

Subjects offered include introductory electronics, digital photography, and classes in international development (D-Lab classes). In addition, Doc Edgerton's Strobe Project Laboratory is taught each term by assistant director Jim Bales. A listing of the subjects offered can be found at

The center supports a range of student clubs and teams including the Solar Electric Vehicle Team, the Marine Robotics Team, and others. We provide teams with a space to work, some funding, administrative support, and a team coordinator. Students interested in starting up a new team should contact Sandi Lipnoski,

International development is a potent area of interest for students and faculty, and is a key part of MIT's goal of advancing global education.

D-Lab ( is a program that fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions within the framework of courses and field trips. There are several academic offerings that make up the suite of D-Lab classes, falling into the broad categories of development, design, and dissemination. For more information about D-Lab, visit or contact Elisha Clark at, or call 617-324-4887.

The Edgerton Center Outreach Program gives MIT students an on-campus opportunity to teach engineering and science to 4th through 8th graders from area schools. Topics include mechanical engineering, circuits, optics, biology, and more. Contact Amy Fitzgerald at or 617-253-7931 to become involved.

The faculty director of the Edgerton Center is Professor J. Kim Vandiver, Room 10-110, For general information, contact Sandi Lipnoski, Room 4-408, 617-253-4629,, or visit

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Grading Options

Grading options are intended to provide students with the opportunity to explore new and challenging subjects and to broaden their educational experience with reduced effect on term and cumulative ratings. These options must be approved by the student's advisor and designated by Add Date.

Sophomore Exploratory. Sophomores may designate one subject as exploratory in each of their fall and spring terms. An exploratory subject is one in which the student may either accept the grade awarded in the subject or change the subject to listener status through Registration Day of the succeeding term. Students receive no credit for listener subjects, which do not appear on transcripts. Any subject may be designated as exploratory—including an Institute, departmental, or minor requirement or a cross-registered subject taken at another school.

Junior-Senior P/D/F. A student may take a total of two subjects to be graded P, D, or F during his or her junior and senior years, where P indicates C or better performance (C- with modifier used within MIT). Such subjects may not be used to fulfill the General Institute Requirements or departmental or minor requirements. However, the subjects will count in the units completed beyond the General Institute Requirements.

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Study at Other Universities

There are a number of opportunities for MIT undergraduates to study at other universities, including study abroad, domestic study away, and cross-registration programs with local universities. Students who spend a term or a year studying abroad or at another US university find that in addition to the intellectual benefit, they are enriched by day-to-day exposure to different cultural and/or social experiences. Through the cross-registration programs students may take subjects not offered at MIT.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Cambridge-MIT Exchange Program

Through the Cambridge-MIT Exchange Program (CME), undergraduate MIT students can spend their junior year studying at the University of Cambridge in England.

Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge consists of 31 self-governing colleges where students live and study in a supportive educational environment. Lectures, laboratories, and project work are organized by the university; the colleges organize small-group sessions ("supervisions") designed to complement the lectures. In addition to teaching, research is of major importance at Cambridge. Since the beginning of the 20th century, more than 60 members of the University of Cambridge have won Nobel Prizes.

MIT students who study for a year at Cambridge receive sufficient transfer credit to permit normal progress toward their MIT degree. Participating departments include Aeronautics and Astronautics; Biology; Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Chemical Engineering; Chemistry; Civil and Environmental Engineering; Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences; Economics; Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (including Course 6-3); History; Mathematics; Mechanical Engineering; and Physics.

While on the exchange, MIT students pay tuition to MIT; they are billed at Cambridge for the costs of room and board only. While away at Cambridge during the fall and spring semesters, a student maintains full-time student status at MIT.

Interested students should discuss their plans with CME faculty coordinators in the departments as early as possible. For further information, students should contact Sarra Shubart, program coordinator, 617-253-6057,, or their departments. A list of CME faculty coordinators and administrators in each department can be found at

MIT-Madrid Program

The MIT-Madrid Program gives students the opportunity to study in Madrid for the spring term during their sophomore or junior year. Depending upon major and interests, students can choose science and engineering courses at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and/or humanities, arts, and social sciences courses at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid; instruction and coursework are in Spanish. These are leading universities in Spain, each with its distinguished tradition and history. In addition to academic courses, students can participate in an internship during this program. Students who plan to participate in MIT-Madrid must be in good academic standing and have taken Spanish IV at MIT or its equivalent. MIT-Madrid Program participants are placed individually with Spanish families in homestays. For more information visit

IAP-Madrid Program

The IAP-Madrid Program is a Spanish II language program taught by MIT faculty in Madrid, which is open to MIT undergraduate and graduate students. For more information, visit

Departmental Exchange Programs

The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics offers study at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. For more information, visit

The Department of Architecture has two exchange programs, one with Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and the other with the University of Hong Kong. For more information visit

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering has exchange programs with Oxford University and Imperial College London. For more information contact Professor Linn Hobbs, 617-253-6835,

The Department of Political Science has an exchange program with Sciences Po in Paris, France. This program is open to other majors as well, although the course offerings consist largely of HASS. For more information, visit

The Department of Mechanical Engineering has an exchange program with ETH-Zurich in Switzerland. For more information, contact Josh Nupp, 617-715-5331,

Other Study Abroad Options

MIT students may also apply for admission directly to foreign institutions that offer study abroad programs or to a study abroad program administered by another US institution or study abroad provider. Examples of such opportunities include l'École Polytechnique in France, the London School of Economics, Oxford University and other UK institutions, and a number of programs in China. To explore these options, and many other exciting opportunities around the world, schedule an appointment with a staff member in Global Education (, 617-324-7239, Room 12-189.

Students interested in study abroad should begin planning as early as possible. They should meet with a staff member in Global Education and work out their plans with a faculty advisor and appropriate transfer credit examiner(s) in the department. They also must complete a Worksheet for Planning Study Abroad/Domestic Study Away ( in order to gain approval for study abroad. While on an approved study abroad program during the fall and/or spring term(s), a student maintains full-time student status at MIT. Although it is most common to study abroad during the junior year, it is also possible to participate in a study abroad program in the sophomore year or, in some cases, in the senior year. Study during IAP and/or summer are popular options as well.

Financial aid is portable for semester or year study abroad programs. Students who receive financial aid at MIT are advised to discuss their study abroad plans with the Student Financial Aid Office at least one term prior to the term in which they wish to commence study abroad. This will help students develop the best possible financial plans for their time abroad. Global Education has funding available for IAP and summer programs, and can also help students apply for external study abroad scholarships.

Numerous institutions offer programs abroad taught in English. It is possible to study in a foreign country without prior knowledge of the host country's language. However, a working command of the language can add greatly to the overseas experience. Even a student without prior language skills can usually achieve a good level of proficiency in a foreign language by the beginning of the junior year if he or she begins language study by spring term of freshman year.

With proper planning and preparation, students who successfully complete an approved program of study abroad receive transfer credit toward their MIT degree. While at the host institution, students must arrange to have an official transcript sent directly to the MIT Registrar's Office showing coursework and final grade(s) completed at the outside institution. Upon return, they must submit a completed Request for Additional Credit Form, signed by the appropriate transfer credit examiner(s).

For further information, contact Global Education, Room 12-189, 617-253-0676,, or visit

Domestic Study Away

Students may choose to spend from one term to one year studying at another academic institution within the US. Students studying at another US university usually pay tuition to the outside institution rather than to MIT. While on an approved domestic study away program during the fall and/or spring term(s), students maintain full-time student status at MIT. Students interested in domestic study away should make an appointment with a staff member in Global Education, Room 12-189,

To qualify for Domestic Year Away status, students must show that their proposed program of study draws upon resources available at the outside institution that are not generally available at MIT, or at the institutions with which MIT has cross-registration privileges. In addition, a planned program of study should be consistent with an overall degree program at MIT. Students must be accepted by a school of established academic merit and undertake a workload comparable to that at MIT. Students planning to spend time studying at another academic institution in the US need to work out their plans with a faculty advisor and appropriate transfer credit examiner(s) and must complete a Worksheet for Planning Study Abroad/Domestic Study Away (

With proper planning and preparation, students who successfully complete an approved program of study at another US university receive transfer credit. While at the host institution, students must arrange to have an official transcript sent directly to the MIT Registrar's Office showing coursework and final grade(s) completed at the outside institution. Upon return, they must submit a completed Request for Additional Credit Form, signed by the appropriate transfer credit examiner(s).

For further information, contact Global Education, Room 12-189, or visit

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Cross-registration Programs

Subjects taken through cross-registration programs with Harvard and Wellesley may be used to fulfill departmental major and minor requirements with the permission of a faculty advisor.

When appropriate, cross-registration subjects taken for a letter grade at Harvard and Wellesley may count toward fulfillment of the HASS Requirement; in most cases, students must submit a petition to the Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement. Subjects may be designated as part of the Concentration for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the discretion of the designated advisor in that field of concentration.

Harvard University

MIT undergraduates are permitted to take subjects at Harvard University (except Harvard Business School, Harvard Extension School, and Harvard Summer School) for degree credit at no extra charge. This cooperative arrangement is not applicable to the summer session. In general, MIT students take subjects at Harvard which are not offered regularly at MIT. Cross-registration is limited to upperclass students who must be regularly enrolled at MIT and paying full tuition for the term in question. No more than half of a student’s registration (up to a maximum of 24 units) may be taken at Harvard in any one term.

Where appropriate, Harvard subjects can count toward fulfillment of the HASS Requirement; in most cases, students must submit a petition to the Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement. Letter grades earned in Harvard subjects appear on the transcripts of MIT undergraduates. Detailed information about the Harvard cross-registration option for undergraduates is available at

Wellesley College

MIT students may cross-register for any courses at Wellesley if they present the necessary prerequisites. This exchange program is not applicable to IAP or the summer session. Wellesley is a small, liberal arts college for women located on a 500-acre campus 17 miles west of Cambridge.

Through the Wellesley Education Department, MIT students may earn Massachusetts certification to teach at the elementary or high school level. This certification is recognized by many other states.

Students generally cannot substitute Wellesley subjects for MIT Science Requirement subjects (Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Calculus) or Institute Laboratory Requirement subjects. They may take Wellesley subjects to satisfy Restricted Electives in Science and Technology (REST) Requirements, but need the approval of the Committee on Curricula.

When appropriate, Wellesley subjects can count toward fulfillment of the HASS Requirement; in most cases, students must submit a petition to the Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement.

Wellesley subjects may be used to fulfill departmental major and minor requirements with the permission of a faculty advisor.

For upperclass students, letter grades will be recorded for Wellesley subjects, unless the student designates a Wellesley subject as one of his or her two electives to be graded P, D, or F. Grades for freshmen will be converted to the MIT first-year grading system.

Students may take physical education classes at Wellesley on a space-available basis and may apply these classes toward their MIT physical education requirements. MIT students receive full library privileges at the Wellesley College Library.

Wellesley operates free weekday bus service between the two campuses. The service is open to everyone with an MIT or Wellesley identification card, but priority will be given to cross-registered students. The ride is about 50 minutes each way.

Detailed information on registration procedures is available at The Exchange Office at Wellesley is located in Room 339C, Green Hall, 781-283-2325.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

MIT undergraduates may cross-register at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), a state college, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), a private school affiliated with the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Both are highly respected art schools in Boston with studio classes such as drawing, painting, and printmaking that are not offered for credit at MIT.

Classes taken at MassArt and SMFA through the cross-registration program are graded P, D, or F and may not be used to satisfy Institute, departmental, or minor requirements. They may be used toward unrestricted elective credit. Only one subject from either school may be taken in a semester. This program is not applicable to IAP or the summer session.

Students must complete a cross-registration form, available in the Student Services Center, Room 11-120, by the deadline set by the MIT Registrar. Detailed information is available at

Internships Abroad

Each year, hundreds of MIT students gain international experience by interning at premier corporations, universities, and research institutes abroad. MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) offers internship, teaching, and research opportunities in Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland. To help make an international experience available to every MIT student, MISTI internships are all-expenses-paid and open to undergraduates and graduate students. Internships range from three months to one year, with opportunities available for every major. MISTI sends over 680 students abroad each year. For more information, visit or see the description of the Center for International Studies in Interdisciplinary Research and Study in Part 3.

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