Year brings new HASS requirements, plans for 6/7 major

HASS distribution simplified for 2014’s and beyond, CS-Biology joint major accepts students this fall

The efforts of various academic task forces over the past several years have led to major changes in MIT’s curriculum, including the introduction of Course 20 as Biological Engineering in 2006 and the elimination of double degrees in 2009. This year, these changes continued with the implementation of a new HASS system, and a new degree program combining Courses VI and VII that will begin accepting students next fall.

HASS requirements change starts with the class of 2014

New HASS requirements have been rolled out for the class of 2014. In the new system, the HASS Distribution (HASS-D) requirement is satisfied by taking a class in each of three categories — Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences — instead of taking three classes from the five categories in the old HASS-D system. Almost all HASS classes are covered by one of the three categories, and there is no lottery for any distribution class using the three category system.

Classes that graduate before 2014 are not able to opt into the new system, and the class of 2014 is not able to use the old system.

During the transition period, freshmen who want to take a class that is designated as a HASS-D still need to join the lottery.

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Computer Science and Molecular Biology degree will begin accepting students in Fall 2011

MIT added a new joint major combining computer science and biology last year that will begin accepting students in the fall. This joint program includes eight courses from Course VI and 7.5 courses from Course VII.

“The thing that I’m most happy with and find the most exciting is … setting this up as an equal partnership between the two departments rather than having a biology track in Course 6 or a computer track in [Course 7],” said Chris A. Kaiser PhD ’88, head of the biology department.

“The idea is to really marry the two departments and have an equal partnership. This 50/50 partnership between the two departments creates new incentives for [Course 7] and Course 6 to teach courses together.”

Students will be given an adviser in both departments, but each student can choose which adviser will have registration signature authority.

There is currently no implementation of a fifth-year master’s program (MEng) for the major, and graduates of the new major will not be able to apply for the existing Course VI MEng program. However, the Course VI and VII faculties plan on continuing to develop the program, and may consider adding an MEng program as the major matures.