New Course X major allows concentration in ChemEng fields

New Course X major allows concentration in ChemEng fields

A new flexible Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering as recommended by the chemical engineering department was approved during Wednesday’s faculty meeting. According to Course 10 Executive Officer Paula T. Hammond ’84, the new 10-ENG degree was designed over the past 2.5 years to allow students to focus on a sub-topic in chemical engineering.

Along with the 12 engineering courses required for certification by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), 10-ENG students will be required to take three “foundational concepts” classes, including one Course 10 lab class. The degree also requires four subjects in a chosen 10-ENG concentration. Options for concentrations currently consist of energy, environmental studies, biomedical engineering, and materials design and processing. According to Hammond, this list is subject to change; student feedback will play a role in determining future areas of concentration.

The chemical engineering department already offers three degrees: Course 10 (chemical engineering), Course 10B (chemical-biological engineering), and Course 10-C, an unaccredited Bachelor of Science for students interested in specializing in another area of study while gaining a broad understanding of chemical engineering.

The new degree also differs in the capstone project. Course 10 and 10B students take 24 units of Integrated Chemical Engineering (ICE) modules, but 10-ENG students will only take either 12 units of ICE modules, a senior thesis, or a senior project without a writing component. Advising will also be tailored for 10-ENG students, as students in the new program will be paired with advisors based on “mutual interest” in the students’ areas of concentration.

This is not the first flexible engineering degree to be offered at MIT. Mechanical engineering’s Course 2A degree in engineering allows students to concentrate in areas such as biomedical engineering, energy conversion engineering, and engineering management. This course was accredited by ABET seven to eight years ago. Similarly, the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ recommended 16-ENG degree in Engineering was approved last spring and launched in September.

Hammond said there is a “large amount of interest across the nation” in flexible engineering degrees. Students in Caltech’s chemical engineering school, for example, can choose between four tracks: biomolecular engineering, environmental engineering, process systems, and materials. According to a 2009 survey by MIT’s School of Engineering, of the 47 Course 10 and 10B seniors who responded, 51 percent said they would have pursued a flexible, accredited engineering major if one had been available.

While it offers more flexibility, Hammond argues that the 10-ENG degree is not for everyone. Students who are interested in a specific area of chemical engineering may appreciate the in-depth approach to the 10-ENG concentrations, but those who aren’t may benefit more from the broader Course 10 degree.

“I didn’t develop my interest for polymer science until senior year,” Hammond said. “Some students just come in and know.”