Bachelor of Science in Computation and Cognition (6-9) degree approved

New major provides options for students interested in human and machine intelligence, neural systems

Students can now receive a degree in Bachelor of Science in Computation and Cognition (Course 6-9). The degree was approved in the faculty meeting April 17. The degree is a joint program with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS).

The coursework includes foundational math classes as well as introductory, foundation, header, and advanced EECS and BCS classes, according to the degree proposal.

The degree provides two tracks, one for those who are interested in human and machine intelligence, and another for those who are interested in neural systems, according to Michale Fee, associate dean of the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department, in an interview with The Tech.

For example, students who are interested in intelligence may choose to take 6.006 (Introduction to Algorithms) and 6.009 (Fundamentals of Programming) for their foundational EECS courses, whereas students who are interested in neural systems may instead select 6.002 (Circuits and Electronics). Students are not required to select a track, but may be constricted by prerequisites, said Fee.

Students will have a primary advisor in BCS and a second advisor in EECS. Both advisors will have the ability to approve registration. BCS was chosen as the department for the primary advisor since EECS currently advises a much larger number of students than BCS.

Fee described the development of the new major as a natural progression from the existing collaborations between faculty in EECS and BCS, interdepartmental graduate students, and the many Course 6 students taking Course 9 classes. In fact, Fee noted, there are already more Course 6 than Course 9 students in Course 9 classes. Fee said that the intersection of computation and cognition is a rapidly growing field and that this degree would be attractive for both graduate students and industry.

Fee said that the major was first discussed by EECS and BCS faculty last spring and was then officially proposed in the faculty meeting Nov. 26. Originally, the departments proposed two separate majors, one for human and machine intelligence and another for neural systems, but they concluded it was better to combine them in a flexible manner.

There are 50–100 students expected to declare this major, based on a web survey, according to the proposal. Fee expects that two-thirds to three-fourths of the students will be focused on human and machine intelligence. Fee is not concerned about an increase in students in Course 9 classes since many Course 6 students are already in Course 9 classes.

Fee said that he was unsure of the impact of the College of Computing on the joint major, but noted that the representatives for the College of Computing seemed to put an emphasis on joint educational programs in their presentations, and said that he personally felt that the College of Computing’s mission is “well aligned” with that of the 6-9 program.

Fee said that there has been a “universally positive response” to the new major and that students are excited.

Additionally, there has been an associated Master of Engineering in Computation and Cognition (6-9P) proposed, which will consist of an additional four graduate classes in EECS and BCS, two mathematics classes, and a thesis. The program will be voted on at the next faculty meeting May 15, according to Fee.