EECS department restructures into three overlapping faculties

New units are electrical engineering, computer science, and artificial intelligence and decision-making

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) has implemented restructuring plans in line with findings made by the Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing Working Group on Organizational Structure. The changes center around the division of the EECS department into three overlapping units, called faculties.

Professors Joel Voldman PhD ’01, Arvind, and Antonio Torralba are heads of the electrical engineering, computer science, and artificial intelligence and decision-making faculties, respectively, active Jan. 1, 2020.  

An advisory search committee determined the appointments, according to an announcement to the EECS community. 

The College of Computing Working Group on Organizational Structure outlined the need for restructuring. Their final report identified problems with the existing structure of the department, including the supply of computing-related courses not meeting demand, tension between electrical engineering researchers and computer science researchers, and lab divisions creating boundaries separating common research.

The report named the root cause of these problems as “the binary characterization of faculty as either EE or CS.” 

Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering, wrote in an email to The Tech that the new faculties would provide a solution by helping to “create communities and focus (e.g., in faculty hiring, curriculum development, and community building).” 

“[T]he overlapping aspect of the Faculties is important, as many faculty and students will associate themselves with multiple areas,” Chandrakasan wrote. 

Arvind wrote in an email to The Tech that “the challenge is making sure that these faculties intermix freely to design new curriculum and to explore emerging technologies related to computing.”

The new faculty heads will aid the EECS department head, Asu Ozdaglar PhD ’03, who has also been named the deputy dean of academics for the College of Computing, a new position introduced by the restructuring. The faculty heads and EECS head will jointly report to Chandrakasan and Daniel Huttenlocher PhD ’88, dean of the College of Computing.

Under the reorganization, “Course 6” will continue to be at the department level, with the electrical engineering faculty responsible for the 6-1 curriculum, the computer science faculty responsible for the 6-3 curriculum, and both responsible for the 6-2 curriculum. All three faculties will share responsibility for the joint majors — 6-7, 6-9, and 6-14. 

The artificial intelligence and decision-making faculty will focus on developing a more “coherent curriculum in the area, including a minor and potential additional Course 6 major,” according to the EECS department report on the reorganization. Huttenlocher wrote in an email to The Tech, “There could be additional new Course 6 undergraduate majors or minors such as in AI+D [artificial intelligence and decision-making], as well as new undergraduate blended degrees.”

EECS faculty members are each part of one or more of the three faculties, with teaching and service responsibilities to the faculty or faculties they are part of. Faculty members were sorted after indicating their preferences, which were reviewed by the EECS head and associate heads, as well as Huttenlocher, Chandrakasan, and Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88.

Chandrakasan wrote that these changes would build a stronger faculty community, with each faculty hosting “regular meetings to discuss their focus and collaboration opportunities,” as well as improve faculty hiring by focused searches in the three faculties.

Huttenlocher wrote that the structure would create more “manageable sized and balanced units in the Department.”

The organizational structure working group also described a configuration called the Common Ground, “composed of several cross-departmental teaching groups.” The Common Ground is expected to help coordinate the teaching of computing-related classes that are not Course 6 classes. 

Huttenlocher described Common Ground as “a new initiative of the [college] that will support inter-departmental computing education.” Further details about Common Ground will be announced later.