The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Princeton, as this year’s Undergraduate Announcement states, aims to teach “fundamental engineering principles” and their “applications to modern problems.” While the Engineering School has served B.S.E. students well, the Editorial Board believes that two major changes should be made to improve engineering offerings in fulfillment of these goals. Specifically, the board believes that electrical engineering and computer science departments should be combined into one department — EECS — and materials science and engineering should be made into a full engineering major.
Combining computer science and electrical engineering would benefit students in a variety of ways. First, a combined department would result in a broader curriculum that better serves the purpose of the B.S.E. program. Currently, computer science students are required to take two theoretical computer science courses. While the board understands the importance of the theoretical underpinnings, the board feels that “fundamental engineering principles” could be better taught by requiring students in the new EECS department to take many of the 200-level ELE courses instead. For example, according to the Registrar, the required course ELE 206: Contemporary Logic Design teaches both “programmable logic” and “basic computer organization,” skills that both programmers and electrical engineers often utilize heavily. While theory is certainly important, the board believes that its “application to modern problems” do not meet the criteria of Princeton’s B.S.E. program. A combined program would allow theory requirements to be replaced with courses like ELE 206, which the board believes are better suited to solving modern technical challenges.
Further, combining these departments would allow for better differentiation between the two computer science programs the University currently offers. As it stands, the only differences between the A.B. and B.S.E computer science programs are the independent work requirements, the prerequisites and the distribution requirements, all of which are inherent differences between A.B. and B.S.E. The differentiation between EECS and CS could allow students to more accurately signal to employers and graduate schools where their academic interests and skills lie.
Similarly, a materials science and engineering major would allow students to delve deeper into research in a growing department at Princeton than the certificate of the same name currently allows. Materials research is a growing field with increasingly broad applications to modern problems. The most recent Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded Tuesday, was given to scientists recognized for their work in materials. The Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials currently engages in a diverse range of materials research, boasting several research centers with faculty from almost every STEM field. Students in a MSE concentration would benefit from this interdisciplinary research in a way that they currently cannot due to the potentially conflicting nature of department and certificate requirements. Further, the current certificate program requires students to take six courses in addition to the engineering prerequisites and write a two-semester long thesis on a materials-related topic. The development of a materials curriculum would thus only require two additional courses to match the rigor and breadth of other engineering fields. While the board understands that students have the option of majoring in one of many related fields and simply focusing on materials research, a separate department would give students the opportunity to approach interdisciplinary research with a focus on materials rather than a focus on a field which interests them less.
The board believes that both changes to the engineering school would improve the experience of students and benefit the University’s research output and application pool. Several institutions with competing engineering programs, including MIT and Cornell University, have materials engineering concentrations and combined EECS departments. The board believes that making the above changes would improve the University’s reputation as a school with a strong engineering program. This would, in turn, improve both the influx of research dollars as well as the quality of engineering applicants. The board recognizes that these changes are major and could require the hiring of new faculty and possibly the construction of new research facilities. However, if the University aims to continue its ascendance as a school of engineering excellence, the board believes that these two changes should be adopted.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinionsseparately from the regular staff and editors of the ‘Prince.’ The board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.