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A nuts-and-bolts education: Engineers face full schedules

The very idea of engineering at Princeton is enough to send chills down the spines of many A.B. majors. Stories detail innumerable hours at the E-Quad spent trying to cope with a single computer program or differential equation. Engineering students bring pillows and crash on the couches conveniently scattered throughout the building, while many of their A.B. classmates avoid setting foot in those echoing halls for fear of never finding their way out again.

If you enjoy biking long distances — the E-Quad conveniently is located at a far edge of campus — consider joining the engineering department. If you like sleep or socializing, don't.



But do not let the horror stories scare you away. Surviving Princeton engineering is difficult, but doable, and those who emerge with a B.S.E. degree can look forward to acquiring prestigious jobs both in academia and outside the ivory tower.

The course schedules of freshmen and sophomore prospective engineers are filled with required classes. Engineers must satisfy the requirements of their specific departments in addition to completing two semesters of physics, one semester of chemistry, one semester of computer programming and four semesters of mathematics.

Students can be exempted from introductory level courses in one of those areas if they score well on the Advanced Placement test in that subject.

B.S.E.s bear a heavier course load than A.B.s with 36 courses necessary for graduation as compared to the 30 that A.B.s must complete. While engineers must handle four semesters of five courses and four semesters of four, A.B.s are only required to take six semesters of four courses and two semesters of three.

Of the 36 courses engineers take, at least seven must be in the humanities and social sciences, including at least one course in four of the following five areas: Epistemology and Cognition, Ethical Thought and Moral Values, Historical Analysis, Literature and the Arts and Social Analysis.

Engineering students are exempted from the University's foreign language requirement.

Thesis vs. project


Unlike the liberal arts departments, the engineering school does not require junior independent work. Junior engineers do have the option, however, of pursuing independent study if they so desire.

Though a senior thesis is mandatory for a liberal arts degree, not all of the engineering departments require a senior thesis. Still, many senior engineers elect to undertake a senior project even if it is not requiremed.

Sophomore candidates for the B.S.E. degree can concentrate in one of six departments:

Chemical Engineering: Chemical engineers have to take organic chemistry and physical chemistry, as well as nine other required courses in their departments.

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They must also complete at least one semester of independent work that counts as a course. Chemical engineers can expect to study thermodynamics, transport phenomena and chemical process designs.

Civil and Environmental Engineering :The department of Civil and Environmental Engineering allows students to study what most quickly springs to mind when the subject of engineering is mentioned — designing bridges, buildings and other structures.

The Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering separated from this department two years ago.

Operations Research and Financial Engineering: Students in this engineering department concentrate more on the economic and statistical end of engineering, taking courses in optimization and dynamic programming, among others.

ORF majors are required to complete a senior thesis, which they defend in front of a faculty committee.

Electrical Engineering: Six years ago, the electrical engineering and computer science departments separated. The growing number of faculty and students in the department necessitated this change.

Electrical engineering students study hardware — the workings of the electronics in computers and other devices — instead of concentrating on computer software.

Computer Science: The Department of Computer Science offers both A.B. and B.S.E. degrees. For less technical students, the A.B. program of study requires junior independent work and a senior thesis, but allows the creative computer scientist to combine his course study with such topics as linguistics, cognitive studies, statistics and mathematics.

The B.S.E. student, on the other hand, concentrates on computers and engineering and does not need to submit independent work.

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: Students in this department study mechanical engineering, electronics, heat transfer, energy conversion and fluid dynamics.

Students who want to concentrate on aerospace engineering study solid and fluid mechanics and thermodynamics to design air and space vehicles.

The engineering school also has several programs, which are different from departments. They include architecture and engineering, engineering and management systems, geological engineering and an engineering-physics program.