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Class of 2019 declares B.S.E. concentrations

The Department of Computer Science within the School of Engineering and Applied Science continues its reign as the department with the highest number of concentrators, as 103 B.S.E. students from the Class of 2019have indicated COS as their major, according to ColleenKenny-McGinley, undergraduate coordinator in the computer science department.


Although the number is a decrease from last year’s reported 126 students, COS majors still make up 30 percent of the 2019 Engineering Class.

Peter Bogucki,associate dean for Undergraduate Affairs for theSchool of Engineering and Applied Science, noted that 344 students from the Class of 2019 have declared B.S.E. This is a slight decrease from the 349 students who declared B.S.E. in the Class of 2018.

"Computer Science has again attracted a large group, while the other departments are all consistent with long-term historical patterns," he added.

Jennifer Rexford '91, chair of the Department of Computer Science, attributed the COS department’s strong numbers to not only the growing national interest in computer science, but also the department’s strong introductory curriculum.

“COS 126 course, the most popular course at Princeton with nearly 700 students per year, is an outward-facing, interdisciplinary introduction to computer science. The students see all this — the intellectual excitement, the opportunity to effect change in the world, and the great professional opportunities — and are voting with their feet,” she said.

Rexford also noted that the department sees a higher representation of women than the national average, with 35 percent of the COS majors in the sophomore and junior classes being women. According to the National Girls Collaborative, about 18 percent of computer science majors are women.


According to Rexford, the increased representation of female COS majors is due to vibrant student groups, such as Princeton Women in Computer Science,which have fostered interest in technology.

“Our great Princeton Women in Computer Science group runs fantastic events, provides mentoring to first and second year students, sends a large group of students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and generally fosters a wonderful sense of community,” she said.

Kathy Fan '19, originally a potential CBE major due to her interest in chemistry and biology, decided to declare B.S.E. COS insteadpart-way through her fall semester, as she did not want to go through many technical courses that did not pique her interest.

“[COS] will give me the flexibility to combined old and new interests by pursuing an engineering biology certificate as well,” she said.

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Ajay Penmatcha '19, who also switched into B.S.E. COS, switched from A.B. becausehe was interested in the ability of software to transform our world.

"From self-driving vehicles to new drug discoveries to landing rockets on autonomous drone ships, I just think there’s so much potential for computers to do these amazing things that people would have never imagined were possible," he said.

The Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering has the next-highest number of concentrators, with 72 students in the Class of 2019. This is a significant increase from the 57 students who declared ORFE in the Class of 2018, but parallels the 72 juniors and 79 seniors in the department.

Rene Carmona, chair of the ORFE department, said that students are largely attracted to the ORFE'scombination of classes in probability, statistics and optimization, which are very quantitative but are grounded in applications of interest such as finance, energy, health care. He noted that after sophomores choose their majors, the ORFE department usually has a small inflow of students from the math, physics and economics departments, attracted by the application-oriented nature of some of the classes.

However, Carmonasaid that the 2019 class size is worrisome, because the size of the faculty cannot accommodate so many students, which has been a problem for the Class of 2016.

"I fear that, given the size of ORFE’s faculty, our junior and senior classes are too large, and the number of senior theses per faculty is far too high. The department does not have the resources to handle so many students and faculty is stretched too thin," he said.

He mentioned that he does expect the department to lose a few students to the COS department, which occurs every year due to the more restrictive nature of ORFE, which requires a senior thesis.

Sophia Chen '19, an ORFE concentrator, said that she was attracted to the department because of her interest in applied math and her desire to follow in her father’s footsteps and work on Wall Street.

Fifty students declared in the Department of Electrical Engineering, which is “a healthy number that is comparable to recent years,” according to Andrew Hock '00, the undergraduate departmental representative for ELE.

The Class of 2018 saw 50 students declare ELE.

Houck noted that students are attracted to ELE because of the interdisciplinary approach to engineering that combines aspects of computers and computer science, mathematics of information, novel materials and devices and applied physics and quantum engineering.

“Students can use electrical engineering to address many of the world's most pressing challenges, including problems in health, energy, the environment, information security, the future of computing and cyberphysical systems,” he added.

Fifty one students declared Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering as their concentration, a slight decrease from 54 for the Class of 2018, according to department chair Howard Stone.

Victoria Ou' 19 said she decided to concentrate in MAE because of the enthusiasm of the professors and the flexibility of being able to pursue additional engineering certificates relatively easily.

Another department which experienced a slight decrease in concentrators was the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, which had 50 students declare CBE, in comparison to last year’s 52, according to Bogucki. The Class of 2017 and 2016, respectively, saw 37 and 45 students declare CBE.

Richard Register, CBE department chair, declined to comment on the number of CBE concentrators.

Alexandra Cavazos '19, a CBE concentrator, said she declared CBE because it seemed to represent the intersection of her favorite subjects,math and chemistry. Additionally, she is interested in energy and the environment and the CBE department offers a track called "Energy and Environmental Technology," which is perfectly suited to her interests.

The department with the lowest number of B.S.E. concentrators from all current classes is the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, with 19 students from the Class of 2019, 15 students from the Class of 2018 and 30 students from the Class of 2017.

James Smith, chair of the CEE Department, said that 21 students declared as CEE majors,but did not provide any further comment.

Robert Lussier '19, a CEE concentrator, said that he became certain he wanted to declare CEE when he went to the open house a few weeks ago and saw that the professors seemed genuinely eager to work with students and teach them, and the department was so small that it seemed like the experience was much more intimate and personal than in other departments.

Engineers from the Class of 2019 had until Friday, May 6 to declare their concentration.