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New CDO graduate program debuts at MIT and in Singapore

MIT's new S.M. graduate program in Computation for Design and Optimization (CDO) has its first 17 students this semester.

There are five students now on campus and 12 based in Singapore (as part of the Singapore-MIT Alliance) who will be at MIT for the spring semester. Most of the students, faculty and staff met for the first time at a teleconferenced orientation in late August.

This interdisciplinary master's program was established to prepare engineers in computational methods and applications in the design and operation of complex engineered systems.

"Computer-based simulation has replaced the laboratory in many industries for pragmatic reasons," said Alan Edelman, a professor of applied mathematics affiliated with CDO. "Graduates of the CDO program will have tremendous opportunities in academic and industrial applications, as well as in the computing industry itself."

CDO student Sandeep Sethuraman of New Zealand previously worked in product development at a biomedical company, where he helped design a continuous positive airway pressure machine used in the treatment of sleep apnea. "The versatility of the CDO program appealed to me. I can work on a variety of projects ranging from electronics to finance. Moreover, there is a huge emphasis on practical applications," he said.

Fellow student Jia Jie Liang of Singapore said he was drawn to the program's interdisciplinary curriculum, which includes courses and faculty from a broad cross-section of MIT's engineering, science and management departments. "The underlying multidisciplinary nature of the program reflects the direction of future scientific development," he said.

The CDO curriculum is comprised of four core subjects -- covering numerical solution of partial differential equations, optimization methods and numerical linear algebra -- and restricted electives, including about 25 courses that have computational themes and related components. More elective courses will be added over time.

School of Engineering Dean Thomas Magnanti said he expects the CDO program to provide tremendous value not only to the program's graduates, but also to the Institute. "CDO is designed to educate professionals who will model, optimize, control and operate the important engineered systems of the future, while contributing to our own increasingly computationally intensive research and educational programs here at MIT. The program provides an engineering school-wide home to numerical simulation and optimization, and should improve outside visibility while providing an economy of scale that will benefit the School of Engineering as a whole," Magnanti said.

CDO-affiliated faculty member David Darmofal, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, echoed Magnanti's sentiments. "Computational modeling and design plays a key role in all engineering disciplines. The CDO program recognizes the importance and interdisciplinary nature of computation, and will benefit MIT by encouraging faculty with interests in computation to collaborate in both teaching and researching. This more formal structure will strengthen the role of computational academics across MIT."

The program has its administrative home in the School of Engineering. CDO is led by co-directors Jaime Peraire, professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and Robert Freund, professor of management science. For more information, visit, or write to

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 19, 2005 (download PDF).

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