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CDO will blend computation methods with design

As people grow more dependent on conveniences like the Internet, cellular telephones and air travel, there is a greater need to make those systems run as efficiently as possible.

MIT's new S.M. program in Computation for Design and Optimization (CDO) will prepare graduates to understand the key computational methods and issues in both the design and operation of complex engineering and scientific systems. "Engineering education needs to change as the world changes," said Robert Freund, the Theresa Seley Professor of Management Science at the Sloan School of Management and co-director of the new CDO degree program.

The program begins this fall; it was approved officially at the Dec. 15 faculty meeting. Though CDO will be part of the School of Engineering and will report to the office of the Dean of Engineering, it will have its own admissions and will be led by co-directors Freund and Jaime Peraire, professor of aeronautics and astronautics. The inter-departmental program will draw on a variety of courses from engineering, mathematics and the Sloan School.

"Through creating this program, MIT is recognizing CDO as a key element of engineering education now and in the future," said Freund, who credited the ease with which the new program passed through the Institute's approval process to CDO's immediate relevance. "It is an idea whose time is now," he said.

MIT will be one of the first institutions to have such a program though similar programs are in the works at other universities. "We anticipate that this program will lead the way," Freund said.

The CDO degree program has been in the works "in earnest" for two years, building on ideas for similar program proposals that have been discussed by faculty for the past 10 years. Alan Edelman, professor of applied mathematics; Dimitris J Bertsimas, the Boeing Leaders for Manufacturing Professor of Management; Professor Anthony Patera of mechanical engineering; Professor Gilbert Strang of mathematics and Professor Jacob White of electrical engineering and computer science all worked with Peraire and Freund to bring the program to fruition.

For the first few years, the program will be small, accepting only 20 to 25 students. Eventually, it may accept as many as 35 students. Freund expects it will take between 12 and 24 months for students to complete the program. Degree requirements will consist of three core classes, two restrictive electives, one unrestricted elective and a thesis.

Additionally, the program will serve doctoral students whose research relies on computational methodologies. Such students will have the opportunity to earn a dual degree to both gain and certify their knowledge for future employers.

"Today and tomorrow the high technology sector will demand engineers and scientists who understand how to do efficient computation on the problems in their domain," said Freund. With applications ranging from computational biology to airline scheduling to telecommunications design and operations, "there is just a huge demand for these skills right now," he said.

The degree program has already begun accepting applications. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15. For more information, please see the website or contact Laura Rose at

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 12, 2005 (download PDF).

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