SEAS Today

The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) was officially launched in 2007. Previously it had been the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences (DEAS), within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Transition from a Division to a School

First, guided by memoranda of understanding, the newly formed school became administratively independent of the FAS in most functional areas, including budget, communications, finance and accounting, human resources, information technology, physical resources planning and management, safety, sponsored research administration, teaching laboratories, and management planning. (Some administrative functions at DEAS had also been run relatively independently, in anticipation of becoming a school.)

SEAS still remains closely associated with FAS in important ways.

  • SEAS maintains strong administrative links for the management of critical, shared academic functions such as faculty affairs, undergraduate affairs, and graduate student affairs;
  • SEAS faculty members are also members of the FAS and teach in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS); and
  • the dean of SEAS sits along with the FAS Divisional Deans on the FAS Academic Planning Group and along with the other school deans at the Council of Deans.

After founding dean Venkatesh "Venky" Narayanamurti stepped down in September 2008, Frans Spaepen, John C. and Helen F. Franklin Professor of Applied Physics, assumed the position of interim dean for the next nine months.

Cherry A. Murray, previously principal associate director for science and technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was named dean on July 1, 2009 and served until the end of 2014. Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, succeeded Murray as interim dean.

On July 1, 2015, Francis J. Doyle III became dean of SEAS and John A. & Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering & Applied Sciences.

Building on Excellence

In the 1950 “Report of the Panel on the McKay Bequest to the President and Fellows of Harvard College,” chairman Vanevar Bush wrote of the importance of broadly educating engineers “… to become leaders in an expanding economy based increasingly upon the utilization of science in an economic manner for human needs.”

Sixty years later, technology has become one of the most pivotal aspects of our society. For Harvard to maintain its status as a first class, globally-minded institution, the University must foster an equally excellent program in engineering and applied sciences.

That means: providing a “technical” education to select students and giving all students the opportunity to learn about the broad implications of technology in our global society.

Harvard ranks first in citations per faculty member in engineering disciplines. Although the quality of the faculty at SEAS is high, the size of the faculty is very small compared to the intellectual breadth needed for engineering and applied sciences in the 21st century.

To address current and future societal challenges, knowledge from fundamental science, art, and the humanities must all be linked through the application of engineering principles with the professions of law, medicine, public policy, design and business practice.

In other words, solving important issues requires a multidisciplinary approach. With the combined strengths of SEAS, FAS, and the professional schools, Harvard is ideally positioned to both broadly educate the next generation of leaders who understand the complexities of technology and society and to use its intellectual resources and innovative thinking to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The vision for SEAS echoes such ideals:

Through research and scholarship, we will create collaborative bridges across Harvard and educate the next generation of global leaders.

By harnessing the power of engineering and applied sciences we will address the greatest challenges facing our society.

Collaboration within Harvard and Societal Impact

Exposing students to the opportunities and challenge of cross-disciplinary fields is best accomplished through experiential learning (design projects and research experiences). Moreover, by being embedded in a major research enterprise, students gain a first-hand understanding of the latest approaches to science and engineering to address societal needs and challenges.

SEAS, as a “connector and integrator,” offers students an unparalleled opportunity to be part of an excellent engineering school inside of one of the world’s foremost research universities. Moreover, students enjoy the intellectual energy of a liberal arts college where they can engage in scholarship spanning the sciences, social science, art and humanities and gain an understanding of societal issues through the University’s professional schools.

With such breadth and depth, students can tackle the complex, multidisciplinary global challenges of the 21st century.

Looking Ahead

The major focus of the coming years will be to implement the academic plan in tandem with creating an effective management structure; putting in place a thoughtful process of constant curricular reform and renewal; developing a realistic, flexible, but aggressive, space plan; and generating major new resources through fundraising and sponsored research.

As we move forward, our guiding principle is to “grow, without growing apart.” We aim to preserve the dynamic culture and close connections established at SEAS, while expanding our ability to build bridges within the classroom, across the campus, and around the world.