Master in Design Engineering

Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) launched a collaborative Master in Design Engineering (MDE) degree program in Fall 2016. If you are interested in joining a select group of students in this innovative degree program, please see the program’s admissions page for details on the application process and admission criteria.

Our world faces increasingly complicated, often unpredictable issues of consequence to human lives and environments, including rapid urbanization, ecological changes, and sociocultural dynamics. Successful innovation and visionary leadership require a broad understanding of the relationships between technology and people, and the MDE program seeks to foster and develop graduates who will be able to address and tackle major challenges facing society with transformative, multidisciplinary solutions. 

The two-year, four-term MDE program offers students the skills and knowledge to take a collaborative, innovative approach to technically deep, complex, multi-scale, and open-ended problems. The interdisciplinary curriculum, shaped by the faculties of the GSD and SEAS and combining the intellectual resources of both schools, encompasses engineering and design as well as economics, business, government regulation and policy, and sociology. Students take the equivalent of four courses per semester over two years, including a series of seminars and guest lectures by prominent innovators, designers, business leaders, and government officials. During the second year, students will select and complete a design project. The pedagogical model is driven by the idea of a cohort, and instruction will emphasize team-based problem solving.

The MDE program offers the opportunity for high-caliber students to become thought leaders in a variety of roles in industry, government, NGOs, and academia. It prepares a new type of designer who speculates, analyzes, assesses, and acts; who studies and engages a variety of situations with the technical and critical skills to design new forms of intervention and mitigation; and who has the leadership ability to organize new practices for implementation.

Students are asked to develop practical, comprehensive plans to address real-world questions such as:

  • What would it take to convert the U.S. transportation system from its almost total reliance on gasoline to more stable, economical, and environmentally friendly alternatives?
  • How could the health care delivery system be transformed to yield better outcomes at lower cost?
  • What steps can cities take to adapt to rising sea levels and other climate change-induced environmental impacts with minimal disruption to society?
  • How can homes be designed to consume zero net energy by minimizing year-round heat transfer and incorporating on-site generation of energy?
  • In developing products that integrate into the Internet of Things, how should companies design devices and services that balance individual privacy and security with the benefits of networked intelligence?

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For more information about the Master in Design Engineering program, please contact