Curriculum

MDE students are thematically educated as critical thinkers, managers of complexity, and strategists capable of creating comprehensive assessments and solutions to cross-disciplinary problems with social, political, economic, ethical, and technical components.

The intent of the first-year curriculum is to provide the necessary tools and background to support innovation and effective cross-disciplinary collaboration. The first year serves to introduce students to the fundamental tools that enable transformative and integrative design:  project-based technical skills; a focus on design thinking and problem solving; leadership and management; and an appreciation of the real-world social, political, economic, cultural and technical context that all design engineers must take into consideration.

In the second year, students will pursue a project much like an individual thesis that builds upon some of the solutions developed in the first-year team project. This particular pedagogical approach builds upon many years of experience in successful undergraduate engineering capstone courses at SEAS, and incorporates the studio-focused pedagogy of the GSD.

Students nominally take the equivalent of four courses per semester and the equivalent of sixteen courses over two years, including a series of seminars and guest lectures by prominent innovators, designers, business leaders, and government officials.

Master in Design Engineering Core Curriculum:

During each term of the first year, students take two required core courses and two electives chosen in consultation with their academic advisor(s). Integrative Frameworks for Technology, Environment & Society is a two-semester sequence involving a combination of lectures, workshops, case studies, and classroom exercises, covering a range of topics including: design thinking, management theory, manufacturing operations and strategy, government regulation, intellectual property and patents, ethics, and leadership. Collaborative Design Engineering Studio is a two-semester sequence involving the entire cohort collaborating on a real-world, multidisciplinary, complex problem for an actual client. Students learn how to innovate and bring their innovations forward, presenting them in practical settings among peers and visiting professionals.

In the second year, the two-semester sequence Comprehensive Design Engineering Studio involves students pursuing an independent project, through comprehensive innovation studios, that is similar in scope to a master’s thesis and builds upon some of the solutions developed in Collaborative Design Engineering Studio. A single, complex problem is assigned to the class, and while the overall problem must be engaged collaboratively, each member of the class also works on individual proposals for the design and engineering of specific components of the problem. The studio venue employs lectures, seminars, and group reviews, and well as one-on-one critiques. Each course is taught jointly by GSD and SEAS faculty, supplemented by doctoral students from both schools working as teaching fellows and visiting professionals acting as real-world specialists providing project-based direction.

During both years, students attend weekly seminars through the Innovating for Society Seminar Series, given by high-profile innovators and leaders in business, government, design, and engineering. Open to the public, these seminars invite interaction with speakers as well as with graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff from the larger Harvard community.

Electives are selected primarily from existing graduate-level courses at SEAS and GSD in consultation with a faculty advisor or co-advisors as part of an individualized academic plan. During the first year, electives may be used to “top up” skills in engineering and/or design or to advance skills in core areas, including analysis and visualization, fabrication and materials, design theory, and leadership and management. Second-year electives should deepen expertise in a selected area of focus and provide support for the individual projects within Comprehensive Design Engineering Studio.