Design-based undergraduate curriculum

Research scope

A systematic investigation, in which all faculty in Civil Engineering at MIT participated, identified deficiencies in existing undergraduate education and led to development of new design-based curriculum. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Dean of Engineering, and the National Science Foundation provided funding for the initiative, which included creation or major revision of twelve civil engineering subjects.

A major characteristic of the new design-based civil engineering program (1-C) was the engineering design sequence: introduction to design in the Sophomore year; specialized design subjects in structures, geotechnical engineering, and transportation in the Junior year and the fall semester of the Senior year; and a capping subject in the spring of the Senior year. The new program included four specialization tracks: Civil Engineering: Mechanics, Civil Engineering: Systems, Civil Engineering: Environmental, and Self-Formulated. In addition, a new civil engineering materials subject with an associated lab looked at all civil engineering materials in a unified manner: from a mechanics point of view as well as in relation to design and application. An undergraduate committee and education professionals positively evaluated the new design-oriented curriculum, because of its unparalleled process of systematic and thorough feedback, and the subsequent educational success. Following the 1997 success in 1-C, in 2005 design-based curriculum was developed in Environmental Engineering (1-E).

Subject Development and Teaching and Overarching Activities on Education provide details on the development of design-oriented civil engineering curriculum in the context of restructuring of engineering education at MIT.

Related publications

Einstein, H.H. (2013). Design education in civil and environmental engineering. In M.K. Thompson (ed.): Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Design in Civil and Environmental Engineering, 28-29 June 2013, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts, pp. 112-120. ISBN 978-0989465816

Einstein, H.H. (2002). Engineering change at MIT. Civil Engineering, 72 (10), 62-69. Retrieved from

Einstein, H.H. (2000). The new engineering and science education: Past, present, and future in the MIT-CEE curriculum. White paper. In: New Millennium Colloquium on the Future of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 19-21 March 2000, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA. MIT Libraries (CD): 000973288

Bucciarelli, L.L., Einstein, H.H., Terenzini, P.T., and Walser, A.D. (2000). ECSEL/MIT Engineering Education Workshop ’99: A report with recommendations. Engineering Education, 89 (2), 141-150. doi:10.1002/j.2168-9830.2000.tb00508.x