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Program in Applications of Computing


Kenneth Steiglitz

Acting Director

Szymon Rusinkiewicz (fall/spring)

Executive Committee

Joel Cooper, Psychology

Bradley W. Dickinson, Electrical Engineering

Paul J. DiMaggio, Sociology, Woodrow Wilson School

David P. Dobkin, Computer Science

Henry S. Farber, Economics

Adam Finkelstein, Computer Science

Thomas A. Funkhouser, Computer Science

James L. Gould, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Gilbert H. Harman, Philosophy

Alain L. Kornhauser, Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Paul Lansky, Music

Andrea S. LaPaugh, Computer Science

Sharad Malik, Electrical Engineering

Luigi Martinelli, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Szymon Rusinkiewicz, Computer Science

Robert E. Schapire, Computer Science

Jaswinder P. Singh, Computer Science

Kenneth Steiglitz, Computer Science

Robert F. Stengel, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Olga G. Troyanskaya, Computer Science and Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

The Program in Applications of Computing is an interdisciplinary program designed for students who want to combine the study of computing and computers beyond an introductory level with another academic concentration, but who are not concentrating in computer science. The program welcomes students in all disciplines, including, of course, the traditional areas of computer application, such as engineering, the physical sciences, economics, and mathematics. Students who are interested in what have been in the past less traditional application areas, such as biology, cognitive science, graphic arts, music, history, philosophy, politics, sociology, literature, and so on are also encouraged to pursue the certificate. Many students have found this program an effective way to understand how computing concepts and technology are changing our world, and to apply computer science to their own specialties.

Admission to the Program

The program is open to juniors and seniors who have successfully completed COS 126 General Computer Science or an equivalent prerequisite to COS 217 Introduction to Programming Systems, 226 Algorithms and Data Structures, and 323 Computing for the Physical and Social Sciences, and who have fulfilled the requirements for admission as a concentrator in a department other than computer science. Students interested in the program should contact the program director by e-mail:

Program of Study

The course requirements are simply stated: First, COS 126 or its equivalent. Then, two courses from among the three: COS 217, COS 226, and COS 323. Finally, two more courses at the 300- or 400-level that involve a substantial computing component, at least one of which is a computer science departmental. 

In addition, students are required to complete a senior thesis on a topic that makes significant use of some aspect of computer science. The intent is that this thesis satisfy the requirements of both the program and the student's major department and is thus necessarily interdisciplinary. A wide range of thesis topics is possible. In the last few years of the program, students have earned certificates with a variety of majors, including anthropology, chemistry, classics, economics, electrical engineering, history, philosophy, and psychology.

The thesis work is coordinated through the student's thesis adviser in the major department and an assigned program adviser (who may be, in routine cases, the program director). When this isn't possible, the student may instead undertake a one-semester independent project with a strong computer-related component, separate from, but related to, the student's area of concentration. This option must be arranged in consultation with the program adviser, and be approved by the program committee.

Overall, a certificate candidate's courses and thesis must form a coherent plan of study that fulfills both the program requirements and the requirements of the candidate's major department. This planning is done in consultation with the program adviser and the student's academic adviser in the major department. Certificate candidates who want to design custom programs focused on specific aspects of computing applications should feel free to consult with the appropriate committee members.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the program requirements receive a certificate upon graduation.