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Program in Applications of Computing


Szymon M. Rusinkiewicz

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

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 (PAC) 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 both areas traditionally making heavy use of computation (such as engineering, the physical sciences, economics, and mathematics) and emerging application areas (such as biology, cognitive science, graphic arts, music, history, philosophy, politics, sociology, literature, and so on). Many students have found this program an effective way to apply computer science to their own specialties, and to understand how computing concepts and technology are changing our world.

Admission to the Program

The program is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are concentrating in a department other than Computer Science. To be admitted to the program, students must complete one of the following prerequisites: successful completion of COS 126 or ISC 231-234, a score of 5 on the AP Computer Science AB exam (the Computer Science A exam is not accepted), or the instructor's permission to take COS 217 or 226. Students interested in the program should contact the program director by email.

Program of Study

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 department of concentration. This planning is done in consultation with the program adviser and the student's academic adviser in the department of concentration. The following are the requirements:

  • 1. COS 126 or equivalent.
  • 2. Two courses from among the following three: COS 217, COS 226, and/or COS 323.
  • 3. One COS departmental at the 300 or 400 level, not including 397, 398, 497, or 498.
  • 4. One additional 300- or 400-level course with substantial computing content. This may be either a second COS departmental, or an outside course including but not limited to: CBE 442, 448; ELE 375, 382, 463, 464, 475, 481, 482; MAT 305; MAE 345, 412; MOL 457; ORF 301, 307, 311, 417, 467; and PSY 322.
  • 5. A senior thesis on a topic that makes significant use of some aspect of computer science. The intent is that the thesis satisfy the requirements of both the program and the student's department of concentration 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 concentrations, including anthropology, chemistry, classics, economics, electrical engineering, history, philosophy, and psychology.

The thesis work is coordinated through the student's thesis adviser in the department of concentration and an assigned program adviser (who may be, in routine cases, the program director). When this is not possible, the student may instead undertake a one-term 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 approved by the Program Committee.

Pass/D/Fail policy: Students may use no more than one course taken on a Pass/D/Fail basis to satisfy program requirements.

Concentrators in departments with computer-related concentrations: No courses used for a departmental concentration may satisfy PAC requirements. In particular, ELE majors must concentrate in a noncomputational area of ELE (such as circuit design or photonics) and may not use ELE 206/COS 306 to satisfy PAC requirements.

Certificate of Proficiency

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