Skip to content
MIT Better World

The college’s goal: to transform computing research and education—advancing core computer science and AI; infusing computing with disciplines across MIT; and taking into account the social, ethical, and policy dimensions of computing.

As innovations in hardware, software, algorithms, and AI redefine our approach to problem-solving in nearly every field, the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing is fulfilling its mission across campus, from its brand-new home. It is accelerating research and teaching in the core areas of computer science and AI and educating “bilinguals” who combine a command of computing with scholarship across a broad array of disciplines. At the same time, the college is engaging head-on with the social, ethical, and policy issues that accompany the rise of AI.

“In just a handful of years, the Schwarzman College of Computing has become an essential part of the Institute as it shapes the future of computing, driven by the vision, dedication, and contributions of hundreds of passionate members of MIT’s faculty, students, and staff,” says Daniel P. Huttenlocher SM ’84, PhD ’88, dean of the college and the Henry Ellis Warren Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Innovations in education

Over the past decade, MIT has seen an explosion of interest in coding, algorithms, and AI from students seeking mastery of these topics. At the same time, employers increasingly have their eye on those with this expertise as well as individuals that can understand key challenges in specific domains and bring the forefront computing ideas and practices to bear on them. The college has built a one-of-a-kind academic platform to address these needs.

The college’s Common Ground for Computing Education facilitates coordinated computing education across the Institute, bringing multiple departments together to develop and teach new classes that can be the foundations of new programs. Some Common Ground subjects, such as Modeling with Machine Learning: from Algorithms to Applications, include a common core and discipline-specific material taught in parallel while others involve classes centered around computational thinking in the context of other disciplines.

Meanwhile, four blended computing majors at MIT are offered by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS)—part of the college and the School of Engineering—each of which brings together computer science and AI with another major in the schools of Architecture and Planning; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; and Science. These majors now encompass some 360 undergraduates, or roughly 8% of MIT’s total undergraduate enrollment.

“You can’t just think of the world through one lens,” says Nikasha Patel ’22, who earned an SB and MEng in Course 6-9 Computation and Cognition (offered with the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences) and is pursuing a PhD at MIT, where she is using AI to build a computational model of how infants learn to walk, which could help robots acquire motor skills. “You need to have both perspectives so you can tackle complex problems together.”

In fall 2023, the Center for Computational Science and Engineering, an academic unit in the college, also introduced a new standalone PhD degree program that will greatly enhance MIT’s graduate education in computing. There is also a planned MicroMasters in Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making that will expand the number of people who can access high-quality education in this exciting area.

Societal implications

Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC) is one of the pillars of the college, bringing engineers and computer scientists together with social scientists and humanists to assess computing challenges and opportunities through teaching in stand-alone classes and embedded content; research, including through the recently launched seed grants, and other engagements such as the SERC Scholars program (see story on page 16).

Asu Ozdaglar SM ’98, PhD ’03, deputy dean of academics for the college, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and MathWorks Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, moderated a panel at the college’s inaugural SERC Symposium in 2023 and summed up the current computing landscape: “While the promise is evident to all of us, there’s a lot to be concerned about as well. This is very much the time for imaginative thinking and careful deliberation to improve the algorithms of tomorrow.”

Developing recommendations for technologically informed regulatory frameworks and policy-aware technological development is also front of mind for the college. The AI Policy Forum, in 2021 and 2022, facilitated working groups and events aimed at engagement between policymakers and academics. More recently, the college and the MIT Washington Office spearheaded AI Policy Briefs, a resource for US policymakers to shape the discussion on governing AI amid heightened interest and considerable new industry investment in the field.

Faculty for today and tomorrow

The college is working toward a goal of increasing MIT’s academic capacity in computing and AI by 50 positions, divided between core faculty in EECS and shared hires with departments across MIT—researchers deeply grounded in their discipline and with expertise in frontier computing methods. These exceptional new talents have been recruited against top programs and from industry. They chose MIT for the dynamic and broad computing community the college has helped foster.

Broadening the talent base

A focus of the college is on bridging the talent gap in computing fields for women and underrepresented groups. Break Through Tech AI, hosted with the national coalition Break Through Tech, enrolled 73 Boston-area undergraduates in fall 2023 to learn the basics of AI and machine learning and apply their skills to real-world industry projects.

In a similar vein, EECS launched Thriving Stars in 2021 to close the gender gap in MIT’s largest doctoral program. Nationwide, less than a quarter of doctoral candidates in electrical engineering and computer science are women.

Thriving Stars supports women graduate students in EECS through every step of their PhD journey, offering help in navigating the application process, while showcasing research opportunities, interdisciplinary collaborations, internships, and job openings. In its first 18 months, Thriving Stars had helped break records in EECS. Female applicants in the 2023 graduate admissions cycle reached 830, an all-time high.