Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science

Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science
Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science Coat of Arms
Established 1864
School type Private
Endowment $400 Million
Dean Feniosky Pena-Mora Website
Faculty 173
Location New York, New York, USA
Undergraduate 1,425
Graduate 2,004
Affiliation Columbia University

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (popularly known as SEAS) is a school of Columbia University which awards Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Financial Engineering, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Science, Doctor of Engineering degrees in engineering, applied physics and applied mathematics. Columbia, originally chartered as King's College in 1754, is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science was founded as the School of Mines in 1863 and then the School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry before becoming the School of Engineering and Applied Science. It is the country's third such institution. On October 1, 1997, the school was renamed in honor of Chinese businessman Z. Y. Fu, who had donated $26 million to the school.

Today, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is a premier and exclusive engineering school known for the depth and breadth of its offerings as well as its cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with other academic, corporate institutions including University of Bologna, Tsinghua University, NASA, IBM, MIT, and The Earth Institute. It is also known for numerous patents which generate over $10 million annually for the university. SEAS faculty and alumni are responsible for technological achievements including the developments of FM radio and the maser. As of today, Columbia Engineering is the only academic institution to hold a share of patents for MPEG-2 technology.

The School's biomedical engineering and computer science programs are each widely regarded as one of the strongest programs in the United States according to US News; its Financial Engineering program in Operations Research is one of the best in the nation and is ranked in the top 3 worldwide.[1] The current SEAS faculty include 21 members of the National Academy of Engineering and one Nobel Laureate. In all, the faculty and alumni of Columbia Engineering have won 9 Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics.

A student to faculty ratio of 8 to 1 allows SEAS to offer numerous research opportunities. The small engineering school with around 300 undergraduates in each graduating class also draws upon Columbia University's endowment, in excess of $7 billion dollars, and maintains close links with all of the university's graduate schools and its undergraduate liberal arts sister school Columbia College which offers Bachelor of Arts degree. The School's current administrative dean is Feniosky Pena-Mora.



Original charter of 1754

Included in the original charter for Columbia College was the direction to teach "the arts of Number and Measuring, of Surveying and Navigation [...] the knowledge of [...] various kinds of Meteors, Stones, Mines and Minerals, Plants and Animals, and everything useful for the Comfort, the Convenience and Elegance of Life." Engineering has always been a part of Columbia, even before the establishment of any separate school of engineering. From the original charter, the existing science and engineering departments established within then Columbia College gave birth to what is now known as the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. Starting in 2011, the school will drop its "SEAS" acronym for "CE," or Columbia Engineering.[2]

An early and influential graduate from the school was John Stevens, Class of 1768. Instrumental in the establishment of U.S. patent law, Stevens procured many patents in early steamboat technology, operated the first steam ferry between New York and New Jersey, received the first railroad charter in the U.S., built a pioneer locomotive, and amassed a fortune, which allowed his sons to found the Stevens Institute of Technology. (Excerpt from SEAS website.)

When Columbia University first resided on Wall Street, engineering did not have a school under the Columbia umbrella. After Columbia outgrew its space on Wall Street, it relocated to what is now Midtown Manhattan in 1857. Then President Barnard and the Trustees of the University, with the urging of Professor Thomas Egleston and General Vinton, approved the School of Mines in 1863. The intention was to establish a School of Mines and Metallurgy with a three-year program open to professionally motivated students with or without prior undergraduate training. It was officially founded in 1864 under the leadership of its first Dean, Columbia professor Charles F. Chandler, and specialized in mining and mineralogical engineering. An example of work from a student at the School of Mines was William Barclay Parsons, Class of 1882. He was an engineer on the Chinese railway and the Cape Cod and Panama Canals. Most importantly he worked for New York, as a chief engineer of the city's first subway. Opened in 1904, the subway’s electric cars took passengers from City Hall to Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the newly renamed and relocated Columbia University in Morningside Heights, its present location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Renaming to the School of Mines

In 1896, the school was renamed to the "School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry". During this time, the University was offering more than the previous name had implied, thus the change of name.

The faculty during this time included Michael I. Pupin, after whom Pupin Hall is named. Pupin himself was a graduate of the Class of 1883 and the inventor of the "Pupin coil", a device that extended the range of long-distance telephones. Students of his included Irving Langmuir, Nobel laureate in Chemistry (1932), inventor of the gas-filled tungsten lamp and a contributor to the development of the radio vacuum tube. Another student to work with Pupin was Edwin Howard Armstrong, inventor of FM radio. After graduating in 1913 Armstrong was stationed in France during World War I. There he developed the superheterodyne receiver to detect the frequency of enemy aircraft ignition systems. During this period, Columbia was also home to the "Father of Biomedical Engineering" Elmer L. Gaden.

Recent and future developments

The university continued to evolve and expand as the United States became a major political power during the 20th century. In 1926, the newly renamed School of Engineering prepared students for the nuclear age.

Graduating with a master's degree, Hyman George Rickover, working with the Navy's Bureau of Ships, directed the development of the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus, which was launched in 1954.

After a substantial grant of $26 million from Chinese businessman Z. Y. Fu, the engineering school was renamed again in 1997. The new name, as it is known today is the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. SEAS continues to be a world-class teaching and research institution, now with a large endowment of over $400 million, and sits under the Columbia umbrella endowment of $7.2 billion. As an initiative to make information more accessible, Columbia Engineering operates a highly viewed open-course video network [3] similar to the one established in MIT. It is the only university to hold a share in the MPEG-2 patent. The school continues research into nuclear science with the Robert A. Gross Plasma Physics Lab. The school is also home to Columbia's High-Beta Tokamak (HBT-EP), and conducts further research into plasma physics with the Collisionless Terrella Experiment (CTX), and the Columbia Non-neutral Torus (CNT) experiment. The school's new biomedical engineering department collaborates closely with the Medical School to conduct interdisciplinary researches such as materials science, environmental chemistry, medical digital libraries, digital government, new media technologies, and GK-12 education,[4] bridging the biological and physical in the engineering world. The school is closely associated with Columbia's other departments, including Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Mathematics. It also engages in research and academic iniatives with the Business School, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Graduate School of Journalism, the School of International and Public Affairs, Law School, and the Teachers College.

Columbia is extending its reach globally, setting up genomic research collaborations in Beijing and dual engineering programs in Bologna. In April 2010, Columbia partnered with IBM for the Smarter Cities Skills Initiative, which aims to develop smarter, more energy-efficient city grids and green technology. The partnership opens IBM laboratories and its 40 Innovation centers across the world to Columbia faculty and students.


Columbia faculty members currently focus on interdisciplinary fields of sensors, bioengineering, and nanotechnology that address key problems in health, energy and sustainability. The School's Dean Pena-Mora coins this innovative research direction with the word "CyberBioPhysical" Systems.

New groundbreaking researches at Columbia include a laser-based method to create a single crystal film for a variety of devices, applications of augmented reality. Columbia Engineering faculty has made advances in media and communication. Since 2000, researchers have been involved in lasers, compression algorithm technology behind DVDS and HDTV, and VOIP. Departmental researches have made possible sharper display screens in high-end smart phones technology.

Professor Klaus Lackner of the Environmental Engineering Department is engaged in research that creates artificial trees which would remove carbon dioxide from air. The project aims to halt global warming through natural synthesis. Professor Eitan Grinspun of the Computer Science Department is creating computer simulations that model physical behaviors in the real world adopted into the virtual world.

Professor Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic of the Biomedical Engineering Department, an electee of Women in Technology Hall of Fame has found new way to grow bone grafts for jaw damaged by birth defects, injuries or disease. As a result of her work, facial reconstructive surgery can now use living tissue. Professor Keren Bergman is developing advanced computing and networking technology for electronic financial trading.


The Columbia University Coat of Arms, with its motto, In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen ("In Thy light shall we see light")

The admissions rate for the SEAS undergraduate class of 2015 was 9.9%, making it the second most selective engineering research college behind MIT and the most selective school of engineering in the Ivy League.[5]

Approximately 95% of accepted students were in the top 10% of their graduating class; 99% were in the top 20% of their class. 58% of admitted students attended high schools that do not rank. The yield rate for the class of 2013 was 56%.[6]

As for SAT scores, SEAS students within the Columbia University community have raised the composite SAT statistic for the undergraduates at Columbia University.[7][8] The Class of 2013's SAT interquartile range was 2060-2320 and 1400-1560 (old SAT). The ACT composite interquartile range was 32-34.

Those accepting enrollment at Columbia SEAS typically completed engineering programs at the undergraduate level and are pursuing professional graduate school in engineering, business, law, or medical school, so as to become what Columbia terms "engineering leaders." Engineering leaders are those who pioneer or define engineering: patent lawyers, doctors with specialties in biophysical engineering, financial engineers, inventors, etc.

Columbia Engineering's graduate programs have an overall acceptance rate of 28.0% in 2010.[9] The Ph.D. student-faculty ratio at the graduate level is 4.2:1 according to the 2008 data compiled by U.S. News & World Report.[10] Ph.D. acceptance rate was 12% in 2010.



Miner statue outside Mudd Hall

SEAS focuses on leadership development. Many classes revolve around social awareness and responsibility while also enforcing high expectations for achievement. Undergraduates are required to participate in professional level opportunities in addition to their theoretical bases of knowledge.

Similar to the Columbia College requirements, there is a rigorous set of required "core engineering classes" in empirical science, computer science, and math. The core classes typically consist of a semester or more of classes in each of these disciplines:

  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Computer Science

Columbia engineers also take non-technical courses like those below, which fall into two basic categories: the Columbia College Core, or other non-technical courses.

Engineers are required to take classes from Columbia College's famous Core Curriculum. These may include the following:

  • (2) Semesters of: Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, or Major Cultures
  • (1) Semester of: Art Humanities, or Music Humanities
  • (1) Semester of University Writing

Additionally, there are other non-technical classes required:

  • Economics
  • (2) semesters of Physical Education (anything from aerobics to karate to fencing)

Engineers take a total of 29 credits of "non-technical" classes. There is usually a high degree of freedom aside from the require Humanities Core in choosing one's non-technical classes; these classes bolster the development of a well rounded mind and body. Because Columbia's Engineers are required to take so many non-technical classes, many, including employers, find that the educational quality at Columbia is not only unusual and rigorous, but also desirable and useful. SEAS finds this element of the curriculum to be an important addition to an engineering education; in fact, this component of the education will contrast the heavily vocationally focused large state school engineering programs. It is considered that the SEAS curriculum is set apart from other engineering curricula in the way that the human implications of engineering are studied just as seriously as the technology and theoretical fundamentals. The non-technical courses are sometimes used by students to fulfill one of Columbia's many available minors, while also offering relief from a bombardment of vocationally driven curriculum usually found at other engineering-reduction schools.

Inside the engineering school, all classes (including introductory first-year classes) are taught by professors. While graduate students may teach recitation sections, all lectures, seminars, and research sections are taught by faculty. On average, the student to professor ratio in SEAS is 8:1.

The newest addition to the Core Curriculum is a freshman design course. The school mandates freshmen to take the Gateway Lab course. The goal is to immerse students in engineering design, practice, and philosophy at the earliest possible point in an engineer's education.

Many students also bolster their in-class education with participation in collegiate design competitions. 30% of the mechanical engineering students are in either Solar Splash (Solar Boating) or the Formula-One SAE competition. SEAS is also host to a very competitive intra-university venture capital competition, where students compete for $50,000 in seed capital to get their ideas off the ground and flying. Other students find it an important aim to join the CU Engineers Without Borders (CUEWB), which recently sent students to India to build Micro-Hydro power plants and have received commendable grants from respected institutions offering $75,000 or more for a single project. CUEWB as of Fall 2009 is sending groups to India, Uganda, and Ghana. Of course, international service opportunities are available to engineers including Columbia Students for International Service, Rotaract, and others. In addition, nearly all students are actively involved in some way in Columbia's approximately 600 (about 400 of which are officially recognized and funded) student groups, which range from clubs managing investment funds to clubs organizing fashion shows featuring famous designers.

Liberal Arts Minors

Columbia Engineering emphasizes a strong liberal arts background for its engineering students. The school offers a variety of minors not necessarily connected to a field of engineering. A Columbia student takes on average one to two liberal arts minors along with his/her engineering major. Undergraduates declare minors during their sophomore year. Liberal arts minors at the engineering school constitute over twenty subjects few of which are American studies, art history, dance, economics, political science, music, history, and foreign languages.

Joint Programs

Columbia SEAS offers its undergraduate students joint programs in arts, business, and law. The 4-1 Combined Plan gives the engineering students an opportunity to spend one more year upon graduation at Columbia College or Barnard College to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in addition to a Bachelor of Science with the same tuition benefits a typical undergraduate enjoys.

Undergraduates and graduates also have the opportunity to earn a dual degree in engineering and business. The Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department and the Business School grant the joint M.S. and M.B.A degree. The option is available although not limited to students in industrial engineering, operations research, and financial engineering programs. The joint degrees can be granted after five terms of study that fulfills 45 points in the engineering school and 30 points in the business school.[11] In addition, undergraduates may choose a similar but separate program, in which joint degrees in M.B.A and M.S. in Earth Resources Engineering are awarded.

Two nominated undergraduates at Columbia SEAS have the opportunity to participate in a fast-track joint program with the Law School, whereby the students complete the requirements for degrees of Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Jurisprudence in six years. The option is open only to undergraduates at the School of Engineering and Applied Science. External candidates may not apply.

A group of Columbia Engineering undergraduates each year are selected for a joint degree program with the School of International and Public Affairs. Students participate in the program fulfill requirements for degrees of Bachelor of Science and Master of International Affairs in five years. Columbia students usually apply for the program in their junior year through the internal Center for Student Advising.

Columbia graduates interested in advanced degree have the opportunity to enroll at the Engineering School and study in the world-renowned Harriman Institute. The students participating in the program must complete courses required by the Harriman Institute separate from the degree requirements. The program provide students with world-class faculty as their mentor and supervisor in research and studies.


Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science is one of the top engineering schools in the United States and the world. It is ranked 16th among the best engineering graduate schools by U.S. News & World Report, and second within the Ivy League behind Cornell.

In 2010, the US National Research Council revealed its new analyses and rankings of American university doctoral programs since 1995. Columbia Engineering ranked 10th in biomedical engineering, 18th in chemical engineering, 26th in electrical engineering, 14th in mechanical engineering (5th in research), 9th in operations research & industrial engineering, 7th in applied mathematics, and 6th in computer sciences.[12]

The school's department of computer science is ranked 17th in the nation,[13] 20th in the world by Academic Ranking of World Universities,[14] and 13th according to PhDs.[15] Its biomedical engineering program is among the top 15 according to US News and is ranked 7th by[16]

Among the small prestigious programs, the school’s chemical engineering is ranked 20th, civil engineering and engineering mechanics 18th, electrical engineering 3rd, applied physics 4th, industrial engineering and operations research 4th, material engineering 10th, computer science 15th, and applied mathematics 15th, according to National Science Foundation.[17] From the The Chronicle of Higher Education, Columbia's engineering mechanics is 6th in the nation, its environmental engineering 4th, industrial engineering 7th, mechanical engineering 5th, applied physics 8th, and operations research 6th. Finally, Columbia's financial engineering program is one of the top three in the world.[18]


Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics

The Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics was founded in 1978 by then Dean Peter Likens. The proposal was to combine the interdepartmental doctoral program in plasma physics with the existing division of nuclear Science and engineering. The department’s first faculty members included: Herbert Goldstein, C. K. Chu, Robert Gross, William Havens, Shayne Johnston, Thomas Marshall, Leon Lidofsky, Edward Melkonian, and Gerald Navratil.

Under the chairmanship of Robert Gross, the department developed a broader program encompassing solid-state physics, quantum electronics, and applied mathematics in addition to the core theoretical areas of plasma and nuclear physics. In 1997, the Fu Foundation donated large sums of funding supporting researches at the department, and in 1998, it officially changed its name to the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics due to the department’s ever expanding stature. In the same year of the donation, renowned Professors Aron Pinczuk and Horst Stormer joined the department. In 2000, the department expanded again, creating two joint faculty positions with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. That year, the Materials Science and Engineering Program of the Henry Krumb School of Mines was integrated with the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. Since 1978, the department has grown from nine to thirty one full-time faculty members, who are involved in interdisciplinary areas of research relating to nanoscale science, earth science, advanced scientific computing, materials and information technologies, and plasma physics. The departmental faculty has recently received numerous accolades, including three Sloans, four Guggenheims, and one Packard fellowship, one Nobel Prize in physics, one Gordon Bell Prize, and two Buckley Prizes. Faculty members do extensive research in Columbia’s Nanoscience and Engineering Center, the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Plasma Physics Laboratory, the Center for Terascale Computer Simulation. Recently, the department has developed the sequential lateral solidification process that creates high-quality crystalline silicon films which generate major patent income. The department grants three undergraduate majors, including applied physics, applied mathematics, and materials science and engineering. Its graduate programs address these same three fields in a broader range. Each year, the department awards the Robert Simon Memorial Prize to its graduate student with the most distinguished doctoral dissertation.

Biomedical Engineering

The Department of Biomedical Engineering was founded in 2000. It is one of the fastest growing, most reputed engineering department at Columbia. It has been consistently ranked in the top 15 BME departments across the nation in various surveys. The department has close contact with the medical school and other engineering departments in interdisciplinary researches. The educations tracks of the biomedical engineering department include biomechanics, biomedical imaging, and cell and tissue engineering. The department’s faculty of 19 full-time professors and five adjunct professors is equally divided among the three above-mentioned disciplines. The biomedical engineering department represents one-fifth of the total number of engineering majors at the school. Its majors are the most popular among students not only wishing to pursue engineering but also finance or pre-med at Columbia University.

The department draws financial resources from the university as a whole as well as from the Whitaker Foundation. An undergraduate at Columbia has access to laboratory tools usually reserved for advanced research. In addition to the core biomedical facilities, the department has a tissue culture facility, a histology facility, an atomic force microscope, and epifluorescence microscope, and a large machine shop.

Chemical Engineering

Columbia’s Chemical Engineering Department has a broad spectrum of research and teaching. Its core focus concerns with materials and process analysis, concepts that are key to a wide range of technologies. Some areas the faculty are involved in include the engineering of polymers and other soft materials, the electrochemistry of fuel cells, the bioengineering of artificial organs, the sequencing of the human genome, polymer interactions and synthesis, the biophysics of cellular processes, the physics of DNA, the physical chemistry of nanoparticles, neutron scattering, atmospheric chemistry, and multiple theoretical studies revolving around both mathematical physics and computational analysis. The Ph.D. students in the department obtained their undergraduate degrees from numerous areas of study including engineering, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, and other natural science fields. The program highly emphasizes interdisciplinary research, with some doctoral students advised by two faculty members. The undergraduate program provides a degree that leads to diverse career options that historically includes biochemical engineering, environmental management, pharmaceuticals, and medicine, but also law, banking and finance, and politics. Current research activities at the chemical engineering department encompass the science and engineering of soft materials, genomic engineering, biophysics and soft matter physics, engineering of bioinductive and biomimetic materials, and interfacial engineering and electrochemistry. The chemical engineering department utilizes facilities including a polymer synthesis lab that houses metal evaporator system, a Miligen 9050 peptide synthesizer, and thin-film preparation stations. The department also uses XPS imaging systems, digital analysis systems, X-ray reflectometers, and MCT detectors, among others. For computational studies, a cluster of dedicated computers is available for intensive simulations and numerical calculations. The chemical engineering department shares facilities with the chemistry department. Shared facilities consist of equipments including fluorescence spectrometers, EPR spectrometers, nanosecond laser photlysis instruments, photon counter, and chromatographic devices. The facilities of Columbia Genome Center are also at the department’s disposal.

Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Columbia’s department of civil engineering and engineering mechanics is one of the longest running, most prominent small-size engineering departments in the United States. The department of civil engineering was formed in 1868. It evolved to include curriculum in metallurgy, electricity, mechanics, chemistry, and industrial engineering before separate departments were established. Some of the department’s alumni include William Barclay Parsons, David Steinman, Kevin P. Chilton, and Jeff Bleustein. William Barclay Parsons received his civil engineering degree in 1882 and later founded the world-renowned company Parsons-Brinkerhoff. Steinman received a doctorate from the department in 1911. He designed the Henry Hudson Bridge and founded the firm of Steinman Engineers, a lead designer of famous bridges in New York City and the United States. Chilton received a M.S. and became one of the first astronauts to pilot the space shuttle. Jeff Bleustein received a doctorate in engineering mechanics, later becoming the CEO of Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company. The civil engineering department has enjoyed top ranking since the 1950s, especially for its engineering mechanics program. Its notable faculty includes Maciej Bieniek, Hans Bleich, Donald Burmister, Richard Freudenthal, Raymond Mindlin, Mario Salvadori, and Richard Skalak.

Computer Science

The Columbia department of computer science is one of the biggest, most reputed departments in the world. The department offers an integrated curriculum consisting of programming, computer architecture, systems operating, and theoretical computer science/mathematics. Among the research tracks in the department are artificial intelligence, natural language processing, computational complexity, analysis of algorithms, computer communications, combinatorial methods, computer architecture, computer graphics, data bases, mathematical computational models, optimization, and programming environments. Undergraduates in the department are involved in advanced faculty research projects. Students serve as consultants at the Columbia Computer Center, which operates the microcomputers and terminals on campus. Upper-level students in computer science may assist faculty members with research projects and help to develop software. Graduate students in the department can choose among 18 different tracks of concentration, including computational biology, new computer security, foundations of computer science, machine learning, natural language processing, software systems, vision and graphics, and network systems among others. The Computer Science major students lead numerous departmental clubs and organizations. Those are Women in Computer Science, Women in Science at Columbia, Association for Computing Machinery, Engineering Student Council, and Graduate Advisor Group. Current faculty projects include algorithmic analysis, computational complexity, software tool design, distributed computation, computer modeling and performance evaluation, computer networks, computer architecture and VLSI design, computer graphics, programming environments, expert systems, natural language processing, computer vision, robotics, multi-computer design, VLSI applications, artificial intelligence, combinatorial modeling, and microprocessor applications. Graduates of the computer science department go into wide range of careers, from industry to government. Recent graduates have found top positions in both academic and professional institutions such as Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Facebook, Buzzient, RedHat, Goldman Sachs, Bain and Company, Microsoft, Wireless Generation, FactSet, Lockheed martin, UBS, Bloomberg, Samsung Electronics, Google, IBM Watson, IntuVision Inc., Citigroup, Siemens Corporate Research, D.E. Shaw, McKinsey & Company, Veson Nautical, and Morgan Stanley. Other students have gone on to graduate studies in Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, Columbia University, University of California-Berkeley, Harvard University, University of Maryland, and MIT. The computer science faculty is world distinguished. Many are recognized with membership in the National Academy of Engineering, ACM awards, IEEE awards, John von Neumann Medals, Knuth Prize, fellows status in various engineering/scientific societies, IBM awards, Presidential Early Career Awards, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, board membership in national academies, and numerous fellowships such as Sloan and Guggenheim. The departmental faculty members conduct researches in numerous facilities including the Autonomous Agents Lab, Columbia Vision and Graphics Center, Computer Architecture Laboratory, and Robotics Laboratory.

Earth and Environmental Engineering

The Columbia University Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering focuses on research that finds solutions to global sustainability. The department traces hits history to the Henry Krumb School of Mines, concentrating in areas of water resources and climate risks, sustainable energy and materials, and environmental health engineering. The Henry Krumb School of Mines has been a leading institution in mining and metallurgy research, having pioneered works in mineral beneficiation, chemical thermodynamics, kinetics, and transport phenomena in mineral extraction. HKSM has been a leader in mining and metallurgy research and education, including the first mining handbook by Professor Peele, the first mineral processing handbook by Professor Taggart. During the 19th and 20th centuries, HKSM contributed to the development of technologies that provided basic materials need. Today the traditional mining and mineral engineering of the department were transformed to embody material and environmental engineering. The department maintains close ties with the Columbia Earth Institute directed by economist Jeffrey Sachs. The M.S. degree in Earth Resources Engineering was established in 1996 to supplant the mining and mineral engineering degree. The B.S. program in Earth and Environmental Engineering was initiated in 1998 with a student:faculty ratio of 3:1. The department enjoys external partnerships with other engineering departments, Columbia Earth Institute, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the School of International and Public Affairs. The department offers the bachelor of science, master of science, doctor of philosophy, doctor of engineering science, and joint M.B.A degree with Columbia Business School. Recent graduates have gone on to work for Schlumberger, Ltd., CDM[disambiguation needed ], HydroQual, Kleinfelder, Zurich U.S. Environmental. Others have gone on to further studies in Stanford, University of California-Berkeley, and MIT.

Electrical Engineering

The first recommendation for an electrical engineering department in Columbia came from Thomas Edison to President Barnard. Edison stated, “Crocker and I maintained that there is an ‘electrical science’ which is the real soul of electrical engineering.’” In the late 19th century, at Edison’s suggestion, the Columbia trustees established a department of electrical engineering with two faculty members: Francis Bacon Crocker and Michael Idvorsky Pupin. Crocker was among the first presidents in the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Pupin was known for his invention of the Pupin coil.

In 20th century, full four-year undergraduate program was created for electrical engineering. From 1901 to 1904, the class size grew from five to thirty. The department was housed in what is today’s Mathematics Building at Columbia. Pupin served as its chair before transferring the position to Walter Slichter who led the department until 1941. In the mid-20th century, the electrical engineering department played a significant role during World War II, bringing radio communications to France and lecturing in London. The military used the FM radio system developed in the department. Throughout the Slichter era, the department evolved along two dominant technical tracks: electrical motors and power, and radio. During this period pupils including Edwin Armstrong and Morecroft became dominant forces in radio technology. Between 1950s and 1960s, the department saw dramatic growth in faculty and students. Professor John R. Ragazzini joined Columbia in 1941 and chaired the department, and in 1945, faculty under his leadership developed the operational amplifier which became a key building block in electronic circuits. The department recruited other top professors such as Ralph J. Schwatz as well as students like Lotfi A. Zadeh. 1953 Eliahu I. Jury became the first doctoral student in the department working with professor Jacob Millman, who joined the department in 1952. In the 1960s, another Ph.D student of Ragazzinni R.E. Kalman produced pioneering work in the area of time varying and nonlinear systems. In the 1970s, Columbia, already renowned for theoretical research in electrical engineering, returned to the technical aspects of research. Research resumed in solid state devices, plasma physics, millimeter waves, and integrated circuits. The department also began attracting accomplished industry professionals. Two important recruits were Sergei Alexander Schelkunoff and W.R. Bennett. In 1968 the department was renamed the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science before reverting back to its original name in 1979.

The department today continues to contribute to communications and networking, signal processing, digital and analog integrated circuits, electromagnetic and plasma physics, photonics, and microelectronic devices. The department is currently home to 2 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 9 NSF Career Awardees, 6 APS Fellows, 18 IEEE Fellows, 3 Guggenheim Fellows, 1 Humboldt Fellow, and 1 Fulbright scholar.

Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

The Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department at Columbia is a relatively new department. It is already highly rated throughout the world and provides its students with a launch pad to lucrative jobs in Wall Street, finance, government, and industry. Whereas in other universities the department of operations research resides in the business school, Columbia’s department of operations research is part of the engineering school. The department offers four main areas of study: Engineering Management Systems, Financial Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. Engineering Management Systems is a field that emphasizes both technology and management perspectives in solving problems. The departmental curriculum provides exposure to deterministic optimization and stochastic modeling that are essential elements of engineering and management. Graduates from this program often assume positions as business analysts, financial analysts, managers of hedge funds and banks, and executives in investment banks, insurance firms, and other financial firms.

Financial Engineering is a multidisciplinary field that covers financial theory, methods of engineering, mathematics, and computer programming. Courses in financial engineering train students in the application of engineering and quantitative methods to finance. Graduates usually become what is referred to as “quants.” Many go into securities, banking, financial management, consulting firms, finance departments in general manufacturing/service firms, and corporate/government treasury

Industrial Engineering emphasizes design, analysis, and control of production/services. Industrial engineers work for every kind of organization in manufacturing, distribution, transportation, mercantile, and service. Their responsibility is often managerial, which involve the integration of the physical, financial, economic, and human components of systems such as production planning/control, plant layout, materials management, and work station design. The industrial engineering programs at Columbia began in 1919.

Operations Research is an applied science, concerned with quantitative problem solving. The allocation of limited resources leads to problems often arising in all types of industry and financial firms. Operations research analysts develop models to solve logistical problems by using engineering methodology. Analysis involves mathematical optimization techniques, statistical methods, experiments, and computer simulations. Operations Research program was established in Columbia in 1952.

The faculty members of the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department are prominent academicians in their respective fields and Wall Street professionals. Its chair Emanuel Derman is a superstar quant who was a former executive at Goldman Sachs and author of best-selling book My Life as a Quant. Among the department’s many faculty members are adjunct professors from the Columbia Business School and the School of Arts and Sciences.

Mechanical Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is one of the longest running traditional engineering departments at Columbia. The department was established in 1897. It has enjoyed a national and international reputation since its inception. The department was home to professors Dudley D. Fuller, Harold G. Elrod, and Vittorio Castelli, leaders in the field of lubrication theory and practice. In the 1960s, Professor Ferdinand Freudenstein (known as the "Father of Modern Kinematics") taught in the department and ushered in the computer age in kinematics synthesis. The department conducts substantial research in the fields of control theory, thermofluids, biomechanics, and manufacturing. Its faculty members regularly give keynote lectures in the United States and at international conventions. Many members also serve as editors and associate editors of professional journals. Some hold leadership positions in professional societies. The department is the smallest in the school, allowing for close student-faculty interaction. Facilities of the department include Computer-Aided Design Lab, Mechatronics Laboratory. New research laboratories have been recently added for nanotube science, optical nanostructures, nanomechanics, nonlinear and autonomous vehicle control, medical robots, and microfluidics. The department is home to interdisciplinary research projects such as biomechanics, mechanics of materials, energy systems, and nanotechnology. It has partnerships with other engineering departments, the Lamont-Doherty Geological Laboratory and Columbia University Medical Center.


Columbia's Plasma Physics Laboratory is part of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), in which the HBT and Columbia Non-Neutral Torus are housed.

The school also has two wind tunnels, a machine shop, a nanotechnology laboratory, a General Dynamics TRIGA Mk. II nuclear fission reactor, a large scale centrifuge for geotechnical testing, and an axial tester commonly used for testing New York City bridge cables. Each department has numerous laboratories on the Morningside Heights campus; however, other departments have holdings throughout the world. For example, the Applied Physics department has reactors at Nevis Labs in Irvington, NY and conducts work with CERN in Geneva.

Many students take their engineering classes in the Seeley W. Mudd building on the northeast side of the main Morningside campus. Mudd is the heart of the engineering school; department offices, labs, lecture rooms, and student spaces are located in this building.

Connected to this building is the Sherman Fairchild Center, which largely houses biology labs and sciences. To the left of Mudd facing north is the Shapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research (CEPSR) where additional lecture halls, research offices, labs, and student space is available.

To the left of this is Pupin Hall, which houses the physics department; in this building, professors and affiliates (including Nobel Laureates) worked on the Manhattan Project. To the south of Pupin is Havemeyer and Chandler, which houses chemistry. Mathematics Hall, further south of Havemeyer, houses the math department.

Together, these buildings, Mudd, Fairchild, Shapiro CEPSR, Pupin, Chandler, Havemeyer, and Mathematics, is where the bulk of engineering students take their classes. Non-technical classes are taken in other buildings to the south of these buildings. All of the school's buildings are on the same campus and vicinity as Columbia College, Columbia Business School, Columbia Law School, School of Social Work, Teacher's College, Union Theological Seminary, Barnard, Jewish Theological Seminary, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and others on the beautiful Morningside Campus.

Entrance to The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

In close association with Columbia Engineering's Earth and Environmental Engineering department and the Earth Institute, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory center in Palisades, New York (40 minutes by Shuttle), is an earth-studies campus which welcomes a brand new research (the Gary C. Comer Geochemistry building) facility that has recently won 3 coveted architecture awards for design and sustainability.

Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research

While Mudd, nicknamed "the brick," is tucked behind the Fairchild Center, much of Columbia's buildings were designed by the famed McKim, Mead, and White architects. The campus is in keeping with Neo-classical design themes popular in the early 20th century. It retains old-world charm and originality not found at many of this nation's pseudo-gothic styled campuses.

The school is also awaiting the completion of a new Northwest Science and Engineering building. At fourteen stories, and designed by award-winning architect Rafael Moneo, the building will house new space to conduct research and lectures; it will be completed by 2010. In addition, this building will contain a new library, cafe, research labs, lecture hall, and other amenities. This building is situated between Havemeyer, Chandler and Pupin and will include many bridges to facilitate interdepartmental exchanges and access.

Alongside the completion of the Northwest Science building, the last available plot on the Morningside campus, the University looks ahead to Manhattanville. In this 17-acre (69,000 m2) area situated only 5 blocks Northwest from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Manhattanville represents a growth opportunity for the engineering school as well as the University as a whole. The $7 billion project proceeds with the permission of neighboring residents, city officials, and business owners in the area. SEAS looks to expand an additional 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) in this new area. Buildings are being designed by award winning Renzo Piano.

Mission and new objectives

Directions for the new century

As an integral part to Columbia's beliefs for the future engineer, the liberal arts curriculum is celebrated and remains a central object of a SEAS student's education. The liberal arts curriculum provides the surest chart with which an engineer can navigate the future; all undergraduates must complete a modified rigorous version of Columbia College’s celebrated Core Curriculum. It is these courses in Western Civilization and other major cultures that best prepare a student for advanced course work; a wide range of eventual professions; and a continuing, life-long pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and social perspective. It is also these Core courses that most closely tie today’s student to the alumni of centuries past. Through a shared exposure to the nontechnical arts, all Columbia engineering students—past, present, and future—gain the humanistic tools needed to build lives not solely as technical innovators, but as social and political ones as well.

Engineering philosophy

  • This excerpt is taken from the Columbia Engineering website:
    • "The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, as a part of the world-class teaching and research university, strives to provide the best in both undergraduate and graduate education. We are preparing engineering leaders who will solve the problems of the new century, fostering scientific inquiry but never losing sight of its human implications. The School's programs are designed to produce well-educated engineers who can put their knowledge to work for society. This broad educational thrust takes advantage of the School's links to a great liberal arts college and to distinguished graduate programs in law, business, and medicine. Through a synergy of teaching and research, we seek to educate a distinguished cadre of leaders in engineering and applied science who will thrive in an atmosphere of recently emerging technologies."

Columbia embraces innovative approaches, including computer-assisted design, the use of "smart" materials, and collaborations with other Columbia departments and schools are opening frontiers in an expanding host of fields: from financial engineering to corrosion control, cryogenic manufacturing to biomedical engineering.

Notable alumni

The School of Engineering and Applied Science celebrates its ties and affiliations with at least 9 Nobel Laureates. The university as a whole celebrates Columbia's 95 Nobel Laureate affiliates (the most affiliates for any institution). Columbia University has graduated the third most Nobel Laureates (38), behind Cambridge (61) and Harvard (48).

Alumni of Columbia Engineering have gone on to numerous fields of profession. Many have become prominent scientists, astronauts, architects, government officials, pioneers, entrepreneurs, company CEOs, financiers, and scholars. Below is a short list of the School's ever growing elite alumni. For a more complete list of alumni of the university, see the List of Columbia University people.

Affiliates of the School

Some Columbia Engineering affiliates include

Departmental links

  • Materials Science and Engineering

Specialized Centers

Columbia Engineering faculty are a central force in creating many groundbreaking discoveries that today are shaping life tomorrow. They are at the vanguard of their fields, collaborating with other world-renowned experts at Columbia and other universities to bring the best minds from a myriad of disciplines to shape the future.

Large, well-funded interdisciplinary centers in science and engineering, materials research, nanoscale research, and genomic research are making step changes in their respective fields while individual groups of engineers and scientists collaborate to solve theoretical and practical problems in other significant areas. Last year, Columbia Engineering's 2007-2008 research expenditures were $92,000,000, a very respectable number given the small size of the school. Harvard's research expenditures in the same period were $35,000,000. Columbia Engineering Ph.D. students have ~60% more monetary resources to work with using the research expenditure : Ph.D. student ratio.

Specialized Labs

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science occupies five laboratory and classroom buildings at the north end of the campus, including the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research and the new Northwest Building on Morningside Heights. Because of the School's close proximity to the other Morningside facilities and programs, Columbia engineering students have ready access to the whole of the University's resources.

The School is the site of an almost overwhelming array of basic and advanced research installations which include both the NSEC and the MRSEC NSF-funded interdisciplinary research centers, as well as the Columbia High-Beta Tokamak, the Robert A.W. Carleton Strength of Materials Laboratory, and a state-of-the-art 200g geotechnical centrifuge.

The Botwinick Multimedia Learning Laboratory is the School's state-of-the-art facility for computer-aided design (CAD) and media development. It is equipped with 50 Apple Mac Pro 8-core workstations, as well as a cluster of Apple Xserves with Xraid storage, that serve the lab's 300-plus users per semester. The workstations are custom tailored for 3D modeling and animation, and offer students the latest modeling software commonly used in professional settings.

Related Centers

Other programs

  • Undergraduate Research Involvement Program
    • Each SEAS department sponsors opportunities to do novel undergraduate research which have applications in the real world. Departmental Chairs supervise students through the process, and mentoring with a professor is provided.
    • Opportunities
  • Computer Engineering
    • Administered by both the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments through a joint Computer Engineering Committee.
    • Webpage
  • The Combined Plan Programs
    • The 3-2, B.A./B.S., is designed to provide students with the opportunity to receive both a B.A. degree from an affiliated liberal arts college and a B.S. degree from SEAS within five years. Students complete the requirements for the liberal arts degree along with a pre-engineering course of study in three years at their college and then complete two years at Columbia.
    • The 4-2 M.S. program is designed to allow students to complete an M.S. degree at SEAS in two years after completion of a B.A. degree at one of the affiliated schools. This program will allow students the opportunity to take undergraduate engineering courses if necessary.
    • Webpage

See also


  1. ^ The Top 10 Quant Schools
  2. ^
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Columbia Engineering history
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ ttp://
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ joint degree for business and engineering
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Financial engineering ranking by insiders
  19. ^ Martin, Douglas. "Henry S. Coleman, 79, Dies; Hostage at Columbia in '68", The New York Times, February 4, 2006. Accessed September 12, 2009.
  20. ^ About Seas Birth Place of Laser

External links

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