Computational Science and Engineering

Graduate students across Harvard can complete a secondary field in computational science and engineering (CSE). This secondary field is available to any student enrolled in a PhD program in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences upon approval of a plan of study by the CSE Program Committee and the director of graduate studies in the student’s home department.

Contacts for questions about the CSE secondary field: All questions should be directed to Daniel Weinstock, Associate Director of Graduate Studies in Applied Computation.

CSE is an exciting and rapidly evolving field that exploits the power of computation as an approach to major challenges on the frontiers of natural and social science and all engineering fields. In keeping with Harvard’s emphasis on foundational knowledge, this program will focus on cross-cutting mathematical and computational principles important across disciplines.

Completion of the secondary field will equip students with rigorous computational methods for approaching scientific questions. These approaches include mathematical techniques for modeling and simulation of complex systems; parallel programming and collaborative software development; and methods for organizing, exploring, visualizing, processing and analyzing very large data sets.


Admission into the CSE secondary field is by application, which must be submitted to the CSE ADGS (Maxwell Dworkin G107). Students interested in the secondary field should consult with their departmental director of graduate studies (DGS) no later than the first semester of the third year of study. Applications may be submitted twice a year, in the spring semester (deadline: March 1) and fall semester (deadline: October 1) for the following academic term. The application, which will include a proposed Plan of Study, must also be approved by the home department DGS. The DGS in CSE will respond to all applications within one month.


Each student’s plan of study for the secondary field will include:

  • At least one applied mathematics core course and one computer science core course
  • One or two electives in AM or CS (chosen from lists below)
  • As a substitute for one elective, either a “domain elective”—an approved computation-intensive course within the PhD domain—or a semester-length independent research project
  • As a final requirement, an oral examination by a faculty committee

Course requirements at a glance:

Secondary Field
min max
1. Core 2* 4
2. Applied Math electives 0 2
3. Computer Science electives 0 2
4. Domain elective 0 max of 1
299R research course 0 1 total 1
Total 4  

*must take at least one AM and one CS core course

1. Core: 2–4 courses

The goal of the core courses is to provide:

  • The mathematical foundations for computational science
  • Hands-on instruction in relevant ideas in computer science
  • Experience implementing these principles in collaborative projects in a rigorous software engineering environment
CSE core courses
AM 205 Advanced Scientific Computing: Numerical Methods Fall
AM 207 Advanced Scientific Computing: Stochastic Optimization Methods Spring
CS 205 Computing Foundations of Computational Science Fall
CS 207 Systems Design for Computational Science Spring

2. Applied Math electives: 0-2 courses

Suggested CSE Applied Math electives
AM 201 Physical Mathematics I Fall
AM 202 Physical Mathematics II Spring
AC 274 Computational Modeling of Fluids and Soft Matter Spring
AM 275 Computational Design of Materials Spring
STATS 210 Probability Theory and Statistical Inference I Fall
STATS 285 Statistical Machine Learning Spring

3. Computer Science electives: 0-2 courses


Suggested CSE Computer Science electives
AC 209a Introduction to Data Science Fall
AC 209b Advanced Topics in Data Science Spring
CS 222 Algorithms at the Ends of the Wire Fall
CS 226R Efficient Algorithms Fall
CS 246R Advanced Computer Architecture Fall
CS 281 Applied Machine Learning Spring

4. Domain elective or 299R research course

A domain elective is a computation-intensive course outside CS and AM. A student wishing to earn Secondary Field credit for a proposed domain elective or 299R course must propose these courses in the Plan of Study and receive approval of the CSE Program Committee.

Advising and Academic Monitoring

A faculty member on the CSE Program Committee will serve in the role of Director of Graduate Studies for the Secondary Field. Daniel Weinstock, the Associate Director of Graduate Studies (ADGS) who will be responsible for frontline advising of students, helping to create a meaningful program sensitive to the student’s needs. All students will participate in the activities of the IACS community, which will include technical and interdisciplinary colloquia and skill-building workshops.