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Saturday, April 20, 2019

#Education Articles University

#Education Articles University

A steward for ocean research and climate health

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 10:00 AM PDT

The world is continually changing and evolving. But avid hikers and MIT alumni Audrey Buyrn '58, SM '63, PhD '66 her late husband, Alan Phillips '57, PhD '61, felt humanity had asked too much from our planet. Anthropogenic activity was pushing the world toward weather and climate extremes, and imperiling the beautiful landscapes and biodiversity they had come to love while experiencing them first-hand on their treks.

"When Alan and I established the Ally of Nature Fund in 2007, it was still possible to be an intelligent skeptic of climate change and to think that catastrophic environmental degradation was far off in space and time. This is no longer possible," says Buyrn, a sentiment shared with Phillips. "The evidence is in front of our eyes, over and over again from every part of the world."

Raffaele Ferrari, a Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, is one of the MIT researchers investigating this anthropogenic influence on climate. His research focuses on the role that the ocean circulation plays in setting the rate at which the ocean takes up heat and carbon from the atmosphere in present and past climates. Ferrari and his group have demonstrated through theory and observations that small-scale turbulent motions play a crucial role in shaping both the rate and the pathways of this uptake; however, these motions are not properly represented in climate models.

To remedy this, the Ferrari group is contributing to the creation of a new-generation climate model that leverages machine learning and data assimilation techniques to better represent these important small-scale turbulent motions, both in the ocean and atmosphere, so as to close the knowledge gaps and increase certainty in climate predictions compared to existing models. The information produced will help inform decisions to ensure sustainability of the Earth and our environment.

For this work, the School of Science selected Ferrari for the 2019 Ally of Nature Fund Award, bestowed annually to support exploratory projects whose purpose is to prevent, reduce, and repair the impacts of humanity on the natural environment. The fund will be used to expand the Ferrari group's research, supporting students who are developing basic theories for the role of small-scale ocean turbulence on large-scale circulation in simple, idealized problems — a key step to test the fidelity of the new-generation climate model.

"Professor Ferrari's oceanographic research impacts how we understand nature and our place in it: from the ocean's phytoplankton that produce most of the oxygen we breathe, to our predictions about the Earth's rising temperature and its effects on sea-level rise and food security," says Michael Sipser, the Donner Professor of Mathematics and dean of the MIT School of Science. "I'm pleased to name him a recipient of the Ally of Nature Fund, as his work has wide-reaching implications in our understanding of the physics and biology of the oceans, and ultimately of our changing climate, which affects us all."

Through their fund, Buyrn and Phillips have supported the research of other Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science (EAPS) professors — including Andrew Babbin, Kristin Bergmann, Tim Cronin, John Marshall, David McGee, and Ron Prinn, in addition to Department of Physics Associate Professor Jeff Gore — on topics ranging from reconstructing and understanding past climates and the evolution of early life on Earth to the physics of our oceans and atmospheres and their impacts on climate.

"Although it is a cliché to say 'more research is needed', more research is needed," to understand the intricacies of our planet and the value of what could be lost to climate change and anthropogenic degradation, says Buyrn. Together, Ferrari and his EAPS geoscience colleagues are piecing together the history of our planet and its interconnected systems.

"It is not only research in geoscience that needs continued support, but research in many other disciplines, such as chemistry, architecture, civil engineering, molecular biology, and computer sciences," says Buyrn, that will significantly contribute to the tackling of environmental issues, wholesale. "A mammoth cross-disciplinary attack on environmental problems, including but not limited to climate change, is needed, and MIT — excelling in these areas with experience cooperating and working across fields — is one of the few places that can do it!"

A stage of their own

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 09:55 AM PDT

The first time he formally presented graduate research to an audience, Minh Trinh's heart was racing.

"I was very anxious, really worried about how it would go," says the fourth-year political science doctoral candidate. "But after two or three minutes, it became clear that this was a low-pressure event, and that I didn't have to impress anyone."

Trinh's speaking engagement came courtesy of the Graduate Student Works in Progress (GWISP) program, which is supported by the Department of Political Science. GSWIP is run by and for graduate students, offering weekly windows during the academic year for students of all levels of graduate study "to present their work in a safe environment," says Gabriel Nahmias, a third-year and a GSWIP coordinator.

For the approximately 70 political science graduate students, GSWIP serves as a training ground for preparing research, addressing colleagues and learning conference protocol. "It's a really good forum to observe the professional side of political science, including the etiquette of asking questions," says second-year PhD student Rorisang Lekalake, another GSWIP organizer.

Whether it is second-year students unveiling major research papers in preparation for potential publication, third-year students developing a thesis idea, or fifth- and sixth-year students testing job talks, the GSWIP workshop provides an important service.

"There's no substitute for an audience, and if I hadn't been able to give a reworked version of my job talk at GSWIP, I would have had to bribe or beg friends to avoid practicing it in an empty room," says Marika Landau-Wells PhD '18.

While other political science departments offer presentation opportunities for graduate students, GSWIP is notably different in several regards. It cuts across all the discipline's subfields, including international relations, security studies, American politics, comparative politics, and methodology. It is also open exclusively to graduate student presenters; and limited, except on rare occasions, to graduate student audiences. This means students feel greater freedom posing questions, need not benchmark themselves against faculty presenters, and benefit from an audience that brings a wide range of interests to the room.

"The student-focused and cross-disciplinary perspectives are pretty rare, and those two characteristics together make MIT stand out," says Landau-Wells.

At the start of each semester, student coordinators call for GSWIP presenters in a cohort-wide email. Spots for the 45-minute to hour -long talks fill up quickly, although Nahmias says "some students need mobilizing, a bit of cajoling, to feel comfortable presenting." To drum up audience attendance, presentations take place at dinner time in a familiar political science classroom.

"While the free food and convenience factor help, there's also a norm: If you present at GSWIP, you should attend," says Nahmias. "We're a small department and GSWIP is one of the ways you invest in the political science community."

For some presenters, the GSWIP experience can make a powerful impact on a paper, or an entire research thrust. After rolling out his prospectus at GSWIP in the spring of his third year, Minh Trinh was curious to learn if fellow students found it convincing. He says he wondered: "Did they think my theory and framework were rigorous, or even interesting?" 

He was not quite ready for the response. "People were tearing my prospectus idea apart, telling me I had to pin down the concept, that what I was trying to measure was too lofty with the tools I was using, and that I needed to look at literature from different fields," he says. "But it was great to learn all the ways it had to change."

So Trinh reshaped his dissertation idea, which looked at how the central governments of China and Vietnam dealt with lying and misrepresentation from the provinces. Instead, responding to GSWIP feedback, he focused exclusively on Vietnam, where he could gather data that better demonstrated the falsification behaviors of provincial governments.

He delayed his prospectus defense by an entire semester in order to conduct additional interviews in Vietnam. When he returned for a second round at GSWIP, he found it "comforting, because there was validation and confirmation that I was going in the right direction," he says.  The initial comments allowed him to reframe his question and methodology, and also to "write in a language that the broader political science community would appreciate more."

For Nahmias, granular GSWIP feedback on a second-year paper last year led to concrete improvements that he credits with helping smooth the path to its publication. Nahmias wanted to make the case that major traumatic events, such as a mass shooting, natural disaster, or even high intensity campaigning, can shock people into political participation and shift voter interests in a way that endures beyond elections.

"The responses suggested I should narrow my claims and pointed me to better robustness tests, all of which really bolstered my paper in terms of methodology and framing," he says.  Insightful feedback, he notes, frequently came from people outside of his own subfield. "If you are locked into your silo, you're not a good political scientist," he says.

Through GSWIP, Marika Landau-Wells received critical help reshaping a job talk. After pursuing an unusual PhD fusing the cognitive science behind threat perception with security studies, she had multiple options for pitching her work. In 2017, when she gave her first GSWIP job talk, she shaped her presentation around the topics she figured would prove most interesting to universities scouting new candidates — immigration and political behavior. But the first nibble came for a job in international relations and national security.

"So I built a new talk and previewed it at GSWIP, which ended up being tremendously helpful for me," says Landau-Wells. Fellow students, who understood the shift she needed to make, provided specific pointers to help her pivot. Landau-Wells was especially grateful for the difficult questions she fielded at the end of her presentation.

"The Q&A part of an actual job talk is where people can fall down, because it's much less under your control," she says. "You may hear not just thoughtful collegial questions, but persnickety, willful misinterpretations, and it's better to learn how to respond to that in a room full of friends than in front of people you don't know."

The fruits of her GSWIP rethink informed the job talk Landau-Wells delivered soon after at the University of California at Berkeley. She was offered a job there starting July 2019 as assistant professor.

"In recent years we've had a spectacular placement record," notes Andrea Louise Campbell, department chair and the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science. She attributes this in part "to students' opportunities to share their work in … constructive, supportive, and enriching forums" such as GSWIP and other field-specific workshops that have sprung up.

Rori Lekalake is now gearing up for her first GSWIP presentation, after spending an entire year attending presentations and building up the confidence to ask questions. Her research, underway since her first semester at MIT, explores how African states with struggling economies establish bonds of trust between citizens and government institutions.

"I'm really hoping to get tips on how to broaden my reading, especially from students who specialize in west and southern Africa, and those who are fluent in conflict-related work, since my wheelhouse is more political economy and development," she says. "We'll see if my framing passes the sniff test, and then if things go well, I would like to move it toward publication."

Preparing high schoolers for a tech-driven future

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 09:45 AM PDT

In the advent of artificial intelligence, robots, and automation, today's K-12 educators around the world are asking the question: "What skills do our students need to be ready for the future?"

The "Freshman Technology Experience" — a recent two-day event at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts — brought MIT researchers into the classroom to explore just that. 

As their 10th grader schoolmates underwent Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) testing in late March, 9th grade students put technologies developed by MIT to the test, rotating through sessions playing Shadowspect, a 3-D geometry puzzle game designed to assess learning, and MIT App Inventor, an intuitive, visual programming environment that makes coding easy and fun.

Organized by instructional technologists at CRLS with MIT's Office of Government and Community Relations, the event sought to inspire a diverse array of students to build future-ready skills by seeking educational opportunities in fields like computer science.

Assessing the skills that make us human — and ready for the future

As students down the hall worked through problems with multiple choice answers on the MCAS, the freshman class tried out a new means of assessing their math skills.

Using Chromebooks issued by CRLS (as part of an effort to close an equity gap between students), freshman students solved geometry puzzles in the colorful, dynamic, 3-D setting of Shadowspect, a game-based learning assessment tool. 

With Shadowspect, researchers in the MIT Playful Journey Lab have designed a game that's not just educational and fun to play, but also one that provides students and teachers access to ongoing assessments that are deeper and more robust than your typical math problems. Shadowspect provides feedback on geometry skills, as well as spatial reasoning, persistence, and creativity. 

This multidimensional view of assessing learning is part of a growing field of study to better prepare students for a technology-rich future. Researchers hope to provide teachers and students with new models of assessment that can measure what really matters. 

"We wanted to design something that goes beyond assessing Common Core math standards, but also assesses skills that make us uniquely human — creativity, empathy, persistence," said YJ Kim, a research scientist and executive director of the Playful Journey Lab at MIT. "These are the skills that will prepare young people for the future." 

Building computational literacy in the classroom

Another way to prepare today's students for a high-tech future is to embrace emerging types of literacy that older generations may not have needed, but are now a must.

Computational literacy has been a focus for CRLS, and the Freshman Technology Experience provided the perfect opportunity for hands-on sessions in computer science.

One week before the event, juniors and seniors from CRLS visited MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) for training on MIT App Inventor, a visual programming environment designed to empower people of all ages to build fully functional applications for smartphones and tablets. These upperclassmen students then served as near-peer mentors for freshman the following week. 

By bringing the immersive experience of MIT App Inventor to CRLS students, MIT researchers hope that this data-rich, student-centered pedagogical approach inspired some students to incorporate more computer science into their studies.

"The upperclassmen were very engaged and did a wonderful job, both in helping the freshmen with the technical tasks, as well as providing advice on potential experiences with computing at the high school", says Josh Sheldon, associate director for the MIT App Inventor. "The excitement of students was remarkable as they realized how much agency they had in building apps quickly with MIT App Inventor."

Education that adapts and evolves

As technology continues to transform the workplace, there is a universal need for education to adapt and evolve. With research on learning assessment and efforts to build literacy in emerging fields like computer science, MIT is committed to working with schools to ensure that their students are future-ready. 

And with a strong commitment to technology programs at CRLS, students are already inspired. 

Jonathan Matsko, a senior at CRLS, has participated in these kinds of events throughout his high school experience. "I've always been interested in computer science, but this program has really helped," he said.

Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent Kenneth Salim said the school system hopes that the new event "will demystify a field that has historically lacked diversity, for students who represent one of the most diverse high schools in Massachusetts."

"Thanks to some innovative thinking by CRLS faculty and leading-edge contributions from MIT, this day should leave many students eager to learn more," he said.

Grad students win Urban Land Institute challenge

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 09:30 AM PDT

A redevelopment plan for a Cincinnati site presented by a team from MIT and Harvard University has won the 2019 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Student Competition. The annual ideas competition invites graduate students to devise a comprehensive design and development scheme for a large-scale urban site.

The 2019 competition tasked teams with creating designs, plans, and a development scenario for an actual site in Cincinnati. The site includes a central business district and the downtown riverfront bisected by a highway. Given this urban fabric, teams were challenged with integrating all of the spaces to create a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented, sustainable, mixed-use neighborhood.

The winning MIT-Harvard proposal, The CincyStitch, reimagines the riverfront not as the physical edge of the city but as the organizing center of a better-connected region. The CincyStitch uses four narratives themes — culture and history, public realm, transportation, and new economies — to craft its vision for strategically expanding the site and creating connections despite physical and historical barriers. Within the proposal, these themes describe an urban space that can be future oriented while maintaining deep connections to its history.

"We are very proud of the CincyStitch team," says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P). "The team is the embodiment of a defining characteristic of SA+P and MIT: the ability to gather talented individuals from diverse backgrounds to solve difficult problems."

Since 2003, the ULI Hines Student Competition has challenged students to collaborate across disciplines and imagine a better built environment. Groups of five students form teams to devise a development proposal for a real site in a North American city by providing designs, market-based financial data, and related narratives.

Team proposals were required to illustrate innovative approaches to five general elements: planning context and analysis; a master land use plan; urban design; site-specific illustrations of new development; and development schedule and finances. This year's competition involved 90 teams representing more than 40 universities in the United States and Canada. Four teams advanced to the final round of the competition that concluded on April 4.

"The jury was impressed with all of the teams in terms of the completeness of their presentations, the creativity, and all of the thought that went into their proposals," says ULI Hines Student Competition jury chairman Alex J. Rose.

"The MIT-Harvard team stood out because it demonstrated the greatest cohesiveness by an interdisciplinary team to solve an urban challenge requiring multiple disciplines," says Rose, senior vice president of Continental Development Corporation in El Segundo, California. "The team had a very clear strategy, an achievable plan, a clear and creative financial model, and a presentation that strongly supported and illustrated their plan."

The CincyStitch was led by city planning graduate student Joshua Brooks and included another team member from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), Alan Sage. Other team members included Department of Architecture student Zhicheng Xu, MIT Sloan School of Management student Shiqi Peng, and Matthew Macchietto of Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD).

Eran Ben-Joseph, professor and department head of DUSP, and Dennis Pieprz, a faculty member at the GSD and principal at Sasaki, were the team's academic advisors.  

"All of us, in our approach to urban design, planning, finance, architecture and landscape architecture, really think of cities as human habitat," Brooks says. "City building is something we consider as a calling, not just a profession. As we embarked on this assignment, we wanted to take a position on what we think cities should be, and our proposal does that."

Dylan Cable wins 2019 Hertz Fellowship

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 09:15 AM PDT

Dylan Cable's goal is to uncover the inner workings of vital biological processes. This aim may be a bit closer now, as he has just earned a prestigious fellowship from the nonprofit Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.

Cable is one of 11 scholars from nine U.S. research universities chosen from a pool of 840 applicants. The award, announced this week, provides recipients with up to $250,000 for up to five years. In addition to funding, the researchers are free from many of the constraints that other fellowships entail.

In making the announcement, David Galas, chairman of the Hertz Foundation's board of directors, noted, "It is increasingly challenging to get funding for truly scientific research, but it is even more so for young researchers to pursue their own ideas." The foundation supports "groundbreaking applied science with real-world benefits for all humanity."

A first-year PhD student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Cable grew up in Chicago, where he developed a deep passion for mathematics. This passion became his undergraduate major at Stanford University, where his exploration of neuroscience and biology convinced him that life science problems are the most important issues to solve.

Cable's current work involves improving physical methods for biological data collection and creating mathematical methods for biological data analysis. He regards data collection and analysis as inseparable and believes they must be interwoven to achieve deep knowledge of biological problems.

To win the Hertz Fellowship, Cable's application proceeded through a rigorous selection process in which a candidate must demonstrate a "background of leadership in research, achievement, and proven technical understanding of their field" in addition to academic excellence. During the unique interview process, the candidate must also demonstrate a capacity to think creatively and to "push the traditional boundaries of research."

Cable co-authored a recent article in the Journal of Neuroscience that examines whether single neuron recordings can be recorded from humans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a question with major implications for studying the human brain.

As he pursues his academic path, Cable joins approximately 20 other MIT graduate students completing their tenure as Hertz Fellows. He also has access to unique learning experiences with alumni scholars, entrepreneurs, and scientific leaders in the broader Hertz community. Former fellows have been honored with the Nobel Prize, the National Medal of Science, the Turing Award, the Breakthrough Prize, and the MacArthur Fellowship ("Genius Grant").

J-PAL North America’s newest initiative explores the work of the future

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 09:00 AM PDT

"The future of work will be determined by who yields power and for what purposes. We are in a moment of great transition — we have an opportunity to imagine what a new social contract can be," said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice and co-director of Caring Across Generations as she kicked off last Friday's launch of J-PAL North America's Work of the Future Initiative.

Gupta opened the confercence with a powerful call to action for participants to shift the narrative around "the future of work." The newest initiative from J-PAL North America, a research center in MIT's Department of Economics, the Work of the Future Initiative seeks to identify effective, evidence-based strategies that increase opportunity, reduce disparities, and help all workers navigate the work of the future.

Millions of workers throughout the industrialized and developing worlds could be affected by automation, rising inequality, stagnating educational attainment, and other labor market trends in the coming decades. Many workers lack access to jobs that pay living wages, have jobs with insufficient benefits or protections, or lack the necessary skills or education to progress within their industries in the face of technological change.

By spurring research on effective ways to help workers thrive in today's changing labor market, the Work of the Future Initiative aims to center worker voices and create a more equitable future of work. The conference addressed a number of big questions, including: How can the future of work be made more equitable, efficient, and just?

"J-PAL North America's Work of the Future Initiative was launched to catalyze rigorous research on these urgent questions," explained David Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT and co-chair of the new initiative.

Autor also serves as vice-chair of the Institute's complementary Work of the Future Task Force, a recently-launched group of MIT faculty and researchers exploring how emerging technologies are changing the nature of human work and what types of education and skills will enable humans to thrive in the digital economy.

The Initiative's academic leadership, including Autor, co-chairs Matthew Notowidigdo of Northwestern University, and J-PAL Scientific Director Lawrence Katz of Harvard University, recognized that across the country, policymakers, industry leaders, and social service providers are actively seeking solutions to labor market challenges.

Many well-intentioned, potentially effective ideas remain untested, however, leaving policymakers without the necessary evidence to assess what will be helpful, neutral, or harmful. Too often, academic researchers, government agencies, and nonprofit and industry leaders are working on these critical problems in isolation, and don't have the time or resources to tap into each other's expertise.

J-PAL's newest initiative seeks to fill this gap by generating new research to help answer these important questions. It will catalyze this kind of rigorous, actionable evidence through an innovation competition model and a researcher-facing request for proposals (RFP). 

The innovation competition is currently accepting promising research proposals from practitioners across the country, and will work with selected partners to develop a feasible, rigorous evaluation of a program or policy focused on the future of work.

Selected applicants will receive technical support from J-PAL staff, flexible funding to get an evaluation off the ground, and access to J-PAL's network of leading academic researchers to help them design and implement randomized evaluations of their programs.

Evelyn Diaz, president of Heartland Alliance and a panelist at the kick-off event, explained why this kind of rigorous evaluation is critical to an organization's success. "There is a fear of failure about evaluation, and we need to change the narrative," Diaz said. "The focus should instead be on how we are learning."

Those seeking to learn more about the competition are encouraged to sign up for J-PAL's informational webinar on June 26. Through the competition, along with a bi-annual, researcher-facing RFP, the initiative aims to generate actionable research on questions related to the future of work.

Meawhile, with conferences like last Friday's kick-off event, the initiative will also serve as a convener to bring together leading voices in the future of work space. At the kick-off, participants from academic institutions, nonprofits, philanthropies, and the private sector gathered to share insights, learn from each other's different experiences, and brainstorm solutions to complex research questions.  

Event highlights included a number of engaging, interdisciplinary panels on challenges and opportunities related to the work of the future.

Gupta and Katz, for example, participated in a lively discussion with Abigail Wozniak from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis on how to shift narratives around the future of work.

Later in the day, Notowidigdo presented key findings from his recent research agenda on the Work of the Future, co-authored by Autor and Northwestern University graduate student Anran Li, and an interdisciplinary panel of industry and nonprofit leaders and academic researchers provided thoughtful commentary on the research agenda.

Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, echoed the review paper's call for more rigorous research on these topics. "There is a lot of uncertainty about the effect of automation technology on employment. Setting up experiments that will be able to measure those effects is critical."

David Autor also presented innovative research on how work has — and hasn't — changed over time, and the implications of this research for worker well-being, and an interdisciplinary panel of researchers and practitioners discussed how they formed mutually beneficial research-practitioner partnerships.

To wrap up the day, J-PAL North America Executive Director Mary Ann Bates moderated a wide-ranging panel on the changing nature of work in the United States that included Katz, J-PAL affiliate Damon Jones, and Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy at the Walmart Foundation.

Bates' opening remarks on the motivating principle behind the initiative set the tone for the rest of the day's discussions. "The reason why we care about these topics is because of people," she said.

3Q: Setting academic parameters for the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 08:29 AM PDT

In February, the Institute established five working groups to generate ideas for different components of the structure and operation of the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing. Three community forums for all five working groups were held Wednesday, April 17, and Thursday, April 18. Troy Van Voorhis, the Haslam and Dewey Professor of Chemistry, and Srini Devadas, the Webster Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, are co-chairs of the Working Group on Curricula and Degrees, which is charged with studying how to develop new curricula for the college, what degrees should be shifted from their existing departments into the college,  what new degrees or other credentials might be created, and how to design dual-degree programs with existing departments. MIT News checked in with Van Voorhis and Devadas to find out about the group's goals, processes, and progress so far.

Q: What process has your working group undergone in preparing your report, and how many people have been involved?

A: We have about 15 members in the committee not including the co-chairs. All schools are represented, as are staff and students. We meet each week for an hour and there are email discussions between meetings. We started with naming ourselves CoC2 (College of Computing Committee on Curricula) and drafting an educational mission for the college. We have been refining our mission statement throughout our discussions.

We have had extensive discussions on how the college can provide a broad funnel for undergraduate and graduate students interested in computing by offering various types of credentials, including minors, joint degree programs, and certificates. During these meetings, we have discussed the pros and cons of current credentials, and members have proposed new variants that might better serve the needs of students.

At the graduate level, we discussed the Business Analytics Certificate in Sloan as an example of a structure that we might want to replicate in the college, but with a focus on computation. We have begun writing our report that is due at the end of the semester.

Q: Could you describe any areas that participants in the process have readily agreed on, or others that have turned out to be contentious?

A: We have focused primarily on pedagogical aspects thus far, and not on operational aspects, for example: faculty receiving credit for teaching courses jointly across the college and other schools; whether the college is responsible for all joint majors, as opposed to departments, etc. This is largely because these questions are clearly dependent on the eventual structure of the college and the responsibilities of faculty who are primary in the college and those that are affiliated. Given our timeline, it makes sense to visit these questions in a holistic manner after all the committees have written their reports.

Our discussions have been always informative and often passionate, but not contentious in the least. As an example, we were able to draft an educational mission that everyone largely agreed with in short order, and the ongoing refinement has been about getting nuances "right." Our meeting with the Societal Impact committee was productive and impacted our mission statement, and will impact our report.

Q: What do you see as the next steps once you finish your working group's report?

A: Provost [Martin] Schmidt, Dean [Dan] Huttenlocher, and the administration will determine next steps. First, the organizational structure of the college needs to be determined — in other words, what departments are in the college, and more important from our committee's standpoint, what degree programs will be the college's responsibility. A very important set of decisions relates to faculty appointments in the college and how credit for teaching classes in the college is assigned by departments within and outside the college.

There is some work that can proceed in parallel — for example, a new committee could engage the Committee on Curricula to discuss potential flexibility in the current restriction of "at most two courses in a minor can be used to satisfy a major requirement." The exploration of degree programs that offer a truly integrated experience across computation and another discipline is another possibility.