Columbia’s tradition in engineering and applied science education traces back to the
chartering of King’s College in 1754. Steamboat inventor John Stevens graduated from the college a few years before the Revolutionary War, and DeWitt Clinton, the statesman responsible
for the Erie Canal, earned his Columbia degree in 1786. Columbia’s legacy of engineering
instruction continued in the nineteenth century and was formalized in 1864 with the founding
of the engineering school, the third oldest in the country.
As the Engineering School has diversified and grown, it has built an enduring reputation as a center of research excellence in select fields and as Alma Mater to generations
of alumni who have shaped academic departments and industrial research programs
across the country. In 1997, Z.Y. Fu and The Fu Foundation announced a gift of $26 million,
designed broadly for “support of engineering excellence at Columbia,” and more specifically
for support of faculty and the enhancement of interdisciplinary research in areas of emerging
Retrospectively, I appreciate Columbia far more than I thought possible; conversations with friends, both recent graduates and not-so-recent graduates, seem
to indicate that this is the norm. It is rare that one appreciates the intangible
lessons and experiences of life—especially as an undergraduate—while they are
being taught; rather one looks back to treasure the good times and internalize the
experiences. SEAS exposed me to a rigorous technical engineering program, as
well as an insightful liberal arts curriculum, but it also taught me to be
resourceful and to be prepared to walk through any doors leading to opportunity.
An immediate measure of the benefits of the naming gift from The FU Foundation has
been the addition of more than forty-five new faculty members, representing a fifty percent
increase within the past decade. While the faculty has grown, class size has not increased, so
an already impressive student-to-faculty ratio has gotten even better, and now stands at 10:1.
Many doors were opened for me as a result of attending Columbia. I not only
earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering, I alsoreceived an education from an
institution that demands its graduates enter the world with knowledge beyond
the confines of their discipline. When talking with friends about Columbia, it
was unanimous—being part of Columbia is a huge milestone in each of our
Entertainment and relaxation are definitely important aspects of a
Columbia education, but taking a break from lectures, laboratories, and studying does not necessarily mean defaulting to the neighborhood bar or campus
party. The Columbia experience truly encompasses the principle of diversity in
every sense of the word.
Since the founding of the school in 1864 as the nation’s first engineering school within
a liberal arts college, the University has always placed engineering and applied science in its
broadest intellectual context. The school’s graduates, shapers of industrial and academic programs across the country, have been educated, not trained.
From their first days as undergraduates, Columbia’s engineers work to master scientific
fundamentals, problem-solving, and original thinking. To give the broad perspective necessary
for a successful career, first and second year undergraduate students take courses from different disciplines within the University that include Columbia’s famed Core Curriculum in the
humanities as well as professional courses in individual engineering disciplines. Columbia
SEAS is committed to educating the whole person to ensure students have both the fundamental technical knowledge and the professional skills required to participate in this rapidly
changing technological environment. This integrated approach to engineering education
begins from the start of the first year.
Engineering Design and Community Service
The course Design fundamentals using advanced computer technologies, also known
as the Gateway Lab course, is the epicenter of the engineering student’s early experience at SEAS. All first-year students take this course, either in the first or second semester. Taking advantage of the many nonprofit organizations within New York City, students
have the opportunity to learn significant technical, professional, and communications skills
while working on real-world projects for the community. Columbia Engineering is the only
engineering school in the country that has a required first-year course with a community
service component. Some of the projects so far have included designing playground equipment for children with disabilities, developing a mixed-use bus stop that monitors the envi-
ronment for asthma-related causes, and a space design for a recording studio in a local
community technology center.
The course focuses on the fundamental engineering design processes and application of
computer technologies (such as three-dimensional graphics and Web applications) using the
Botwinick Gateway Laboratory, a multimedia interactive facility with gigabit of network speed
at each desktop. In addition to learning the technical components of design, students develop
specific professional skills, such as making compelling and precise presentations, problemsolving, project management, collaboration, and team management. Students experience what
they would be doing as engineers in various fields.
Choosing a branch of engineering or applied science is an important decision for both
the student’s academic program and future professional career. To support these
important decisions, SEAS students focus on five major areas of technical inquiry: engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science. To support their decision
process, students are required to take at least one professional-level course. The courses
are designed to acquaint SEAS students with rigorous intellectual effort in engineering and
applied science early in their academic careers. Among the courses are:
- Physics of the human body
- Introduction to computational mathematics and physics
- Engineering in medicine
- Molecular engineering and product design
- Design of buildings, bridges, and spacecraft
- Earth resources and the environment
- Introduction to electrical engineering, with laboratory in circuit design
- Engineering graphics
- Atomic-scale engineering of new materials
- Mechanical engineering:micromachines to jumbo jets
Undergraduate Research Involvement Program
At SEAS, the faculty takes an active role in research, which is funded by both private
and government sources. Faculty members view student involvement in research as
part of the educational process and actively encourage it. By becoming involved in research
programs, students develop critical skills necessary to participate in future research
endeavors. Each year, the list of research opportunities grows and the choices across all
engineering and applied science programs are numerous. Recent research opportunities
have included topics in
- nanoscience and nanotechnology
- in vivo mechanical signal transduction in bone tissue
- design and characterization of enzyme-catalyzed proton exchange membrane fuel cells
- developing high-performance durable fiber-reinforced concrete products for both architectural and structural applications
- software and hardware projects in the Columbia Robotics Lab
- prediction of flood, hurricane, and drought risk using climate forecasts
- video compression and streaming for interactive TV and Internet-based applications
- creation of novel atomic-scale magnetic materials
- design and fabrication of instrumentation for testing of MEMS devices and other micro-systems.
One of the great attractions of an undergraduate education at a research university is
the range of resources it provides, including the vast array of programs of study it
offers. SEAS currently offers fifteen majors, several disciplinary and interdisciplinary
minors, and the ability to choose either engineering or liberal arts minors.
Departments and Majors:
- Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. Majors: Applied Physics, Applied Mathematics, Materials Science and Engineering
- Biomedical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering. Majors: Civil Engineering, Engineering Mechanics
- Computer Science. Majors: Computer Science, Computer Engineering
- Earth and Environmental Engineering. Majors: Earth and Environmental Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering
- Electrical Engineering. Majors: Electrical Engineering. Computer Engineering.
- Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. Majors: Engineering and Management Systems, Industrial Engineering, Operations Research
- Mechanical Engineering
In response to student interest, Columbia Engineering now offers minors in several liberal arts subjects as well as the opportunity to qualify for New York State Teacher
Certification through the Barnard College Education Program. Currently, nonengineering
minors are available in the following additional areas of study: American Studies,
Architecture, Art History, Economics, Education, English and Comparative Literature,
French, French and Francophore Studies, Greek or Latin History, Music, Philosophy,
Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology, and Spanish.
Admission to Columbia University’s FU Foundation, School of Engineering and Applied
Science (SEAS) is highly competitive. Either SAT or the ACT is required. Additionally, SAT
Subject Tests are required in the areas: Mathematics (either level I or II), Chemistry or
Physics, and Writing. For students taking the new SAT with writing, or the ACT with writing,
students are not required to take the SAT II Subject Writing test. In addition to the standardized examination requirements, it is expected that each applicant has had sufficient preparation in high school to maintain competitive standings while enrolled at Columbia. It
is recommended that the high school preparation courses include:
- mathematics courses including calculus
- one year of chemistry
- one year of physics
- four years of English
- three to four years of history or social science
- two to three years of a foreign language
In addition to coursework requirements, in consideration for admission to SEAS, a writ-
ten evaluation from a guidance counselor or college advisor is expected. Also expected as part
of the applicant’s file are two recommendations from teachers of academic subjects, including
one from a mathematics teacher. A personal essay is also a required part of the application.
As in most other aspects of life at Columbia, admission is based on balance. Academic
standing alone is not the only attribute used to measure a student’s potential to be a successful and integral member of SEAS. While Advanced Placement or honors placement in high
school are important factors, also weighted is the applicant’s extracurricular activities record
as well as evidence of special talent. Further, a substantive and sincere interest in engineering should be demonstrated.
Life as a student at CU was probably far different than life would have been
had I attended any other school. Before joining the CU community, I thought
college would simply be an extension of my academic career. I had visited the
atypical New York City green campus only a few times, but for some reason I
always felt comfortable and excited while on campus. Columbia has prepared
me academically and socially. Most of all, Columbia has been responsive to both
technological changes and social changes providing effective tools to approach
life with an open mind and great enthusiasm.
Admissions is need-blind for U.S. citizens. U.S. permanent residents, Canadian citizens,
and persons granted refugee visas by the United States. This means that applications are
reviewed without regard to whether students are able to pay for the total cost of attending
SEAS is committed to meeting the full need of all applicants admitted as first-year stu-
dents. Certain limitations apply, however, in the case of transfer students. Although transfer
admission is need-blind, financial aid resources for transfer students are limited. Therefore,
SEAS is unable to meet the full need of transfer applicants, with the exception of students who
enter the Combined Plan Program and those who transfer from Columbia College.
The Combined Plan Program for undergraduates offers students from affiliated schools
across the country the opportunity to earn both a B.A. in a liberal arts field from their home
institutions and a B.S. in engineering from SEAS in five years.
SEAS assesses the information applicants provided to the Office of Financial Aid and
Educational Financing to determine how much a family is expected to contribute to college
costs. The resulting “family contribution” will include both a “parental contribution” and a
“student contribution.” If the calculated family contribution is less than the cost of attendance, aid is awarded to make up the difference.
Only students who demonstrate financial need are eligible for financial aid. Except for
the unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan, all institutional and federal aid is need-based. The
financial aid package may contain a combination of Federal Stafford Loans, Federal Work-Study, and Federal Perkins Loans.
There are no academic, athletic, or talent-based institutional scholarships. While
Columbia students are often the recipients of merit-based scholarships from outside organizations, nothing merit-based is offered directly from the school.
Foreign students should note that the admissions process is need-blind only for U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, Canadian citizens, and persons granted refugee visas by the
United States. At this time, financial aid for foreign students who do not fall into one of these
categories at SEAS is very limited. However, each year several foreign aid students are admitted to Columbia with a financial aid package that covers one-hundred percent of educational
expenses. Because the SEAS community is so small, foreign applicants who need financial aid
must be considered on a case-by-case basis; candidates should be aware that such awards may
not be possible every year.
The engineering curriculum at Columbia is definitely demanding. Equally as demanding is participating in all of the extracurricular activities that might catch your eye. In addition
to all of the commonly available activities on college campuses, such as sports—both
varsity and intercollegiate—group publications, and student government, there are many
active, thriving groups on campus. Various cultural groups, which welcome all students, organize spectacular fashion shows, buffet dinners, and dances that are known to sell out. There
are also drama, comedy improv, and a cappellagroups on campus to help satisfy your yearning to perform.
In addition to activities that offer entertainment and cultural education, there are
groups that enable CU students to fulfill their need to help others. The Community Impact
programs organized on campus are not only an important part of CU’s community but the
Morningside Heights community as well, providing tutoring to younger students of the neighboring schools, peer counseling, and numerous other services.
My social life was easily extended beyond the borders of our green campus
bounded by the iron gates. The theater is only minutes from campus. Cuisine of
almost any culture is only a hop, skip, and jump away. Any music—from classical at Lincoln Center to jazz down in the Village to rock played by various CU
bands just across the street at the local hangout—can be heard in a heartbeat.
Major sports arenas are just a subway ride away. The abundance of activities
available in New York City always left me wishing I could be in more than one
place on a Saturday evening.
Graduates of Columbia University’s Engineering School pursue various endeavors after completion
of their undergraduate degrees, the most obvious being
the practice of various disciplines of engineering. Many
of the SEAS graduates go on to graduate school to continue their engineering education or to obtain professional degrees. Numerous SEAS alumni also can be
found in business consulting and Wall Street positions.
The education offered at the School of Engineering and
Applied Science is far more than information handed
to its students, rather it is a tool provided to each of its
graduates enabling them to acquire, process, analyze,
and dispense information given any circumstance.
I don’t think students realize what they are getting each day that they are sit-
ting in class, studying in their rooms, programming in Gussman lab, or just
talking with their professors. Only five months after graduating, I experienced a
tremendous epiphany: Columbia has intensified my desire to learn and share
my knowledge with all those around me. Everyone at Columbia has a thirst for
knowledge, but you will know you have chosen the right place to continue your
education when you can say your desire for knowledge has grown.
- Jeffrey Bleustein, President and CEO of Harley Davidson, Inc.
- Ed DiGiulio, President, Cinema Products Corp.
- Joseph Hoane, Software Engineer for IBM’s Deep Blue Development Team
- Robert Merton, 1997 Nobel Laureate in Economics
- Pete Slosberg, Founder, Pete’s Brewing Company
- Greg Smith,Chief Investment Strategist, Prudential Securities
- C.J. Tan, Senior Manager of IBM’s Deep Blue Development Team