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Science & Engineering Profile

Be the architect of your educational experience at Brown.

Brown University is a leading Ivy League institution with a distinctive undergraduate academic program, world-class faculty, and a tradition of innovative and rigorous multidisciplinary study. Students at Brown are distinguished by their academic excellence, self-direction, and collaborative style of learning. A commitment to diversity and intellectual freedom has remained a hallmark of the University since its establishment. Brown is the only major research university in the nation where undergraduates are the architects of their own course of study. 

Brown’s unique Open Curriculum challenges students to define their own academic journey. Without distribution requirements, students have an unusual opportunity to pick their own courses and decide both how they will learn and how they will be evaluated for their work. Like students at other colleges, every undergraduate will eventually pursue a specific area of study (similar to a major; at Brown this is called a “concentration”) and will demonstrate excellence in writing. But at the same time, students at Brown have more opportunity to define their own education than students at any other American university. Students are excited by the prospect of exploring familiar and unfamiliar academic terrain, thereby testing their own intellectual limits. 

More than 2,000 undergraduate courses support over 79 concentrations, many of them interdisciplinary. A wide variety of independent studies and student-initiated courses are also popular. Undergraduates may pursue a Bachelor of Arts (AB), Bachelor of Science (ScB), or a combined Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science (AB/ScB) degree. Many of our departments also offer an optional Fifth-Year Master’s Program. 

Students at Brown are distinguished by their academic excellence, self-direction, and collaborative style of learning. Brown faculty are deeply committed to teaching, preeminent in their fields, and leaders in advancing knowledge that has broad scholarly, theoretical, and practical applications. Virtually all faculty members teach undergraduate courses. Small seminars give first-year students an immediate opportunity for an intimate learning experience. 


The Brown undergraduate Engineering program, established in 1847, is the oldest in the Ivy League and the third-oldest civilian program in the nation. In 2010 the program was transformed into the Brown University School of Engineering. This change in status represents a commitment to the expansion and growth of our faculty and facilities, as well as our goal of making significant contributions to the science and technology challenges our society faces.

The School continues in the Brown tradition, unusual among its peers, of making unique connections between the various engineering disciplines as well as other fields, including biology, chemistry, computer science, the humanities, medicine, physics, and the social sciences.

The undergraduate program is based on a common core of subjects that all Engineering concentrators follow during their first two years. In the first year, students conduct calculation-based design projects, giving prospective engineers a sense of the discipline while providing them with the scientific fundamentals needed for future study. In the second year, students typically take courses in other areas of engineering, such as materials science, thermodynamics, electricity, and magnetism. In addition to providing a solid understanding of these important engineering areas, these courses are designed to expose students to a broad range of engineering disciplines to provide a strong background for choosing a specialization near the end of the second year. We offer ABET-accredited ScB concentrations in Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Materials Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

In addition, students may pursue other Engineering ScB programs such as Engineering and Physics, Environmental, or an independent ScB degree. Graduates of the Brown University School of Engineering have exceptional placement rates: 42% industry, 29% engineering graduate school, 8% finance/consulting, 4% business/law/medical school, and 17% pursuing other endeavors.

Computer Science
Since its inception in 1979, the Com
puter Science Department at Brown has forged a path of innovative information technology research and teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. From modest beginnings as an interest group within the Divisions of Applied Mathematics and Engineering in the 1960s to its current stature as one of the nation’s leading computer science programs (as ranked by the National Research Council), the Computer Science Department has continuously produced many prominent contributors in the field.   

The undergraduate program is designed to combine educational breadth in practical and theoretical computer science with deeper understanding of specialized areas such as analysis of algorithms, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, computer security, computer systems, and theory of computation. Undergraduates often take at least one semester of faculty-supervised independent study, working either on a project of their choice or as members of a team on a faculty-sponsored research project. 

In addition to many other state-of-the-art facilities, our undergraduates have access to multiple parallel high-performance computer clusters and an Immersive Virtual Reality Cave, which are used for research and teaching. In 2011 the Computer Science Robotics Lab acquired the Willow Garage PR2, one of about a dozen of the latest generation of personal robots to be made available to colleges and companies worldwide.

Faculty-student collaborators
Renowned for the quality of its teaching, Brown’s faculty welcome undergraduate students as collaborators in research labs and in the field. Together they make important contribu
tions to the world through research and writing. 

Among the many bright stars on Brown’s faculty:

• James Head III, a geological sciences professor, has worked with a Brown research team in a project funded by NASA to discover evidence that melting glaciers spawned rivers on Mars. This development will allow Brown planetary scientists to now explore similar conditions on Earth.

• Professor J. Michael Kosterlitz is Brown’s newest Nobel Laureate. His pioneering work with David Thouless of the University of Washington led to the theory of phase transitions, known as the K-T transition, and has informed the understanding of a range of exotic materials, including topological insulators—materials that conduct electricity on their surfaces but act as insulators in their bulk. Materials like this could one day form the backbone of next-generation electronic devices and quantum computers. Unlike what often happens at other top research universities, Professor Kosterlitz remains a mentor and familiar figure in the classroom for undergraduates who take his statistical mechanics course.

• Amy Greenwald is a computer scientist and winner of the prestigious PECASE Award from the National Science Foundation for her research on how automated software agents can make decisions in uncertain environments. 

• Greg Tucker, professor of physics, was named among the world’s most highly cited researchers for 2014. Professor Tucker’s observational cosmology group studies the early universe by measuring the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and looking at the very earliest galaxies to have formed in the universe. 

Brown University makes available a variety of fellowships, grants, and independent studies through which undergraduates can work side by side with faculty members and graduate students exploring the frontiers of knowledge. These experiences are supported by internal University funds and generous grants from external donors. A $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute allows second- and third-year undergraduates to conduct intensive biomedical research in the University’s laboratories.

Some examples of research conducted by Brown undergraduates:

• Brown’s student-run team won gold at the International Genetically En-gineered Machines (iGEM) Competition for their project manipulating E. coli to cause it to glow bright green in the presence of lead.

• A rising sophomore doing summer research analyzed samples of lunar soil collected during the Apollo 17 mission. His discovery of crystals indicating an abundance of water within the moon’s interior led to publication as a second author in the journal Science

• A sophomore researcher investigated the synthesis and characterization of iron-doped and undoped carbon nanofibers. His samples are being tested for toxicity as part of a research project investigating the health effects of carbon nanomaterials. 

Admission and financial aid
Applicants use the Common Application to apply to the undergraduate College as a whole rather than to the School of Engineering or any science department. On-campus housing is guaranteed for all four years. If you still have questions, please contact us. We will happily connect you with faculty and administrators for more information. 

Brown has a need-blind undergraduate admission policy for US citizens and permanent residents. Need-blind admission simply means that an applicant’s ability to pay for their education will not be a determining factor in the admission decision. Brown actively strives to create a socioeconomically diverse applicant pool and undergraduate student body.




Bachelor of Science Degree Programs
• Applied Mathematics

• Biochemistry

• Biology

• Biophysics

• Chemical Physics

• Chemistry

• Cognitive Neuroscience

• Cognitive Science

• Computational Biology

• Computer Science

• Earth, Environmental & Planetary Sciences

• Engineering

• Environmental Studies

• Marine Biology

• Mathematics

• Neuroscience

• Physics

• Psychology

• Statistics