MS in Design Engineering at Harvard

The Master in Design Engineering is a two-year program launched in fall 2016. This program was introduced by Harvard University to prepare the next generation of leaders. These leaders will come up with transformative solutions that improve the society. Fields of engineering and design have been integrated in this program to address the world’s biggest challenges.

Global warming, rapid industrialization, and depleting resources have become big challenges for the entire mankind. These issues can only be mitigated through deep understanding, which will allow the researchers to realise the underlying problem architecture. This would enable the researchers to come up with innovative and multifaceted solutions that transcend disciplines and scales. This program will prepare the MDE graduates belonging from diverse backgrounds to collaborate and use their creativity and analytical ability to get to strategically sound solutions.

It is a collaborative degree provided by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). The students will spend the first year at GSD and the second year at SEAS, so as to learn from the best in both schools. This program is structured to encourage dialogue in order to find feasible solutions to complex problems that are social, natural and informational in nature. Studying abroad can enhance your career.

Exploring Harvard

There are many facilities and resources that are provided to the students at Harvard, beyond the GSD and SEAS. Opportunities related to extracurricular activities and academic support are also provided to students at Harvard. Harvard Office of Sustainability provides funding to the students for the summer projects.

The students who enrol in the MDE program get the chance to access resources at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). The facilities include studio space, fabrication labs, libraries, and faculty. Beyond SEAS and the GSD, students have access to many resources within the Harvard community.

Beyond Harvard

Harvard is located in Boston, which provides a wealth of opportunities to the students. There are many wonderful venues in Boston that have something to offer to everyone. The richness of intellectual life outside Harvard further ensures ample opportunity for research and academic collaboration, including MIT, where MDE students can choose only a limited number of electives.

Course objective

The objective of the MDE program is to transform students into critical thinkers, managers of complexity, and strategists capable of providing comprehensive assessments and solutions related to interdisciplinary problems that are socio-political, economic, ethical, and technical in nature. The design engineering toolkit encompasses multi-layered analytical approaches, networked objects and environments, soft and hard infrastructures, and strategic plans, all of which can be applied to address grand challenges and mitigate threats to our built and natural environment.


Only those candidates will be considered for admission, who are ready to tackle the world’s most complex challenges. The requirements for admission are as follows:

1. At least two years of work experience in fields like engineering, design, business, government etc.

2. A degree in design, engineering, sciences, social sciences, or a related field.

3. Must demonstrate technical literacy (see below) and multidisciplinary design interests. Applicants must submit project descriptions. Applicants must have a vast number of interests and able to embrace lessons in a fast-paced, interdisciplinary setting, which relies on collaborative efforts. Applicants will also be required to submit a brief essay, in which they will address complex problems, domain of interest, and ways to utilize this degree to achieve their goals.

Technical literacy includes mathematical skills in calculus, statistics and experience in coding applications and advanced computer simulation tools. The students who do not possess sufficient experience can take some online courses to enhance their technical knowledge. Skills and software central to the Collaborative Design Engineering Studio will be taught in a preterm workshop.

GSD and SEAS faculty form a joint committee to evaluate every application. The suitable candidates for the program will be selected on the basis of demonstrated qualities, statement of purpose, letter of recommendation, and the submitted portfolio.

While the Master in Design Engineering is a collaborative degree program between the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the admissions process is administered by the GSD.

Career services

On-campus employment

MDE students are eligible for several types of positions at the GSD, SEAS, and other Harvard schools, and may work part-time while in the program. Positions include research assistantships with faculty, centres, and/or labs, teaching assistantships for GSD courses, and teaching fellowships for SEAS and FAS courses. While there are numerous opportunities, student skill sets and initiative are critical to obtaining a position.

Summer internships

Many students choose to pursue an internship in the summer between academic years. The MDE program does not offer internship placement but does offer and facilitate various opportunities with the External Advisory Board. The program has also partnered with Amazon to offer up to four internships per summer, dependent on strength and fit of student applications.

Students are eligible for GSD programs such as Community Service Fellowships, a program through which students apply for summer employment fellowships in agencies/organizations that address issues that serve the public interests of communities.

Post-graduation employment

MDE graduates go in directions as diverse as their backgrounds and projects. To learn more about the paths graduates took while in the program, and where they’re heading, visit the alumni page.

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