Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is the engineering school within Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and applied sciences (though its undergraduates are officially enrolled in Harvard College). Previously the Lawrence Scientific School and then the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School assumed its current structure in 2007. Francis J. Doyle III has been the School's dean since 2015.[3]

Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
HSEAS Seal New.png
Coat of arms
Former name
Lawrence Scientific School
Established1847; 174 years ago (1847)
Endowment$1.2 billion (2017)[1]
DeanFrancis J. Doyle III
Academic staff
148 faculty
685 researchers[2]
Location, ,
United States

In 2020 and 2021, SEAS will expand into the new Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) in Allston, across the Charles River from the main campus of Harvard.[4] The SEC will be adjacent to the Enterprise Research Campus in synergy with Harvard Business School and Harvard Innovation Labs.[5]

Recent investments have enlarged the School's faculty and upgraded its facilities. In 2019, Harvard was ranked third worldwide for Engineering and Technology by Times Higher Education.[6] The School has produced numerous research discoveries and many distinguished alumni.


Abbott Lawrence

The formation of the Lawrence Scientific School in 1847 marked Harvard's first major effort to provide a formal, advanced education in science and engineering.

The school was named for Massachusetts industrialist and entrepreneur Abbott Lawrence, who donated $50,000 (a then-unprecedented sum) to create the institution. While he did not attend Harvard, he had a long personal history with key faculty members such as Louis Agassiz and understood the value of science and engineering. In the letter that accompanied his gift, Lawrence explained his rationale for forming a school:[7]

But where can we send those who intend to devote themselves to the practical applications of science? Our country abounds in men of action. Hard hands are ready to work upon our hard materials; and where shall sagacious heads be taught to direct those hands?

James Emmanuel Jr. was the first dean and the early School hosted astronomers, architects, naturalists, engineers, mathematicians, and even philosophers.

The School's initial success did not escape the notice of other institutions, leading William Greenleaf Eliot, president of Eliot Seminary (later renamed Washington University) to declare in 1854:[8]

Harvard University is, at this time, gaining more credit and accomplishing greater good, by the Lawrence Scientific School than by any other agency. We need just such a school, here. Its effect would be to elevate mechanical, agricultural, and mercantile pursuits into learned professions. It would annihilate that absurd distinction by which three pursuits, of Law, Medicine, and Theology, are called professions, and everything else, labor or trade...

By the late 19th century, the School faced increasing competition from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was constrained by the uncertain views about its role and status by the long-serving Harvard President Charles William Eliot. Eliot was involved in at least five unsuccessful attempts to absorb MIT into Harvard.[9] As a result of such uncertainty, the Lawrence Scientific School became less of an independent entity, losing its influence and students to other parts of College and University.

In 1891, industrialist Gordon McKay designated the Lawrence Scientific School his beneficiary. In 1906, before the first payment from his bequest, Lawrence's scientific and engineering programs were incorporated into Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The School ceased to exist as an independent entity. Today, McKay's gift supports over 40 endowed professorships.

In 1914, a merger of MIT and Harvard's Applied Science departments was formally announced[10] and was to begin "when the Institute will occupy its splendid new buildings in Cambridge."[11] However, in 1917, the merger with MIT was canceled due to a decision by the State Judicial Court, so Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell moved to establish the Harvard Engineering School independently instead.[12]

In 1934, the School began offering graduate-level and professional programs in engineering. During World War II, Harvard participated in the V-12 Navy College Training Program to provide training for commissioned officers. In 1942, the undergraduate Department of Engineering Sciences changed to the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics to reflect an increased emphasis on applied physics. Harvard President James Bryant Conant created what was known as "Conant's Arsenal," a research hub for defense-related engineering projects including radar jamming, night vision, aerial photography, sonar, explosives, napalm, and atomic bomb research.[13] One notable project from this era was the Harvard Mark I computer; one of the first programs to run on the Mark I was initiated on March 29, 1944, by John von Neumann, who worked on the Manhattan Project at the time, and needed to determine whether implosion was a viable choice to detonate the atomic bomb that would be used a year later.[14] The Mark I also computed and printed mathematical tables, which had been the initial goal of British inventor Charles Babbage for his "analytical engine."

By 1945, Harvard income from government contracts was $33.5 million, the third highest among U.S. universities.[15] Between 1946 and 1949, the Graduate School of Engineering merged its faculty with the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics into the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences within the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In 2007, the Harvard Corporation and Overseers voted for the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences to change its name to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).[16][17] In 2015, Francis J. Doyle III, former director of the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, was appointed dean.[3] That year, the school was also renamed the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences following a $400 million gift by Harvard Business School alumnus John A. Paulson.[18][19]

Academic overviewEdit

Undergraduates can pursue programs in computer science (AB and as a secondary field), engineering sciences (AB and SB), biomedical engineering (AB), electrical engineering (SB), environmental science and engineering (AB), mechanical engineering (SB), and applied mathematics (AB and as a secondary field). SB options for environmental science and engineering as well as biomedical engineering are also available through the engineering sciences program; ABET accreditation is offered for all of the traditional engineering disciplines. Prospective undergraduates must apply to Harvard College (Harvard's undergraduate college encompassing all concentrations): once enrolled, Harvard College students may declare a SEAS concentration in their sophomore year.[20]

At the graduate level, the School offers master's and PhD degrees in areas including applied mathematics, applied physics, bioengineering, data science, chemical engineering, computational science and engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, design engineering, applied computation, environmental science and engineering, as well as materials science and mechanical engineering. In addition, graduate students may pursue collaborative options such as Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (with Harvard–MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology) and Systems, Synthetic, and Quantitative Biology (with Harvard Medical School).

As of January 2020, the School had 148 faculty members.[21] The faculty has particularly close ties (including joint appointments) with the FAS departments of Physics, Earth and Planetary Science, as well as Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The campus provides 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2) of interconnected labs, classrooms, clusters, and offices in six buildings.[22] In 2020 and 2021, SEAS is expected to expand into the new Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) in Allston, across the Charles River from Harvard's main location in Cambridge.[23] The SEC will be adjacent to the Enterprise Research Campus in synergy with Harvard Business School and Harvard Innovation Labs to encourage technology- and life science-focused startups as well as collaborations with mature companies.[24]

Areas of significant research focus include applied mathematics, applied physics, bioengineering, geophysics, computer science, electrical engineering, artificial intelligence, mechanical engineering, and computational neuroscience.[25]

Research highlightsEdit

Early 20th centuryEdit

  • 1919 – George Washington Pierce (PhD, 1900), Rumford Professor of Physics and director of Harvard's Cruft High-Tension Electrical Laboratory invented an oscillator that enabled a given radio station to stay "fixed" at a proper frequency and allowed multiple telephone calls to occur over a single line.
  • 1938 – A cyclotron was constructed at the Graduate School of Engineering's Gordon McKay Engineering Laboratory to support research in biology and medicine as well as physics. It was projected to be the world's largest such facility. In 1942, it was sent to Los Alamos for work on the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb.
  • 1944 – Howard Aiken '37 (PhD) developed the Mark I series of computers, the first large-scale automatic digital computer in the U.S. Around the same time, a new generation of technically trained students began to share their knowledge well beyond Harvard's campus. Alumnus and donor Allen E. Puckett SB '39, SM '41 created an endowed professorship at SEAS, went on to define modern aerodynamics, served as CEO of Hughes Aircraft Company, and won the National Medal of Honor in Technology.
  • 1952 – Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), the scientific foundation for MRI (used in modern medical imaging systems), was pioneered by Nicolaas Bloembergen, Edward Purcell, and Robert Pound. Purcell won the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery.[26]

1995 to 2006Edit

  • Stopping light – Lene Hau and her colleagues created a new form of matter, a Bose-Einstein Condensate, to slow light to 17 meters per second and later to bring a light beam to a complete stop, then restart it again.[27]
  • Unbreakable hyper-encryption – Michael O. Rabin embedded messages in rapidly moving streams of random digital bits in ways that cannot be decoded, even with unlimited computing power.
  • Black silicon – Eric Mazur's group created a new material that efficiently traps light and has potential use in solar cells, global warming sensors and ultra-thin television screens.
  • The mathematics of nature – L. Mahadevan and colleagues discovered how the Venus flytrap snaps up its prey in a mere tenth of a second by actively shifting the curved shape of its mouth-like leaves.
  • Atmospheric modeling – Loretta J. Mickley, Dan Jacob and colleagues found that the frequency of cold fronts bringing cool, clear air out of Canada during the summer months declined by about 20 percent. These cold fronts are responsible for breaking up the hot, stagnant air that builds up regularly in summer, generating high levels of ground level ozone pollution.
  • High speed nanowire circuits – Donhee Ham and Charles Lieber made robust circuits from minuscule nanowires that align themselves on a chip of glass during low-temperature fabrication, creating rudimentary electronic devices that offer performance without high-temperature production or high-priced silicon.
  • Double emulsions – A new microfluidics-based device made by David A. Weitz and colleagues at Harvard University and Unilever makes precisely controlled double emulsions in a single step. Double emulsions, or droplets inside droplets, could be useful for encapsulating products such as drugs, cosmetics, or food additives.

2007 and beyondEdit

  • Applied physicist Lene Hau caused a light pulse disappeared from one cold cloud then was retrieved from another cloud nearby. In the process, light was converted into matter then back into light.
  • A research team led by Mike Aziz and Earth and Planetary Sciences' Kurt House invented an engineered weathering process that might mitigate climate change.
  • Bioengineers including David Edwards collaborated with public health researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to develop a novel spray-drying method for delivering a tuberculosis vaccine that could help prevent the related spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing world.
  • Working with a team of Dutch researchers and software developers, SEAS computer scientists used a novel peer-to-peer video sharing application to explore a model for e-commerce that uses bandwidth as a global currency.
  • Rob Wood's team launched a robotic fly that could be used in everything from surveillance to chemical sensing.
  • MIT's Technology Review named the creation of light-focusing optical antennas (that could lead to DVDs that hold hundreds of movies) as one of their Top 10 emerging technologies for 2007.
  • Kit Parker's lab found that an elastic film coated with a single layer of cardiac muscle cells can semi-autonomously engage in lifelike gripping, pumping, walking and swimming.
  • Nan Sun and Donhee Ham built what may be the smallest complete nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) system to date in a 0.1-kilogram (0.22 lb) package.[28]
  • Engineers and applied physicists demonstrated the first room-temperature electrically pumped semiconductor laser source of terahertz (THz) radiation, also known as T-rays.
  • A team composed of Harvard students and alumni was among the winners of the World Bank's Lighting Africa 2008 Development Marketplace competition, held in Accra, Ghana. The innovation, microbial fuel cell-based lighting systems suitable for Sub-Saharan Africa, netted the group a $200,000 prize.[29]
  • In collaboration with SiEnergy Systems, materials scientists at SEAS have demonstrated the first macro-scale thin-film solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC).[30]
  • An interdisciplinary research effort investigated digitized text corpuses containing about 4% of all books ever printed in English, between 1800 and 2000. It was co-founded and co-directed by Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, whose prototype was instrumental in creating Google Ngram Viewer.

Notable alumniEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Numbers". Archived from the original on April 10, 2018. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "School Overview". Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard University. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b "A new dean for SEAS". Harvard. May 14, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  4. ^ O’Rourke, Brigid (April 10, 2020). "SEAS moves opening of Science and Engineering Complex to spring semester '21". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Our Campus". Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  6. ^ "Harvard is #3 in World University Engineering Rankings". 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  7. ^ "Abbott Lawrence". John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  8. ^ "Historical Profiles". John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  9. ^ Alexander, Philip N. "MIT-Harvard Rivalry Timeline". MIT Music and Theater Arts News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
  10. ^ "Tech Alumni Holds Reunion. Record attendance, novel features. Cooperative plan with Harvard announced by Pres. Maclaurin. Gov. Walsh Brings Best Wishes of the State". Boston Daily Globe. 1914-01-11. p. 117.
    Maclaurin quoted: "in future Harvard agrees to carry out all its work in engineering and mining in the buildings of Technology under the executive control of the president of Technology, and, what is of the first importance, to commit all instruction and the laying down of all courses to the faculty of Technology, after that faculty has been enlarged and strengthened by the addition to its existing members of men of eminence from Harvard's Graduate School of Applied Science."
  11. ^ "Harvard-Tech Merger. Duplication of Work to be Avoided in Future. Instructors Who Will Hereafter be Members of Both Faculties". Boston Daily Globe. 1914-01-25. p. 47.
  12. ^ President's Reports for 1917-18
  13. ^ Ireland, Corydon (10 November 2011). "Harvard Goes to War". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  14. ^ Cohen, Bernard (2000). Howard Aiken, Portrait of a computer pioneer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-2625317-9-5.
  15. ^ Downs, Donald Alexander; Murtazashvili, Ilia (2012). Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521192323.
  16. ^ "Harvard proposes to transform Engineering Division into a school". Harvard Gazette. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  17. ^ Harvard News Office. "Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences votes to change the name Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences to School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". News.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  18. ^ "Harvard receives its largest gift".
  19. ^ "John Paulson Gives $400 Million to Harvard for Engineering School". The New York Times. 4 June 2015.
  20. ^ "Liberal Arts & Sciences". Retrieved 2019-12-07.
  21. ^ "School Overview". Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  22. ^ "School Overview". Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  23. ^ Haili, Ruth A.; Jia, Amy L. (October 22, 2019). "SEAS Students Conflicted About Allston Expansion". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  24. ^ "Our Campus". Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  25. ^ "FACULTY & RESEARCH". Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  26. ^ "Edward Purcell". Magnet Academy. National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  27. ^ "Lene Hau".
  28. ^ "Palm NMR and 1-chip NMR". IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits. 46 (1): 342–352. Jan 2011. doi:10.1109/JSSC.2010.2074630.
  29. ^ "Undergraduates develop 'dirt-powered' microbial fuel cells to light Africa". Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  30. ^ Jazkarta (2011-04-03). "Materials scientists at Harvard demonstrate the first macro-scale thin-film solid-oxide fuel cell — Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Seas.harvard.edu. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved 2012-10-18.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 42°22′21.67″N 71°07′06.73″W / 42.3726861°N 71.1185361°W / 42.3726861; -71.1185361