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MIT student blogger Mitra L. '07

MEng (Masters of Engineering) by Mitra L. '07

Learn about the masters plans of Phil '05 and Laura '06.

Interested in different paths you can take to get a masters degree? Consider the stories of Phil ’05 and Laura ’06.

Phil ’05 (who got his undergrad degree last year in Course 6: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) stayed a fifth year at MIT this school year to earn his masters in engineering.

Phil got his masters from the Program Analysis Group (PAG) –, but he strongly encourages you to check out a complete listing of all the groups. (Right, Phil?)

What is the M.Eng. Thesis?

The thesis requirement gives students an opportunity to develop and demonstrate their ability to carry out and document a reasonably comprehensive project requiring considerable initiative, creative thought, and a good deal of individual responsibility. The thesis may be a design project, an analytical paper, or experimental work of a technical nature.

M.Eng. theses normally involve one or more of the following:

1. Design of a system followed by construction, test, and evaluation;

2. Formulation of an analytical or computational model of a system or process, simulation of the model, and comparison with actual data;

3. Development of a computer program that might:

a. simulate a real system (e.g. Artificial Intelligence);
b. aid in a diagnostic procedure;
c. provide sophisticated, real-time analysis of measured data;
d. develop and analyze a theory or theorem which is an abstraction or idealization of an actual process or system;
e. apply some of the standard methods (of communication theory or control theory, for example) to aid in understanding of a process or system.

4. Experimental study of physical phenomena.

For more frequently asked questions about the MEng thesis, check out the official MIT website.

From Phil,

The Course 6 MEng program is an extra year of study only available to MIT Course 6 undergraduates who want to earn a Master of Engineering degree in addition to their Bachelor of Science degree. There are two main components to the degree – Graduate-level classes and a Master’s thesis. An S.B. (Bachelor of Science) degree is pretty much only based on classes, and most of those classes are introductory survey courses intended to give the student an overview of different areas within EE and CS. The graduate classes required for an MEng degree require the student to study a particular area in depth, which might be the area that the student’s thesis is in. Many students take graduate courses as undergraduates in order to reduce the courseload during their 5th (MEng) year, but doing so is not mandatory. In general, the MEng program is a great deal because you can get a Master’s level degree in 1 extra year (instead of 2 if you apply to another school), and you don’t need to really apply for it (you automatically get in if you have above a certain GPA by the end of your junior year). Philosophically, the MEng program is geared mostly for people who want to work as engineers in the high-tech industry (at companies like Google, Microsoft, Linear, Analog Devices, etc.), which is why it’s called a Master of Engineering degree and not a Master of Science degree, but of course there are people who graduate with an MEng and continue on the academic path for their Ph.D.

This is the website for Course 6 academic programs (not just limited
to MEng):

(Above, Phil has some fun at the notorious .)

One of the many perqs of being a graduate student (heh), according to Phil, is the opportunity to be a TA (teaching assistant). This semester, Phil TAed 6.170: Laboratory in Software Engineering. The class website even links to information about repetitive stress injuries (RSI), so you know TAing it has to be a barrel of fun.

6.170: Laboratory in Software Engineering, reputed as one of the most
intense and time-consuming classes in Course 6, is a course where
students learn software engineering concepts through programming
problem sets and a group final project. 6.170 is not an introductory
programming course (for an intro. programming course, see 1.00: Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving); it
uses programming as a tool to teach concepts for building, maintaining, and debugging large, sophisticated software systems.
The final project, done in groups of 3-4, gives students the chance
to build a moderately-sized piece of software in collaboration with
teammates. Examples of final projects include Gizmoball (a
customizable pinball game), Antichess (a variant of chess), and an
RSS reader (for viewing online news). Each semester, the staff picks
one or more of these projects and allows students to choose among
them. Most 6.170 survivors who work as software engineers in
industry (e.g., companies such as Microsoft or Google) cite it as one
of the most educational and useful classes they have taken at MIT.

Phil is now off to Stanford University, where he plans to earn a PhD in computer science.


Laura ’06 (Course 1: Civil and Environmental Engineering) decided to head to UC Berkeley after finishing her undergraduate degree at MIT to earn her masters degree in transportation systems. There are several masters programs in the CEE department at MIT, but Laura wanted to experience a change for her masters program:

What made you want to go to a different school for your masters?

I had time to take lots of grad classes and was very involved in my department, so I already knew all the professors, attended weekly meetings with the transit group, watched thesis presentations, attended weekly lunch guest speaker seminars, worked on a grad student’s thesis as a UROP . . . so I kinda feel like I already got a lot out of MIT’s grad program. While I could have gotten a head start on my thesis had I stayed at MIT (plus, I would have had the advantage of already knowing all the profs, getting some classes out of the way, just knowing all the ins and outs of the dept), because I had already become so involved, staying for grad school wouldn’t have been a change at all, and I needed a change. Also, it will be good to see what other professors are working on, see a new part of the country, meet new students, etc.

(Above, Laura has some fun in the rainforest.)

How has MIT prepared you for your internship/the masters program at Berkeley?

I am incredibly well prepared for grad school because of my own initiative, [but] not as well prepared for internships because MIT expects you to learn how to use the programs engineers use at work on the job, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, students from other schools almost always already know how to use the programs.

(You may remember Laura from Melis’s entry about her UROP and summer in Italy.)

7 responses to “MEng (Masters of Engineering)”

  1. Mollie says:

    Don’t forget that Phil won a ridiculously competitive NSF fellowship to pay for his PhD! I think he also won a NDSEG (or whatever the initials are for that one).

  2. Ayush Gupta says:

    Mitra, what is the significance of the suffix (’06) or (’07) in the name of the students of MIT? Does it signify the passing year or the year of admission?

  3. Mitra says:

    Hey Ayush, that’s a good question. The suffix refers to the person’s graduation year — for example, I would be “Mitra ’07” because I will graduate next June.

  4. Naga Pradeep says:

    Thanks a lot mitra!….i have been following your blog past 1yr….I am making my attempts to get into the Bachelors of Electrical Engineering or The Physics….and this info would really help me!

    thanks once again!

  5. Thanks a lot of mitra!…I have been following your blogs past 1year…. I m making my attempts to get into bachelors of Computer Science and engineering …And this info would really help me!

    Thank once again with a lot of loves!