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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Notes From The Middle Of Selection by Ben Jones

What interdisciplinary fields will exist 100 years from now? What will people be able to major in in 2105?

Hi everyone! Just finally got caught up with answering your questions here and over at College Confidential. Haven’t had much time to hang out on the web, as we’ve been in selection committee since last wednesday.

Though it’s been a lot of work, I’ve been having a lot of fun. Selecting the class is one of the most rewarding moments of the admissions cycle. I only wish we had room at MIT for more of the amazing people on the table.

So while we’re buried in the committee room, here’s a topic I’ve been thinking about that’s open for discussion.

The announcement of MIT’s new Biological Engineering major got me thinking. The number of majors we offer has grown over time as a result of advancements in science and technology, as have the number of concentrations within those majors.

Compare the general biology major of yesteryear with today’s, for example. Now there are concentrations in Biochemistry, Biophysics, Bioengineering, Cell Bio, Computational and Systems Bio, Developmental Bio, Genetics, Immunology, Molecular Bio, Microbiology, Neurobiology, Plant Bio, Structural Bio… the list goes on.

My question: what are your predictions for 100 years from now? (Considering the exponential nature of recent history in the information age.) What will people be able to major in in 2105?

34 responses to “Notes From The Middle Of Selection”

  1. nghi says:

    whoo hoo i’m first to comment!

  2. nghi says:

    100 years from now people will won’t have to major in anything because we would have a small chip for every type of knowledge and we can have it install into our supercomputer brain smile

    I think there will be major like biochemphysics, bioelectrical engineering, biomechanical engineering, bioneuropsychopharmacotherapy, etc.

    The majors will get more specific and more interdisciplinary. I love interdisciplinary majors; they teach you how to see a problem from two viewpoint.

  3. Jane W says:

    Ah, finally it is no longer the day before selection begins. New majors in 2105? Nanotechnology, Nanotechnology in Medicine, Gene Sequencing, and probably a lot of things we can’t even dream of at this point.

  4. Ben says:

    What about theoretical physics? I’m thinking that advances in theoretical physics could lead to humanities majors like “inter-time relations.” grin

  5. Thinking about the future is really cool…I think that psychology will become more neurophysiology (under the same name) and we’ll have something like a developed psychologic analysis.
    Maybe in theoretical physics we can have a major like interdimensional engineering as a research.
    Yet there is a distinct possibility that something entirely new will come, such as fluid energon (we’ll realize that quantum is incorrect in the new view of things…)

  6. Jane W says:

    Good point about the theoretical physics. Although I may have watched too much Star Trek, if superstring theory is correct, it might be possible to manipulate strings and be able to copy matter, such as a person, and reproduce them elsewhere, as a “transporter”. But at this point, that’s moot as we don’t even know if strings exist.

  7. bz says:

    100 years just boggles the mind tongue laugh. More short-term, do you think MAS will have a undergraduate major sometime soon? (that would be really cool :-D)

  8. viggy says:

    Mr. Selection Warrior (SWAT) – ok 1 serious question – why is there an international students quota?

  9. Wendi says:

    adaptation engineering – engineering to help human and other creatures live on other planets and in other galaxies…including manipulating the human body (through ‘ethical’ means) and the environment under which they will live

  10. Well, what exactly is real?


    But in all seriousness, I think it’s going to move into much more theory-based physics and math and computer science rather than the application-based majors we have now. I think employers will be looking for theoretical and creative thinkers who can adapt themselves to anything rather than those who have been trained in specifics.


  11. Kathy says:

    I was reading “Advice for a Young Investigator” by Santiago Ramon y Cajal, and he called “discovery” something that links two pre-existing ideas that were thought to be separate. By extension, more and more discoveries will link the science subjects (example: biochemistry, biophysics, or the string theory).

    He argued that eventually, there’ll be enough grand discoveries that all of the sciences will integrate. So maybe in 100 years, all these majors will just become “science”?

  12. Katie says:

    “Quantum Computer Science and Engineering”

    or, there just won’t be a difference between that and regular CS.

    If a ‘theory of everything’ could ever finally be established, who knows about theoretical physics.

    Definitely in the next 100 years organ cultivation for transplants will be common (sooner if stem cell research would become more acceptable in the US).

    Even though new discoveries link different areas of science, I doubt that they’d all come together as one major. More likely it would cause even more splitting of disciplines – but with more collaboration between them. And, there will always be the distinction between the applied and theoretical scientists smile

  13. Shahab Umer says:

    How about Spiritual Biology?

    *May get some flames here* But don’t we do everything for our souls? We are constantly in the process of satisfying the whims of our souls.

    I can’t believe no one has said… extra terrestrial Biology! With so many space projects bent upen finding signs of life on other planets, I wouldn’t be surprised if this major is being offered at MIT in the future! Imagine if life on another planet is, say, silicon- or sulphur-based instead of carbon!

  14. Aneesh says:

    Mechatronic Engineering <- but Waterloo Univ has already started that major :p

    Basically there will be more specialised majors available at the undergrad level, but I have this gut feeling : not many ppl will opt for them (its better to do some basic Enginnering Program for undergrad and then do specialised stuff for masters)

    hey Ben one question: I’ve been to Afghanistan a couple of times, did some awesome stuff there. But I didnt mention this on my app (coz I wanted to aviod any Visa troubles), so should I update my app??

  15. Ben says:

    Aneesh – too late to add anything to your app at this point, unfortunately. Sounds like a cool experience though!

    Viggy – one of the big reasons is that we are need blind (we make all decisions without any knowledge of a student’s ability to pay) and we commit to meeting every admit’s demonstrated financial need. International students tend to be very expensive to bring here in a lot of cases, so we are limited in how many we can afford to admit. There are probably some other factors but I think that’s the major one.

  16. Jeremy says:


    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  17. Aneesh says:

    “Aneesh – too late to add anything to your app at this point, unfortunately. Sounds like a cool experience though!”

    I know. Maybe I’m hoping you get to read my app, then atleast you’d know :D

  18. Stevo says:

    I think I read in Technology Review something about creating artificial lifeforms and/or tweaking old ones with ease in the future. So maybe Genome Engineering? Not sure about the Physical Engineering though, especially when you think about phrenology, the world being flat, all the disproved ideas of the past. String theory doesnt bode well for me, but of course that’s only an opinion.

  19. Kiersten says:

    I read a book called “This Alien Shore”, and in it every person had a computer wired into his/her brain – this of course caused a lot of trouble because it was like the oldest people in the population had the ability to play pong, while the youngest of the population had PS2s in their heads. Perhaps majors in the field of neuro-computer hardwiring will be available…I really hope not, it seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. Plus if you get a virus you are very, very screwed.

  20. Nerd says:

    “You know what would be really cool? A nuclear-powered car. Yeah. That would rock.”

    Whenever my Physics professor reads a comment like that he says -> “That’s the problem with teaching Nuclear Physics in High School”


    btw Ben, nice blog.

  21. Ben, I can vouch for your wearing a tie to work. When I dropped by on a suprise visit at the admissions office last summer at 8:15 in the morning, you were working diligently at your desk wearing a tie. I think I *could be a SWAT team inspector!!!

  22. amrik says:

    I think that Mechanical Engineering will evolve closer to Mechatronics Engineering because of the increased degree of automation and electronic control in mechanical systems. University of Waterloo has an awesome mechatronics program!

  23. David says:

    Wow… that’s a tough question to ask. It really is. I can imagine our tech-savvy equivalents in the year 1905 drooling over STEEL (!) reinforced boiler plates for “horseless carriages” or marveling at toilets or running water.

    As most people have noticed, technology seems to be about jamming as much as possible into the smallest package. It would be neat to have robots like those in “I, Robot” (minus the whole world-domination thing), and personal aircraft (read: flying cars) would be pretty nice too.

    And as for predictions, hopefully a longer life will be obtained through biochemical means, we might be able to pick and choose physical characteristics of our grandchildren, and cars will hopefully become more efficient.

    You know what would be really cool? A nuclear-powered car. Yeah. That would rock.

    Hopefully in the year 2105, our great-grandchildren will be able to major in… Weaponry manufacturing and engineering. Probably because humans are hopelessly violent. :(

  24. Simion says:

    I hope I will not say something strange, but I think first of all, in a 100 years, it would be great to have humans at all. I love CS and math, actually this is what I am mainly interested in, but I hope that people will start thinking more about there souls, not about how to make their body more comfortable. I think progress is good, but as long as we also take care of our inner world. Ok, maybe this was all too pesimistic smile, so what can I say, Life is good, but a good life is better.
    Good luck to everybody!

  25. Meder says:


    well, before looking into the future, let’s look into the past. what was the MIT of 1905?
    classes were more general.. studying Chemistry, I don’t think that one had to concentrate on c-c bond formation. so, in hundred years majors should get more concentrated. something like, “robototechnics” is quite possible… yeah, I guess, EECS will break into a number of different majors.
    people will have some problems with energy and climat in that days, so, energetical majors would also be popular. Global Warming will play its role…
    theritical physics… string theory seems to end the theoritical physics with theory of everything (TOE) and people, again, will have concentrate on smth inside of TOE.
    anyway… it’s always interesting to think about the future but it seems that ideas just don’t stop coming. I have smth like 10M ideas right now.. but gotta go!

    Good Luck with your decisions, guys!!!


  26. NoCreativity says:

    Rap-ology?? smile studying rap music as a cultural phenomenom?? well mass manufacture outkast and eminem and subliminally brainwash the world so that america will be forever powerful and we can all live like big brother.. muahahha! I dunno.. i’m being stupid.

    Anyhow, Ben…Ben… have you read you my app? I hope you get to read my app. remember how you read the essay a couple months ago? i emailed it to you. anyway, if u don’t.. tell everyones.. that i just found out imma be valedictorian and… i just won a 500 scholarship for being first place student in the academic decathlon in my county.. here in the OC. woot woot.. anyone here know about academic decathlon?? i know houston texas has it.. cuz my cousin does that there.. hehe that was a random thought.

  27. What good is a theory based thinker if they can’t apply what they think?

    I think we could travel through time… my theory’s pretty good…

    We all know how well that’s done. On the other hand, if people didn’t start really understanding the theory behind fluid dynamics, it would have been a heck of a lot harder to have space ships sixty years after our first flight. It’s all about balance.

  28. Ben says:

    I love all of your ideas guys.

    I’ve been thinking about fire lately. How little we really understand it. Seems like the widespread forest fires get worse and worse each year. In the way that an EMP can take out the power of multiple city blocks, someone needs to invent something similar for fire. Get working on that asap, okay? grin

    NoCreativity – your app and I did not cross paths. :-( I’m sad that I don’t get to see so many folks in selection.

    Katharine – you were here and you didn’t say hi?!? Oh no! :-(

  29. Some forest fires are needed, though. Some plants can only reproduce after being burnt- weird but true. The problem is that we can’t control it very well, and that people out west don’t seem to realize (or aren’t informed) that you can’t live ten feet from a forest that reproduces by going up in smoke every couple of years or so.

    A fire EMP though- that would be awesome. It would also make the fires spread by bombings easily doused, reducing the collatoral damage. Plus, you know, civilian uses.

  30. NoCreativity says:

    noooooooooooooooooo! :(. drats. he did not read it. i was hoping for sympathy from you… i wont get in now… time to go sit around.

  31. NoCreativity says:

    we need something that adds a bunch of electrons to the oxygen molecules in our air.. and there is ur emp. full valence shell = no reactivity.. but then our glycolysis wont work because our electron donator will be gone :( and we will all suffocate and die.. guess that idea goes down the drain. aiya… i shouldn’t do BME after all. =P

  32. NoCreativity says:

    hence rap-ology.. because we can just groove to some hiphop rb and meditate while we’re grinding against our friends and getting jiggy to da beat! woot woot! raspberry

    mit should have a dj-ing class. i want to start a club for that. would be so fun.

  33. Kledia says:

    MIT has biological engineering as a major?! When I told people (especially during interviews) that I wanted to major in biological engineering, they just stared at me! I knew I didn’t like biology as a pure science and loved the concept of engineering but no one – any where – had heard of biological engineering so I always had to defend my choice. This is truly amazing. Now I have to get accepted tongue wink

    Thanks for the update Ben.

  34. jpsi says:

    We would have more time for delibarations, since many new inventions attempt at better efficiency, and specifity.

    Some possible majors:

    Use of knowledge

    Selection of information and searching studies

    Intelligence and mental abilities

    Increasing motivation studies.

    Sports and P.E. teaching

    Chemical and physical security [??]