John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
HSEAS Seal New.png
Coat of arms of the School
Former name
Lawrence Scientific School
Type Private
Established 1847
Endowment US$990.9 million (2015)[1]
Dean Francis J. Doyle III
Academic staff
80 full-time
Undergraduates 892 (Fall 2015)[1]
Postgraduates 441 (Fall 2015) [1]
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Campus Urban

The John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is a school within Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). It offers programs in engineering, applied sciences, and technology. The dean of the school is Francis J. Doyle III.

SEAS has close ties to the College[2] and undergraduate programs,[3] the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences[4] and expanding links across the physical and life sciences.[5]

Academics and research[edit]

Undergraduates can pursue programs in Computer Science (AB and as a secondary field), Engineering Sciences (AB and SB, both of which are ABET accredited) and Applied Mathematics (AB and as a secondary field).

At the graduate level, the Division offers SM, ME and PhD options covering interdisciplinary research areas including: Applied Mathematics, Applied Physics, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Science and Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. In addition graduate students may pursue collaborative options: Engineering and Physical Biology (with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences); Science, Technology and Management (joint with HBS); Medical Engineering and Medical Physics; (Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology); and Systems Biology (with Harvard Medical School).

Faculty number approximately eighty [6](73 FTEs) who account for nearly $40M in annual research funds (2007/8 figure). The faculty have particularly close ties (including joint appointments) with the departments of Physics, Earth and Planetary Science and Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The facilities provide 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2) of interconnected labs, classrooms, clusters and offices in six buildings.

Areas of particular research focus include Applied Mathematics, Applied Physics, Bioengineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Renewal and growth[edit]

  • Faculty – SEAS expanded its faculty from around 50 in academic year 1998 to more than 70 in 2008 (with 87 total participating faculty).[7] This was directed at renewing and strengthening traditional and foundational disciplines such as applied mathematics and applied physics; building capacity in areas such as electrical engineering and computer science; and nurturing emerging areas such as bioengineering and nanotechnology. SEAS significantly increased faculty diversity in terms of both racial and ethnic background as well as country of origin.
  • Education – From 1998-2008 undergraduate enrollments in SEAS’s three concentrations—Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering Sciences—ranged from 300 to 400. The graduate student population grew from ~150 to over 350. The number of applications to graduate level programs has nearly tripled over a shorter period, from 454 in 1997–1998 over 1300 in 2007–2008. SEAS admits about 13 percent of applicants.
  • Research – Sponsored research increased more than 60 percent from fiscal year 1998 ($20.6M) to FY 2007 ($37.5M). Grants included government awards for interdisciplinary initiatives, such as the NSF-sponsored Materials Research Engineering Center (MRSEC) and the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC), to Harvard-initiated efforts such as the seed-funded Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS). Recent foundational gifts include those from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2005 ($7.6M) to support research on needle-free vaccination and from the Kavli Foundation in 2006 (over $7M) to support an initiative in bionano science and technology.
  • Industry and entrepreneurship – Monies generated from partnerships with industry increased from slightly over $100,000 in 1998 to ~$2.5M in 2007. Several faculty-based start ups, including SiEnergy, a spin-off that aims to commercialize solid oxide fuel cell technology, received initial funding. In 2007 the BASF Advanced Research Initiative (more than $20M over five years) was established to pursue projects in areas such as materials science. Finally, the SEAS-based Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH) sponsored its first university-wide entrepreneurship competition.
  • Finance – Pledges, outright gifts and matches to SEAS from alumni, friends and support from corporation and foundations, totaled nearly $100M from 1998-2007, including the completion of the $45M SEAS Challenge Fund in 2005-6. As of 2008 the SEAS endowment reached $1 billion.
  • Facilities – As of 2008 the SEAS campus included almost 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2) of classrooms, teaching and research labs and research centers and administrative space—approximately doubling over the prior decade.


Abbott Lawrence
Abbott Lawrence.jpg

The formation of the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University 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 enjoyed the pursuit of and understood the value in science and engineering. In the letter that accompanied his gift, Lawrence explained his rationale for forming a school:

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.

The 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:

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...

— William Greenleaf Eliot, president of Eliot Seminary, [9]

While the School initially thrived, by the latter decades of the 19th century the institution faced increasing competition from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, founded in 1861) 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 his former employer (MIT) into Harvard.[10] 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. The American inventor, engineer and entrepreneur was best known for machinery that revolutionized the shoe manufacturing. 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. (McKay's gift still supports over 40 endowed professorships).

On March 10, 2009, Cherry A. Murray, a former executive at Bell Laboratories and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,[11] was appointed dean, effective July 1, 2009. She also became the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences.[12] At the end of 2014, she resigned and returned, after a sabbatical, to teaching.[13] She was reappointed as Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy and Professor of Physics.[14]

On June 3, 2015, the school was renamed the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, following a $400 million gift by Harvard Business School (HBS) alumnus John A. Paulson.[15][16]

On May 14, 2015, Francis J. Doyle III, a distinguished scholar in chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and director of the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, was appointed Dean, effective August 1, 2015. Doyle succeeded Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, who had served as interim dean since the end of 2014.[17]

In February 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).[18][19] In September 2008, "Engineering a Renaissance”[20] was held to mark the creation of Harvard’s first new school in seven decades.

Evolving structure[edit]

  • 1906 – Lawrence Scientific School was dissolved and the undergraduate and graduate programs separated; the graduate engineering program was incorporated into the Graduate School of Applied Science.
  • 1918 – The Harvard Engineering School was established. The School was authorized to offer the BSc, MSc and a doctorate degree.[21] The immediate cause for the establishment of the School was a decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1917, outlawing the arrangements reached with MIT in 1914. Lowell wrote stated, "[In 1917] negotiations looking to cooperation were proceeding with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was found, however, impossible to reach any agreement mutually satisfactory on the basis of a separate Harvard Faculty and therefore our School of Engineering has been opened without any connection of this kind."[21]
  • 1934 – Graduate-level and professional programs were initiated.
  • 1942 – The undergraduate Department of Engineering Sciences’ name changes to the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics to reflect an increased emphasis on applied physics.
  • 1946-1949 – The Graduate School of Engineering merges its faculty with the undergraduate program, (the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics), into the Division of Engineering Sciences within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
  • 1951 – The Division of Applied Science is formed from the merger of the Division of Engineering Sciences and the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics.
  • 1955 – Division of Applied Science name changes to the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics.
  • 1975 – Division of Engineering and Applied Physics name is changed to the Division of Applied Sciences.
  • 1996 – Division of Applied Sciences name is changed to the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  • 2006 – Harvard proposes to transform the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences into the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  • 2007 – The Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers officially ratifies the transition to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  • 2015 – The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is renamed to the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Research highlights[edit]

20th century[edit]

  • 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 US. 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 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 and the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Paul C. Lauterbur (University of Illinois, Urbana) and Peter Mansfield (University of Nottingham, School of Physics and Astronomy Nottingham, United Kingdom) for work leading to MRI imaging.

1995 to 2006[edit]

  • Stopping light – Lene Hau and her colleagues created a new form of matter, a Bose-Einstein Condensate, to slow light to 17 miles an hour and later to bring a light beam to a complete stop, then restart it again.
  • 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—droplets inside droplets—could be useful for encapsulating products such as drugs, cosmetics, or food additives.
  • 1999 – Steven A. Ballmer and Bill Gates financed the construction of the Maxwell Dworkin Laboratory—the building is named after Ballmer's and Gates's mothers.[22]


  • 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.
  • Bio-Engineers, including David Edwards and public health researchers at the School of Public Health developed a novel spray-drying method for preserving and 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.[23]
  • 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.
  • In collaboration with SiEnergy Systems, materials scientists at SEAS have demonstrated the first macro-scale thin-film solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC).[24]
  • An interdisciplinary research institution that investigates 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.


Simon Newcomb, Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and a leader in mathematical astronomy, graduated in 1858. Charles Sanders Peirce, who created America’s greatest legacy in modern philosophy (pragmatism), graduated in 1862. While staying for less than a year, the future doctor, psychologist and author William James enrolled around the same time, before switching to medicine.


  1. ^ a b c The Numbers | Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  2. ^ "Harvard College". Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  3. ^ "Academics Harvard College". Archived from the original on August 1, 2009. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  4. ^ "Home - The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences". Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  5. ^ Harvard News Office (2006-09-14). "Bloxham named FAS divisional dean". Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  6. ^ "Harvard University | Best Engineering School | US News". Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  7. ^ Jazkarta (1997-01-01). "Talking Points — Intranet". Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  8. ^ "Abbott Lawrence". John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard. Retrieved January 27, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Historical Profiles". John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard. Retrieved January 27, 2017. 
  10. ^ Alexander, Philip N. "MIT-Harvard Rivalry Timeline". MIT Music and Theater Arts News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2014-07-07. 
  11. ^ Jazkarta (2009-07-01). "Cherry A. Murray — Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  12. ^ Walsh, Colleen (2012-04-05). "Harvard Gazette". Archived from the original on March 23, 2009. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  13. ^ "Murray To Resign as SEAS Dean at Year's End". Harvard Crimson. October 29, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2017. 
  14. ^ Jazkarta. "Cherry A. Murray — Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  15. ^ "Harvard receives its largest gift". 
  16. ^ "John Paulson Gives $400 Million to Harvard for Engineering School". The New York Times. 4 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "A new dean for SEAS". Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  18. ^ "Harvard proposes to transform Engineering Division into a school". Harvard Gazette. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008. 
  19. ^ 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". Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  20. ^ Powell, Alvin. "Harvard christens School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Harvard Gazette. Archived from the original on June 23, 2010. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  21. ^ a b President's Reports for 1917-18
  22. ^ "Our Campus TEACHING, RESEARCH, AND ADMINISTRATIVE SPACES". Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. President and Fellows of Harvard College. 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  23. ^ "Palm NMR and 1-chip NMR". IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits. 46 (1): 342–352. Jan 2011. doi:10.1109/JSSC.2010.2074630. 
  24. ^ 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". Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 

External links[edit]

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