The Program

As a global society, we face complex challenges that demand innovative, multi-faceted solutions, which can only flow from work across diverse disciplines and scales to dissect, understand, and address the human and system elements. The Master in Design Engineering (MDE) program was collaboratively conceived and built by two schools—the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)—to address these critical needs by training a new generation of innovators.

The GSD has a long, distinguished history of producing the world’s best designers of buildings, landscapes, and urban environments, while SEAS has long cultivated excellence in engineering, foundational science, and innovation. The MDE program combines GSD methods of analysis, visualization, conceptual inquiry, and open-ended exploration with the rigor and quantitative power of the engineering disciplines at SEAS to address problems far beyond traditional design and engineering fields.

"GSD faculty have worked for years with material scientists, chemists, and zoologists from SEAS and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. During this time, we learned that combining engineering and design opens up entirely new opportunities for rethinking today’s challenges. Now is the time to take this approach, greatly expand it, and educate highly motivated individuals to lead the most innovative teams that seek solutions for challenging, multi-layered problems.”

-Martin Bechthold, MDE Program Co-director, GSD-

"At the beginning of the 20th century, the industrial revolution catalyzed fundamental changes in society and gave rise to a new generation of leaders with different skills and perspectives. Now, in response to fundamental changes catalyzed by the computing and information revolution, we are hoping to educate the next generation of leaders in the MDE program..."

- Woodward Yang, MDE Program, SEAS-

MDE Facets

The two-year, four-term MDE program encompasses engineering and design as well as economics, business, government regulation and policy, and sociology. Students take the equivalent of four courses per semester over two years, complemented by a series of public lectures and intimate discussions with prominent innovators, designers, and thought leaders in business and industry. During the second year, students complete an Independent Design Engineering Project (IDEP) on a topic of their choice. The MDE pedagogical model is geared toward enabling synergies that emerge through the collaboration of an interdisciplinary cohort. The instruction further emphasizes collaborative problem-solving.

The MDE program offers the opportunity for high-caliber students to become thought leaders in a variety of roles in industry, government, NGO's, and academia. MDE graduates are able to understand and communicate the architecture of complex problems; they study and engage a variety of situations with the technical and critical skills needed to design new forms of intervention and mitigation.

The MDE program teaches and expects students to develop practical, comprehensive prototypes to address real-world questions such as:

Food Samples
Food Ritual

What is the future of food in the context of global warming, the explosion of the world’s population, and the need to deliver quality food that is affordable?

Magnolia Lane Title
Magnolia Lane Store
How can industries responsible for mass pollution, such as the fashion industry, be reinvented to reduce waste, improve the economic condition of workers, and satisfy the everyday consumer?
Cartographic Project
Cartographic Project 2

In cities faced wtih rapid urbanization, how can technology be affordably deployed to inform decisions by policymakers and improve the quality of life?

Health Projects
Health Projects 2

How can the healthcare delivery system be transformed to yield better outcomes at lower cost?