Interdisciplinary doctoral degree

Established interdisciplinary degree programs

A graduate student may apply to enter one of the following established interdisciplinary doctoral degree programs, supervised by a special standing committee of the faculty:

  • Computational and Systems Biology (CSB)
  • Computational Science and Engineering
  • Health Sciences and Technology (HST)
  • Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Operations Research
  • Polymers and Soft Matter
  • Transportation

Individually tailored interdisciplinary degree path

A doctoral student may also propose an individually tailored path whose boundaries overlap two or more departments. The student should consult with the departmental graduate officer or the chair of the graduate committee of the department in which they are registered; together, they can identify those members of the faculty and research staff most appropriate for membership on this proposed interdisciplinary thesis committee. The chair of the proposed committee must be an MIT faculty member; total committee members should number between three and five. Additional guidelines should be applied from the student’s department of registration regarding makeup of the advisory committee and similar administrative matters.

A proposal should be drafted including:

  • The student’s educational background.
  • The student’s relevant work experience.
  • Details of the proposed program of study, including relevant coursework, educational objectives, and thesis proposal (or a preliminary draft).
  • A specific thesis field that has been approved by all thesis committee members.

The interdisciplinary degree proposal should be reviewed, revised, approved and signed by all proposed members of this committee. This proposal should then be attached to a graduate student petition form and submitted to the Graduate Officer of the student’s department of registration for transmission to and approval by the Office of Graduate Education.

The Office of Graduate Education will formally approve the program and appoint the interdisciplinary committee. Thereafter, this committee is responsible for:

  • setting and evaluating a general examination consisting of both oral and written parts at such a time and in such a manner as the committee shall approve;
  • supervising the research program;
  • administering the thesis examination;
  • and finally, recommending to the department of registration that the doctoral degree be awarded.

When the thesis is complete, it must be submitted to the student’s department of registration for acceptance. A single degree will be conferred by the student’s department of registration, with a degree field specific to the student’s approved program of study (see example below).

Example wording for a diploma awarded for interdisciplinary doctoral study to a student in Civil and Environmental Engineering who completed a dissertation spanning the fields of civil and environmental engineering and earth, atmospheric, and planetary science:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology upon the recommendation of the faculty hereby confers on [student name] the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in recognition of scientific attainments and the ability to carry on original research as demonstrated by a thesis in the field of computational science for energy resources engineering given this day under the Seal of the Institute at Cambridge in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.