Applications areas of computers

June 17, 2014

Zone 2 Panel Computer

The core of the concentration is the area of application. Students are encouraged to define areas of applications that correspond to their area of greatest intellectual interest. Historically, most students in the concentration have chosen Economics as their application area. This is the most rigid option in the applied math concentration-as described below.

Students are encouraged to explore other areas of potential interest. Current concentrators have chosen application areas ranging from government, psychology, linguistics, sustainable development, astronomy or astrophysics, urban planning, chemistry, energy, theoretical neuroscience, and architecture. The rule of thumb in non-traditional cases is that of the five classes required for the Application section, in general three to five must have significant mathematical content, while the other two can provide needed background for the field.

If you are thinking of doing something unusual, you should prepare a draft of the courses you want to take, and also think through an intellectual justification for why this set of courses is intellectually coherent. You should then meet with the Director, Associate, or Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies to discuss your plans. Details are worked out on a case by case basis: in all cases the overarching principal is that the program should be intellectually coherent and prepare you for applying mathematical ideas in a substantive way to the area of application. In some cases it is easier to do this given Harvard's course offerings than others, and the availability of proper courses provides the fundamental constraint for what is possible.

To give you a general guide to the programs that students follow, we list here some of the areas of study that current or recent students have followed, including with them examples of approved plans of study. We are giving you this information NOT because you should copy the plans of study verbatim, but to give you ideas about the types of plans of study you can put together under this concentration.

Note: your transcript and diploma will not explicitly state your area of application.


The idea here is to combine an understanding of architectural practice with the scientific and engineering principles underlying architecture. The plan of study below combines two basic architecture classes with two classes in the engineering design of structures, and the fundamental mechanics of solids and fluids. Other possibilities include combining an interest in architectural acoustics with a study of acoustics and sound propagation.

Urban Planning

Here the notion is to combine study of decision theory and optimization with an interest in using these ideas for urban planning. In the case below, the focus is on water resource design and transportation policy.


Combining applied mathematics with astronomy or another similar physical science allows delving deeper into mathematical foundations, while maintaining a strong overview of the major concepts and methods.

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