Majors at Harvey Mudd
The major builds depth and technical competence in a chosen field. Majors at Harvey Mudd emphasize a broad-based, interdisciplinary approach to equip our students with problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt to any challenge. Coursework comes alive with project-based experiential learning and graduate-level research opportunities. You’ll finish your major by completing real-world research (thesis) or a Clinic project. Throughout the entire curriculum runs an emphasis on developing strong oral and written communication and excellent computational skills.
The biology program prepares graduates for further study and employment in biology and related fields. Biology graduates work in molecular genetics, neurobiology, mathematical ecology, medicine, epidemiology, plant physiology, bioinformatics, pharmacology, biotechnology, systems biology, veterinary medicine, forensic science, evolutionary biology, science teaching, science writing and other areas.
The Harvey Mudd biology major, in conjunction with the common technical Core, provides the topical breadth that is the foundation of modern biology and the intellectual depth that enables students to understand how discoveries in the life sciences are made and communicated. A set of required biology courses provides a broad foundation in biology. Building on this foundation, each student, in consultation with a biology faculty advisor, selects a group of advanced biology and related technical courses that introduce a life sciences sub-discipline in depth. In addition to Harvey Mudd courses, students may draw upon the extensive course offerings at Pomona College, the Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps colleges, the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences and the California Botanic Garden.
The curriculum of our chemistry program, approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS), provides both a broad background in the five traditional sub-disciplines of chemistry (analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic and physical) and an in-depth study of chemistry that builds upon these foundational areas. Because chemistry is an experimental science, substantial laboratory work and research experiences are part of the curriculum. The chemistry program is a comprehensive, rigorous curriculum to prepare students for professions in both traditional chemistry areas as well as cutting-edge interdisciplinary fields.
The computer science major starts with a set of foundational courses, which provides a broad exposure to many areas of computer science and further develops fundamental competence in programming, logic, algorithm analysis and computer structure. MATH055 HM is taken to develop skills in discrete mathematics that are needed for advanced computer science areas. CSCI070 HM improves the students’ depth of programming competence and exposes computer science students to a diverse array of data structures and analysis techniques. CSCI081 HM introduces the mathematical foundations of computer science, particularly logic, automata, and computability theory, and demonstrates their applications to problems of practical significance.
The kernel courses build on the foundation. CSCI105 HM develops a deep understanding of computer structure and its relationship to correct and efficient program implementation. CSCI123 HM focuses on the technical, organizational, and communication skills needed to support longer-term computing projects with a team. CSCI131 HM investigates the concepts underlying a wide variety of modern programming languages. CSCI140 HM develops fundamental skills needed to design and analyze algorithms for a variety of applications.
Topics such as concurrent and parallel computing, software testing, programming style, maintainability, software tools, etc. are horizontally integrated across the CS curriculum. Finally, the broad array of computer science electives (more than 20 elective and seminar courses) allows students to achieve more specialization in areas of personal interest.
The philosophy of the engineering program at Harvey Mudd College is based on the recognition that there is a professional component that is best addressed through practice gained by working on real problems. The engineering program is a general engineering degree, which enables graduates to communicate across disciplines through the use and understanding of mathematics and systems-based analysis, and design effective and innovative solutions to discipline-specific problems. Our goal is to graduate students capable of solving real problems that span multiple engineering disciplines. This goal is realized through our three main curricular areas of focus (design, systems, and engineering science), as well as through our emphasis on professional practice. We teach a rigorous theoretical and broad background in these three areas of focus. Layered on this broad-based education is a professional practice component, which is realized through hands-on experiences in the classroom throughout the program, research opportunities, and our junior/senior capstone industry-sponsored Clinic projects.
A mathematics degree from Harvey Mudd College will prepare students for a variety of careers in business, industry or academics. Mathematical methods are increasingly employed in fields as diverse as finance, biomedical research, management science, the computer industry, and most technical and scientific disciplines. To support the academic and professional goals of our majors, we offer a wide selection of courses in both theoretical and applied mathematics. This selection is enhanced by courses offered in cooperation with the other Claremont Colleges, including graduate courses at the Claremont Graduate University.
Students will have opportunities to do mathematical research with faculty through independent study, a summer research experience, or their senior capstone experience. Active areas of mathematical research at Harvey Mudd and The Claremont Colleges include algebra, algebraic geometry, algorithms and computational complexity, combinatorics, differential geometry, dynamical systems, fluid mechanics, graph theory, number theory, numerical analysis, mathematical biology, mathematics education, operations research, partial differential equations, real and complex analysis, statistical methods and analysis, and topology.
In 2002, Greene was the first student from an undergraduate-only institution to receive the Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student.
The physics program at Harvey Mudd College provides depth and breadth in both classical and modern physics through lecture-discussion courses, laboratories and joint student-faculty research. The program is designed to serve as a strong foundation for graduate work or employment in physics and other technical fields.
A set of core courses is required of all physics majors; in addition, a variety of elective courses enable students to select a program to suit their interests and their educational and employment objectives. Laboratory courses in both introductory and advanced physics include experience with electronics, classical and modern optics, solid-state physics, and atomic and nuclear physics. Special courses and reading courses provide the opportunity for study in advanced areas normally offered only in graduate programs.
Each student is encouraged to do individual experimental or theoretical research in an area of her or his special interest, in conjunction with a faculty member. Current student-faculty research areas include observational astronomy, astrophysics, atomic physics, biophysics, computational physics, field theory, general relativity and cosmology, geophysics, laser and high-energy-density physics, magnetism, particle physics, quantum optics, quantum theory, soft-matter physics, and solid-state physics. In some of the optional programs, physics majors may elect to do research in biology or chemistry or participate in computer science, engineering, mathematics or physics Clinic projects.
Chemistry and Biology
Important opportunities are emerging at the interface of chemistry and biology. The joint major in chemistry and biology provides an organized framework in which students will be able to appreciate the biological context of their research questions and master the chemistry fundamentals that underlie the properties and reactions of biomolecules.
The chemistry and biology joint major comprises several areas of study, including biochemistry, molecular biology, chemical biology, bioorganic chemistry, as well as other specialized areas at this interface. The joint major enables students to effortlessly move back and forth between chemistry and biology, and make connections and have insights that are difficult to obtain without a thorough training in both fields.
Chemistry and Climate
The Hixon Center will be primarily responsible for the advising of the joint majors and will be developing new courses, including a four-course series: Climate Dynamics, Climate Impacts, Climate Interventions and Climate Contexts. The Climate Contexts requirement is fulfilled through HSA coursework, including newly funded courses in religion and climate, anthropology and climate, and human geography and climate.
New faculty members in the Hixon Center are already creating and offering new courses, including Climate Dynamics and Games for Climate Literacy, and plans are in the works for additional courses, including The Chemistry of Oceans and Atmosphere, and Plants and Climate.
Computer Science and Mathematics
The joint major in computer science and mathematics is cooperatively administered by the computer science and mathematics departments, and students will have faculty advisors from both departments. The purpose of the joint major is to provide a program of study tailored to students who are interested in the interdisciplinary connections between computer science and mathematics. Depending on how electives are selected, the program positions successful majors for graduate studies in either computer science or mathematics, or for immediate employment.
The joint computer science and mathematics degree program has various components: the kernel courses in computer science and mathematics; more advanced courses in computer science and in mathematics; Clinic; and electives.
Computer Science and Physics
The computer science and physics departments cooperatively administer the joint major in computer science and physics, and students will have faculty advisors from both departments. The joint CS-physics major will serve students whose interests lie at the intersection of physics and computer science. Students will learn about advances in quantum computing and information science and how computational tools such as high-performance computing or machine learning enable discoveries in complex physical systems.
The joint computer science and physics degree program has various components: the kernel courses in computer science and physics; more advanced courses in computer science and physics; a Clinic or physics thesis; and electives.
Mathematical and Computational Biology
Mathematical and computational methods are vital to many areas of contemporary biological research, such as genomics, molecular modeling, structural biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, neurobiology and systems biology. Conversely, biology is providing new challenges that can drive the development of novel mathematical and computational methods.
Harvey Mudd students interested in the interface between biology, mathematics and computer science may pursue the mathematical and computational biology major, which is jointly administered by the biology, mathematics and computer science departments.
This major prepares students for graduate studies in areas including applied mathematics, bioinformatics, computational biology, genome science, mathematical biology and diverse areas of biology, as well as employment in industry.
Harvey Mudd’s Core curriculum provides mathematical and computational biology majors with a strong multidisciplinary foundation, and the College offers many opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary research in biomathematics, computational biology, and quantitative biology.
Students who choose this major become immersed in the scientific and intellectual cultures of biology, computer science,and mathematics, and the major is sufficiently flexible to allow students to concentrate in a particular area of interest. Students in this major have one advisor from the biology department and one advisor from either the mathematics or computer science departments. The advisors will jointly help the student plan a coherent program tailored to the student’s interests and goals.
Mathematics and Physics
The fields of physics and mathematics have been closely intertwined, with significant influences on each other, for hundreds of years. Numerous courses and research programs at Harvey Mudd draw heavily on both disciplines. The joint major in mathematics and physics highlights the intersections between physics and mathematics while preparing a student with solid foundations in both fields. Graduates of this program should be well positioned for further study in physics or mathematics, or for immediate employment.
The major is cooperatively administered by the mathematics and physics departments, and students have faculty advisors in both departments. Students complete courses from the mathematics and physics major sequences, as well as a required course in computational techniques relevant to the field. Each student must complete a capstone (thesis or Clinic), which may be chosen from either department’s offerings.