Brown University School of Engineering

The Purpose of the Brown "Core" Engineering Program

The undergraduate engineering curriculum at Brown is centered on a "Core" set of science courses that we feel every engineering student should master, ideally in their first two years, regardless of their final concentration choice. This requirement may seem like an inconvenient distraction to those students who believe they know what they want to focus on early in their studies. Why do we do this? What is the value of the core, especially to a student who has a clear early view of what she or he wants to study?

First, the Core arose because all engineering fields are fast-changing, and the change is accelerating in the 21st century. The specific engineering topics you study today for your concentration will probably be out of date even a decade from now. So, how can we help you to be prepared and ready for the inevitable changes in technology that will confront you in the years ahead? A deep study of the Core courses in engineering, combined with the math, chemistry, and computer science courses we require, will give you the tools to handle any engineering problem that will ever confront you, no matter which direction technology or your career takes you.

For example, Engn 51 gives you a deep understanding of electromagnetic waves and phenomena, so you'll always be able to understand wireless, lasers, LEDs, antennas, telescopes, the nervous system, etc. Engn 04 gives you an appreciation for how bodies of all kinds move through space, how they are affected by forces, so you'll always be able to understand prosthetic devices, satellites in space, jets, etc. Engn 72 teaches you how energy flows through the world in a profound way, so you'll always be able to understand engines, windmills, and how biochemical reactions of all kinds work. We believe that our core curriculum will give you the tools to solve every scientific and technical challenge you will ever face in your career.

The second value of the Core is that it gives you exposure to all the domains of engineering during your first two years, before you settle on a concentration. We think this is valuable because we want you to have the flexibility to be able to go into any engineering concentration you want to after your first two years at Brown. The Core gives you this freedom, and it gives you the chance to delay this decision until the end of your second year at Brown.

The deep engineering core curriculum at Brown has been tested and refined over many decades, and generations of Brown engineers have used what the core gives them, in combination with deeper study in their concentration, to create fantastic careers in countless disciplines.