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First-Year Discovery Subjects

The subjects listed below were created specifically to help first-year students discover majors, minors, concentrations, and topics of interest.

All first-year students are encouraged to take one or more of these subjects even if they feel that they already know their intended major. These subjects also count towards the 6 units for discovery and related exceptions rather than the normal first-year credit limit, making it easy to fit one or more of them into your schedule. 

Spring 2024

2.000 Explorations in Mechanical Engineering – 2 units

Broad introduction to the various aspects of mechanical engineering at MIT, including mechanics, design, controls, energy, ocean engineering, bioengineering, and micro/nano engineering through a variety of experiences, including discussions led by faculty, students, and industry experts. Reviews research opportunities and undergraduate major options in Course 2 as well as a variety of career paths pursued by alumni.

3.000 Coffee Matters: Using the Breakerspace to Make the Perfect Cup (New) – 3 units

Uses the Course 3 (DMSE) Breakerspace to delve into the world of materials science through brewing, sipping, and testing several forms of coffee and espresso. Presents cutting-edge materials characterization tools, including optical and electron microscopes, spectroscopy techniques, and hardness/strength testing. Through experiments to analyze the composition and microstructure of coffee beans, grinds, and brewing equipment, students have the opportunity to learn how material properties influence the taste, aroma, and quality of espresso. Equips students with the knowledge and skills to appreciate coffee on a whole new level through application of materials characterization techniques, consideration of relevant physics and chemistry, and sampling.

3.001 Science and Engineering of Materials – 3 units

Provides a broad introduction to topics in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s core subjects. Classes emphasize hands-on activities and conceptual and visual examples of materials phenomena and materials engineering, interspersed with guest speakers from inside and outside academia to show career paths.

6.9101J Introduction to Design Thinking and Innovation in Engineering – 3 units

Introduces students to concepts of design thinking and innovation that can be applied to any engineering discipline. Focuses on introducing an iterative design process, a systems-thinking approach for stakeholder analysis, methods for articulating design concepts, methods for concept selection, and techniques for testing with users. Provides an opportunity for first-year students to explore product or system design and development, and to build their understanding of what it means to lead and coordinate projects in engineering design.

11.S04 Special Subject: Topics in Affordable Housing – 3 units

Weekly seminar-style discussions on topics in affordable housing, including federal funding programs, homelessness prevention and shelters, local land use and zoning for affordability, innovative housing models/designs, fair housing laws, the history of public housing in the US, and international comparisons.

12.00 Frontiers and Careers in Earth, Planets, Climate, and Life – 2 units

Provides a broad overview of topics, technologies, and career paths at the forefront of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Introduces the complex interplay between physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and computational methods used to study processes associated with a changing Earth and climate, distant planets, and life. Sessions guided by faculty members discussing current research problems, and by EAPS alumni describing how their careers have evolved.

21H.000 The History of Now – 1 unit

Exposes students to the study of history for a deeper understanding of the past, the present and the future by exploring current events in a historical perspective. Features guest lectures from experts inside and outside MIT.

SP.251 How to Change the World: Experiences from Social Entrepreneurs – 3 units

Every week, students meet a new role model who demonstrates what it means to change the world through social entrepreneurship. Students meet individual entrepreneurs, get immersed in the ecosystem that supports them, and visit MIT labs and startups in the Cambridge innovation community. Each session covers an aspect of social entrepreneurship, from identifying opportunities for change to market fit to planning for scale. Through these speakers and field trips, students gain a greater understanding of how technology-based, impactful solutions can address global challenges. Students learn to identify and address social and environmental problems and understand the relevance of this work for their time at MIT. They will see how to bring their ideas to fruition and extend their ties with the Solve community.

IAP 2024

Note: There is no separate discovery-focused credit limit during IAP. The following subjects count towards the normal 12-unit IAP credit limit. 

SP.247A Exploring Majors at the Intersection of Engineering, Life Sciences, and Medicine – 1 unit

Interactive introduction to the several majors at MIT that offer curricula bridging engineering and life sciences, through presentations by faculty, current students, and alumni. Representatives of these departments (Courses 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 6-7, 7, 9, 10, and 20, as well as the BME minor) cover aptitudes of typical students, culture, class offerings and roadmaps, and unique opportunities. Provides first-year students practical advice about how to select, prepare for and thrive in each major. One-unit version of SP.247 does not include work outside of class.

SP.256 Informed Philanthropy in Theory and Action – 2 units

Explores the potential and pitfalls of philanthropy as a mechanism for social change. Students assess the work of community agencies to address challenges and opportunities facing MIT’s neighboring communities, with particular focus on community representation, equity, and social justice. Class culminates with students making a group decision on how the Learning by Giving Foundation (which is partnering with the class) will disperse $10,000 to local community agencies. Each session includes a presentation by a local community agency, grant-making foundation, and/or individual philanthropist. Through class discussion and supporting materials, students examine the interaction between philanthropy and social change, including the role of philanthropists past and present in shaping social change and social conservatism.