Program in Applications of Computing



  • Kevin Wayne

Executive Committee

  • Joel Cooper, Psychology
  • Henry S. Farber, Economics
  • Adam Finkelstein, Computer Science
  • Alain L. Kornhauser, Oper Res and Financial Eng
  • Sharad Malik, Electrical & Comp Engineering
  • Luigi Martinelli, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng
  • Jaswinder P. Singh, Computer Science
  • Olga G. Troyanskaya, Computer Science
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Program in Applications of Computing (PAC) is an interdisciplinary program designed for students who want to combine the study of computing and computers beyond an introductory level with another academic concentration, but who are not concentrating in computer science. The program welcomes students in all disciplines, including areas that traditionally make heavy use of computation (such as engineering, the physical sciences, economics, and mathematics) as well as newer and emerging application areas (such as biology, neuroscience, graphic arts, music, history, philosophy, politics, sociology, literature, and others). Many students have found this program an effective way to apply computer science to their own specialties, and to understand how computing concepts and technology are changing our world. ​

Admission to the Program

The program is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are concentrating in a department other than Computer Science. To enroll in the program, students must complete the online worksheet.

Every academic year the worksheet is available for sophomores, juniors, and seniors from Sept. 1 to the first week of March.  The worksheet enables all students to update their progress for the certificate every semester. Seniors must be enrolled and provide the final worksheet update for completion of all course requirements and the required thesis information by the first week of March. Senior worksheets will be reviewed by the director of PAC to ensure that all requirements have been satisfied for the Applications of Computing certificate.  Students will not be eligible for the certificate if they have not completed the worksheet.

Students must successfully complete one of the following prerequisites: COS 126, or ISC 231-234, or ECE115, or COS placement officer permission to take COS 217 or 226. 

Program of Study

 A certificate candidate's courses and thesis must form a coherent plan of study that fulfills both the program requirements and the requirements of the candidate's department of concentration. This planning is done in consultation with the program adviser and the student's academic adviser in the department of concentration. The following are the requirements:

1. The prerequisite for admission is successful completion of COS 126, or ISC 231-234, or ECE 115, or COS placement officer  permission to take COS 217 or 226. 

2. Two courses from among the following four: COS 217, COS 226, COS 323 (ORF 363), or COS 324. (If placement is granted beyond the 217/226 level, then additional COS departmental must be taken instead.)

3. One COS departmental at the 300- or 400-level. Courses that cannot be used: COS 397, COS 398, COS 497, COS 498, COS 323 (ORF 363), or COS 324. The only graduate courses that can satisfy the PAC requirements are APC 524 and ECE 535.

4. One additional 300- or 400-level course with substantial computing content. This may be either a second COS departmental, or an outside course.  See the PAC Course & Requirements for additional information. Courses that cannot be used: COS 397, COS 398, COS 497, COS 498, COS 323 (ORF 363), or COS 324. No graduate courses can be used to satisfy the PAC requirements.

5. A senior thesis on a topic that makes significant use of some aspect of computer science. The intent is that the thesis satisfies the requirements of both the program and the student's department of concentration and is thus necessarily interdisciplinary. A wide range of thesis topics is possible. In the last few years of the program, students have earned certificates with a variety of concentrations, including anthropology, chemistry, classics, economics, electrical and computer engineering, history, philosophy, and psychology.

Thesis Approval

The thesis work is coordinated through the student's thesis adviser in the department of concentration and an assigned program adviser (who may be, in routine cases, the program director). The online worksheet  requires seniors to fill out the "Sr. Thesis" information, which will be reviewed by the director of PAC for approval.  Seniors will answer the question, "How is this work related to Computer Science?."  The director will review the information provided by the student and will provide feedback or approval on the worksheet.  When doing a thesis for which inclusion of a significant element of computer science is not possible, the student may instead complete one additional 300- or 400-level computer science departmental (not including COS 323 (ORF 363), COS 324, COS 397, COS 398, COS 497, or COS 398).   

Pass/D/Fail Policy

Students may use no more than one course taken on a Pass/D/Fail basis to satisfy program requirements.  It is not permitted to use the one course in lieu of a thesis. COS departmentals and pre-reqs must be taken for a grade.  (Exception: Courses taken PDF in fall 2020, spring 2020, and spring 2021 can be used for departmental or pre-req credit.)

Concentrators in Electrical and Computer Engineering with Computer-Related Concentrations

ECE majors who want to receive the PAC certificate must concentrate in a noncomputational area of ECE.  Eligible ECE concentrations are listed here.

Courses Used to Satisfy Departmental Requirements

No courses used for a departmental concentration Core requirement may satisfy PAC requirements. For example, ECE students may not use ECE 206/COS 306 to satisfy PAC requirements. 

Courses Used to Satisfy Other Certificate Program Requirements

No more than one course that is used to satisfy any other certificate or certificates can be used to satisfy PAC requirements. 

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the program requirements receive a certificate upon graduation.