PhD in Computation
The PhD program is broadly conceived around computational ideas as they pertain to the description, generation, and construction of architectural form. Issues range from the mathematical foundations of the discipline to the application and extension of advanced computer technology. The mission of the program is to enhance and enrich design from a computational perspective, with clear implications for practice and teaching.
Faculty, research staff, and students work in diverse but overlapping and mutually supportive areas. Work on shape representation, generative and parametric design is directed at a new computational basis for design. Work on digital modeling and rendering seeks to extend the possibilities of visualizing design ideas and un-built work, as well as to improve architectural design practice where designers and technical collaborators are geographically separated. Work on rapid prototyping and CAD/CAM technologies aims to expand design possibilities through the physical modeling of design ideas, and to revolutionize the construction and building phase of architectural practice.
Research employs computational media for the representation and use of design knowledge. Faculty, research staff, and students associated with the group combine education in architecture and urban design with education in computer graphics, art, mathematics, and other fields.
The minimum residency requirement for the PhD degree is two years and it is expected that most students will take no more than five years to complete the degree.
Each student will be assigned a faculty advisor in Computation upon admission. The advisor will consult on the student's initial plan of study and on the choice of subjects in subsequent terms. He or she will assist the student in selecting an advisory committee and subsequently a dissertation committee. Often, but not always, the faculty advisor becomes the dissertation committee chair if the student so desires.
Admissions for PhD in Computation
Admission to the Department of Architecture for the PhD program in Computation is by competition among applicants for an average of two or three places available with a five-year funding package each year. It is based on a careful examination of the applicant's previous academic record including relevant samples of completed academic and research work, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. The applicant should demonstrate superior intellectual achievement, and the ability to initiate and carry through to completion independent academic work in the Computation area. Successful applicants will have previous degrees in architecture or a closely related discipline. The applicant is encouraged to discuss his or her academic goals with a faculty member in Computation prior to submitting an application.
Admissions Requirements (all applicants)
The Application Deadline is December 31 at midnight for all applications. Application material must be submitted by the deadline. Late applications will not be reviewed. It is the responsibility of the applicant to be sure that the application is completed.
Three letters of recommendation. Letters from instructors are preferred unless you have been working for several years, in which case supervisors may be included. The application can be submitted with fewer than three letters, but be sure to remind your instructors to complete their letters. Applications still missing two or more letters when review begins will not be reviewed. Review the instructions for letter submission in the "Letters Status" section of the application system. Applicants will send prepared emails to the recommenders containing a secure link to the recommendation form. We prefer that letters be submitted through the online application, and not a third-party letter distributor.
Transcripts for all relevant degrees, official or unofficial, must be uploaded to the application system. PDFs must be clearly readable and oriented correctly on the screen. Only those applicants who are accepted for admission will be required to send a hard copy of an official, sealed transcript (with English translation) from each school attended. Please do not have official copies sent to our office unless you are admitted. Certificate and community college transcripts do not need to be sent unless the courses are not also listed on your primary college transcripts. Non-English transcripts must be translated into English, and if necessary, signed by a licensed notary and accompanied by the original version.
In addition to transcripts, applicants should complete the Subjects Taken section with any relevant course work. If you have taken studios, indicate this on the Test Scores/Experience/Electronic Portfolio section.
IELTS or TOEFL Score.
Applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit either an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score (Academic test) or a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), regardless of citizenship or residency in the U.S. while attending other educational institutions. No exceptions are made. The admissions committee regards English proficiency as crucial for success in all degree programs. In order to meet the admissions deadline, it is recommended that candidates take the IELTS or TOEFL on the earliest possible date.
Applicants must request that an official copy of their test results be sent directly to MIT by IELTS International or Educational Testing Service. IELTS and TOEFL Scores must be no older than two years as of the date of application. To avoid delays, please use the following codes when having your TOEFL scores sent to MIT:
- Institutional Code: 3514
- Department Code: 12
The minimum score required for MArch candidates is 7 and the minimum TOEFL score is 600 (250 for computer-based test, 100 for Internet-based test). While either test score is accepted, the IELTS score is preferred.
All students whose first language is not English are required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET) prior to registration at MIT. Even students who satisfy the IELTS/TOEFL requirement for admission may be required to take specialized subjects in English as a Second Language (ESL), depending on their EET results. These subjects do not count toward the required degree credits.
Curriculum Vitae, uploaded to the system.
A portfolio of work, uploaded to the application. See program-specific instructions for portfolio requirements.
An Essay of one or two pages must be uploaded to the application system. Indicate why you are applying, and describe your qualifications for the degree.
A non-refundable Application Fee of $75 USD. You will need to submit a credit card number on the Architecture Graduate Application to process this fee. If you have a financial hardship, you may apply for an Application Fee Waiver: http://gradadmissions.mit.edu/feewaiver
Submission of completed application form by the application deadline.
You may apply to two different programs within the Department of Architecture. If you are considering two programs, it may be useful for you to discuss your plans with our admissions staff. The link to apply is: http://gradapply.mit.edu/architecture/apply.
PhD in Computation-Specific Requirements
Graduate Record Examination
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for the PhD in Computation application.
A portfolio is strongly suggested for PhD applicants. Research papers or a portfolio of the applicant's work (maximum of 30 pages) may be uploaded to the Architecture Graduate Application to aid the admissions committee but are not required.
The portfolio should include evidence of recent creative work, whether personal, academic or professional. Choose what you care about, what you think is representative of your best work, and what is expressive of you. Work done collaboratively should be identified as such and the applicant's role in the project defined. Name, address and program to which you are applying should also be included. We expect the portfolio to be the applicant's own work. Applicants whose programs require portfolios will upload a 30-page maximum), 15MB (maximum) PDF file to the online application system. The dimensions should be exported for screen viewing. Two page "spreads" are counted as one page.
Because of the small size of the program, interviews with faculty are highly recommended, but not required. It is advantageous for applicants to meet with the Computation faculty member doing research most closely aligned with the research interests of the applicant. Faculty members have varying schedules, and travel when school is not in session. Thus it is best to contact the faculty member directly at least two weeks prior to an intended visit.
Decisions and Notifications
Applicants will be notified by mail of the Department's decision by April 1. Decisions cannot be given by telephone.
Degree requirements for PhD in Computation
It is the student's responsibility to fill out the appropriate section of the Report of Completed Computation/PhD Requirements upon completion of the requirements listed below. This document is submitted to the degree administrator and kept in the student's official departmental file. The degree administrator informs the MIT registrar that the degree requirements have been fulfilled.
PhD Students are expected to complete at 144 units of subject work while in residency at MIT. This is usually accomplished over two years by enrolling in an average of 36 units per term, which equals three or four subjects per term. In those special cases where the student is awarded advanced standing at admission, the unit requirement is lowered accordingly. The only specific subject requirement is 4.581 Proseminar in Computation. All other subjects are selected in consultation with the faculty advisor and may be taken both in and out of the Department of Architecture. Registration in 4.THG, Graduate Thesis, does not count toward the 144-unit requirement.
PhD students in Computation are expected to enroll in 4.581, Proseminar in Computation, during their first year in residence. The Proseminar is meant to provide a rigorous grounding in the field with a focus on specific research topics related to architecture and design practice.
Major and Minor Fields
Major and minor fields must be approved by the student's advisory committee, which is selected with the assistance of the advisor in the first year of enrollment. Normally, the minor field requirement will be satisfied by outstanding performance in three related subjects (not less than 27 units). The major field requirement is satisfied upon successful completion of the general examination.
The general examination is given after required subject work is completed and is taken no later than the third year of residency. The general examination is meant to show broad and detailed competence in the student's major field of concentration and supporting areas of study. The content and format of the general examination are decided by the student's advisory committee in consultation with the student. The committee evaluates the examination upon completion and may 1) accept the examination, 2) ask for further evidence of competence, or 3) determine that the examination has not been passed. In the event that the general examination is not passed, the committee may allow the student to repeat the examination or may recommend that the student withdraw from the PhD program.
The PhD dissertation is a major work that makes an original scholarly contribution. It is the main focus of the doctoral program in Design and Computation, and it serves as the primary indicator of a PhD student's ability to carry out significant independent research.
The dissertation committee comprises a minimum of three members — one thesis advisor, who also serves as the dissertation committee chair, and two readers. The chair must be a permanent member of the Computation faculty and the student's advisor. The first reader must be a permanent faculty member of MIT. The second reader may come from Computation or may be a faculty member appointed from outside the department or the Institute. Students may add more members in consultation with their advisor. The student is responsible for arranging meetings with the committee members on a regular basis.
Formal approval of the dissertation topic is gained through a proposal, which the student submits and defends to his or her dissertation committee prior to the completion of the sixth semester of registration. The proposal should contain these elements:
- General statement of scope of the thesis
- Significance of the thesis
- Survey of existing research and literature with critical comments and an assessment of the extent to which this material will be utilized
- Method of the thesis work
- Outline or brief sketch of the thesis
- Working bibliography
- Resources for primary material
- Plan of work, including a timetable
An oral examination in which the candidate meets with the dissertation committee to discuss the proposal marks the formal acceptance of the topic. The result of the defense can be that the thesis proposal is accepted, accepted with revisions or rejected.
Students will often register for Preparation for Computation PhD Thesis (4.589) in the term leading up to their proposal defense. Once the proposal has been approved, the student may register for 4.THG, Graduate Thesis. The student may be asked to present his or her dissertation proposal in the class Research Seminar in Computation (4.582).
Students are advised to meet with committee members to obtain comments and guidance throughout the writing phase of the project. Regular contact with committee members during the process of drafting the thesis can ensure a student's readiness for thesis defense. The final draft should be submitted to committee members at least one month prior to the defense. The defense should be scheduled at least two weeks prior to the published Institute PhD thesis deadline.
The dissertation is defended by oral presentation in front of the dissertation committee. At least three faculty members must be present. If a member of the committee is not able to attend, he or she must contact the committee chair with comments and questions. That member must also inform the committee chair of a vote.
The result of the defense can be that the thesis is accepted, accepted with revisions or rejected. If the thesis is accepted with revisions, the student makes the necessary changes to the document and submits them within an agreed time frame to all or some of the committee members. If rejected, the student must re-defend according to a timetable agreed upon at the defense.
The PhD is awarded after two copies of the defended, approved, archival-ready dissertation have been submitted to the Department of Architecture at its headquarters. The copies must be submitted by the Institute deadline for doctoral theses as published in the MIT Academic Calendar. Students must adhere to the Specifications for Thesis Preparation published by the Institute Archives.
Nonresident Research Status
Students are expected to carry out thesis research while in residence at MIT. It is rare that a PhD candidate in Design and Computation will need to apply for nonresident status. However, should a student who has completed all requirements except for the dissertation need to continue thesis research in years beyond the awarded funding, he or she may opt to apply for nonresident research status with the permission of the dissertation advisor.
English Proficiency Requirement
All students whose first language is not English are required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET) prior to registration at MIT. Even students who satisfy the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) requirement for admission may be required to take specialized subjects in English as a Second Language (ESL), depending on their EET results. These subjects do not count toward the required degree credits but will prove valuable in helping students develop the skills necessary to write a dissertation.