Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science: Wikis


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Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science Coat of Arms
Established 1863 as the Columbia University School of Mines
School type Private
Dean Feniosky Pena-Mora Website
Location New York, New York, USA
Enrollment ~1,870
Homepage http://www.engineering.columbia.edu/

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (popularly known as SEAS) is a school of Columbia University which awards degrees in engineering, applied physics and applied mathematics. Columbia, originally chartered as King's College in 1754, is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science was founded as the School of Mines in 1863 and then the School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry before becoming the School of Engineering and Applied Science. It was the country's third such institution. On October 1, 1997, the school was renamed in honor of Chinese businessman Z. Y. Fu, who had donated $26 million. Today, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is an exclusive and intimate engineering school. Its Chemical Engineering program is widely regarded as one of the strongest programs in the United States; its Financial Engineering program in Operations Research is highly regarded and is ranked in the top 3 worldwide. A student to faculty ratio of 9 to 1 allows SEAS to offer numerous research opportunities. The small engineering school also draws upon Columbia University's endowment, in excess of $7 billion dollars, and maintains close links with all of the university's graduate schools, as well as Columbia College.

Today the school is known for its ongoing research and numerous patents. For example, it is the only academic institution to hold a share of the patents for MPEG-2.




Original charter of 1754 and the establishing of a school of engineering

Included in the original charter for Columbia University was the direction to teach "the arts of Number and Measuring, of Surveying and Navigation [...] the knowledge of [...] various kinds of Meteors, Stones, Mines and Minerals, Plants and Animals, and everything useful for the Comfort, the Convenience and Elegance of Life." Engineering has always been a part of Columbia, even before the establishment of any separate school of engineering. From this charter, those established within the Columbia University gave birth to what is now known as the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

An early and influential graduate from the school was John Stevens, Class of 1768. Instrumental in the establishment of U.S. patent law, Stevens procured many patents in early steamboat technology, operated the first steam ferry between New York and New Jersey, received the first railroad charter in the U.S., built a pioneer locomotive, and amassed a fortune, which allowed his sons to found the Stevens Institute of Technology. (Excerpt from SEAS website.)

When Columbia University first resided on Wall Street, engineering did not have a school under the Columbia umbrella. After Columbia outgrew its space on Wall Street, it relocated to what is now Midtown Manhattan in 1857. President Barnard and the Trustees of the University, with the urging of Professor Thomas Egleston and General Vinton, approved the School of Mines in 1863. The intention was to establish a School of Mines and Metallurgy with a three-year program open to professionally-motivated students with or without prior undergraduate training. It was officially founded in 1864 under the leadership of its first Dean, Columbia professor Charles F. Chandler, and specialized in mining and mineralogical engineering. An example of work from a student at the School of Mines was William Barclay Parsons, Class of 1882. He was an engineer on the Chinese railway and the Cape Cod and Panama Canals. Most importantly he worked for New York, as a chief engineer of the city's first subway. Opened in 1904, the subway’s electric cars took passengers from City Hall to Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the newly renamed and relocated Columbia University in Morningside Heights, its present location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Renaming to the School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry

In 1896, the school was renamed to the "School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry". During this time, the University was offering more than the previous name had implied, thus the change of name.

The faculty during this time included Michael I. Pupin, after whom Pupin Hall is named. Pupin himself was a graduate of the Class of 1883 and the inventor of the "Pupin coil," a device that extended the range of long-distance telephones. Students of his included Irving Langmuir, Nobel laureate in Chemistry (1932), inventor of the gas-filled tungsten lamp and a contributor to the development of the radio vacuum tube. Another student to work with Pupin was Edwin Howard Armstrong, inventor of FM radio. After graduating in 1913 Armstrong was stationed in France during World War I. There he developed the superheterodyne receiver to detect the frequency of enemy aircraft ignition systems.

The Fu Foundation and the 20th century

The university continued to evolve and expand as the United States became a major political power during the 20th century. In 1926, the newly renamed School of Engineering prepared students for the nuclear age.

Graduating with a master's degree, Hyman George Rickover, working with the Navy's Bureau of Ships, directed the development of the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus, which was launched in 1954.

Butler library in winter

After a substantial grant of $26 million from Chinese businessman Z. Y. Fu, the engineering school was renamed again in 1997. The new name, as it is known today is the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. SEAS continues to be a world-class teaching and research institution, now with a large endowment of over $400 million, and sits under the Columbia umbrella endowment of $7.2 billion. It is the only university to hold a share in the MPEG-2 patent. The school continues research into nuclear science with the Robert A. Gross Plasma Physics Lab. The school is also home to Columbia's High-Beta Tokamak (HBT-EP), and conducts further research into plasma physics with the Collisionless Terrella Experiment (CTX), and the Columbia Non-neutral Torus (CNT) experiment.

New groundbreaking research that holds great promise is a laser-based method to create a single crystal film for a variety of devices, from solar cells to thin-film transistors for flat panel displays and for computers. Columbia also holds a patent in that technology. Also, within a short time, it may be possible to put an entire computer on a sheet of glass or plastic, thanks to the innovations taking place in Engineering School labs.


The Columbia University Coat of Arms, with its motto, In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen ("In Thy light shall we see light")

Columbia SEAS regular decision

  • Class of 2013 SEAS undergraduate students were admitted at a rate of 14.42%:


  • Class of 2013 SEAS undergraduate applications rose 20% over the class of 2012, according to the Columbia University Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Fu Foundation SEAS is more competitive to get into than ever.
  • Approximately 95% of accepted students were in the top 10% of their graduating class; 99% were in the top 20% of their class. 58% of admitted students attended high schools that do not rank.

According to the statistics from the Class of 2011, 52% of those admitted to Columbia SEAS enrolled. The size of that class of incoming freshmen was about 315, allowing for a student:faculty ratio of 10:1 or less: Columbia Admissions Statistics. Trends suggest that SEAS is getting much harder to get into: according to the Columbia Office of Planning and Institutional Research, the admission rate is going down.

As for SAT scores, SEAS students within the Columbia University community are given credit for raising the composite SAT statistic for the undergraduates at Columbia University, as SEAS students tend to do particularly well on standardized tests. For instance, the Class of 2010's interquartile range was SAT 1440 – 1550 out of 1600 (old SAT).

However, Columbia University admits not only those who have great statistics, but also those who have interests in varied academic studies, endeavors in social and extracurricular pursuits, and penchants for Columbia's many rigors. As a result, highly qualified students continually approach SEAS for admission simply because of the well-rounded nature of the school itself (the core, the research, the fun, the city, the opportunity). Typical prospective students apply to Columbia SEAS because the school offers exceptional training for leadership in engineering.

Those accepting enrollment at Columbia SEAS typically apply their knowledge of engineering from undergraduate school and go on to professional graduate school in engineering, business, law, or medical school, so as to become what Columbia terms "engineering leaders." Engineering leaders are those who pioneer or define engineering: patent lawyers, doctors with specialties in biophysical engineering, financial engineers, inventors, etc. SEAS students live at the forefront of scientific inquiry, but ultimately understand and remember the human implications of their work.

Undergraduate prospective students are encouraged to apply through the Office of Undergraduate Affairs.

Columbia Graduate Admissions

As a renowned graduate research school, SEAS is well positioned to serve its elite M.S., Ph.D. and Eng.Sc.D. candidates. Candidates come to Columbia having received a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. at many of the world's greatest institutions. SEAS is also host to many of the brightest international students who cherish the opportunity to work alongside inspiring professors. With a diversity of talent, backgrounds, and interests, it is not surprising that admissions to Graduate SEAS is quite desirable.

Students are encouraged to first inquire about programs, intimate tours, and campus life. It expected that prospective students have good standing at their last academic institutions, high GRE test scores, as well as compelling resumes, curricula vitae, and recommendations. Online, you may find more information about how to approach graduate admissions to Columbia's SEAS.


Butler Library on Columbia's Morningside heights campus

SEAS focuses on leadership development. Many classes, revolve around societal awareness and responsibility while also enforcing high expectations for achievement. Undergraduates are required to participate in professional level opportunities in addition to their theoretical bases of knowledge, and the undergraduates find themselves in an opportunity to become inspired, intrigued, and commissioned to a higher purpose.

Similar to the Columbia College requirements, there is a rigorous set of required "core engineering classes" in empirical science, computer science, and math. The core classes typically consist of a semester or more of classes in each of these disciplines:

  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Computer Science

Columbia engineers also take non-technical courses like those below, which fall into two basic categories: the Columbia College Core, or other non-technical courses.

Engineers are required to take classes from Columbia College's famous Core Curriculum. These may include the following:

  • (2) Semesters of: Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, or Major Cultures
  • (1) Semester of: Art Humanities, or Music Humanities
  • (1) Semester of University Writing

Additionally, there are other non-technical classes required:

  • Economics
  • (2) semesters of Physical Education (anything from aerobics to karate to fencing)

Engineers take a total of 29 credits of "non-technical" classes. There is usually a high degree of freedom aside from the require Humanities Core in choosing one's non-technical classes; these classes bolster the development of a well rounded mind and body. Because Columbia's Engineers are required to take so many non-technical classes, many, including employers, find that the educational quality at Columbia is not only unusual and rigorous, but also desirable and useful. SEAS finds this element of the curriculum to be an important addition to an engineering education; in fact, this component of the education will contrast the heavily vocationally-focused large state school engineering programs. It is considered that the SEAS curriculum is set apart from other engineering curricula in the way that the human implications of engineering are studied just as seriously as the technology and theoretical fundamentals. The non-technical courses are sometimes used by students to fulfill one of Columbia's many available minors, while also offering relief from a bombardment of vocationally driven curriculum found at other engineering-reduction schools.

Inside the engineering school, all classes (including introductory first-year classes) are taught by professors. While graduate students may teach recitation sections, all lectures, seminars, and research sections are taught by faculty. On average, the student to professor ratio in SEAS is 8:1.

Many students also bolster their in-class education with participation in collegiate design competitions. For example, 30% of the mechanical engineering students are in either Solar Splash (Solar Boating) or the Formula-One SAE competition. SEAS is also host to a very competitive intra-university venture capital competition, where students compete for $50,000 in seed capital to get their ideas off the ground and flying. Other students find it an important aim to join the CU Engineers Without Borders (CUEWB), which recently sent students to India to build Micro-Hydro power plants and have received commendable grants from respected institutions offering $75,000 or more for a single project. CUEWB as of Fall 2009 is sending groups to India, Uganda, and Ghana. Of course, international service opportunities are available to engineers including Columbia Students for International Service, Rotaract, and others. In addition, nearly all students are actively involved in some way in Columbia's approximately 600 (about 400 of which are officially recognized and funded) student groups, which range from clubs managing investment funds to clubs organizing fashion shows featuring famous designers.


Columbia's Plasma Physics Laboratory is part of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), in which the HBT and Columbia Non-Neutral Torus are housed.

The school also has two wind tunnels, a machine shop, a nanotechnology laboratory, a General Dynamics TRIGA Mk. II nuclear fission reactor, a large scale centrifuge for geotechnical testing, and an axial tester commonly used for testing New York City bridge cables. Each department has numerous laboratories on the Morningside Heights campus; however, other departments have holdings throughout the world. For example, the Applied Physics department has reactors at Nevis Labs in Irvington, NY and conducts work with CERN in Geneva.

Many students take their engineering classes in the Seeley W. Mudd building on the northeast side of the main Morningside campus. Mudd is the heart of the engineering school; department offices, labs, lecture rooms, and student spaces are located in this building. Connected to this building is the Sherman Fairchild Center, which largely houses biology labs and sciences. To the left of Mudd facing north is the Shapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research (CEPSR) where additional lecture halls, research offices, labs, and student space is available. To the left of this is Pupin Hall, which houses the physics department; in this building, professors and SEAS affiliates (including Nobel Laureates) worked on the Manhattan Project. To the south of Pupin is Havemeyer and Chandler, which houses chemistry. Mathematics Hall, further south of Havemeyer, houses the math department. Together, these buildings, Mudd, Fairchild, Shapiro CEPSR, Pupin, Chandler, Havemeyer, and Mathematics, is where the bulk of SEAS students take their classes. Non-technical classes are taken in other buildings to the south of these buildings. All of SEAS' buildings are on the same campus and vicinity as Columbia College, Columbia Business School, Columbia Law School, Social Work, Teacher's College, Union Theological Seminary, Barnard, Jewish Theological Seminary, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and others on the beautiful Morningside Campus. In close association with SEAS' Earth and Environmental Engineering department and the Earth Institute, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory center in Palisades, New York (40 minutes by CU Shuttle), is an earth-studies campus which welcomes a brand new research (the Gary C. Comer Geochemistry building) facility that has recently won 3 coveted architecture awards for design and sustainability.

While Mudd, nicknamed "the brick," is tucked behind the Fairchild Center, much of Columbia's buildings were designed by the famed McKim, Mead, and White architects. The campus is in keeping with Neo-classical design themes popular in the early 20th century. It retains old-world charm and originality not found at many of this nation's pseudo-gothic styled campuses.

SEAS is also awaiting the completion of a new Northwest Science and Engineering building. At fourteen stories, and designed by award-winning architect Rafael Moneo, the building will house new space to conduct research and lectures; it will be completed by 2010. In addition, this building will contain a new library, cafe, research labs, lecture hall, and other amenities. This building is situated between Havemeyer/Chandler and Pupin and will include many bridges to facilitate interdepartmental exchanges and access.

Alongside the completion of the Northwest Science building, the last available plot on the Morningside campus, the University looks ahead to Manhattanville. In this 17-acre (69,000 m2) area situated only 5 blocks Northwest from SEAS, Manhattanville represents a growth opportunity for SEAS as well as the University as a whole. The $7 billion project proceeds with the permission of neighboring residents, city officials, and business owners in the area. SEAS looks to expand an additional 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) in this new area. Buildings are being designed by award winning Renzo Piano. Construction should begin shortly, as the university is nearly finished acquiring all the land in the area.

Mission and new objectives

SEAS students are educated to make an impact in the world with what they make, learn, teach, define, and explore.

Directions for the new century

As an integral part to Columbia's beliefs for the future engineer, the liberal arts curriculum is celebrated and remains a central object of a SEAS student's education. The liberal arts curriculum provides the surest chart with which an engineer can navigate the future; all undergraduates must complete a modified rigorous version of Columbia College’s celebrated Core Curriculum. It is these courses in Western Civilization and other major cultures that best prepare a student for advanced course work; a wide range of eventual professions; and a continuing, life-long pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and social perspective. It is also these Core courses that most closely tie today’s student to the alumni of centuries past. Through a shared exposure to the nontechnical arts, all Columbia engineering students—past, present, and future—gain the humanistic tools needed to build lives not solely as technical innovators, but as social and political ones as well.

Practicing practical engineering, expanding the scope of engineering

  • This excerpt is taken from the Columbia Engineering website:
    • "The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, as a part of the world-class teaching and research university, strives to provide the best in both undergraduate and graduate education. We are preparing engineering leaders who will solve the problems of the new century, fostering scientific inquiry but never losing sight of its human implications. The School's programs are designed to produce well-educated engineers who can put their knowledge to work for society. This broad educational thrust takes advantage of the School's links to a great liberal arts college and to distinguished graduate programs in law, business, and medicine. Through a synergy of teaching and research, we seek to educate a distinguished cadre of leaders in engineering and applied science who will thrive in an atmosphere of recently emerging technologies."

At Columbia, innovative approaches, including computer-assisted design, the use of "smart" materials, and collaborations with other Columbia departments and schools are opening frontiers in an expanding host of fields: from financial engineering to corrosion control, cryogenic manufacturing to biomedical engineering.

The engineering school reworked its curriculum scheme years ago, which mandates freshmen to take the novel Gateway Lab course. The goal is to immerse students in engineering design, practice, and philosophy at the earliest possible point in an engineer's education.

Notable alumni

Below is a condensed list of some of SEAS' most influential or novel alumni. Many SEAS graduates go unnoticed here. However, the school celebrates its ties and affiliations with at least 5 Nobel Laureates. In addition there are Columbia's 93 Nobel Laureate affiliates (the most affiliates for any institution). Columbia University has graduated the third most Nobel Laureates (37), behind Oxford and Harvard. The University also has the most Nobel Laureates currently employed in faculty (58) ahead of Cambridge (50) and the University of Chicago (43).

Affiliates of the School

Through their teaching, dedication, or research done at SEAS, a few exceptional affiliates are noted here.


Each department at Columbia SEAS highlights its own ongoing research projects.

Departments also hold key industry partnerships with institutions and corporations with Wall Street, Google, Yahoo, IBM, Bell Labs, Verizon, etc.

Specialized Centers

Columbia Engineering faculty are a central force in creating many groundbreaking discoveries that today are shaping life tomorrow. They are at the vanguard of their fields, collaborating with other world-renowned experts at Columbia and other universities to bring the best minds from a myriad of disciplines to shape the future.

Large, well-funded interdisciplinary centers in science and engineering, materials research, nanoscale research, and genomic research are making step changes in their respective fields while individual groups of engineers and scientists collaborate to solve theoretical and practical problems in other significant areas.

Specialized Labs

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science occupies three laboratory and classroom buildings at the north end of the campus, including the Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research. Because of the School's close proximity to the other Morningside facilities and programs, Columbia engineering students have ready access to the whole of the University's resources.

The School is the site of an almost overwhelming array of basic and advanced research installations which include both the NSEC and the MRSEC NSF-funded interdisciplinary research centers, as well as the Columbia High-Beta Tokamak, the Robert A.W. Carleton Strength of Materials Laboratory, and a state-of-the-art 200g geotechnical centrifuge.

The Botwinick Multimedia Learning Laboratory is the School's state-of-the-art facility for computer-aided design (CAD) and media development. It is equipped with 50 Apple Mac Pro 8-core workstations, as well as a cluster of Apple Xserves with Xraid storage, that serve the lab's 300-plus users per semester. The workstations are custom tailored for 3D modeling and animation, and offer students the latest modeling software commonly used in professional settings - Maya and AutoCad, as well as Adobe CS3 Web Premium.

Related Centers

Other programs

  • Undergraduate Research Involvement Program
    • Each SEAS department sponsors opportunities to do novel undergraduate research which have applications in the real world. Departmental Chairs supervise students through the process, and mentoring with a professor is provided.
    • Opportunities
  • Computer Engineering
    • Administered by both the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments through a joint Computer Engineering Committee.
    • Webpage
  • The Combined Plan Programs
    • The 3-2, B.A./B.S., is designed to provide students with the opportunity to receive both a B.A. degree from an affiliated liberal arts college and a B.S. degree from SEAS within five years. Students complete the requirements for the liberal arts degree along with a pre-engineering course of study in three years at their college and then complete two years at Columbia.
    • The 4-2 M.S. program is designed to allow students to complete an M.S. degree at SEAS in two years after completion of a B.A. degree at one of the affiliated schools. This program will allow students the opportunity to take undergraduate engineering courses if necessary.
    • Webpage

See also


  1. ^ Martin, Douglas. "Henry S. Coleman, 79, Dies; Hostage at Columbia in '68", The New York Times, February 4, 2006. Accessed September 12, 2009.
  2. ^ Markoff, John. Robert Spinrad, a Pioneer in Computing, Dies at 77", The New York Times, September 6, 2009. Accessed September 9, 2009.

External links


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