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Individually Designed Major in Engineering

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2023-24 Individually Designed Major in Engineering (IDMEN-BS or BSH)

Note: Students proposing to pursue an IDMEN must have at least four quarters and 48 units of undergraduate work remaining at Stanford after the quarter in which their proposals are submitted. The IDMEN may not be a student's secondary major.

About the IDMEN Degree

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of programs and options within School of Engineering departments, as well as an increase in the flexibility of the program requirements. Nevertheless, sometimes students are interested in a specific goal that is not possible within these departmental offerings. The Individually Designed Major in Engineering (IDMEN) is one more option that is available for undergraduates interested in studying engineering in areas not covered by departmental majors or Engineering subplan majors.

Each IDMEN curriculum is designed by the student in consultation with at least two faculty advisors. The primary academic advisor must be in the School of Engineering and a member of the Stanford Academic Council, which means that Lecturers and Visiting Professors cannot fill this role. Students must also have a secondary advisor; this faculty member can be a member of a Stanford School other than Engineering and need not necessarily be a member of the Stanford Academic Council. The purpose of requiring a second advisor is to ensure that the student receives sufficient guidance about aspects of the proposed course of study that may lie outside the field of expertise of the primary advisor. The IDMEN degree is designated as a “Bachelor of Science in an Individually Designed Major in Engineering: Approved Title.” This degree program is not accredited by ABET (see section in UGHB on Accreditation for more information).For information on the IDMEN-BSH (Honors option), see the Honors page of this site.

Before you begin planning for the IDMEN major option, consider these important points:

-Employers and grad school programs know what to expect of a BS degree in the usual engineering majors. A student graduating with an IDMEN-BS needs to be prepared to explain their degree to future employers or graduate schools.

-We recommend that you wait until you’re a sophomore or junior to submit a proposal. We prefer that students have at least a year of exploration at Stanford prior to deciding on the IDMEN as a major – designing an IDMEN is a great deal of work for you, for potential advisors, and for our team to vet and approve, so we want to make sure you have enough background to decide that one of Stanford’s many excellent established majors is not going to answer for you. You are welcome to come to Huang 135 to speak with Darlene and/or make an appointment with Prof Tom Kenny to discuss the IDMEN.

-The IDMEN committee reviews proposals three times a year (Aut-Win-Spr) at the deadlines mentioned below. The latest you may propose a major program is winter quarter of your junior year: You need four quarters and at least 48 units of undergraduate work remaining after the quarter your proposal is approved.

-Any change to an approved program, even a small one, requires the approval of both advisors and the IDMEN committee via an SoE Petition to Deviate. An approved program is considered to be your contract to graduate and it is important to plan ahead for exceptions. You may receive warm support from both advisors when planning your program, but find that that they become less enthusiastic later as you attempt to make critical changes to your program in the final quarters before graduation. Assume it will take at least a few weeks to get approvals for changes.

-A senior capstone experience is a University requirement, and is required of an IDMEN, but some established SoE departmental capstone courses are unavailable to IDMEN students. Currently this applies to the MS&E and BIOE capstone courses.

-You have to be self-propelled -- there is no cohort of fellow students as in departmental majors. To make up for this, the OSA office will be offering a lunch 1-2 times per year for those declared in the program.

-When you’re done: There is no commencement ceremony for IDMENs. While most departments will accommodate you if your primary advisor is part of the faculty, a few will not allow IDMEN participation in the individual ceremonies that take place the after the large University commencement event in the morning. It is up to you to initiate contact in a timely way with student services within the department where you want to participate.

Requirements

To pursue an IDMEN, a student must submit a written proposal (and three additional documents -- see below) to the IDMEN Subcommittee of the Undergraduate Education Council detailing the proposed course of study. You may email these to Darlene Lazar at dlazar@stanford.edu, or bring your proposal documents to 135 Huang. IDMEN programs must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • At least 21 units of mathematics (see SoE-approved course list on Approved Courses page). All 10 units of MATH 19/20/21 or the AP BC or transfer equivalent is required.
  • At least 17 units of science (see SoE-approved course list on Approved Courses page. Note that only one social science course (above the level of introductory coursework such as PSYCH 1) and one earthsys course may be used. For example, a student may propose to use BIO 150 or PSYCH 70 to fulfill science, but not both.
  • One course on Technology in Society, which must be on the SoE-approved course list on Approved Courses page the year it is taken.
  • 40 units of School of Engineering coursework. At least two courses must be Engineering Fundamentals (see approved course list on the Courses), and 34 units must be drawn from Engineering coursework accepted by other majors within the SoE at the core/depth level. You may not use Introductory Seminars (introsems), 1- or 2-unit survey/professional/personal interest courses (such as MS&E 475, ENGR 103, or ME 104B), ENGR 1 or 2, Student Initiated Courses (SIC), or Sophomore College (SC) courses to satisfy unit requirements in  the IDMEN program.
  • At least one of the Engineering courses must be identified as a “capstone/senior project” course in a SoE major, with content and activities that are relevant to your proposed goals (for example, DESIGN 161A & 161B are the capstone courses for the Design major, CS 191, 194, etc, are the capstone options for CS, and ENVSE has a list of 5-9 capstone offerings, depending upon the specialty area chosen). Your capstone should fit into your SoE topic focus; an Honors thesis or project may not be used for the capstone (with the exception for students who include in their initial proposal a Honors project that they also want to use as their Capstone project. The thesis work must be teamed with planned research, with the honors/capstone proposal approved by both advisors and the IDMEN committee. [NOTE for those with a MS&E-centric program: The MS&E capstone/WIM course (MS&E 108) is available only to declared MS&E majors, so you will need to find an alternative option from one of the other SoE programs.]
  • Additional courses to bring the total to at least 90 units
  • All courses taken for engineering depth and fundamentals must be taken for a letter grade, if that option is offered, and must be graded C- or better. The exception is that a grade of CR or S is acceptable for courses taken during the 6 quarter of the pandemic (Spring 2020 – Summer 2021)
  • WIM: Student must take one course related to their focus area that is designated as a Writing in the Major course by the SoE department offering the course. 

Exploring/Proposing an IDMEN-BS

Investigate: Start by investigating existing majors and gathering information from other students and faculty. Visit 135 Huang: Darlene Lazar can answer general questions about program requirements and process, but for content and course ideas it is advisable to review previously approved proposals/plans (see list at end of page) and confer with faculty advisors.

Each IDMEN curriculum is designed in consultation with at least two faculty advisors. If you still have questions after conferring with two advisors, you may schedule an appointment with the Senior Associate Dean to solicit feedback (phone 650-723-5984 or see Darlene Lazar in 135 Huang to set this up).

Solidify a Plan: Draw up a tentative major proposal with the help of your advisors, detailing your proposed course of study. IDMEN programs must meet the general minimum requirements established for School of Engineering majors as listed above.

Each proposal must contain the following five elements:

  1. Rationale. The proposal should begin with a carefully crafted statement that describes the major, characterizes the proposer’s motivation for pursuing it, justifies it intellectually, indicates the proposer’s ultimate goal and how the major relates to it, shows how the courses comprising its curriculum make sense given its purpose, and tells why this plan of study cannot be pursued in any existing School of Engineering major program. A proposed title for the major, the accepted version of which will be shown on the student’s diploma and transcript, should be included.  You can access previous approved IDMEN programs on Box (find link near the bottom of the page)
  2. IDMEN program sheet. This form should be filled out completely including an indication of which course the student intends to take to fulfill the university’s Writing in the Major (WIM) requirement. The bottom of the second page of the IDMEN program sheet must be signed by two faculty members: the student’s primary advisor, who must be an Academic Council member of the School of Engineering faculty, and a secondary advisor. These signatures certify that the advisors endorse the major as described in the proposal and agree to serve as permanent advisors.
  3. Four-year plan. This blank form is a useful tool for organizing your plan and is needed as part of your proposal. The courses listed as part of the plan should comprise a well-coordinated sequence that fosters mastery of the important principles and techniques in a well-defined field.
  4. Letter of support. A letter of support from the student’s primary advisor appraising the academic value and viability of the proposed major and the student’s ability to successfully complete it must accompany the Proposal.
  5. Copy of your unofficial Stanford transcript.

Submit: Submit your proposal and other documents via email to Darlene (dlazar@stanford.edu or in 135 Huang). While proposals are occasionally turned down, it is more likely that the committee may ask you to make revisions to your course list before granting approval.

Timing: You must have at least four quarters and 48 units of undergraduate work remaining at Stanford after the quarter in which your proposal is submitted. Deadlines for proposal submission are below; proposals are reviewed three times per year:

Deadlines for proposal submission are:

Autumn Quarter: October 23, 2023
Winter Quarter: February 4, 2024
Spring Quarter: May 6, 2024

If the reviewing committee has questions or concerns about your proposed program, they will contact you. The School of Engineering OSA will notify you via email once the review of your proposal is complete. See instructions below for how to declare. Once an IDMEN program is approved, any changes, including to the unit total agreed upon in the proposal, must be petitioned, receiving endorsement from both faculty advisors and approval by the IDMEN Subcommittee.

Declaring: Once your program has been accepted by the IDMEN subcommittee, the School of Engineering will notify you via email; you may then declare the IDMEN-BS degree on Axess. If you have questions about preparing a proposal or about other parts of the process, you can talk to or email Darlene in the Office of Student Affairs. Once an IDMEN program is approved, any changes must be petitioned, receiving endorsement from both faculty advisors and by the IDMEN Subcommittee.

IDMEN-BSH Honors Option

IDMEN majors with a strong academic record and enthusiasm for independent research in a significant project may elect to pursue a Bachelor’s degree with Honors. This option is particularly valuable for students who intend to pursue a Ph.D. because the research experience helps prepare a student for doctoral-level work. The honors thesis, and any coursework associated with the honors degree, is above and beyond the scope of the major itself and cannot be counted as part of the basic IDMEN-BS requirements (with the exception students who include in their initial proposal a Honors project that they also want to use as their Capstone project. The thesis work must be teamed with planned research, with the honors/capstone proposal approved by both advisors and the IDMEN committee). Guidelines and deadlines on pursuing the IDMEN-BSH option are set forth in the Honors Programs page, Individually Designed Major in Engineering section.

Further information and assistance in preparing proposals are available from the Office of Student Affairs, 135 Huang. 

Samples of Proposal Topics from Past and Current IDMENs

See some examples of recently approved IDMEN proposals/programs below. Only the proposal and program sheet are included (if they differ it is because the originally proposed course list had to be changed to what is on the program sheet in order to be approved). 

Instructions for Declaring the Individually Designed Major

  1.   Investigate existing majors to determine whether your goals can be met by pursuing a pre-defined major. It is important to gather information about the majors and their options by talking to students and professors (review "Before you begin planning for the IDMEN..." section above before proceeding further).
  2.   If you decide to pursue an individually designed major, talk to faculty members to get their advice. Identify two Stanford faculty members who can serve as advisors and select one as your "primary" advisor.
    • The primary advisory must be within the School of Engineering and must be a member of the Stanford Academic Council, which means that Lecturers and Visiting Professors cannot fill this role. You can check to see if your chosen advisor in on Academic Council by looking up the name in the Stanford Directory.
    • The secondary advisor need not be a member of the Academic Council and may be outside of the School of Engineering.
  3.  Work with your advisors to design a proposal (as described above), including the following materials:
    • A rationale statement describing the proposed major
    • An Individually Designed Major program sheet (on Plans & Program Sheets page of the UGHB website)
    • A four-year plan listing the courses you intend to take (find a blank form on the Plans & Program Sheets page)
    • A letter of support from your primary advisor
  4.   Submit the proposal package by scanning to Darlene Lazar or dropping into the SoE Office of Student Affairs (OSA), 135 Huang. See above for quarterly deadlines. Note that it can take 2-4 weeks to get a response from the reviewing committee.
  5.   When your major has been reviewed, you will either receive an email of approval/denial or be given some guidelines to modify your major in order to satisfy the reviewing committee.
  6.    Once your IDMEN is approved, declare your IDMEN-BS degree in Axess