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Scientific Computing

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About the Minor in Scientific Computing

Faculty in the College or Arts and Science and the School of Engineering offer an interdisciplinary minor in Scientific Computing to help natural and social scientists and engineers acquire the ever-increasing computational skills that such careers demand. 

Computation is now an integral part of modern science and engineering. In science, computer simulation allows the study of natural phenomena impossible or intractable through experimental means. In engineering, computer simulation allows the analysis and synthesis of systems too expensive, dangerous, or complex to model and build directly. Astronomers studying the formation of massive black holes, neuroscientists studying neural networks for human memory, mechanical engineers studying the designs of turbines and compressors, and electrical engineers studying the reliability of electronics aboard spacecraft are united both in the computational challenges they face and the tools and techniques they use to solve these challenges.

Students in the program in Scientific Computing are taught techniques for understanding complex physical, biological, and social systems. Students are introduced to computational methods for simulating and analyzing models of complex systems, to scientific visualization and data mining techniques needed to detect structure in massively large multidimensional data sets, to high performance computing techniques for simulating models on computing clusters with hundreds or thousands of parallel, independent processors and for analyzing terabytes or more of data that may be distributed across a massive cloud or grid storage environment.

Scientific Computing at Vanderbilt is supported by faculty and includes students from a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines. While the content domain varies, these disciplines often require similar computational approaches, high-performance computing resources, and skills to simulate interactions, model real-life systems, and test competing hypotheses. Scientific Computing embodies the computational tools and techniques for solving many of the grand challenges facing science and engineering today.

The minor in Scientific Computing prepares students for advanced coursework that combines computational approaches with a substantive area of science or engineering. It prepares students for directed or independent study with a faculty member on a research project. It prepares students for advanced study in graduate school. It provides skills that will be attractive to many employers after graduation.

The minor in Scientific Computing is distinct from the minor in Computer Science. Scientific Computing uses computation as a tool to solve scientific and engineering problems in research and application. As such, it is more focused on simulation, numerical techniques, high performance computing, and higher-level methods than the minor in Computer Science, which is focused on the algorithms, systems, and technologies that enable such methods to be developed and employed.