Changes to Computer Science Undergraduate Curricula

The Northwestern Engineering undergraduate CS curricula structure is changing, effective fall 2022

Effective with the release of the fall 2022 academic catalog, Northwestern Engineering has adopted changes to the undergraduate degree curricula requirements to expand the scope of approved course options and increase flexibility.

Curricula needs constant monitoring. Engineering evolves, and what may still be foundational for some disciplines may become less relevant for others. The new undergraduate curricula structure will significantly impact the bachelor of science in computer science program requirements.

Eliminating the “Basic Engineering” category

The course units previously designated as the “Basic Engineering” category will now be incorporated into an expanded 21-unit bachelor of science in computer science major program at the McCormick School of Engineering.

Under the new curricula structure, COMP_SCI 212: Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science and COMP_SCI 111: Fundamentals of Computer Programming I will remain as McCormick core course requirements.

COMP_SCI 211: Fundamentals of Computer Programming II and a probability/statistics course — IEMS 201: Introduction to Statistics or IEMS 303: Statistics or ELEC_ENG 302: Probabilistic Systems — are now considered major program requirements.

To fulfill the updated major program requirements, Northwestern Engineering CS students will also select three courses, which may include advanced electives (any 300 level or higher class from any department or school across the University) or the introductory courses in areas that directly support computer science, including MECH_ENG 233: Electronics Design, COMP_ENG 203: Intro to Computer Engineering, and COMP_ENG 205: Fundamentals of Computer System Software.

“Computer science students now may pursue a set of advanced electives, creating opportunities to engage deeply with a wide range of subjects, reflecting the expanded scope of computing at Northwestern and in the broader society,” said Wesley Burghardt, associate dean of undergraduate engineering at Northwestern Engineering.

Sara Owsley Sood, Chookaszian Family Teaching Professor of Computer Science and associate chair for undergraduate education at Northwestern CS, underscored the new opportunity created by the updated curricula for students to pursue their curiosity about and interest in other disciplines.

“This is a way for students to capitalize on a CS+X interest and combine their knowledge of computer science with the breadth of intersections across other fields,” Sood said. “The flexibility allows students more room to dive in and specialize and gain expertise.”

Expanding basic science course options

In addition, computer science students in Northwestern Engineering will now have the opportunity to choose from a broader set of course options to fulfill the four-unit “Basic Science” degree requirement.

“As computers have become more pervasive in our lives and as computer science and computer scientists have worked more and more deeply with other fields, we need to give our students opportunities to gain experience in other fields,” Sood said.

In addition to the previous options, CS students may select from the following new basic science course options:

  • BIOL_SCI 150: Human Genetics
  • COG_SCI 210: Language & the Brain
  • CSD 202: Neurobiology of Communication
  • CSD 303: Brain and Cognition (same as Psych 327)
  • GEOG 235: Atmosphere and Climate
  • PSYCH 221: Introduction to Neuroscience
  • PSYCH 320: Intermediate Neuroscience

To fulfill the new Basic Science requirement, Northwestern Engineering CS students are required to select at least one course from the following list of courses with an associated required laboratory co-registration:

  • CHEM 131-0: General Chemistry 1 / CHEM 141-0: General Chemistry Laboratory 1
  • CHEM 151-0: Accelerated General Chemistry 1 / CHEM 161-0: Accelerated General Chemistry Laboratory 1
  • CHEM 171-0: Advanced General Inorganic Chemistry / CHEM 181-0: Advanced General Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory
  • CHEM 1X1 (11X)
  • PHYSICS 125-2: General Physics for ISP / PHYSICS 126-2: Physics for ISP Laboratory
  • PHYSICS 135-2: General Physics / PHYSICS 136-2: General Physics Laboratory
  • PHYSICS 140-2: Fundamentals of Physics / PHYSICS 136-2: General Physics Laboratory
  • BIOL_SCI 202-0: Cell Biology / BIOL_SCI 232-0: Molecular and Cellular Processes Laboratory

Impact to current Northwestern Engineering CS students

Current CS undergraduate students in Northwestern Engineering may select to switch their catalog year to 2022 if they prefer to be subject to the new requirements. However, if they choose to change their catalog year, they must fully adopt the changes, not selected parts.

If a student who opts to change their catalog year has completed “Basic Engineering” category courses that no longer fulfill core course requirements for the bachelor of science in computer science program, those courses would be re-categorized as unrestricted electives.

Current students pursuing a bachelor of arts in computer science degree through Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences are not impacted by the Northwestern Engineering curricula changes.


If you have questions related to the new curricula structure, students may contact Melissa Duong, senior academic adviser in Northwestern CS, or Sara Sood.

McCormick News Article