First-Year Exploration

Currently enrolled Harvard College students are encouraged to explore their potential interests in Environmental Science and Engineering by meeting with Bryan Yoon (Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, Environmental Science and Engineering).

The sample schedules below show a typical path through the first two-years for a preconcentrator interested in ESE.  These sample schedules are provided as a guiding example, and students may decide on an alternate path. We strongly recommend that students interested in any of the engineering areas begin taking mathematics in their first semester and plan to complete their math, chemistry, and physics requirements within the first two years.  Leading up to a declaration of the Environmental Science & Engineering Track during the sophomore year, students will work with concentration advisers to construct an individual degree program that matches their specific interests within ESE while simultaneously fulfilling all of the concentration requirements.

First-Year Fall

Foundational Math 


Consider: AM 10

First-Year Spring

Foundational Math

PS 11

PS 12a

Sophomore Fall

Foundational Math (if needed)

PS 12b

Engineering Course

Sophomore Spring

Foundational Math (if needed)

Engineering course

Once ESE students have established a foundation in the prerequisite math and science courses, they can take many exciting upper-level electives. While these courses are typically taken in the junior and senior years, some students with advanced preparation in math and science begin taking the 100-level courses during their sophomore year.  Upper-level ESE courses focus on the fundamental processes governing environmental systems and human impacts on those systems, such as the principles governing the movement of water in the earth’s subsurface (ESE 162), oceans (ESE 131), and atmosphere (ESE 129); the chemical behavior of pollutants in the aqueous (ESE 164) and atmospheric (ESE 133) compartments of the environment; the transport and control of pollution in natural waters (ESE 163); the parallels in ecosystem processes in both natural and urban environments (ESE 115) and the earth resources for both conventional and renewable energy (ESE 109).

To learn more about the program, please see the Harvard Environmental Sciences Guidebook.

Tips for ESE students:

  • Take ESE 6 in your first semester if your math placement is 1B or higher. If not, you can take ESE6 in your sophomore Fall. 
  • PS 11 is required for both AB and SB students.
  • Most of our graduating seniors recommend AM10 over CS50. 

Frequently asked questions

Where do I start?
  • Start taking math (according to placement) and science in your first year. 
  • Talk to a concentration advisor (ADUS) in any of our fields to chat about your options

  • Take one of our introductory courses.

  • Join a SEAS club (HCES, EWB, HURC, etc...)

What math should I start in?

Students should start math freshman fall according to their placement (i.e., start at Math Ma, 1a, 1b, or Math/AM 21a) and continue each semester until completion of the 21a/b series, which is required of all students. SB students starting in Math 1b and beyond will need to take additional advanced math courses beyond foundational math.

What’s the difference between Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) and Bachelor of Science (S.B.)?
  • SB: 20 courses, engineering design courses, including individual capstone design project in ES100 (this is a required thesis), ABET-accredited (for professional licensure)
  • AB: 14-16 courses, more flexible requirements, can do research thesis, can do joint/double concentration
How can I get involved in research?
  • Term-time: SEAS labs welcome undergraduates to work on research projects during the term

    • Can do research for credit with an ES 91r

  • During summer: Students regularly join SEAS labs with funding through PRISE, HCRP, HUCE

    • Many students participate in research at other universities through NSF REU programs

What kinds of internships can I do?
  • Research internships are available through SEAS and national labs. See above.

  • Industry internships are available and can be found by attending SEAS career fairs or talking to the SEAS Experiential Learning Director, Keith Karasek (