Ling Gao

A new joint degree in Computer Science and Economics will allow undergraduates to focus on both disciplines, which are increasingly connected in today’s digital age.

All current undergraduates, including those in the class of 2020, will be eligible to graduate with the 14-credit major. The degree requires students to complete nine courses spread across economics and computer science, five electives in either discipline and one course —— such as “Economics and Computation,” “Computational Methods in Economics” or “The Economics of Space” — which combines both subject matters. Students interested in the new joint degree must also complete a senior project at the intersection of both fields in addition to the 14-credit requirement.

Prior to the creation of the major over the summer, students pursuing degrees in both economics and computer science had to complete nearly twice as many courses.

“Computer Science and Economics are both majors with a large number of required and foundational courses,” economics professor Dirk Bergemann wrote in an email to the News. “By designing a joint major we are able to design a path that lets the students master the material, yet maintain a balanced course load.”

Bergemann, along with other professors in both the economics and computer science departments, developed a proposal to submit to the Committee on Majors during the 2018-2019 academic year. The committee approved the major at the end of the spring term, and they announced the creation of the joint degree in an email to students intending to major in either field.

Professor of computer science Joan Feigenbaum said she and Bergemann have long been interested in creating such a joint degree. Several institutions — including Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — already offer such a major.

Feigenbaum added that expertise in both computer science and economics proves especially valuable for companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook. According to Feigenbaum, automation of the finance industry as well as the commodification of the technology world has forced both spheres to rely heavily on one another.

“Economists who study systems of rational agents are inspired by and collaborating with computer scientists who design and implement systems of automated agents,” Feigenbaum said. “This … expertise … is abundant in the combined faculty of Yale’s Economics and Computer Science Departments but not fully represented in either department alone.”

Ten students, three of whom are first years, have already officially declared the joint degree as their intended course of study. Nikita Kvasniov ’20 leapt at the opportunity to enroll in the program, as it greatly reduced the credit requirements of his intended double major in computer science and economics.

Kvasniov, who plans to work in finance, said he is aware that employers may think that the joint major provides just surface-level knowledge in each discipline, as opposed to mastery in one. Still, he said that he believes the major ties well into his professional interests.

“I know quite well what I want to go into -— investing with the quantitative side — so in that sense I think it sends a really strong signal to employers that I know what I want to do,” he said.

Alicia Kacharia ’21 originally intended to major in computer science alone, but she also enrolled in economics classes, as it was a discipline that also interested her. But after hearing rumors about the potential joint major last year, she decided to pursue the joint degree after its approval, as it would provide more flexibility in her schedule.

“Professionally, it doesn’t make a difference at all,” Kacharia said. “I am just a lot happier with my schedule.”

Philipp Strack, who will join the Yale faculty from the University of California, Berkeley this fall, will serve as the director of undergraduate studies for the joint degree.

Carly Wanna |