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Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP)

NEW! Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP)

ISP enables students to craft custom-tailored curricula—comprising Caltech courses, academic-year research, courses at other schools, or independent study courses—in collaboration with faculty advisors. An important change from the older Independent Studies Program is that the degree recipient can now propose a designated academic specialty on the transcript, for example, “B.S., Interdisciplinary Studies Program in X”, where X could be “Biophysics”, “Decision Neuroscience”, “Environmental Science and Policy”, or “Quantum Information Science”, to borrow examples from previous Independent Studies Program majors.

The Curriculum Committee, a standing committee of the faculty, has overall responsibility for the program. In addition, each student has his or her own committee of at least two advisers, two of whom must be professorial faculty. Learning outcomes are determined on an individual basis with each student. Application material may be obtained at the Dean of Undergraduate Students office or website.

Criteria for ISP Curricula:

1. The program must enable educational goals that cannot be achieved in any of the other available Options.

2. In scope and depth, the program must be comparable to a normal undergraduate program.

How to Set Up an ISP Curriculum:

1. Visit the ISP Curriculum Planner here.

2. Construct a curriculum that satisfies the Core Institute Requirements (see Caltech Catalog for details) and that includes a total of at least 486 units of academic credit. These units can be in the form of other Caltech courses, academic-year research, courses at other schools, or independent study courses.

3. Recruit at least two Professorial Faculty from at least two different degree-granting Options to serve as the ISP faculty committee. Refine the curriculum in collaboration with the faculty committee.

Each member of the faculty committee must provide a letter that includes

a. Faculty name and department/division, and the discipline they "represent" within the proposed ISP.

b. Faculty's assessment of the student's ISP proposal, including the proposed degree title, as it relates to that faculty's discipline (e.g. Is the set of proposed courses in that discipline appropriate? Is it sufficiently deep?)

 c. Faculty's assessment of whether the student could choose an existing degree-granting Option with some acceptable accommodations, rather than create an ISP. Does this ISP enable something that could not be accomplished in a single Option or major/minor combination?

4. Send ISP Petition (cover sheet, proposed curriculum, and the aforementioned letters from Professorial Faculty advisors) to the Dean of Undergraduate Students for review and approval.

5. The Dean of Undergraduate Students sends the ISP Petition to the Curriculum Committee for review and final approval. Here are two sample ISP Petitions:

Sample 1

Sample 2