18.085: Computational Science and Engineering I

Table of contents

  1. Course Info
  2. Realistic Prerequisites
  3. Subject Matter
  4. Course Staff
  5. Lectures
  6. Problem Sets
  7. Exams
  8. Resources
  9. Grading
  10. Advice to Future Students

Course Info

Class Size 65
Hours/Week 13.4 (39 responses)
Instructors Matthew Durey
Overall Rating 5.9/7.0

Realistic Prerequisites

  • 18.02 and 18.03 are hard prerequisites for this course. Most students recommend knowing some basic programming and linear algebra.
  • Being familiar with MATLAB is recommended, but not required.

    Subject Matter

  • Most students thought it was a healthy mix between applied and theoretical.
  • The first half of the course focused on linear algebra and was more theoretical, whereas the latter half was on optimization methods and was found to be more applied.
  • Most students thought the subject material would aid them in their research later on.

Course Staff

  • Very friendly and approachable. The professor was very helpful in office hours and on Piazza.
  • Prof. Durey was described as very approachable and very willing to help students learn.


  • Students found lectures most useful, and used psets and office hours to reinforce the information.
  • Some students used lecture notes, which were described as clear and well-written.

Problem Sets

  • Students found the psets engaging and helped reinforce material from the lectures.
  • Many seemed to find that most of the pset material was taken almost directly from past lectures.
  • Students spent anywhere from 5 - 10 hours on the psets weekly.


  • The exams were difficult to finish on time, and were of the same difficulty as the psets.
  • Students recommended the practice exams posted by Prof. Durey, as well as going over past problem sets.
  • Students spent between 3-5 hours preparing for an exam.


  • Lecture notes were incredibly helpful to review concepts.
  • Only a few used Prof. Strang’s textbook for the course, and others described it as unnecessary.


  • The grade was distributed out of 5 problem sets, 2 midterms, and a final project.
  • Grading was fair, but grade cutoffs were unclear.

Advice to Future Students

  1. “Go to office hours - they make the psets way easier”
  2. “Make sure you have some experience programming before taking the course.”
  3. ’It’s a fair and interesting class; you’ll learn some useful things if you keep your mind open”