About Development Engineering

Also known as “humanitarian engineering,” “engineering for change,” or “engineering for impact,” Development Engineering is a field of research and practice that combines the principles of engineering with economics, entrepreneurship, design, business, natural resources, and social science to create technology interventions in accordance with and for individuals living in low-resource settings. While most people associate these settings with “developing” or “low income” countries, Development Engineering equips practitioners to work on societal problems wherever they exist, whether in California or Bangladesh.
Development Engineering concerns “wicked” systems problems that are highly complex. Wicked problems, as defined by late UC Berkeley Design Science Professor Horst Rittel, are not linear or rule based. Solving, let alone addressing wicked problems, requires intimate knowledge of the problem context, which is too often overlooked and causes initiatives that implement technology or other approaches for development to fail. To gain traction on solving problems with complex societal and ecological dimensions, it is dangerous to rely on engineering training alone, which is often deeply technical.
Development Engineering students position themselves to look at wicked problems holistically and cross-disciplinarily, as well as to take advantage of the rising importance of technological interventions and assessments in the development sector and the need for development engineers in the public and corporate sectors. Development Engineering provides a rigorous framework to mobilize technical thinkers toward social change, while recognizing the limitations of technology and the need for multifaceted approaches to solutions.

About the Designated Emphasis

Through coursework, research mentoring, and professional development, the Designated Emphasis in Development Engineering (DE in DevEng) prepares students to develop, pilot, and evaluate technological interventions designed to improve human and economic development within complex, low-resource settings. 

The DE in Dev Eng is an interdisciplinary training program for UC Berkeley doctoral students from any department whose dissertation research includes topics related to the application of technology to address the needs of people living in poverty. Students from all departments can apply

With support from USAID’s Global Development Lab, the program builds upon ongoing research in technological innovations, human-centered design, development economics, remote sensing and monitoring, data science, and impact analysis at UC Berkeley. The program also features a Traineeship for Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems, InFEWS.

Dev Eng students are connected to an ecosystem of researchers and practitioners at Berkeley via the Graduate Group in Development Engineering, and also have access to a dynamic global network.

What is a Designated Emphasis? A “Designated Emphasis” (DE) is a campus-wide system that provides doctoral students with certification in specialties outside their home discipline, to be added to their doctorates.

Further Reading

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