Designated Emphasis in Development Engineering

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 DevEng 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 initial 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 National Science Foundation Traineeship for Digital Transformation of Development, or DToD.

DevEng 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.


The Designated Emphasis in Development Engineering requires five courses (two core courses plus three electives). The course requirements are in addition to, but may overlap with, the Ph.D. course requirements of your home department. All course work for the DE should be taken for a letter grade.

The two core courses are:

DevEng C200: Design, Evaluate, and Scale Development Technologies (3 units): DevEng C200 is co-taught each fall term by one technologist and one social scientist. Students in the DevEng DE must complete this course before their qualifying exams. Professors from the pool of faculty in the Graduate Group in Development Engineering rotate as course instructors. The course is offered for three units credit as DevEng C200, Mech Eng C200 or MBA 290T. Master's students will be permitted to take the core course as space permits and with permission of the instructors. Dev Eng C200 is organized around analysis and application of case studies by multidisciplinary student teams according to three thematic modules.

DevEng 210: Development Engineering Research and Practice Seminar (1-2 units): This course provides DevEng students with a context and community within which their research projects can be refined and developed. The seminar focuses on work-in-progress presentations by students, post doctoral scholars, and faculty within the DIL ecosystem. The research seminar can be taken before or after the qualifying examination, and students can take it more than once.

Students must take their three electives from at least two of the three thematic modules within the Dev Eng program. The three modules are: Project Design, Evaluation Techniques and Methods for Measuring Social Impact, and Technology Development. Of the three electives, only one can be from the student's home department.

Furthermore, all students must apply and be accepted to the Designated Emphasis in Development Engineering at least one semester before their qualifying examination. DevEng C200 must also be taken prior to qualifying exam. At least one faculty member of the Graduate Group in Development Engineering must participate in the qualifying examination committee, and will evaluate the exam from relevant perspectives. When all course work and designated emphasis requirements have been completed, this final report must be submitted to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer in 750 Davis Hall for verification of completion of the designated emphasis at the latest one month prior to your filing the dissertation. Lastly, the dissertation must contain themes relevant to the field of Development Engineering (e.g. technology for economic and social development). More about the DE's requirements can be found here.

Master of Development Engineering

Apply now to join UC Berkeley's new Master of Development Engineering degree!

The three-semester Master of Development Engineering program at UC Berkeley integrates training in engineering with entrepreneurship, design, business, and policy--among others--to support students in creating technological interventions in accordance with the needs and wants of individuals living in complex, low-resource settings.

The program's curriculum enables students to further their expertise in one of the following four predefined areas:

  • AI/Data Analytics for Social Impact:

    Students take courses on how artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data tools and analytics give the social, civic, and international development sectors actionable insights.

  • Energy, Water, and the Environment:

    Students take courses on core natural resource challenges--water and energy systems and their impact on the environment--and on life cycle assessment, water resource management, agricultural impact, and energy technologies and policies.

  • Sustainable Design Innovations:

    Students take courses on sustainable design and social entrepreneurship, including principles of green design, the science of sustainability, resilient communities, sustainable economic models, green chemistry, product design, spatial modeling, affordable housing, public transportation, and equitable development.

  • Healthcare Transformations:

    Students take courses on the rapidly evolving landscape of global healthcare technologies and practices, including biomedical device design, health policy, health impact assessment, and the digital transformation of health care.

If a student has interests outside of these areas, it is possible to devise a Self-Designed Concentration in, for example, gender equity, global education, or technology, development and policy.

Find out more about the Master of Development Engineering program here: developmentengineering.berkeley.edu


Core courses focused on Development Engineering (18 units over the 3 semesters)

First Fall Semester

DevEng C200: Design Evaluate & Scale Development Technologies (3 units): The course provides project-based learning experience in the development of human-centered products, services, or systems. The course teaches the mindsets, skill sets, and toolsets of design thinking with a focus on its use in development. The course is focused around the following modules that cover core phases of the design process: observe and notice, frame and reframe, imagine and design, and make and experiment. Students will also learn the theory of change and methods for assessing potential impact of technology interventions. Students will be expected to learn ethnographic interviewing, webs of abstraction, ideation, and basics of both hardware and software prototyping. The course will engage social impact designers from industry as speakers and coaches.

DevEng 202: Critical Systems of Development (3 units): This course is intended to provide students in the Master of Development Engineering with the necessary background and knowledge to undertake projects and work experience of a global scope. Students will be exposed to a diversity of methodological frameworks, introduced to the skills needed to effectively participate in the sustainable development field (such as systems mapping and landscape analysis), and to understand the history and ethics of global development. Students will be required to complete an annotated bibliography and a systems analysis of a problem of interest.

Spring Semester

DevEng 203: Digital Transformation of Development (3 units): As technology use proliferates globally, there exists significant potential leverage to further understand and improve the lives and livelihoods of people in low-resource settings. Through a careful reading of recent research and through hands-on analysis of large-scale datasets, this course introduces students to the opportunities and challenges for data-intensive approaches to development. Students should be prepared to dissect, discuss, and replicate academic publications from several fields, including development economics, machine learning, information science, and computational social science. Students also will conduct original statistical and computational analysis of real-world data. They will gain an introduction to sensors as well as tools and methods for spatial modeling and spatial data analysis.

DevEng 204: Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship (3 units): Social entrepreneurship entails market-oriented approaches to address social problems for sustainable, scalable outcomes. This course will enable students to frame complex problems and devise entrepreneurial approaches for addressing them. Students study the dynamics of societal challenges and the conceptual framework of social innovation and social entrepreneurship from theoretical and practical perspectives. Students also explore technology solutions to address global social problems with a systems thinking approach. Students additionally learn how to develop appropriate business models and implementation strategies for a social venture. Student projects will integrate the development engineering goals of creating technology interventions designed to improve human and economic development in complex low-resource settings. This course is the first of a sequence of two final project courses for candidates of the Master of Development Engineering.

Second (and last) Fall Semester

DevEng 205: Development Engineering Applications (3 units): This course is the second of a sequence of two final project courses for candidates of the Master of Development Engineering. Students engage in professionally oriented independent or group projects under the supervision of an advisor. The projects integrate the development engineering goals of creating technology interventions designed to improve human and economic development within complex low-resource settings.

DevEng 206: Ethical Reflection and Portfolio Building (2 units): This course is intended to provide students with a forum for reflection on the Summer Internship component of the Master of Development Engineering as well as projects worked on to date. Topics covered by the course will include issues of power and privilege, civic engagement, political/public policy contexts, tensions between tourism vs. travel, and community service vs. engagement. Students will discuss and produce an op-ed on an issue of interest. Students will also develop a portfolio to capture their individual point of view and skill sets developed in the MDevEng.

DevEng 290: Perspectives on Development Engineering (1 unit): Development Engineering represents a new interdisciplinary field that integrates engineering, economics, business, natural resource development, and social sciences to develop, implement, and evaluate new technological interventions that address the needs of people living in poverty in developing regions and low-income areas of the United States. This seminar, offered once per year, will feature guest lecturers with insightful perspectives on the emergent field. The DevEng 290 series covers current topics of research interest in development engineering. The course content may vary from semester to semester. All topics will address the development engineering goals of developing technology interventions designed to improve human and economic development within complex, low resource settings.

Elective coursework (18 units total, of which 12 should be in the concentration area)

Two electives are required each semester in addition to the above core courses. The list of currently approved elective courses can be found here. More information on each course can be found in the Course Catalog.

Summer internship

All students must complete a professional internship during the summer between their first and second years in the MDevEng program. The intention is for students to have an opportunity to connect the theory and practice of development engineering. Students will gain valuable learning experiences through working with non-governmental organizations, government agencies, for-profit companies, and community projects that focus on various dimensions of development engineering.

There is no course credit associated directly with the internship. However, students will receive two units of academic credit through enrollment in DevEng 206: Ethical Reflection and Portfolio Building, a course intended to provide students with a forum for reflection on the Summer Internship in Fall of their final semester.

The internship can be arranged domestically or internationally. The amount of time is flexible depending on the opportunity, but a minimum time expected for the internship is 240 hours

Final capstone project that enables students to work in teams to extend assignments from core courses, their internships, their own initiatives, or social entrepreneurship collaborations

The capstone project is a culmination of the program and will allow you to apply what you have learned, in your coursework and in your internships, towards the design and implementation of a solution to positively impact the life of a specified community. Your capstone project which will drive your theoretical synthesis simultaneously to being a vehicle for a development goal. Throughout the capstone project you will be working as part of a collaborative and interdisciplinary team offering you an opportunity to demonstrate your capacity to work collaboratively towards bringing projects to fruition within a specific development context.

Each year a portfolio of projects will be offered to students for their capstone. Students are put into teams based on their prioritized choice of projects as well as disciplinary balance to the extent possible. Each student is supervised by two advisors, their MDevEng concentration advisor and their project advisor. Projects are submitted in printed portfolio format and comprehensive oral exam that will highlight the project's achievements as well as the student's roles and individual achievements. Projects are evaluated based on their analytical qualities (e.g. understanding of the problem or an area) as well as their measured impact.