Tuesday 12pm, 5 February 2019

Erin macdonald small 2017  1

Creating the New Design Impact MS at Stanford

Erin MacDonald

Assistant Professor - Stanford University


The Stanford Design Impact Engineering Master's Degree is a new degree program that was created as the next step in Design Thinking education at Stanford. We teach the “last mile” of design, challenging students to make their ideas real in the world. We educate the next generation of designers and leaders who will innovate and implement, using design to generate novel solutions to the complex problems facing our society and our planet. The program is in its second cohort of 13 students, which is 53% women and 46% students from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups. More information about the program is available at In this talk, I will discuss the process I led to design this program and the targeted approach we take in framing the goals and the application/recruitment process to attract diverse students. I will review the main skills and values taught in the program and the curriculum. I will discuss how the program intersects with my lab's research in Quantified Cognitive Empathy. Research projects in the IRIS Design lab have three foci: (1) Modeling the role of the public’s decisions in large-scale sustainable technology implementation; (2) Improving engineering designers’ abilities to address complex customer preference for sustainability; and (3) Using data on how consumers perceive products to understand evaluations and decisions.


Erin MacDonald is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University and the Faculty Director of the MS Design Impact Program. She received an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan; and a B.S. with Honors in Materials Science and Engineering from Brown University. She was a Sloan School of Management Postdoctoral Associate and Mechanical Engineering Instructor at MIT from 2008 to 2009 and an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University from 2009 to 2014. MacDonald spent several years designing hiking products before returning to graduate school, and holds two patents on consumer product designs. She is the 2012 ASME Design Automation Committee Outstanding Young Investigator, a selected participant in the National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering program, a Big 12 Faculty Fellow, and a former NSF Graduate Fellow. MacDonald’s research integrates concepts from psychology, economics, and marketing into engineering design methods to better represent the user; an effort she terms "quantified cognitive empathy in design engineering." A main goal of her research is to increase the sustainability of products and technologies by improving the representation of the consumer and other stakeholders in the design process.