Case Study: MIT – BCS (Brain & Cognitive Sciences) Project

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is often ranked as one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. Researchers worked on computers, radar, and inertial guidance during World War II and the Cold War. Post-war defense research contributed to the rapid expansion of the faculty and campus under James Killian. The current 168-acre (68.0 ha) campus opened in 1916 and extends over 1 mile (1.6 km) along the northern bank of the Charles River basin. The Institute is traditionally known for its research and education in the physical sciences and engineering, but more recently in biology, economics, linguistics, and management as well. MIT is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). For several years, MIT’s School of Engineering has been ranked first in various international and national university rankings, while MIT is also often ranked among the world’s top universities overall.
The MIT Engineers compete in 31 sports, most teams of which compete in the NCAA Division III’s New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, whereas the Division I rowing programs compete as part of the EARC and EAWRC. As of 2017, 88 Nobel laureates, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 65 Marshall Scholars, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 MacArthur Fellows, 34 astronauts, 21 Turing award winners, 16 Chief Scientists of the U.S. Air Force, and 6 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT. The school has a strong entrepreneurial culture and the aggregated revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni would rank as the eleventh-largest economy in the world.

Business Need

The department needed a central hub with multiple applications built into in. To date application were needed for the following issues, and are maintained in an overall application:

Human Subjects Payment: The need was for a voucher creation process that Lab Managers could print out and hand to the human subjects to exchange for petty cash by a Financial Assistant. The Financial Assistant would then log that payment, and be able to see how much petty cash was on hand. This process needed to work for BCS and McGovern departments.

Faculty Information Database: The need was for a central system that could incorporate all the data for BCS faculty members stored in many systems across campus, while giving the option to save tenure tracking and leave information for them.

Teaching Information Database: A system was needed that could tie into the Faculty Information Database and maintain academic yearly records of teaching loads.


Human Subjects Payment: The Lab Manager creates a voucher using a known account number (a lookup in completed in the background to get the department). With the information completed, the Lab Manager prints out a voucher from a print screen (nothing is saved on specific computers) which directs the human subject to the correct spot for payment. Once a Financial Assistant receives the payment voucher, they check to make sure this isn’t a duplicate and issue the petty cash. They are also able to create a Voucher Report that uploads directly into MIT’s system for account management.

Faculty Information Database: All of the current professor/faculty are populated displayed on the screen with basic info. When a faculty member is selected calls are made to different MIT systems to populate the drill down pages (affiliations, salary history, etc). The user can then enter Tenure Tracking and Leave information for the faculty.

Teaching Information Database: The user can enter the subjects and assign course units (used for internal records) for each semester in an academic year. The system calls the Faculty Information Database to verify this faculty is able to teach this semester, based on their current leaves.


Across all applications there has been increased production and decreased effort from the users. BCS has been able to enter historic information saved on spreadsheet all the way back to 1994 for the Faculty Leave and 2009 for the Teaching Information Database.