History of the Clinic Program

Five decades ago, while watching a homecoming parade, one of Harvey Mudd College’s engineering professors turned to a colleague and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to channel the energy and ingenuity these students use to create a winning float into solving real technical problems?” In a moment of revelry-induced inspiration, the concept of the Harvey Mudd College Clinic Program was born.

Founding faculty members Jack Alford and M. Mack Gilkeson sought to channel HMC student initiative, drive and intelligence into projects of real-world nature. They felt the best way to do this was to give students a “clinical” experience similar to that which medical students receive as part of their training – thus the name “Clinic”.

“I gained the idea that engineering was like dancing, you don’t learn it in a darkened lecture hall watching slides; you learn it by getting out on the dance floor and having your toes stepped on.”
– Jack Alford, Emeritus Professor of Engineering and Clinic Program co-founder

In 2012, M. Mack Gilkeson and two other HMC faculty received the nation’s most prestigious engineering education award, the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

The Engineering Clinic was established with initial funding from the Ford, U.S. Steel, and Sloan foundations. The Mathematics Clinic began in 1973 with funding from a National Science Foundation grant. The Computer Science Clinic began in 1993, the Physics Clinic in 1996 and the Global Clinic component of the program began in 2005 with an endowment from the Vickery family.

Social Justice Clinics

In 2018, a program was integrated to include projects that are focused on issues of social justice. Students will be working on three projects for 2019-20:

  • One team will be studying the impact on climate restoration technology in California from the effects of microspheres in the Arctic, working with ICE911 Research, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring polar ice.
  • Another team will work with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to design and prototype a scanning and storing system using barcode information to improve the Bank’s view of inventory and to support workflow.
  • A third project will partner with Sustainable Claremont to study the degree to which unhealthy pollutants are present near schools, specifically from the presence of fine particulate exhaust and other chemicals produced by vehicles.

Global Clinic

Global Clinic, established in 2005, prepares students for the future challenges of practicing engineering, science and mathematics in a global context. This program supports the activities associated with undertaking several yearlong, industry-sponsored global engineering and science projects in which teams of Harvey Mudd students collaborate with teams of students from international partner schools with particular emphasis on partnerships in Singapore, China, India, Japan and Israel, with future plans to expand into South America and Europe.