Experimental Study Group

A collage of ESG students and faculty.
Clockwise from top left: ESG students make liquid nitrogen ice-cream. Dr. Holly Sweet has lunch with ESG students. Dr. Peter Dourmashkin teaches physics in an ESG classroom. (Photos courtesy of ESG.)

The Experimental Study Group (ESG) is an academic community that works to foster educational innovation at MIT.

ESG was established in 1969 to provide a more participatory, student-centered environment. Today it continues to experiment in new methods of teaching and learning, offering interactive, experiential classes and community-based education. ESG allows self-motivated students to take a more active role in their first year at MIT, with all the freshmen core subjects offered in much smaller class settings to provide greater personal control over pacing and format. Over the years, students have consistently said that ESG's small-group learning, active teaching, and community atmosphere were some of the most rewarding aspects of their MIT education.

ESG staff includes faculty and lecturers from a variety of fields, including biology, chemistry, psychology, mathematics, mechanical engineering, political philosophy, physics, and the visual arts. In addition to teaching all the core subjects in the freshman curriculum, staff are also encouraged to teach supplemental classes and seminars in areas of their own personal interest, research, and expertise. Fifty new MIT freshmen are accepted into the ESG community every year. In their later years at MIT, ESG offers active upperclassmen and graduate students the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience. Student instructors work under faculty supervision as tutors, teaching assistants, and lead instructors for core classes, and under staff mentorship they can develop and teach their own seminars.

In recent years, ESG has increasingly focused on the development of its ever-growing ESG Seminar Series, which offers students a wider variety of educational opportunities outside of MIT's core curriculum. In keeping with the spirit of educational experimentation, ESG seminars focus on a potentially unlimited variety of topics, offering instructors the flexibility to teach from their passion. Seminars are collegial in format, taught in small, interactive groups with hands-on activities and plenty of opportunity for student input. The range of past seminars has included world religions, kitchen chemistry, lego robotics, self-exploration through art and writing, and special topics in mathematics.

The ESG Seminar Series is funded primarily by gifts from our alumni and by annual grants from the Dean of the School of Science. In addition to participating in OpenCourseWare, ESG staff generate textbooks from their original classes and seminars in order to broaden access to this unique course material. The Experimental Study Group continues to export its successful educational innovations to the regular curriculum and to educational settings outside of MIT wherever possible.

Department of Experimental Study Group links

Visit the MIT Department of Experimental Study Group home page at:

Review the MIT Department of Experimental Study Group curriculum at:


Updated within the past 180 days

MIT Course #Course TitleTerm
 ESG.801XPhysics I: Classical Mechanics with an Experimental FocusFall 2002
 ESG.8022Physics II: Electricity and MagnetismFall 2006
 ESG.802XPhysics II: Electricity & Magnetism with an Experimental FocusSpring 2005
 ESG.SP240Composing Your Life: Exploration of Self through Visual Arts and WritingSpring 2006
 ESG.SP242Gender Issues in Academics and AcademiaSpring 2004
 ESG.SP246Current Events and Social IssuesFall 2004
 ESG.SP253AIDS and Poverty in AfricaSpring 2005
 ESG.SP255Physics of Rock ClimbingSpring 2006
 ESG.SP258Gödel, Escher, BachSpring 2007
 ESG.SP259Information and Communication Technology in AfricaSpring 2006
 ESG.SP260Women's Novels: A Weekly Book ClubSpring 2006
 ESG.SP261Poetry in TranslationSpring 2006
 ESG.SP287Kitchen ChemistrySpring 2006
ESG.SP293Lego RoboticsSpring 2007
 ESG.SP298Art of ColorSpring 2005
 ESG.SP2H3Ancient Philosophy and MathematicsFall 2006
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