Why Systems Engineering?

Systems Engineering (or programs with closely related names such as Operations Research, Management Science, and sometimes Industrial Engineering) is a common M.S. or M.Eng. degree offering throughout engineering colleges in the US. Systems Engineering at Boston University is primarily concerned with quantitative and analytical scientific theory, methods and tools that enable faculty and students to model, design, analyze, and optimize human-made and physical systems within a broad array of applications. SE methodologies usually account for such real-world complexities as uncertainty, constraints, multiple objectives, and the relationships among the various parts or subsystems that constitute the system being studied This, in turn, is driving the need for more sophisticated SE methods to manage this complex and interconnected world.

Traditionally, engineering disciplines are defined through physical attributes: circuits and VLSI chips are studied in Electrical Engineering, airplanes and helicopters in Mechanical Engineering, chemical processes in Chemical Engineering. Systems Engineering transcends the physical nature of what is designed or managed – if “it” consists of multiple interacting components performing a function that cannot be achieved by any one component alone, then “it” is a system. Thus, Systems Engineering cuts across the traditional engineering departments as a discipline that “enables” building, analyzing, or managing a system – be it electrical, mechanical, chemical, biological or one involving business processes and logistics. Methodological approaches involving mathematical or computer simulation models, designing feedback controllers, dealing with uncertainty and risk, or optimizing performance are universal and demand skills that the Systems Engineer can provide.

Graduates of the Division of Systems Engineering are equipped with the unique skills to adapt their knowledge and expertise to different application domains. Their flexibility is in high demand, as they easily adjust from one environment to another. They may be found developing simulation packages and real-time controllers for leading software providers, building models and analyzing new protocols for networking companies, or inventing new scheduling and production control algorithms for manufacturing enterprises. Some are looking into new ways to create an effective air traffic management system, while others analyze the feasibility of relying on teams of autonomous vehicles and mobile sensors for military and commercial applications. Whether it’s an enormous automated factory or a nanoscale network of implanted medical devices it is just another “system” to be modeled, designed, analyzed, and controlled by the Systems Engineer.
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Why should you be interested in Systems Engineering and the Center for Information and Systems Engineering? — In brief, SE and CISE enrich the educational experience of students and faculty. See what others have to say.