SE Master’s Handbook
The Systems Master’s Handbook outlines pertinent University, College of Engineering, and Division policies and procedures.
All masters students are assigned an academic advisor when entering the program. The Graduate Programs Manager will notify incoming students about their advisor assignment prior to registration. The student’s academic advisor can provide general information/guidance and help the student to complete his/her course registration.
Policies and Procedures
How to Register for a 900-Level Course
To register for a masters 900-level course, such as SE 951 Independent Study or SE 952 Mentored Project, download, fill out, and get your advisor’s signature on the College of Engineering Directed Study/Independent Coursework Petition Form. Send the completed form to the Division Graduate Programs Manager (NOT the Graduate Programs Office). The Division Graduate Programs Manager will obtain Division approval, register you for the course, and forward the final form to the Graduate Programs Office with a cc to you and your course supervisor.
To register for SE 954 Thesis, you must first submit a MS Thesis Proposal Form signed by your masters thesis committee advisor and committee member(s) as well as the Directed Study/Independent Coursework Petition Form indicating SE 954 and the number of credits. Please submit these forms to the Division Graduate Programs Manager. The Graduate Programs Manager will submit your form for Division Approval, register you for the course if approved, and forward the final form to the Graduate Programs Office with a cc to you and your course supervisor.
MS with Thesis Requirements
An MS thesis must be written and defended successfully to satisfy the requirements of the MS with Thesis degree.
MS candidates choosing the thesis option must enroll in ENG SE 954 MS Thesis for at least 4, but no more than 8, credits toward their MS. Thesis work is likely to entail several semesters of research; as a result, completion of the master’s degree usually requires more than one year. Students are therefore encouraged to discuss their research interests with faculty at the beginning of their master’s program.
A research problem is selected after initial discussions between the research advisor and the student. The development of a thesis topic is typically a cooperative effort between the student and research advisor. Commonly, the advisor initially suggests a problem to be addressed, but the student is expected to contribute ideas and thought as to how to approach the problem.
The Thesis Committee must have a minimum of two members, one of which must be an SE appointed faculty member. The student’s research advisor will chair the thesis committee. The Thesis Committee is charged with assessing the appropriateness of the research problem and the student’s preparation, based on the written proposal and the oral presentation. The Thesis Committee must approve that the Thesis is at a stage appropriate for scheduling the final presentation via their signature on the Final Thesis Presentation form and on the signature page of the thesis submitted to the Mugar Library.
Special Service Appointment
If a researcher from outside the University serves on a student’s committee, a Special Service Appointment Form (available online) must be completed and submitted to the Division Graduate Programs Manager for division approval. The completed form and a copy of the person’s curriculum vitae, with the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies’ signature, will then be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office.
Intellectual Property Policy (IPP) Agreement
Students who receive support from sponsored research programs or who make significant use of BU funds and facilities are required to sign the BU Intellectual Property Policy Agreement. Seek counsel with your faculty advisor about this policy pertaining to intellectual property. A signed form is required for thesis students. Click here for the Intellectual Property Policy Agreement and here for the Intellectual Property Policy Agreement form.
Finding a Thesis Advisor
Occasionally students enter the program with a specific research advisor in mind and may even plan to work on a specific project. The majority of students, however, will utilize the first one to two semesters to determine what their specific interests are in the field of systems engineering and identify the opportunities for research in a professor’s lab. MS with Thesis students typically connect with their research advisors through (1) doing lab rotations and deciding upon a research area; (2) interacting with faculty through coursework and informal discussions. An easy way to find out what is available is to check the list of current Faculty Research Interests and SE Laboratory and Research Center Descriptions, available on the SE website.
Another valuable way of learning more about specific research opportunities is to speak with other graduate students who are currently working in the various SE faculty labs. The best measure for learning about working in a specific lab is to make an appointment to speak with the faculty member in charge of a lab you are interested in. Some useful questions to ask him/her are:
- What projects are currently going on and what projects are planned for the near future?
- What background is required to work in the lab?
- How is the lab funded and is there the possibility of funds for a masters student? (Funding is not guaranteed for masters students and is limited to the base stipend rate with no other benefits.)
- What expectations does the faculty member have of graduate students?
- If the potential advisor has been at BU for at least a few years, does he/she have a strong history of training students in a timely manner? Have his/her students generally been successful?
Once a student finds a research opportunity and has the consent of a faculty member to be his/her advisor, the process of developing a research project begins.
Masters students considering a thesis may seek out laboratory rotations during the first year. This provides the students an opportunity to gain exposure to more than one research area and to help in identifying a good match with a thesis advisor.
Who Can Be A Thesis Advisor
Any full-time member of the SE faculty, or any affiliated or adjunct faculty member who has an appointment with the Division, is eligible to serve as a research advisor. The thesis advisor will supervise the student’s thesis project and advise. MS with Thesis students are expected to choose a thesis advisor no later than the end of the second semester of matriculation. The thesis advisor is also the student’s academic advisor.
Final MS Thesis Presentation
The Final Thesis Presentation is a public presentation of the candidate’s thesis. The presentation should clearly define the problem, describe the method(s) used to solve the problem, report results and establish significance of the results. The purpose of the Final Thesis Presentation is to ensure that the thesis constitutes a worthy contribution to knowledge in the candidate’s field and that the candidate has attained an expertise in his/her field of research specialization.
Previous Masters theses are available for review in the Division. Please see the Division Graduate Programs Manager.
Please refer to the Guide for Writers of Theses & Dissertations while preparing the thesis and abstract. These must conform to the requirements of the University Microfilms International.
Although students will have an opportunity to make final revisions to the thesis and abstract after their Final Thesis Presentation, they should not regard their Final Presentation version as a “rough draft.”
Scheduling the Final Thesis Presentation
It is the student’s responsibility for scheduling a date, location and time with all the Thesis Committee members for the examination. Conference room reservations can be requested via the Division website or the Division Graduate Programs Manager.
MS Final Thesis Presentation Form
At least two weeks prior to the Thesis Presentation date, the candidate must submit the MS Final Thesis Presentation Form to the Division Graduate Programs Manager, including an electronic version of the abstract. Before submitting this form, the candidate must have provided a copy of the thesis document to all members of the Final Thesis Presentation committee and obtained their ORIGINAL signatures on this form indicating 1) that they have been provided a copy of the thesis and 2) agree that it is ready to be defended. This form must also contain the date, time, location and abstract.
Conduct and Length of the Final Thesis Presentation
The thesis chair should introduce the candidate and include a brief academic background description. The candidate should restrict the length of the examination to approximately one-hour. During this period, either the Thesis Committee members or audience may ask questions of clarification. The chair should guard against digression and inappropriate questioning during the presentation. After the presentation, a reasonable period of questioning will follow, and then the audience will be dismissed. The Thesis Committee may wish at this time to ask additional questions of the candidate. Following this additional questioning, the candidate should be excused and the committee should complete its assessment of the examination.
The Thesis Committee is charged with assessing completeness of the research, contribution to knowledge, and the candidate’s mastery of his/her research area, based on the written thesis and the oral presentation. Vote may be ballot or voice. A unanimous vote is required for a candidate to pass.
It is the chair’s responsibility to call the candidate back after the Thesis Committee has reached a decision. The chair will advise the student of the committee’s decision. At this time the candidate will be advised of any changes that must be made to the final title, abstract or thesis document, with a deadline provided by the Thesis Committee.
The College’s MS Final Thesis Presentation Form must be completed at the examination, with specific indication of whether the title, abstract and thesis are acceptable as they stand. If ALL requirements are acceptable, the committee members should sign the signature pages of the thesis. If there is some rework to be done, this is to be noted on the Final Thesis Presentation form. Thesis Defense Committee members should sign off on the form but will refrain from signing the signatures page of the thesis until all conditions have been met UNLESS faculty will be traveling at the time of library submission in which case all but one (usually the advisor) Committee member may sign the signature pages. The last signature will be added when all revisions are completed.
Thesis Approval and Library Submission
The signatures of the Thesis Defense Committee members on the thesis signatures page, if not given at the Final Oral Examination itself, will indicate final approval of the title, abstract and thesis. Once signatures have been obtained, the student must submit two original, signed signature pages: one copy for the Division and one personal copy for the primary advisor. Copies for additional Thesis Committee members are optional and to be submitted and binding costs paid at the candidate’s discretion. All copies must have original signatures pages.
The Associate Chair for Graduate Studies gives final approval on the Final Oral Examination form. The student will then follow the electronic submission guidelines provided by Mugar Library. The Division Graduate Programs Manager will provide departmental electronic approval for the student upon receiving the 1) original signatures pages and 2) title page.
The Division Graduate Programs Manager will handle the binding of thesis copies for the primary thesis advisor and the Division. The cost for additional hardbound copies is $15.00 per copy (subsidized by the Division). Theses to be hardbound are sent to an external bindery once a year (early fall). Students who submit a personal copy for binding should be sure to leave a correct forwarding address after graduation so that their hardbound copy of the thesis can be mailed.
MEng Program Planning Sheets
Masters (Non-Thesis) Program Planning Sheets
Masters (Thesis) Program Planning Sheets