Facing Today’s Engineering Challenges with Systems Thinking

Today’s technology frontiers are defined by problems that involve complex engineered systems—energy and the environment, human error and natural threats, health care and production. Addressing these problems requires engineers with the ability to pose and answer complex questions, deal with uncertainty, and appreciate the social and human aspects of designing complex engineered systems.

The new Master of Engineering in Systems Engineering + Design, beginning fall 2014, has been developed to address the importance of systems thinking for today’s engineering students. The goal of the degree is to equip students with skills in engineering and design so that they can approach the development of engineered systems with an integrative, multidisciplinary perspective and an ability to innovate.

In the development of complex systems, tradeoff decisions among various forms of functionality must be made in the presence of significant uncertainties. Thus, inclusion of human factors is an important element of a systems program, said Prof. Bogdan Epureanu, program director for Systems Engineering + Design. The interaction among the humans themselves during system development and deployment is also important, pointing to the need for exposure to organizational and social science thinking. System engineers must possess also a broad perspective that includes system architecting, specification development and management, system verification and validation, and delivery of complex engineered systems.

Thus, a good systems engineer must combine depth in one discipline with experience and appreciation for the other disciplines represented in the system. The new program will augment and leverage students’ expertise in a core engineering discipline with a broad systems engineering perspective to prepare them to successfully face today’s technology challenges as the leaders and best. 

The Division of Integrative Systems + Design, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, seeks candidates for two joint appointments with any of the College of Engineering departments of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty and one position of Professor of the Practice. The positions offer a unique opportunity to contribute to the development of the new program. 

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