Ph.D. in Systems Modeling and Analysis

What is systems modeling and analysis?

The best way to understand systems modeling is to consider examples drawn from the research that is performed by the faculty in the program.

  • Edward Boone studies streams and rivers and the populations of fish and other life that lives in them.
  • Jason Merrick studies the risk of accidents in a port and how it is influenced by the traffic patterns, weather, currents and human errors.
  • Angela Reynolds studies wound healing and the influence of hormones on the rate of healing.
  • Paul Brooks mines genetic data from bacteria to characterize the role of the microbiome in physiology and disease.

Each of these researchers looks at the river, the port, the wound or the body as a system of components that interact together and lead to behaviors beyond what their individual pieces can do. We cannot study the population of one type of fish in a stream alone without considering the populations of its predators and it food sources, along with the actions that man takes that affect it. A ship in dry dock will not have an accident as it cannot run in to other ships or run aground; accident risk is a product of all the other parts of the port the ship navigates through. In other words, we must consider the behavior of the systems, not just individual pieces.

Why systems modeling?

This program is the result of significant research growth in the two participating departments in recent years.

  • Scientists from many disciplines are tackling the challenges of the complexity of the systems they study.
  • Several recent National Research Council reports discuss the complexity of the systems researchers must understand and the necessity of mathematical and computer models in achieving such understanding.
  • It is not just science that must handle complexity. The business world is also becoming more complex with global supply chains and complex market forces at work.
  • Companies looking for the next edge in the market are turning to operations research, statistics and applied mathematics to model their complex systems and make better decisions.

The program focuses on the development and understanding of the skills used to conceptualize and analyze real world systems. The continued development of operations research, statistics, applied mathematics and discrete mathematics is critical to scientific advancement in the twenty-first century.

Faculty and students engage and collaborate to contribute to the mathematical tools and knowledge base in the fields of science, medicine, business and engineering.

What can I do with my degree?

This program fulfills important needs nationally and for the Commonwealth in terms of research, training and service. Graduates of the program would be well placed for roles as mathematical scientists, operations research analysts and statisticians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupational outlook forecasts strong growth in employment in these roles nationally, especially at the Ph.D. level. The Virginia Employment Commission forecasts increases in employment in the Commonwealth of 19% for mathematical scientists, 20% for operations research analysts and 21% for statisticians. Businesses and organizations are looking for people trained in applied mathematics, operations research and statistics, but who also understand the systems that they model and can analyze them using multiple tools.

Visit the Systems Modeling and Analysis doctoral program website for more details on the curriculum, plan of study, faculty members and more.