Doctoral Program in Systems Engineering
In Spring 2009 the SEOR Department began offering a PhD in
Systems Engineering and Operations Research (SEOR).
The PhD in SEOR curriculum will offer a unique integration of systems
engineering and operations research. This integration will give students a strong analytical and computational capability on the one hand and an overarching systems perspective that is well-grounded in application on the other. No other department in the nation offers a PhD degree program that covers systems engineering and operations research in this integrated manner. Students in the PhD in IT who inherently meet the new PhD program requirements will have the opportunity to
into the new PhD in SEOR Program or complete the PhD in information technology with a concentration in systems engineering or operations research. When all students have graduated from the concentration (or have transferred into the PhD in SEOR), we will discontinue the concentration.
Candidates for the PhD program must hold an MS degree from an accredited institution of higher education in systems engineering, operations research or related areas in engineering mathematics and computer science with a minimum graduate GPA of 3.50 and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.00. In addition, well-qualified candidates holding a BS degree in these areas may apply directly to the PhD program.
All applicants should have a strong background in engineering mathematics, which includes three semesters of calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and probability. In addition, students entering the doctoral program must have a sound working knowledge in computing.
The admission process involves submitting the application for admission, undergraduate and graduate transcripts from previous colleges and universities attended, GRE test results, three letters of reference, a résumé and a statement of career goals and aspirations, and a self-assessment of past background. Translations of international credentials must be provided, if they are not in English; in some cases, applicants will be required to have documents evaluated by an external agency. A satisfactory score on the TOEFL examination is required for nonnative English speakers. All of an applicant’s background is examined before an admission decision is made.
Students entering with a master's degree in a related discipline will be required to complete 48 credits. In particular, students entering with a master’s degree are required to complete the following: at least 24 credits of advanced emphasis course work and at least 24 research credits from SEOR 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and SEOR 999 Doctoral Dissertation, with at least 12 credits of SEOR 999.
The advanced course work includes the following:
- STAT 554 Applied Statistics (3 credits)
- SYST 763 Research Methods in Systems Engineering and IT (3 credits)
- 12 credits of 700-level or higher
- 6 credits in a SYST or OR course numbered 600 or higher, excluding OR 699 Masters Project and SYST 699 Masters Project.
No more than 3 credits are allowed for a directed reading course. All courses must be approved by the student’s dissertation committee chair. Course substitutions must be approved by the dissertation committee chair and the SEOR Department chair. A GPA of 3.50 is required, and no grade of C is allowed in these 24 credits.
Students entering without a master’s degree are required to complete an additional 24 credits of master’s level courses. Consult the SEOR Department for further details.
Plan of Study
All decisions concerning the student’s course requirements and
plan of study must be approved by the advisor or director, with consent of the department’s doctoral coordinator.
A list of SEOR courses is available
Each student must take four exams within two years of enrolling in the program. The exam is primarily for testing the students’ familiarity with fundamental concepts.
- SYST 510 Systems Definition and Cost Modeling
- SYST 520 Systems Engineering Design
- OR 541 Operations Research: Deterministic Models
- OR 542 Operations Research: Stochastic Models
Students are expected to be familiar with the material specified in the reading lists for the exams, which may include material not taught in the corresponding courses.
A student who passes three of the four exams in the first attempt must retake and pass the failed exam within one year. A student who passes fewer than three exams in the first attempt must retake and pass an entire set of four exams within one year. After two unsuccessful attempts, a student is dismissed from the PhD program.
Here are the scheduled dates for the qualifying exams:
- Spring 2014: January 6-10, 2014
- Fall 2014: August 11-15, 2014
- Spring 2015: January 5-9, 2015
- Fall 2015: August 10-14, 2015
Please note that the
Request Form for Qualifying Exams is due two months before
the week the exams are offered.
Doctoral Supervisory Committee
The dissertation director must be a member of the SEOR graduate faculty or a member of the Mason graduate faculty with approval from the SEOR Department chair. The
doctoral supervisory committee must include at least three members from the SEOR Department-approved graduate faculty, and at least one non-SEOR member from the Mason faculty. The composition of the doctoral supervisory committee is to be approved by the doctoral coordinator. At least four members of the committee must be members of the Mason graduate faculty.
The comprehensive exam is taken after the student has satisfactorily completed all the advanced emphasis course work requirements in the approved plan of study filed by the student. The examiners will include SEOR faculty and the supervisory committee plus any outside examiners considered appropriate; however, the supervisory committee determines whether the student
passes or not. The comprehensive exam consists of an eight-hour written exam and an oral exam. The committee will determine whether the student has a mastery of the advanced emphasis course work. If a student fails the comprehensive exam, the student may request a re-examination within 60 days of receiving notice of the exam result. The request should be made in writing to the doctoral coordinator. If the student fails the re-examination or does not request a re-examination within 60 days, the student will be dismissed from the PhD program. In such a case, with recommendation of the supervisory committee and approval of the SEOR Chair, the student may apply his/ her coursework towards a Master's degree.
After passing the comprehensive exam, each doctoral student prepares a written
dissertation proposal, which is presented to the doctoral supervisory committee. After successfully completing this requirement, the student is formally admitted as a candidate for the PhD degree.
When the central portions of the research have been completed to the point where the student is able to describe the original contributions of the dissertation effort, a candidate submits the written dissertation to the supervisory committee and schedules an oral predefense with the committee. The predefense is attended by the supervisory committee. The supervisory committee must approve the work or the student must schedule a second predefense.
Important Notice: PhD dissertations are extremely time intensive and successful completion requires
full time focus. It is expected that students who have reached candidacy will spend full time on their research for at least one academic year and will attend the majority of the SEOR Seminars.
Once the committee believes the student is ready, a final public
oral defense may be scheduled no sooner than one month after the conclusion of the predefense, with an announcement posted for at least two weeks. The defense must be attended by the supervisory committee and the department's doctoral coordinator, unless an exception has been approved in advance by the doctoral coordinator. Following a satisfactory evaluation of the oral defense of the dissertation by the supervisory committee, the student must prepare, with supervision from the dissertation director, a final publishable dissertation that represents a definitive contribution to knowledge in systems engineering and operations research. This document must meet format guidelines specified by the Guide for Preparing Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Projects. If the student fails to successfully defend the dissertation, the student may request a second defense, following the same procedures as for the initial defense. There is no time limit for this request, other than the general time limits for the doctoral degree. An additional predefense is not required, but the student is strongly advised to consult with the committee before scheduling a second defense. If the student fails on the second attempt to defend the dissertation, the student will be dismissed from the PhD program.