MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


Founded in 1998, the Engineering Systems Division (ESD) is an integrative interdisciplinary unit of MIT’s School of Engineering that brings together and builds upon the work of several existing academic programs and research centers. The academic programs include Leaders for Manufacturing, System Design and Management; Technology and Policy Program; Master of Logistics and Master of Science in Transportation. The research centers include the Center for Innovation in Product Development; the Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development; the Center for Transportation Studies; and the Industrial Performance Center. Approximately 345 graduate students were enrolled in ESD-affiliated academic programs in the past year, while the research volume was approximately $16 million.

Much has been accomplished within the Division this year including appointing the initial ESD faculty members, searching for new faculty, developing a mission statement and goals and objectives for ESD, establishing governance and administrative structures, reviewing and assessing ESD-affiliated academic program and initiating new educational and research programs.


The most important step in creating ESD was appointing the initial ESD faculty. Twenty-two faculty were appointed; fifteen in engineering and seven in management. These appointments are made in conjunction with an academic department. All Sloan School appointments are joint with ESD. Twelve Engineering School appointments are dual and three are joint. Discussions are ongoing with additional faculty and their department heads about further faculty appointments to ESD.

An ESD Faculty Search Committee was formed. To date, an offer has been made to and accepted by David Simchi-Levi, who joined the MIT faculty on July 1, 2000 as a dual appointment between Civil and Environmental Engineering and ESD. David comes to MIT as a full Professor from Northwestern University. His work spans a wide spectrum of research, focusing primarily on vehicle routing and scheduling of transportation systems and supply chain management, where he has made significant contributions to both theory and practice.


The field of engineering is changing rapidly. System and product complexity are increasing at an accelerating pace, as are the complexities of operating in a global context where technical, natural, and social systems increasingly intersect. Engineering system professionals must consequently consider the technological components as part of a larger engineering system and utilize different approaches than those based on the traditional engineering science. Therefore, for MIT to continue its leadership role in the next century the Institute must broaden engineering education based on an engineering systems perspective. These concepts gave rise to the following mission statement:

ESD will establish engineering systems as a field of study focusing on complex engineering systems and products, where these systems and products are viewed in their broad social and industrial context, and will use the new knowledge gained to improve engineering education and practice.


ESD will be an intellectual home for faculty from engineering, management, and the social sciences, committed to collaborative, integrative, interdisciplinary programs in complex engineering systems serving societal and industrial needs.

ESD will develop concepts, frameworks and methodologies that codify knowledge and define engineering systems as a field of study.

ESD will introduce engineering systems into the mainstream of engineering education, by working with the MIT engineering departments, the Institute as a whole, and other engineering schools worldwide.

ESD will educate MIT students to be tomorrow's engineering leaders via innovative academic and research programs.

ESD will work in partnerships with government and industry to initiate research on problems of national and international importance, as well as projects that demonstrate the changing roles of university, industry, and government in all aspects of engineering systems research, development and deployment.


During the year, ESD appointed an Associate Director, Professor Paul Lagace, to oversee current and developing ESD academic programs. In addition, an Assistant Director was appointed to oversee administrative functions in December. An ESD Council was formed to provide advice to the Director and an ESD Visiting Committee, chaired by Norman Augustine was appointed by the MIT Corporation.


Much has been accomplished in ESD academic programs during the past two decades. They differ from traditional MIT academic programs in the following respects:

The existing graduate educational programs focus on professional practice. These are "stand alone" programs without linkages to more advanced graduate degrees. An ESD objective is to develop coherent graduate tracks for the various professional practice degrees and to enable graduate students to easily move between the traditional research oriented and professional practice degrees. Work has begun on these issues during the year.

Developing the ESD Ph.D. is our most challenging undertaking. We have examined experience to date with the two current ESD Ph.D. programs in Technology, Management and Policy, and Transportation. Our continuing process is to develop subjects that would serve as a core ESD curriculum. Many ESD faculty believe we will identify several core methodologies and tracks rather than a single ESD Ph.D. curriculum.

ESD is developing system case studies to be used in ESD-affiliated educational programs. The ESD educational programs need good examples of the way engineering systems design can best be handled in practice. Real-world experience provides a vital understanding of issues and motivates the use of the most effective analyses. The development of real-world examples for students to analyze as class exercises is a top priority for improving our instruction. These case studies will be developed so that they can be used in a number of classes. Much work was done this year on case study development under the direction of Professor de Neufville.

Other ESD educational initiatives include development by Professors Lagace and Eagar of a new freshman elective "Essentials of Engineering," and planning for a new undergraduate systems minor by Professors Sussman and Nightingale.


An important component of ESD’s strategic plan is the establishment of an international engineering systems network work with a limited number of peer academic institutions around the world. The first step involves the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), a new form of academic enterprise bringing together two of the world’s great universities to build on the complementary strengths of each. The partnership focuses on university/industry relationships and issues of competitiveness, performance, productivity, and entrepreneurship. Since these topics are all of particular relevance to ESD, the Division will assume a major role in CMI.

ESD participation will occur in two of the four CMI’s thrust areas: professional practice programs and competitiveness research. The U.K. government, the sponsors of the CMI, would like MIT to transfer its professional practice programs (i.e. LFM, SDM, MLOG, TPP etc.) to the UK. An opportunity also exists to develop short courses, systems studies and new professional practice programs. In addition, the ESD research centers will sponsor projects and programs examining competitiveness issues. Therefore, CMI will be of great benefit in expanding existing projects and initiating new projects.

More information about the Engineering Systems Division can be found on the World Wide Web at

Daniel Roos

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000