Feb 05, 2023  
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 [Archived Catalog]

Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems

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Department Head:   Charles J. Malmborg

Director, Doctoral Program: Mark J. Embrechts

Director, Undergraduate Program: Charles J. Malmborg

Department Home Page: http://www.dses.rpi.edu

The formation of this department in 1987 is a prime example of Rensselaer’s ability to anticipate the changing needs of the engineering profession. The department was created to (1) prepare engineers to design, develop, and implement complex decision-making systems and (2) to conduct research that leads to a better understanding of how information technology and quantitative analysis and modeling can support individuals, groups, and systems in problem solving and decision making. These objectives are achieved by extending and integrating knowledge from the disciplines of Industrial Engineering.

The department offers degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels including the bachelor’s and master’s degree in Industrial and Management Engineering and the doctoral degree in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems. Curricula in management engineering and/or industrial engineering have been offered at Rensselaer since 1933.  An interdisciplinary graduate program in operations research and statistics (OR&S) was established at Rensselaer in 1967 in response to the rapid increase in the use of mathematical models for characterizing systems, understanding operations, and making decisions. However, in 1988, the department replaced the OR&S Ph.D. with a unique Ph.D. degree in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems, reflecting the focus of the new department. Today, a common theme throughout these programs is the use of mathematical, statistical, and computational/simulation models to better understand engineering, managerial, operational, and physical processes.

Research and Innovation Initiatives

The department’s research is focused on its core disciplinary strength in Industrial and Information Systems Engineering. This area can be concisely defined as follows.

Industrial and Information Systems Engineering – the application of mathematical, computational, statistical and information science methods to model, analyze and solve complex decision problems in engineering, business, and social systems.

Industrial and Information Systems Engineering (IISE) employs methods of mathematical programming, queuing theory, computational optimization, decision analysis, applied statistics, database systems, soft computing, and discrete event simulation for solving problems related to the design, planning, and operation of complex systems where intelligent coordination is necessary to achieve optimal performance. IISE applies results from operations research, statistics and information systems to design, rationalize, and control large-scale enterprise systems. It is distinctive from management and economics in the use of an engineering approach to design and analyze enterprise processes to optimize performance. It is distinctive from computer science in its focus on the design of data and knowledge systems as the organizational nerve center where operations and enterprise systems are integrated.

The department’s faculty research aligns directly with this core strength to exploit dynamically evolving opportunities of high relevance in such areas as Adaptive Supply Chains, Homeland Security, Intelligent Production Systems, Energy and the Environment, Biotechnology and Services Engineering.

Adaptive Supply Chain
The department’s research in adaptive supply chains deals with the logistics of efficiently deploying finite resources to assemble, transport, sustain, and distribute people and goods, thereby facilitating the fulfillment of demand associated with economic commerce, national defense, disaster response, and/or humanitarian aid. Our focus is on efficient and integrated coupling of supply with distribution network resources from a total integrated systems perspective. The functional scope of Adaptive Supply Chains spans production/procurement, materials management, storage, transport, routing, warehousing, dispatching, delivery, and service. Its contextual scope spans production, transportation, military, health, maritime, and communications systems. All of these systems are characterized by complex interdependencies where methodologies of Industrial and Information Systems Engineering can address major challenges in both the ability of supply chains to adapt to evolutionary change and to respond to planned and unplanned disruptive events. The current body of design and modeling research in this area focuses on life-cycle cost minimization under steady state conditions, sequential supply and demand management, and predictable asset and material values. This traditional approach is clearly insufficient to deal with the challenges that will be posed for supply chains in the 21st century, where criteria related to resiliency and sustainability will challenge cost as a dominant driver in decision making. Research is needed to expand the theoretical frameworks for understanding, modeling, and simulating interdependent supply chains under short-term disruptive conditions as well as their adaptability over evolutionary life cycles.

An excellent example of our research in this area is in systems for disaster response and recovery. Recent events remind us of the global importance of natural, technological, and willful disasters. Such critical events precipitate a wide range of impacts on the interconnected, complex systems that constitute our infrastructure for food, transportation, power, housing, and medical supplies. These technological systems are more vulnerable because they are interdependent; disruptions in one can spread to others, causing cascading and potentially catastrophic failures. This vulnerability is exacerbated by advances in communications and computing technologies that are now integral to the operations of our infrastructure systems. For example, efficient and effective global supply chains such as those used by Wal-Mart and Dell could not function without both the logistical infrastructure to collect, store, and move goods and the information infrastructure to monitor and control the flow of those goods over the network. Therefore, disruptions to either the logistical infrastructure or the information infrastructure could negatively impact our economy. Furthermore, both the logistical infrastructure and the information infrastructure could be dependent upon other infrastructures such as electric power and the cyber-infrastructure, i.e., Internet.

Other Important Research Themes
Other important themes in DSES research focus on Homeland Security/Social Dynamics, Energy and the Environment, Biotechnology, Intelligent Production Systems, and Service Engineering. Homeland Security and social dynamics research in DSES relates to applications including (1) cyber security, (2) text mining, (3) data fusion, and (4) intent dynamics in social networks. Data fusion represents a set of methodologies intended to build better diagnostic systems by combining different individual diagnostic techniques in such a way that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. One of the key drivers for data fusion is the need to boost the performance of different security-related detection techniques to increase overall specificity without an unreasonable number of false positives. Intent dynamics is another promising security-related application where the goal is to automatically identify in media files the occurrence of interesting and unusual events. An obvious application is the flagging of unusual events in sensor-based or camera-based surveillance systems.

DSES research in Energy and the Environment models self-reconfigurable power grids with cyber-infrastructure and distributed sensors using agent-based methodologies. Related DSES research in this application area involves load forecasting, advanced simulation models to assess the impact of climate change, and proton exchange membrane fuel cell manufacturing. DSES research in Biotechnology uses computational intelligence for computer-aided drug design, simulation tools for modeling the spread of infectious diseases, and the development of text-mining techniques in bioinformatics. DSES research in Services Engineering builds on the complementarity of services and manufacturing in applying cyber-infrastructure to produce and provide on-demand, mass-customized services. The key characteristics of these services include scalability, asynchronous co-production, and human-centered assistance through cyber-infrastructure. A signature technical foundation is extended cyber-infrastructure, which couples embedded data and metadata, knowledge, and analytics with computing and telecommunications infrastructure.


Faculty *


Hsu, C.—Ph.D. (Ohio State University); electronic commerce, metadatabase and information systems, enterprise integration and modeling, Internet enterprises planning, computerized manufacturing, information visualization, economic evaluation of cyberspace-augmented enterprises.

Malmborg, C.J.—Ph.D. (Georgia Institute of Technology); modeling and analysis of problems in facility design, materials handling, material flow, storage systems, simulation-based optimization methods, manufacturing systems, decision analysis.

Wallace, W.A.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); decision support systems, environmental management modeling process, disaster management.

Willemain, T.R.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); probabilistic modeling, data analysis, forecasting.

Associate Professors

Embrechts, M.J.—Ph.D. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute); application of neutral networks and fuzzy logic for manufacturing and process control; image recognition and classification with the aid of neural networks; neural networks, fractals, chaos, and wavelets for time-series analysis; data mining and computational intelligence.

Foley, W.J.—P.E., Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); engineering design, computer simulation modeling, health applications of operations research, health case policy analysis; Clinical Associate Professor.

Ryan, J.Ph.D. (Northwestern University); Bayesian methods for decision support systems, stochastic optimization methods for logistical systems, stochastic models for inventory control and supply chain management, analysis of make-to-stock production/inventory systems, service parts logistics, decision models for large-scale condition monitoring.

Assistant Professors

Aboul-Seoud, M.—Ph.D. (University of Louisville); reliability engineering, quality control, operations research; Clinical Assistant Professor.

Chan, W.K.—Ph.D. (University of California at Berkeley); discrete event simulation, design and analysis of manufacturing and service systems, mathematical statistics, queuing theory.

Sharkey, T.—Ph.D. (University of Florida); mathematical programming, network algorithms, combinatorial and computational optimization, supply chain logistics, demand allocation based supply chain optimization models, nonlinear network design problems.

Research Professor

Grabowski, M. —Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); management information systems, knowledge-based systems, human and organizational error in large-scale systems, impact of information technology on systems and organizations.

Emeritus Faculty

Berg, D.—NAE, Ph.D. (Yale University); Institute Professor of Science and Technology (joint in Lally School of Management and Information Technology); management of technological organizations, innovation, policy, robotics, policy issues of research and development in the service sector.

Graves, R.J.—Ph.D. (State University of New York at Buffalo); manufacturing systems modeling and analysis, facilities planning and material handling system design, scheduling systems, concurrent engineering and design for manufacture, continuous flow manufacturing systems design, distributed manufacturing concepts, information infrastructure.

Raghavachari, M.—Ph.D. (University of California at Berkeley); statistical inference, quality control, multivariate methods, scheduling problems.

Sullo, P.—Ph.D. (Florida State University); reliability, life testing, statistical quality control, quality management, biostatistics, industrial statistics.

Tien, J.NAE, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); systems modeling, queuing theory, public policy and decision analysis, computer performance evaluation, and information and decision support systems, expert systems, computational cybernetics.

Wilkinson, J.—Ph.D. (University of North Carolina); regression modeling, statistical analysis.

* Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog, which is current as of the May 2009 Board of Trustees meeting.

Undergraduate Programs


Undergraduate Programs

Objectives of the Undergraduate Curriculum in Industrial and Management Engineering

While certain objectives of an undergraduate education in engineering are common to all disciplines, there are subtle but important differences ensuring that all graduates have special­ized technical knowledge in their chosen field. Three to five years after graduation, graduates of Rensselaer’s Bachelor’s program in Industrial and Management Engineering will:

  • exhibit a total integrated systems perspective enabling: a.) thorough understanding of manufacturing systems, service systems and supply chains, b.) knowledge of engineering relationships to the planning, organization, implementation and control of human centered systems, and c.) the effective application of information through computing and other emerging technologies.
  • be creative and innovative designers of systems, processes, facilities, services, products, organizational teams, and equipment with an understanding of the stochastic nature of management systems enabling the skillful identification, modeling, analysis, solution, and management of real world problems.
  • be effective oral and written communicators with a solid foundation for using communications media and interpersonal skills to facilitate their roles as contributors and leaders of diverse teams.
  • be broadly educated in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering professionalism which informs their socially responsible and ethical professional practice.
  • understand the importance of life-long learning and be capable and motivated to pursue continued growth, learning and innovation throughout the professional career.
  • apply a solid foundation in math and science in professional practice.

Baccalaureate Program

The department offers an undergraduate curriculum in Industrial and Management Engineering (IME). The first two years of this curriculum provide a strong foundation in basic science, engineering science, mathematics, and the humanities and social sciences. These two years are oriented toward the quantitative (mathematical) approach. Computer-based technology, including simulation, modeling, and systems design, is emphasized. In the last two years of the program, students concentrate on building expertise in statistics, operations research, manufacturing and services systems engineering, and industrial engineering methods and models. Through the appropriate choice of electives, students can focus on their selected areas of interest. Design projects include problems in manufacturing services and public systems. It is advisable to develop a Plan of Study leading to the desired degree and concentration by the beginning of the third year. The department recommends that students declare their intent to major in industrial and management engineering as early as possible in their academic career. Students are also urged to work closely with their assigned faculty advisers to ensure that all degree requirements are satisfied.

Industrial and Management Engineering Senior Portfolio

A recommended practice for engineers and others who use creativity and inventiveness to solve problems or create a design or artifact is maintaining a portfolio of their work. Students enrolled in Rensselaer’s Bachelor of Science program in Industrial and Management Engineering are required to submit a professional portfolio prior to graduation. The portfolio is a collection of the student’s work representing examples of the professional skills and corroborating achievement of specific educational outcomes gained through the undergraduate program. Upon declaring Industrial and Management Engineering as the undergraduate major, students should contact the Undergraduate Program Director to obtain materials and instructions for assembling the senior portfolio.

Special Undergraduate Opportunities

Cooperative Education Program
The department encourages this option, which allows students to gain professional experience as part of the educational program. Additional information on co-op opportunities is included in the Educational Programs and Resources section of this catalog, as well as through the faculty adviser or the Career Development Center.

Graduate Programs

Master’s Programs


The department offers both a Master of Science and a Master of Engineering.  Both degrees require a minimum of 30 credit hours.  The Master of Science degree requires a thesis and the Master of Engineering is a non-thesis option.

Doctoral Programs


The department offers the Ph.D. in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems (DSES). All applicants to the Ph.D. program must take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). During the first year of residency, doctoral students are required to elect courses from the restricted list of approved doctoral courses, which are subject to adviser and Doctoral Program Director approval. The approved list of courses can be found under the Ph.D in Decision Sciences and Engineering program information.

Course Descriptions

Courses directly related to all Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems curricula are described in the Course Description section of this catalog under the department code DSES.


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