Jul 17, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2024-2025 
Rensselaer Catalog 2024-2025

Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems, Ph.D.

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ISE’s doctoral program prepares students to pursue advanced work—in academia, industry, or government—within ISE’s core intellectual areas. The program provides foundational training in industrial and systems engineering, including the development and application of advanced methods in mathematics, computation, and systems engineering. This work is accompanied by further study and research in an area of specialization determined through close consultation with the student’s faculty adviser. Graduates of the ISE doctoral program receive a Ph.D. degree in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems and have gone on to careers at leading universities, government organizations, private labs, and industry.

Program Requirements

The program requires that a minimum number of approved credit hours be completed prior to graduation, along with ISYE 6900 . Students must satisfy minimum overall GPA requirements as set forth by the Office of Graduate Education and continue to make satisfactory progress in their studies in order to remain in the program. Related institute-level policies and procedures are detailed in the Rensselaer Catalog.

Minimum Credit Hours

For students entering with an M.S., a minimum of 48 total credit hours are required.

For students entering without an M.S., a minimum of 72 total credit hours are required beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete the Ph.D. in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems will be able to demonstrate:

  • proficiency in area of specialization.
  • ability to lead or support development of proposals for external funding.
  • ability to lead or support delivery of conference and/or journal papers to publication.
  • ability to support the delivery of the department’s educational program.
  • ability to present work in public forum.


In the first year of doctoral study, students are introduced to the research environment, identify their prospective research adviser, undertake initial coursework, and prepare a preliminary proposal or report on their dissertation research as part of the Doctoral Qualifying Exam, as discussed below.

Specific requirements related to coursework are as follows:

  1. A total of at least six courses must be taken during the student’s doctoral studies. All courses must be 3 or more credits and must be approved by the student’s adviser or by the Graduate Program Director.
  2. At least three of the six required courses must have an ISYE prefix. One of these courses must be ISYE 6900 , which must be taken during the student’s first fall semester.
  3. No more than two courses at the 4000 level will count towards the six-course requirement. No courses below the 4000 level will count towards the six course requirement.

Other requirements (e.g., Plan of Doctoral Study) are set forth in the Rensselaer Catalog.

Doctoral Qualifying Exam

The ISE Doctoral Qualifying Exam (DQE) is a written report, typically in the form of a preliminary research proposal or report. If a student enters in the fall semester with a master’s degree, the DQE is submitted to the Ph.D. Program Director on or before June 15th of the academic year in which a student begins doctoral study. If the student enters the Ph.D. program without a master’s degree, the DQE is due by the first day of the last month of their third enrolled semester (so if a student enters in the fall, by December 1st of their second enrolled fall semester). The DQE is developed in close cooperation with a faculty adviser. Faculty members are welcome to contribute and help with the DQE document, similar to how they would work with writing a joint paper where the student is the first author. To help understand the contributions of each person on the DQE, the DQE should document the contributions of all the people who helped with the document (similar to author contributions required for many peer-reviewed journals).

The written DQE document is evaluated by ISE faculty other than the student’s faculty adviser, and potentially, faculty outside of the department when appropriate. The evaluation criteria include the demonstration of (1) an ability to analyze problems critically; (2) an ability to develop solutions; (3) an understanding of the subject material; and (4) an ability to pose relevant research questions. The Ph.D. Program Director will combine the feedback on the written document and collect data on the student’s performance in the Ph.D. program more holistically (including the student’s GPA and performance in research assistantship and/or teaching assistantship roles and via discussions with the student’s research advisor), to determine whether the student passes, conditionally passes, or fails.  Students who pass the DQE are formally admitted to the Ph.D. program. If a student fails, they may be provided the opportunity to retake the exam one more time the following academic year. A second failure will result in dismissal from the program.

Doctoral Candidacy Exam

An oral candidacy examination must be taken after passing the DQE (specific requirements regarding the timing of this exam are given in the Rensselaer Catalog). This examination tests the student’s background for the proposed doctoral research, the appropriateness of the proposed research, and the ability of the candidate to complete it successfully. The oral candidacy exam is based on a written dissertation proposal, submitted to the members of the student’s doctoral committee. Requirements regarding the composition and responsibilities of the doctoral committee are given in the Rensselaer Catalog.

Doctoral Dissertation Defense

Doctoral study concludes with the presentation and successful public defense of the student’s doctoral thesis, later submitted with appropriate documentation to the Office of Graduate Education. Specific requirements for the doctoral dissertation and defense are given in the Rensselaer Catalog.

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