Washington University, St. LouisEngineering

DSc in Systems Science & Mathematics

The DSc degree in SSM is an academic doctorate designed mainly for full-time students interested in proceeding to an academic and/or industrial career.

Degree Requirements:

  • Students pursuing the DSc in Systems Science and Mathematics must complete a minimum of 72 credit hours of post-baccalaureate study consistent with the residency and other applicable requirements of Washington University and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. These 72 units must consist of at least 36 units of coursework (including 18 units of required courses) and at least 24 units of research. They may include work done to satisfy the requirements of a master’s degree in a related discipline and up to 24 units may be transferred to WUSTL from another institution.
  • Students must successfully pass the written qualifying examination to be taken before the second academic year of the program and a preliminary research examination, to be completed within two years of passing the written qualifying examination, and at least one year prior to completion of the dissertation.
  • Students must write a doctoral dissertation that describes the results of original and creative research in a specialization within Systems Science and Mathematics and pass a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation research.
  • The following are core courses for a DSc in SSM that are specifically required by name and number:
    • ESE 520: Probability and Stochastic Processes
    • ESE 551: Linear Dynamic Systems I
    • ESE 553: Nonlinear Dynamic Systems
    • Math 4111: Introduction to Analysis
    In addition, at least two courses from the following list must be taken:
    • ESE 516: Optimization in Function Space
    • ESE 518 Optimization Methods in Control
    • ESE 524: Detection and Estimation Theory
    • ESE 544: Optimization and Optimal Control
    • ESE 545 Stochastic Control
    • ESE 546 Dynamics and Control in Neuroscience and Brain Medicine
    • ESE 547 Robust and Dynamic Systems
    • ESE 552: Linear Dynamic Systems II
    • ESE 557 Hybrid Dynamic Systems

    All other courses used to satisfy the 36-hour coursework requirement must be technical courses at the senior level or above, and must be deemed relevant to the field of systems science and mathematics. These may include courses from the departments of ESE; Mathematics; Physics; Biology; Computer Science & Engineering; Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering; Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science; Biomedical Engineering; or other departments as appropriate. Courses are chosen jointly by the student and his or her academic advisor to meet individual educational objectives. The courses ESE 501 and ESE 502do not count toward the course requirement for this degree.

  • The degree program must be consistent with the residency and other applicable requirements of Washington University and the School of Engineering & Applied Science.
  • ESE 590 Electrical & Systems Engineering Graduate Seminar must be taken each semester. This satisfactory/unsatisfactory course is required for the MS, DSc and PhD degrees in Electrical and Systems Engineering. A passing grade is required for each semester of enrollment and is received by attendance at regularly scheduled ESE seminars. MS students must attend at least 3 seminars per semester. DSc and PhD students must attend at least 5 seminars per semester. Part-time students are exempt except during their year of residency. Any student under continuing status is also exempt. Seminars missed in a given semester may be made up during the subsequent semester.

DSc Written Qualifying Examination

Schedule: The written qualifying examination will be given once a year, during the summer break, usually in August before the start of classes for the fall semester.

Structure: The written examination will consist of three 2-hour examinations chosen by the student from a menu of 5 topics.

Exam Topics: Each examination will cover theoretical material from both undergraduate and graduate level courses and is based on a syllabus of topics for each specific area. The areas are:

  • Signal Processing and Communication Theory
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Linear Systems Theory
  • Nonlinear Systems Theory
  • Optimization and Computational Methods

Grading: Students will receive one of three grades on the exam as a whole: Pass, Marginal Performance, or Fail. An exam grade of Pass will be considered evidence of satisfactory progress in the first year of the PhD program. Not passing the written examination the first time may be considered grounds for terminating a departmental assistantship.

Retake Policy: Students awarded a Marginal Performance on the first attempt may take the examination a second time after one year's time. Students retaking the examination must take the entire examination, but may change topics if they wish. Students who fail the exam on the first attempt will not be allowed to retake the exam, and will be asked to leave the doctoral program. Students not awarded a Pass on the second attempt will be asked to leave the doctoral program.

DSc Preliminary Research Examination

The preliminary research examination is an oral examination in which students make a presentation on their preliminary research and closely related topics, then field questions from the Research Advisory Committee (see description below) in a closed session. Students are expected to show satisfactory progress in the initial stages of a program of original and creative research, to demonstrate mastery of the state-of-the-art in their particular field of interest, and to present tentative plans for the next stages of the research.

Doctoral Dissertation

Working closely with his or her research supervisor, the candidate will be expected to make an original contribution to knowledge in some branch of the field of systems science and mathematics. The work must be of sufficient scope and quality to be publishable in recognized archival engineering, science, or mathematical journals. The completed body of work will be written in the form of a doctoral dissertation, which upon acceptance becomes a publicly available document archived by the Washington University libraries. After the completion of his or her dissertation, the candidate will make a one-hour presentation of the key research results in a public forum, and then field questions from the Dissertation Examination Committee (see description below) in a closed session.

Residency Requirement

During the satisfactory completion of 72 credit hours, at least 48 credit hours must be earned at WUSTL. At least one academic year as a student taking full-time coursework (at least nine units in the fall and nine units in the spring) is required.


All tenured or tenure-track faculty members and those with courtesy appointments in the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering are participants in this doctoral program and may serve as academic advisors, research supervisors, and/or doctoral committee members. Senior or emeritus faculty members may also serve as academic advisors, research supervisors, and/or doctoral committee members, with the approval of the Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. Students funded by ESE in their first year should choose their academic advisors by the summer of the first year.

The academic advisor is the faculty member who oversees the progress of the student and is responsible for ensuring that all program requirements are met. The academic advisor must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering.

The research supervisor is the faculty member who works most closely with the student in carrying out the dissertation research. Tenured or tenure-track faculty members at Washington University, either within or outside of the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, may serve as research supervisor. Ordinarily, if the research supervisor is a faculty member in the ESE Department, that person serves as academic advisor as well.

There are two committees associated with the each doctoral candidate, both chaired by the academic advisor. These are:

  • Research Advisory Committee. The Research Advisory Committee comprises three tenured or tenure-track faculty members from the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering. The Research Advisory Committee is appointed in the student's second or third year and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the student's doctoral work, including conducting the preliminary research examination and reading and approving the dissertation. Additional faculty members from any part of Washington University may be included. If the research supervisor is from outside the ESE Department, then he or she must be included on this committee.
  • Dissertation Examination Committee. The Dissertation Examination Committee is a panel of at least five faculty members that conduct the final oral examination. Four of the committee members should be tenured or tenure-track faculty, including at least one from outside the ESE Department. Ordinarily this committee comprises the Research Advisory Committee and two additional members. Faculty members from outside of Washington University may serve on this committee with the approval of the Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Washington University in St. Louis School of Engineering & Applied Science, Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering

Green Hall, CB 1042, 1 Brookings Drive, Saint Louis, MO, USA 63130
Phone: (314) 935-5565, Fax: (314) 935-7500

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