Washington University, St. LouisEngineering

BS in Systems Science & Engineering

Objectives & Requirements

Key Points

  • Systems Engineering: how to integrate different components in engineering systems.
  • Operations Research: mathematical solutions to business problems.
  • Pre-Financial Engineering: the best preparation for the MS in Financial Engineering.
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Control Engineering: how to control jet airplanes, electric power grids, and the nation's economy.
  • Ideal for students strong in math and physics.
  • Ideal for students interested in engineering and business.
  • Ideal for students interested in a second major.
  • The most mathematical program in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.
  • The most flexible professional program in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.


This program educates students in the engineering and science of systems. Graduates are expected to have mathematical competence and knowledge of systems analysis, control, and design methods, numerical methods, differential equations, dynamic systems theory, automatic control theory, system stability, estimation, optimization, modeling, identification, simulation, and basic computer programming. You will have an engineering outlook and engineer’s competence of your own and be able to interact fully with other engineers. You also will possess sufficient proficiency in computer use to design algorithms for simulation, estimation, control, and optimization.

The engineering departments of high-technology industries are staffed by large numbers of engineers with this type of expertise. However, graduates are by no means restricted to careers in traditional industry or in high-technology industries. Within the outlined framework, a salient feature of the program is its flexibility and interdisciplinary nature. It is possible for you to orient study toward preparation for systems science and engineering work in large complex systems such as transportation or power or communications networks or in societal systems such as the economy, ecology, the cities, or biological systems. You may wish to prepare for work along theoretical or professional lines. There is ample room in the program structure to accommodate all these interests and to make your preparation at the BS level ideally suited for your future plans and interests. The B.S. in Systems Science & Engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.

Annual Enrollment and Graduation Data

Educational Objectives

  • Our graduates will be engaged as practicing professionals in a broad range of careers in industry or government or be pursuing advanced degrees in academic graduate education in engineering or a related field.
  • Our graduates will function effectively as members of teams demonstrating sensitivity to professional and societal contexts, integrity and versatility.

Student Outcomes

Graduates of the BSSSE program are expected to know or have

(a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs

(d) an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

(g) an ability to communicate effectively

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context

(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues

(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice

Where can a degree in systems take you?

  1. To a high-tech company such as Boeing working as a systems engineer on a team responsible for coordinating different subsystems of an airplane and eventually becoming a technical manager overseeing a large project such as the 787 Dreamliner. Typically such projects have two managers: a project manager, in charge of budgeting, manpower allocation and scheduling, and a technical manager, in charge of coordinating engineers, making sure that different subsystems will fit nicely with each other so that the whole system works as intended. See the responsibilities of a systems engineer as delineated by its professional organization, INCOSE, here.
  2. To a large defense contractor such as Lockheed Martin working as a control engineer on a team responsible for the flight control system of a fighter plane and eventually becoming a project manager for a fighter such as the F-35 Lightning II.
  3. To a large consumer product company such as Procter and Gamble working as an operations research specialist and eventually becoming the operations manager of one of its factories, overseeing all operations from the procurement of raw materials, to the manufacturing of products and the delivery of finished products to its warehouses.
  4. To the MBA (Master of Business Administration) program at Washington University and then to a leading company such as Anheuser-Busch making financial recommendations to the company and eventually becoming the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of the company, managing its financial risks and planning.
  5. To a master's program in systems at a leading university such as UC Berkeley and to a university-operated lab such as the MIT Lincoln Lab, developing techniques for detecting and intercepting missiles in the stratosphere for the US Missile Defense Agency. You eventually become the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of the Lab, overseeing new product development.
  6. To a PhD program in systems at a preeminent university such as MIT and then to a leading university such as the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign working as a professor and doing cutting-edge research in systems biology and computational biology.
  7. To the MD-PhD program at the Washington University Medical School and to Johns Hopkins University for more training, and then to the Stanford Medical School, developing new diagnostic systems using medical imaging and eventually becoming a professor at the school.
  8. To a PhD program in economics at a leading university such as the University of Chicago and then to a Federal Reserve Bank running econometric models for the bank and eventually becoming the president of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Degree Requirements

The course sequence designed to achieve the type of education delineated above requires at least 120 units, satisfies the residency and other applicable requirements of WUSTL and the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and meets the following program requirements:

  1. Common Studies program of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. This includes courses in engineering, mathematics, physics, chemistry, humanities, social sciences and technical writing. The required chemistry sequence is Chem 111A-151.
  2. Required courses in systems science and engineering:
    • ESE 151, Intro to Systems Science & Engineering (2 units) or ESE 205, Introduction to Engineering Design (3 units)
    • Math 309, Matrix Algebra (3 units)
    • One of the following:
      • ESE 317, Engineering Mathematics (4 units), or
      • Both ESE 318, Engineering Mathematics A (3 units) and ESE 319, Engineering Mathematics A (3 units)
    • ESE 326, Probability and Statistics for Engineering (3 units)
    • ESE 351, Signals and Systems (3 units)
    • ESE 403, Operations Research (3 units)
    • ESE 441, Control Systems (3 units)
    • ESE 448, Systems Engineering Laboratory (3 units)
    • ESE 499, Systems Design Project (3 units)
  3. Two of the following three computer science courses (starting Fall 2014):
    • CSE 131, Computer Science I (3 units)
    • CSE 241, Algorithms and Data Structures (3 units) or CSE 247 Data Structures and Algorithms (3 units)
    • CSE 132, Computer Science II (3 units)
    Students are encouraged to take CSE 131, Computer Science I (3 units), and CSE 247 Data Structures and Algorithms (3 units). Students interested in improving their job prospects by learning C++ may take CSE131, CSE132, CSE247 and CSE332S.
    Students interested in a Minor in Computer Science are recommended to take CSE 131, Computer Science I (3 units), CSE 132, Computer Science II (3 units), CSE 247 Data Structures and Algorithms (3 units), CSE 332S, Object-oriented Software Development Laboratory (3 units) and CSE 436S, Software Engineering Workshop (3 units).
  4. One of the following three laboratory courses:
    • ESE 447 Robotics Laboratory (3 units)
    • ESE 449 Digital Process Control Laboratory (3 units) - Recommended to Chemical Engineers
    • ESE 488 Signals and Systems Laboratory (3 units)
  5. Twelve units in elective courses in systems science and engineering: ESE 400 through 428; ESE 437; ESE 440 through 459; ESE 470 through 489; ESE 497; 500 through 529; ESE 540 through 559. Up to 3 units of the following business courses may be part of the 12 units of SSE electives: OSCM 356, Operations Management; OSCM 458, Operations Planning & Control; OMM 576, Foundations of Supply Chain Management; OMM 577, Information Tech & Supply Chain Management.
  6. Twelve units in engineering concentration outside of systems science and engineering. These units must all be taken in one of the following engineering areas: Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering (ESE 102; ESE 230 through 239; ESE 260 through 290; ESE 330 through 339; ESE 360 through 390; ESE 430 through 439; ESE 460 through 469; ESE 490 through 496; ESE 498; 530 through 539; ESE 560 through 589), or Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Of the twelve units, nine units must be at the level 200 or higher. Sequences for concentrations in economics, mathematics, physics, premedicine, finance, supply chain management, and other fields can be arranged with special departmental approval to meet your specific needs provided the sequence is relevant to systems science and engineering. When a non-engineering discipline is chosen as the outside concentration, the student needs to pay special attention to item 8 of these requirements, which is required of all students, and make sure that enough engineering contents are obtained from the other courses. The courses needed to fulfill the other BSSSE requirements cannot be used to fulfill the requirement for an outside concentration. These twelve units must be concentrated in one area relevant to systems science and engineering.
  7. Required course in ethics (starting in fall 2011):
    • Engineering 4501, Ethics and Sustainability
  8. The entire course sequence for the BSSSE containing engineering topics of at least 45 units. The numbers of engineering topic units assigned to undergraduate courses in the School of Engineering & Applied Science vary from none (0) to the number of the credits given to the course. For the precise number for each course, please look at the table of Topics Units - Engineering Courses given by the Engineering Student Services.
  9. Limitations. No more than 6 units of the combined units of ESE 400 (independent study) and ESE 497 (undergraduate research) may be applied toward the SSE elective requirement (Item 5) of the BSSSE degree. The balance of the combined units, if there are any left, are allowed as free electives to satisfy the requirement on the total number of units.
  10. The courses taken to satisfy the following BSSSE degree requirements must be taken for a letter grade and not on a pass/fail basis: Item 2 (required ESE courses), Item 4 (elective laboratory course) and Item 5 (elective ESE courses).

Suggested Courses for Systems Undergraduates

The following list of courses more or less assumes that you have taken Physics 117A-118A, Calculus 1 through 3, Math 217, ESE 318 and ESE 351. If you are interested in a certain area of systems engineering, you should look into the courses listed under the area of your interest.

Control Engineering

  • ESE 441 Control Systems
  • ESE 425 Random Processes and Kalman Filtering
  • ESE 444 Sensors and Actuators
  • ESE 520 Probability and Stochastic Processes
  • ESE 543 Control Systems Design by State Space Methods
  • ESE 551 Linear Dynamic Systems I
  • Robotics

  • ESE 441 Control Systems
  • ESE 444 Sensors and Actuators
  • ESE 446 Robotics: Dynamics and Control
  • ESE 447 Robotics Laboratory
  • CSE 362M Computer Architecture
  • CSE 467S Embedded Computing Systems
  • Supply Chain Management

    Second major or minor in Operations and Supply Chain Management from the Olin Business School (Be sure to take ESE 326 Engineering Probability & Statistics instead of Olin’s first Statistics course.)

  • ESE 403 Operations Research
  • ESE 404 Applied Operations Research
  • ESE 407 Analysis and Simulation of Discrete Event Systems
  • ESE 415 Optimization
  • Finance

    Second major or minor in Finance from the Olin Business School (Be sure to take ESE 326 Engineering Probability & Statistics instead of Olin’s first Statistics course.)

  • ESE 403 Operations Research
  • ESE 404 Applied Operations Research
  • ESE 407 Analysis and Simulation of Discrete Event Systems
  • ESE 415 Optimization
  • ESE 427 Financial Math
  • ESE Math 439 Linear Statistical Models
  • ESE 517 Partial Differential Equations
  • ESE 520 Probability and Stochastic Processes
  • The program requirements for the B.S. in Systems Science & Engineering allow a double major with another department. Changes in the program to accommodate such double majors may be made with the approval of the department.

    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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