VOLUME 12, NO. 1 JUNE 1998
New system dynamics major is world's first
PI recently became the first university in the world to offer an undergraduate major in system dynamics, a method of studying and modeling complex systems on the computer. System dynamicists attempt to understand the basic structure of a system, such as a national economy, a biological organism, or the global climate, and then find ways to improve the system's behavior.
"With this new major, we aim to help students develop craftsmanship in the application of system dynamics and the multidisciplinary skills private and public organizations need for planning and policy design," says Khalid Saeed, head of WPI's Social Science and Policy Studies Department.
WPI is "leading the way into a new frontier - like Lewis and Clark." MIT Prof. Emeritus Jay Forrester, founder of the field of system dynamics
Jay W. Forrester, Germeshausen Professor Emeritus at MIT and the founder of the field of system dynamics, says WPI is "leading the way into a new frontier - like Lewis and Clark." Forrester spoke to WPI faculty, staff, students and high school and university teachers at a reception in April at which the new major program was announced.
Established in response to the need to understand and control socioeconomic systems, the major will require course work in engineering, the social sciences, mathematics and computer science. Saeed says it will prepare students to work for in-house planning and problem-solving departments in private and public organizations, to become consultants providing those services to multiple organizations, or to continue their studies in systems dynamics at the graduate level.
Computer modeling and experimental analysis, the two most important tools in system dynamics, are the core components of the major, Saeed says. "Our graduates will be able to use system dynamics computer-simulation modeling to solve problems in a wide range of policy areas relevant to engineering, economic and societal systems. By applying the methodological skills they learn to specific, real-world problems, they will gain critical expertise that they can later apply with confidence to problems in other areas as professionals."
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