WPI Establishes World's First System Dynamics Major

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass.- WPI 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 aimed 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.

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 public and private organizations, to become consultants providing those services to multiple organizations, or to continue their studies in system 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."

An independent technological university founded in 1865, WPI is renowned for its project-based educational program. WPI was ranked among the top 50 national universities in the 1997 edition of U.S. News and World Report's Best Colleges Guide and was ranked 35th among the top national institutions in the magazine's Best College Values report.