Feb 26, 2024  
2019-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2021 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Systems Engineering

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School of Engineering and Computer Science
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Qian Zou
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(248) 370-2233

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Graduate Catalog Addendum  

Program description

The Doctor of Philosophy in systems engineering degree program is designed for students who plan careers in industrial or governmental research and development laboratories or problem-oriented agencies, as well as in the academic field.

The field of engineering has evolved into a blending of disciplines that is well suited for dealing with such concerns as robotics and machine vision, electronic and communication systems, mechanics, material and manufacturing systems, fluid and thermal systems, dynamic systems and control, computer and microprocessor systems, industrial and production systems, and artificial intelligence and expert systems. The School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) is concentrating its efforts in these areas at the Ph.D. level.

Systems approach

The field of systems engineering recognizes the inter-disciplinary nature of engineering, particularly in the areas of robotics, electronics, communications, mechanics, manufacturing systems, production systems, fluid and thermal systems, dynamic systems and control, computer hardware and software systems, software engineering, artificial intelligence and expert systems. The successful analysis and design of complex engineering systems in each of these areas involve two major perspectives. The first perspective, characterized by viewing individual elements of any phenomenon, process or system as being interrelated, with the form of the relationship influencing the behavior of the whole, requires that a systems approach be taken in the analysis, modeling or synthesis of the phenomenon, process or system under consideration. The second perspective is discipline-specific and requires a detailed understanding of the fundamental physical principles or concepts associated with the particular system under study.

A direct benefit of the above approach to problem solving is that it ties the contributions made to the fundamental knowledge in the field with the nuances and constraints imposed by the environment on the specific problem under investigation.

In other words, it makes the engineering research sensitive and relevant to practical applications. For example, consider the problem of computer vision. Research in this area will involve the fundamental principles of pattern recognition, digital signal processing, image enhancement, data communication, etc. However, a computer vision system that is associated with robotics in a classical or flexible assembly line manufacturing environment would be subjected to very different environmental conditions and constraints than would a computer vision system on an all-terrain, ground-based vehicle. Integration of such fundamental research, while recognizing the interaction with the environment, lends itself to a systems approach to problem solving.

It is this broad definition of engineering systems that forms the cornerstone of the Ph.D. in systems engineering program at Oakland University. The program is multi-disciplinary, drawing its strength and resources from the entire faculty of the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Ph.D. discipline specializations

In keeping with the programs of study that are currently available through the Computer Science and Engineering Department, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Industrial and Systems Engineering Department and Mechanical Engineering Department, the student can follow any one of the following discipline specializations, depending upon his or her previous background and training.

Computer Systems

The work in this discipline may be focused on hardware and software system design, artificial intelligence and expert systems, computer communication systems including parallel and distributed computing, computer graphic systems, computer vision and multimedia systems, pattern recognition and data mining, and software engineering systems.

Control Engineering and Dynamic Systems

The work in this discipline may be focused on adaptive, intelligent, digital and optimal control systems, modeling and estimation of dynamic systems, robotic systems, fuzzy logic and neural network-based control systems.

Electrical Engineering Systems

The work in this discipline may be focused on digital image and signal processing, microelectronic circuits and systems including VLSI, instrumentation and measurement systems, electromagnetic systems, and analog and digital communication systems.

Industrial Engineering Systems

The work in this discipline may be focused on production systems, quality control, manufacturing systems, computer integrated manufacturing, flexible manufacturing systems, graphics and CAD/CAM, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), lean systems, artificial intelligence in manufacturing systems, scheduling and systems integration.

Manufacturing Processes and Systems

The work in this discipline may be focused on manufacturing processes including machining, metal forming, materials, automated inspection and evaluation systems.

Mechanical Engineering Systems

The work in this discipline may be focused on engineering mechanics systems involving acoustics, vibrations, classical/experimental mechanics and non-destructive testing; fluid and thermal energy systems, combustion and fuel cells, and energy transfer and conversion; tribology systems involving friction, lubrication and wear; and general manufacturing processes systems.

Program delivery

Students can begin doctoral study on a part-time basis, availing themselves of late afternoon or evening courses while working full time in local industry. However, later phases of study and research will require full-time devotion to the program. Students must also fulfill a residency requirement.

Admission terms and application deadlines

Before an applicant’s file can be reviewed for full program admission, all application documents must be received in Graduate Study and Lifelong Learning by the semester deadlines listed below. Incomplete applications will not be sent to departments for admission review.

  • February 15 (early) April 15 (regular) and July 15 (late) for fall semester
  • October 1 (early) and November 15 (regular) for winter semester
  • March 1 (regular) for summer semester
  • International applicants  

Application requirements

To be considered for graduate admission, applicants must submit all Graduate Application Requirements and additional department requirements by the published application deadlines:

  2. Additional department application requirements
  • Additional Recommendation for Graduate Admission form 
    In addition to the two recommendations listed above, a third recommendation is required by the program.
    Requirements for recommendations:
    The recommendations must be from faculty members or professionals in the field who can evaluate the scholarly achievement and potential of the applicant. These recommendations form an important part of the admission credentials.
  • Statement of research objectives and goals.
  • Applicants must submit official scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) if they graduated from an institution not accredited by a regional accrediting agency of the USA. The hosting department may choose to waive the GRE requirement if at least one of the following special circumstances is met:
  • Applicant’s overall GPA from last degree is at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Applicant has worked in the USA for at least two years in engineering or related profession.
  • To request a waiver, applicants must submit a Request to Waive GRE form to the Graduate School as part of the application packet. The request for waiver is subject to the approval of the Graduate Admissions Committee
  • Admission to Ph.D. program is selective; applicants should have an M.S. degree GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale or better for regular admission.
  • If the applicant’s M.S. GPA is between 3.0 and 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, and the percentile score of the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section is 70% or better, admission with limited standing may be offered.
  • Applicants from institutions with which Oakland University has an articulation agreement containing alternative admission criteria will be admitted according to the criteria in that agreement.
  • Normally a master’s degree from an accredited institution is required for admission; however, students with outstanding undergraduate records may apply directly for admission to the doctoral programs.
  • The Ph.D. in systems engineering program is designed for students with academic backgrounds in engineering and computing. Students with backgrounds in mathematics or the physical sciences may also be admitted to the program, but they will be required to build up basic engineering/computing knowledge through relevant coursework.
  • Special consideration may be given if a student does not meet the admission criteria listed above but demonstrates potential for academic excellence through research publications, patents, and awards, etc. In addition, the student must be recommended by an SECS faculty member.

Admission review and assessment

Admission to graduate school at Oakland University is selective. In making admission recommendations to the Oakland University Graduate School, each department assesses the potential of applicants for success in the program by examining their undergraduate/graduate records, goal statement, letters of recommendation, prerequisite courses and any other admission requirements established by the academic department.

Degree requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy in systems engineering degree program is awarded upon satisfactory completion of 80 credits in an approved program of study. In addition to 56 credits of coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree, students must also complete a minimum of 24 credits of dissertation research.

Course requirements (minimum of 56 credits)

Because of the importance of the two perspectives outlined above, the Ph.D. in systems engineering degree program has two major components: systems concepts and discipline-specific options. The courses in the first component provide the necessary knowledge to apply a systems approach to problem solving. The systems concepts required for the analysis and design of continuous systems are different from those required of discrete systems. Therefore, two tracks of courses have been identified to address the systems approach to these two different classes of systems. These two tracks (Continuous Systems and Discrete Systems) are shown below in the table. Every student in the Ph.D. in systems engineering degree program is required to elect one of the two tracks.

Once the systems approach to problem solving has been established, a student will study the area which relates to his/her research interest. These courses provide the discipline-specific component of the Ph.D. program. The student will concentrate on at least two of these areas within the option, the selection of which will be the result of the concerted effort of the student and the advisory committee. Although a student is expected to specialize in either continuous systems or discrete systems, he/she may select courses from other areas as deemed appropriate. For example, a student interested in robotics would be required to take the continuous systems track and may elect the following three discipline-specific options: robotics, dynamic systems and microprocessors. Such options not only cross the boundaries of the two classes of systems but also include courses from various departments within the School of Engineering and Computer Science. This multidisciplinary approach is one of the unique features of the systems engineering Ph.D. program at Oakland University.

The requirement for the Ph.D. is completion of a unified program of formal coursework, as specified above, and independent research directed and approved by the advisory committee. While the courses and examinations for a particular student are specified by the advisory committee, all programs are subject to the following general regulations.

a. Track requirements (12 credits)

Select at least 12 credits from one of the two tracks shown below.

b. Discipline specific options (minimum of 12 credits)

Every student in the Ph.D. in systems engineering degree program is required to elect one of the above two tracks.

Once the systems approach to problem solving has been established, a student will study the area which relates to his/her research interest. These courses provide the discipline-specific component of the Ph.D. program. The student will concentrate on at least two of these areas within the option, the selection of which will be the result of the concerted effort of the student and the advisory committee. Although a student is expected to specialize in either continuous systems or discrete systems, he/she may select courses from other areas as deemed appropriate.

The current discipline-specific options offered by the School of Engineering and Computer Science include:

Continuous Systems

  • Optimal Control
  • Numerical Techniques
  • Manufacturing Processes
  • Dynamic Systems
  • Robotics Systems and Controls
  • Quality and Reliability
  • Advanced Systems Theory
  • Tribology
  • Optimization and Decision Theory
  • Microelectronics
  • VLSI
  • Analog and Digital Communications
  • Energy Systems
  • Thermal Energy Transport
  • Signal and Image Processing
  • Fluid Transport
  • Instrumentation and Measurement
  • Experimental Stress Analysis
  • Electromagnetics
  • Solid Mechanics and Materials
  • Intelligent and Adaptive Control
  • Dynamics
  • Vibrations and Noise
  • Digital Control
  • Automotive Mechatronics

Discrete Systems

  • Manufacturing Systems
  • Industrial Systems
  • Product Systems
  • Quality Control
  • Computer Communications
  • Computer Integrated Manufacturing
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Flexible Manufacturing Systems
  • Software Engineering
  • Graphics and CAD/CAM
  • Theory of Computing Systems
  • Computer Hardware Design
  • Microprocessor Systems
  • Software Systems
  • Parallel Processing
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Data Mining
  • Computer Vision
  • Multimedia Systems

c. Previous master’s coursework (maximum of 32 credits)

  • Maximum of 32 credits may be applied (typically from master’s degree)

Dissertation (minimum of 24 credits)

Satisfactory academic progress

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is the term used to denote a student’s successful completion of coursework toward a certificate or degree. Federal regulations require the Office of Financial Aid to monitor Satisfactory Academic Progress for all financial aid recipients each semester.

Students who fall behind in their coursework, or fail to achieve minimum standards for grade point average and completion of classes, may lose their eligibility for all types of federal, state and university aid. Contact the Office of Financial Aid for additional details.

Good academic progress

All graduate students are expected to remain in good academic standing throughout the entire course of their graduate program. To be in good academic standing, a graduate student must make satisfactory progress toward fulfilling degree requirements, including the completion of critical degree milestones as set forth by the academic program. The student must also maintain a minimum semester and overall GPA of 3.0.

Good academic standing is a requirement for:

  • Holding a Graduate Assistantship
  • Receiving a fellowship or scholarship
  • Advancing to candidacy for a graduate degree
  • Going on a leave of absence
  • Obtaining a graduate certificate or degree from Oakland University.

Additionally, graduate students must meet all department academic standards which may be more stringent than the minimum set forth by the University.

Department requirements:  In the Ph.D. program, credit will not be awarded for courses in which a grade less than 3.0 is earned. All numerical grades earned are used in computing a student’s grade-point average. 

Graduate students who are not in good academic standing for any reason are subject to probation and/or dismissal from further graduate study.

Related program information

Plan of study

Master’s and graduate certificate students must submit a department-approved plan of study by the end of their first semester of graduate coursework. Upon admission, doctoral students must develop a plan of study in consultation with the department chair. As soon as the student forms an advisory committee, the committee reviews and updates the plan of study then forwards it to the dean’s office. The original plan of study must be submitted to the dean’s office, and when approved, it will be forwarded to Oakland University Graduate School.

Note:  Credit granted for successful completion of a course toward an undergraduate degree program may not be repeated for a graduate degree. If a substitution is approved, the minimum number of program-approved graduate credits will be required. A Petition of Exception - OU Course Waiver/ Substitution requesting the substitution must be approved.

Initial advising

After admission to the Ph.D. program, a student should consult with the Program Coordinator for any advice until formulation of an Advisory Committee.

Advisory committee

As soon as possible after admission, but prior to earning 16 credits of coursework, students must form an advisory committee, which will direct and guide the progress of their program. Such a committee is composed of four faculty members, three of which must be from SECS, with one designated as chair. Upon recommendation of the advisory committee, following successful completion of the Ph.D. comprehensive examination, one member from within or outside the university community may either be added to the committee or replace a member for the dissertation proposal and review. 

The composition of the entire advisory committee must be approved by the Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Oakland University Graduate School.

Comprehensive examination

Doctoral students in Systems Engineering are required to take a comprehensive examination preferably within the first two years of their doctoral studies but no later than four years after their admission to the Ph.D. program. The exact timing will be determined by their Ph.D. advisor. The students must schedule the exam at least two weeks in advance using the “Ph.D. Pass Form” that is available on the SECS website.

The comprehensive examination is designed to assess the student’s analytical reasoning, theoretical understanding, and preparedness to do independent research. The comprehensive examination is composed of a written component and an oral component. The written component includes three parts. Two are discipline-specific selected by the student’s advisory committee based on the individual student’s coursework and research. The third examination area is in mathematics.

The students are encouraged to take the comprehensive examinations during the SECS centralized exam schedule which will be given twice per year, usually on the first, second and third Friday of October in fall semester, and the first, second and third Friday after the spring break in winter semester. The student must complete all three written examinations within three weeks. Upon passing the written exams, the student should complete the oral examination within two weeks after the last written examination. The oral portion of the exam will be given by the student’s advisory committee plus any other faculty who have written a portion of the exams.

The student must obtain passing grades on both the written and oral portions to pass the comprehensive exam. To pass the written exam, the student must obtain an average grade of 70% among the three written exams and must have no more than one individual exam grade below 70% but not lower than 60%. A student who fails to pass the comprehensive examination may repeat it once during the next available exam date. If a student scores above 80% in any of the three subject exams, the committee may decide not to retest the student on that subject area. Students who pass the comprehensive exam but exhibit weakness in a specific area may be required by their advisory committee to complete additional coursework to address the deficiency. All comprehensive exams must be monitored in person by a doctoral advisory committee member or a representative of the committee and exams are to be taken on campus.

Dissertation proposal

As soon as a candidate and the advisory committee chair agree on a specific research topic, the candidate must write a dissertation proposal. This document contains a formulation of the problem, the background work leading to the formulation and a plan for the subsequent research. Candidates must orally present the proposal to their advisory committees and any other interested faculty, at which time the committee may question the preparedness of the student to carry out the research.

Research credits

Students who have advisory committee approval of their dissertation proposals and are conducting research should register for EGR 790. At least 24 research credits are required of all doctoral candidates. However, merely amassing credits does not indicate satisfactory progress toward or completion of the dissertation. These judgments are made by the advisory committee. The dissertation is judged completed upon successful completion of the final examination and acceptance of the dissertation by Oakland University Graduate School.


Each candidate will submit a dissertation to the advisory committee. The dissertation must be the candidate’s own work and must constitute a contribution to knowledge in his/her field of endeavor. The completed dissertation must conform to university standards (see Thesis and Dissertation ).


Writing a doctoral dissertation requires a full commitment to research. Such research cannot be effectively pursued in an environment which places research in a secondary role. Doctoral students are required to be full-time students for at least one year of their active dissertation research. The doctoral student should arrange such a period of residency by 1) registering for at least 8 credits of doctoral dissertation research for two consecutive semesters and 2) making a commitment, in a statement addressed to his/her advisory committee, to a program of full-time (at least 20 hours per week) research.

The above represents the normal residency requirement. However, if the present occupation of the candidate (e.g., industrial research or teaching) is conducive to the intended research, there is an alternative method to fulfill the residency requirement. To arrange for the alternative residency, the candidate must apply in writing to his/her advisory committee at the time of the dissertation proposal review. The committee must be furnished with a written statement by the candidate’s employer confirming that the dissertation research constitutes a major portion of the job assignment. If the advisory committee grants permission to pursue this option, the student must enroll in doctoral dissertation research (8 credits maximum) for at least two consecutive semesters.

Final examination

Each Ph.D. candidate must satisfactorily defend the dissertation in a final oral examination administered by the advisory committee. The examination is taken after the advisory committee certifies that the dissertation is ready for final review. At the committee’s option, one re-examination may be permitted if a candidate fails to pass the final examination.

Continuous enrollment

The continuous enrollment policy for doctoral students requires continuous registration of graduate students for at least 1 credit each semester in the academic year to maintain an active graduate student status. This includes semesters in which the comprehensive, preliminary or qualifying examination is taken, defense, and each subsequent term (fall and winter) until the degree requirements are met and the dissertation is submitted to Oakland University Graduate School.

Some agency and graduate assistantship eligibility may have course-load requirements that exceed the minimum registration requirements of the Continuous Enrollment Policy (e.g., Veterans Affairs, Immigration and Naturalization for international students, and federal financial aid programs). Therefore, it is the student’s responsibility to register for the appropriate number of credits that are required for funding eligibility and/or compliance as outlined by specific agency regulations under which they are governed.

Time limit

The maximum time limit for completing a Ph.D. degree is no more than ten years from the time of the first course enrollment in the doctoral program.

The Time Limit for Completing a Ph.D. Degree policy requires a student to achieve candidacy within six years from the first course enrollment in the doctoral program. After being advanced to candidacy, a student is expected to complete the remaining degree requirements within four years (including the dissertation defense).

If a student is deemed inactive, he or she may be dropped out of the program despite the petition for extension.



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