MIT Engineering Systems Division

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Not to be confused with systems engineering.

The MIT Engineering Systems Division is an interdisciplinary academic and research unit devoted to addressing large-scale, complex engineering challenges within their socio-political context. MIT defines Engineering Systems as the engineering study dealing with diverse, complex, physical design problems that may include components from several engineering disciplines, as well as economics, public policy, and other sciences.[1]


MIT views "engineering systems" as a distinct approach from the engineering science revolution of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Engineering science built on the physical sciences: physics, mathematics, chemistry, etc., to build a stronger quantitative base for engineering, as opposed to the empirical base of years past. This approach, while extraordinarily valuable, tends to be very micro in scale, and focuses on mechanics as the underlying discipline. "Engineering systems" takes a step back from the immediacy of the technology and is concerned with how the system in its entirety behaves, for example, emergent behavior of complex systems.

MIT gives two different meanings for the term "engineering systems":

  • A collection of engineered systems: Examples include large-scale and complex engineering systems such as: the Internet, urban planning projects such as Boston's Big Dig, next generation air traffic control, healthcare reform, and network-centric warfare.
  • An approach in engineering based on systems thinking: Hereby engineering systems is different from systems engineering. Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. MIT defines engineering systems as a multidisciplinary approach that does the same thing but has a management, policy, or social dimension as well as a technical one.

Engineering Systems: Topics[edit]

Engineering Systems are:

  • Technologically enabled: Networks & Meta-systems which transform, transport, exchange and regulate Mass, Energy and Information.
  • Large-scale: large number of interconnections and components.
  • Socio-technical aspects: social, political and economic aspects that influence them.
  • Nested complexity: within technical system and social/political system.
  • Dynamic: involving multiple time scales, uncertainty & lifecycle issues.
  • Likely to have emergent properties.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Engineering Systems FAQs at MIT, 2014.

External links[edit]