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U.S. News & World Report has ranked the NPS Department of Systems Engineering #20 among nationally ranked Industrial, Manufacturing, & Systems Engineering Graduate Schools in the country for 2015. The department improved its positioning from ranking 21st last full list of rankings.


Paving the Interstices* of Multidisciplinary Space 

 by Kristin Giammarco

Some most exciting innovations for systems engineering are being found at the intersection of different disciplines.  As lifelong students and practitioners of systems engineering, we examine a problem space horizontally, soaking in its breadth; then move vertically by abstracting up or decomposing down, depending on the detail needed to solve the problem.   Put anyone, systems engineer by profession or not, who thinks this way in a domain or discipline other than one they grew up in, and something interesting tends to happen.  They instinctively look for relationships between the new information being learned and the knowledge they already have, an effort that sometimes results in the recognition of a pattern.  They see new potential applications of general principles, as well as new potential generalizations of detailed implementations.  Statements such as the following are common when this occurs:  “What you call X, we call Y.  And what you call Z, well, we have nothing like Z over here, but we never even thought about the problem in that way before.”  This is the point at which a general principle or a detailed implementation strategy might traverse an interstice between one discipline and another, laying the groundwork for a new avenue of innovation. 

Such a scenario played out when I went on an educational expedition to our Computer Sciences Department to study software engineering.  Some schools host their software engineering programs in the same department as their systems engineering programs, capitalizing on the similarity between the disciplines.  NPS’s software engineering programs reside right alongside the computer sciences, an approach that, in a way, capitalizes on the differences between the disciplines.  Many in the computer sciences community have a software coding background, and so have analytical, detail-oriented minds that value sharp precision and abhor ambiguity.  Thus my predisposal to accepting abstraction as a workable medium for analysis without getting into implementation details led to some interesting conversations.  These conversations inspired me to think differently, and ask questions I never would have thought to ask, such as: How can abstract concepts be formally organized?  Is abstraction just for the high level parts of a system’s design?  Is there a formal way to express some system architecture principles that are currently only expressed in natural language, if expressed at all?  Can the concept of separation of concerns extend beyond its current use in software, and benefit system-level designs as well?

Monterey Phoenix (MP), an approach to system architecting created by Dr. Mikhail Auguston in the Computer Sciences Department, is a good example of research that spans at least three disciplines:  software engineering, systems engineering, and computer science.  These disciplines are currently each lending their own unique perspectives to fuel MP’s development from concepts, approaches, and techniques that may never have intersected had not a multidisciplinary approach been taken.  In this instance, the multidisciplinary approach was not designed, but a coincidence of interested faculty and students with different backgrounds making an effort to see problems through the lens of another discipline.  The fact that MP employs a high-level, domain-independent language facilitated these conversations; no one needed to be an expert in the vernacular of an unfamiliar domain (the language of logic is soothingly familiar to all domains).  The multidisciplinary approach taken for this research has led to a fount of possible applications.  Examples of research directions follow (if you are an NPS student looking for an original Masters or PhD research topic, see the full description of the “Architecting with Monterey Phoenix” project at

  • Automated use case scenario generation
  • Visualization of possible architectures in a stakeholder-chosen notation
  • Composition and reuse of models
  • Behavior patterning of natural or human designed systems
  • Estimation of system performance and/or cost
  • System safety estimates based on interaction with environment models
  • Use in requirements engineering, risk analysis, architecture and design, integration, test and evaluation, reliability/maintainability/availability analyses
  • Assertion checking (testing a model for the presence or absence of some suspected property)

The interdisciplinary space already has many roads trodden upon, but there are probably far more untrodden spaces that are ripe for research and realizations.   So, if you are stuck on a particular problem, it might pay to investigate whether a solution exists in another domain, perhaps disguised as a principle or implementation approach expressed in another domain language.  It sometimes takes a massive amount of energy to press past the edges of one’s comfort zone, especially when unfamiliar nomenclatures abound, the return on investment is unknown in advance, and time is ever short.  Those for whom the drive of curiosity propels them beyond the comfort of familiarity will be innovators in multidisciplinary space.  


* An interstice is “a space that intervenes between things” or “a gap or break in something generally continuous” [1]; its use here is inspired by Ray Deiotte and Robert K. Garrett Jr. [2], Missile Defense Agency, who in their report have woven concepts from multiple disciplines into an elegant solution for transforming models in physical space to models in event space.

[1]   Merriam-Webster online dictionary,

[2]   Deiotte, R., Garrett, R.K. “A Novel Approach to Mission‐Level Engineering of Complex Systems of Systems; Addressing Integration and Interoperability Shortfalls by Interrogating the Interstitials.” 13‐MDA‐7269 (29 April 13).


Giammarco, Kristin (CIV)

NPS SE Supports Solid State Laser Project with ONR

by Ron Giachetti

Associate Professor Douglas Nelson is leading a team of faculty to support the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation (SSL TM) Program.  Involved SE faculty members include Harney, Robert (Bob) (CIV), Langford, Gary (CIV), Papoulias, Fotis (CIV), Stevens, Mark (CIV) and Giachetti, Ronald (Ron) (CIV).  The NPS team is providing guidance on systems engineering activities, system integration, and requirements engineering.  The SSL-TM has the goal to design and build advanced development model prototype solid state laser weapon and install it on a Navy ship.  The SSL-TM is intended to provide capabilities for counter-UAV and defense against small boat swarm attacks.  A capstone team of mostly Navy civilians in Dahlgren is doing a capstone project in support of this effort.


Giachetti, Ronald (Ron) (CIV) or

Nelson, Douglas (Doug) (CIV)

Modular UGV  

by Timothy Chung 

Several unit members of the ONR/NRL S&T113 reserve unit drilled at NPS this past weekend, to include activities pertaining to the design and construction of a chassis mount, depicted in the attached photos below, to enable sensor/weapon/actuator and computation (autonomy) integration onboard the set of SE and CRUSER robots.  This initial base design will be replicated on the remaining fleet of ground robots, which are to ultimately be used in both the classroom, student projects, potentially faculty research, and of course, STEM outreach activities.

With the recent turnover in the unit, ARSENL has stayed engaged and looks forward to continuing to work with ONR 113, given their valuable contributions and interactions with NPS.  I'm eager to keep marching forward with both our new and veteran ONR 113 members, and look forward to keeping you both apprised of these successful interactions.


Modular UGV Inquiries

Chung, Timothy (CIV)



The NPS ABET Accredited SE Master's Programs

Master of Science in Systems Engineering (MSSE) -Resident and Distance Learning

The Naval Postgraduate School's Department of Systems Engineering is one of three US institutions offering two ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) Master's degree programs in Systems Engineering.  The Master's of Science in Systems Engineering (MSSE) curricula is offered as a resident and distance learning degree program, each one accredited by ABET. The Johns Hopkins University and Air Force Institute of Technology are the other two institutions. The two MSSE programs are among six ABET accredited programs offered at NPS through the Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Science (GSEAS), the other programs include Astronautical Engineering, MS; Electrical Engineering, MS; and the Mechanical Engineering, MS. Click here to learn more about the six different SE degree programs and the department's student outcomes and educational objectives. Read Why ABET Accreditation Matters

What are the SE Department Programs?

Curriculum 232, the DL Lead Systems Integrator Certificate Program

Curriculum 282, the Systems Engineering Certificate Program provides the fundamentals of systems engineering to Engineering Duty Officers and other officer communities without requiring the student to enroll in an NPS degree program. 

Curriculum 311,  the DL Systems Engineering Non-Resident Masters Degree Program (MSSE and MSES)

Curriculum 308, the resident Master of Science in Systems Engineering Analysis (MSSEA), is an eight-quarter degree program intended primarily for Navy Unrestricted Line Officers. It is jointly offered by the Departments of Systems Engineering and Operations Research. It is sponsored by the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (OPMNAV 8F).

Curriculum 581, the hybrid Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Systems Engineering

Curriculum 721, the DL Master of Science in Systems Engineering Management (MSSEM) is a distance-learning program intended for qualified military officers, senior enlisted, federal government civilians and defense contractor civilians. 

TPS Co-op Program -  The cooperative education program with the Navy’s Test Pilot School allows some officers selected for TPS to attend NPS for 5 quarters prior to starting course work at Patuxent River. After completion of TPS school and their final DT-II test plan, students are awarded an ABET accredited Master of Science in Systems Engineering similar to those students in the standard 380 curriculum.   TPS Co-op students enter in either July or January.


Contact the NPS Academic Associates and Program Officers for additional information about these programs:

Academic Associates:

Program Officers:

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