Ph.D. in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems

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ISE PhD

Director, Ph.D. Program: Thomas Sharkey

The ISE doctoral program prepares students with the ability to create and apply new mathematical, computational, and statistical approaches to novel, cutting-edge applications of ISE. This fact allows our Ph.D. graduates to pursue successful careers within academia, industry, and government. Graduates of the ISE doctoral program receive a Ph.D. degree in Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems (DSES) - a name that can be attributed to the department's history in interdisciplinary approaches to solving critical, practically-motivated problems. In fact, the department itself was founded in 1987 under the DSES name and brought together faculty from mathematics, engineering, and management. The interdisciplinary nature of ISE research is a strong theme within the department and ISE faculty are examining problems in a broad set of application areas including disaster response, adaptive supply chains, homeland security, and team decision-making.

Our Ph.D. program offers both unique research and educational experiences for our students. The research pursued by our students fits into an important theme of RPI: "Why not change the world?" Our Ph.D. students are applying the intellectual strengths of ISE to critical challenges faced by the world over the next century, especially in the areas of disaster response and adaptive supply chains. We invite you to learn more about our research here. The educational experiences offered to our Ph.D. students, especially those interested in a career in academia, help to prepare them to educate 21st century students. These experiences include the potential to create "virtual office hours" that can be blended into the traditional classroom experiences for our undergraduate students. These virtual office hours have been created for our core undergraduate Operations Research course and Supply Chains course.

The impact of these experiences have lead our recent alumni to great positions in academia and in industry. You can learn more about how our ISE Ph.D. program has prepared our recent alumni for their careers by looking at the profiles of recent PhD graduates.
Doctoral Degree Requirements

  • Plan of Study approved by PhD program director and Dean of the Graduate School
  • Average GPA 3.5 or better
  • Doctoral Qualifying Exam: A short version of Doctoral Candidacy Exam document, evaluated by two ISE faculty that are not the advisor.
  • Doctoral Candidacy Exam (within one year after passing DQE)
  • Doctoral Dissertation
  • Oral defense

Average time to dissertation is around four years For details, please refer to Ph.D. Program in Decision Science and Engineering Systems

ISE PhD Award Descriptions

There are three awards for which current ISE PhD students are eligible to apply for and to receive as a student. The ISE Graduate Student Research Award recognizes scholarly contributions published in top-tier academic journals. The ISE PhD Outstanding Contributions to Education Award recognizes PhD students that have contributed significantly to undergraduate education during their time in the department. The Graduate Student Travel Award (partially) supports PhD students presenting their research at conferences.

ISE Graduate Student Research Award

The ISE Graduate Student Research Award will be given to any PhD student that has been lead author on an accepted publication, before the official receipt of their PhD, in a top-tier journal in industrial and systems engineering or related fields. The research conducted for this journal paper must have occurred while a PhD student at RPI and must be published in a top-tier academic journal. Evaluation criteria for the receipt of this award includes the quality of the research, the quality of the journal (particular emphasis will be given to articles published in the journals of professional societies including, but not limited to, INFORMS, IISE, IEEE, ACM, SIAM, and ASCE), and the contributions of the student to the research. There is a $500 cash prize associated with this award and a student is eligible to receive the award multiple times. In order to apply for this prize, you must submit a formal acceptance email to the PhD program director and have your faculty co-authors (if applicable) submit a letter of support describing the quality of the journal and your contributions to the research.

ISE PhD Student Outstanding Contributions to Education Award

The ISE PhD Outstanding Contributions to Education Award will be given to a PhD student that has made a contribution, in a significant fashion, to undergraduate education at RPI. Contributions are broadly defined and could include: (i) outstanding work as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course, (ii) the creation of online learning modules and materials in order to supplement the learning experiences of our undergraduate students, or (iii) co-supervising undergraduate research projects with faculty in the department. There is a $1000 cash prize associated with this award. In order to apply for this prize, you must submit at least one letter of support describing your contributions to education from a faculty member and a one-page reflective statement on your personal opinion on the impact of your contributions. This prize will be awarded once a year at the end of the spring semester.

ISE PhD Student Travel Award

The ISE PhD Student Travel Award is to provide partial support in order for our PhD students to present their research at conferences and learn about current advances in their chosen field. There will be 4 awards per fiscal year, each receiving $750 in support. Note that students can still apply for the Office of Graduate Education travel awards to cover additional costs. We encourage students to apply for these awards in August for any conference in the coming academic year as it is likely the funds will be spent quickly. In order to apply for this support, a student must submit the following items:

  1. The title and abstract of your planned presentation. This should follow the formatting requirements required by the chosen conference in terms of word count and structure.
  2. Current vita of the applicant and an unofficial transcript.
  3. A one-page description describing how participation at the conference will support their professional development. Discuss details in terms of target research communities, networking, session attendance and presentation skills.
  4. Lastly, students or their advisors should verify that funds are available to cover any costs incurred above the $750 travel award.

Review criteria for this award includes: (a) the quality of the research in the proposed abstract, (b) the academic achievement of the student, (c) the appropriateness of their plans for the conference with respect to their PhD studies and career goals, and (d) how close the student is in terms of completing their PhD and reaching the job market.