The University Record, January 9, 1996

Graduate Certicate Program in Complex Systems starts this fall

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

 Graduate students now have one more reason to attend the U-M: Beginning in fall 1996, students can participate in a new Graduate Certificate Program in Complex Systems while working toward an advanced degree.

"We are very excited by the prospects offered by an interdisciplinary graduate curriculum in complex systems," says Robert Savit, professor of physics and director of the U-M's Program for the Study of Complex Systems (PSCS). "This is the first program of its kind at any university and is sure to spark great interest."

The study of complex systems is the study of physical, biological or social systems with many interacting components where aggregate behavior is not simply the sum of individual behavior.

"Complex systems occur in a wide range of disciplines, but their feedback or regulatory mechanisms may have a common underlying structure," Savit says. Examples of complex systems in the social sciences include political organizations, national economies and population interactions. In the physical sciences, they range fromturbulent flow to galaxy formation. In the biological sciences, they include the immune system, evolution and ecological adaptation.

While graduate students enrolled in the program study their respective fields, they also will be encouraged to actively participate in the ongoing research activities of PSCS. Among other venues, students may participate in some of the program's research interest groups. Current groups include those focusing on bioeconomics, growth phenomena, nonlinear time series analysis, public choice and epidemiology. There also is an informal student-directed reading group on complex systems.

Graduate academic courses in the program will cover dynamical systems, adaptive systems, nonlinear data and time series analysis, computer modeling of complex systems, and independent study. "The aim of the curriculum is to allow students from different fields to integrate the rich paradigms and useful analytic and modeling techniques of complex systems into their own research," Savit says.

"Upon completing the certificate program," Savit says, "students will have had an opportunity to develop the habits of mind necessary to view their respective subjects as complex dynamical systems. They also will have acquired the skills and tools necessary to model aspects of complex systems in a concrete way, and to use those models to further develop their understanding," he adds.

"Rackham has enthusiastically approved this new program as an example of capitalizing on major intellectual interests that cross the usual boundaries to make for a new curricular organization of courses," says Robert Weisbuch, interim dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. "The participating faculty are superb and truly invested in this program."

Savit notes that the "inauguration of the Graduate Certificate in Complex Systems will materially strengthen our activities in this field, and will help secure the position of the University of Michigan as an innovative leader in this important new area."

Units supporting the new graduate program include the Office of the Vice President for Research, LS&A, the College of Engineering, the Business School and the Graduate School.

For more information or to receive enrollment applications, contact Katherine Milliken at the U-M Program for the Study of Complex Systems, 2071 Randall Laboratory; 763-3301 or via e-mail to