Systems Engineering-related Research

Picture of Radar Screen

Advancement and Application of Systems Theory in Systems Engineering

This thread of research area explores and advances the theory of systems and its use in systems engineering. Our research:

  • recognizes that systems engineering processes must be built upon underlying theory that has the capability to capture complex behavior and phenomena;develops and applies concepts of hierarchy, emergence, communication and control as a way of modeling system-level properties. Past work has applied these concepts to ensure safety Ishimatsu2014;

  • extends safety-driven development to other system propertiese.g. “ilities” — system-level properties such as sustainability, flexibility, reusability, adaptability, robustness, and others.. That is, in the future this research will apply system-theoretic concepts to ensure other system properties that cannot be reduced to component or sub-system level analyses;

  • advances model-based systems engineering (MBSE). Past theoretical work — including my dissertation work — will be developed into MBSE tools and applied to general systems problems in medical, automotive, aerospace domains.

Interoperability of independently developed, highly coupled avionics applications

Picture of Flight Deck

Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) systems present new opportunities and benefits for developing advanced aircraft avionics, as well as a series of challenges related to hazard analysis and certification. This research addresses some of those challenges and proposes a new procedure for improving hazard analysis of IMA systems. A significant objective of IMA architectures is the ability to develop individual software applications independently and then integrate those applications onto one platform. It has been very difficult for both designers and certifiers to understand and predict how the system will behave when the applications are integrated into one system.


This research uses systems-theoretic techniques to identify hazardous behavior that emerges when individual applications are integrated. The techniques account for hazardous behavior due to component interaction, including cases when the components have not failed or faulted.

Future work will apply these techniques to increasingly sophisticated IMA applications as well as to other domains (such as automotive and/or medical technology).

Concept Development and Architecting of Complex Systems

Air Traffic Control

Our interest in this area seeks to develop and investigate techniques that:

  • capture dysfunctional behaviors that emerge when components — including human operators — and sub-systems interact. Recent work has helped identify functional interactions between modular software components Fleming2014aaJAIS;

  • identify candidate architectures that satisfy system goals and constraints, using principles of systems and control theory. Current work — funded by NASA — involves developing operational improvements that will be vital to tomorrow's air traffic management system;

  • compare and contrast different candidate architectures, presenting stakeholders and decision makers with important trade-offs early in the design cycle.