Engineering Systems and Design (ESD) is a gateway pillar to an exciting career in a broad range of industries: transportation, manufacturing, process industries, telecommunications, healthcare, retail, banking and finance, and many more. How is it that we can open so many doors for your future? The answer lies in our simple focus on design, analysis, and optimisation. It is all about decision-making and that is what organisations in all these industries face. How do you decide what company to invest in, where do you locate that new factory, how can you be both ‘green’ and efficient, when should you launch that next generation product, whom should you target with your new internet service, and why might some application not be the best use of a new technology? These are invariably systems decisions, with many complexities and uncertainties. Design, analysis, and optimisation are how you tackle these open-ended problems.

Design is the process by which you understand a complex need and develop elegant and harmonious solutions to meet that need. Note that you do not set out to design complex systems. The complexity is in the need. You want the solution to be elegant: as simple as possible to meet the need. But we live in a world of systems. So, any solution you develop must connect and integrate with other systems. That is why you also seek harmony: solutions that meet needs but harmonise with the systems around them.

Analysis is the engineer’s mindset. You first articulate the problem and then separate it into its components and establish the relationships among those components. You then take data and see how well you can fit the data to this model of the problem. You may need to change the model. You end with a computer representation of the problem. That is what enables you to move to the next step.

Optimisation is where you propose to change the world. With a computer representation of the systems problem you are tackling, you can search the design space for a combination of parameters that achieves or balances the many objectives you and your clients are wrestling with: customer service, quality, reliability, efficiency, cost, and beauty. Design, analysis, and optimisation are at the heart of ESD. Life-changing, career-shaping, empowering, and deeply satisfying.

Client-Facing Curriculum

The ESD undergraduate programme offers a client-facing curriculum.  From day one, when you enter the ESD pillar, you are presented with real clients who bring you questions about how to improve their operations.  In the Data and Business Analytics course (Term 4), your team meets with a client assigned to you and you begin the process of discovering the problem and assembling the data needed to analyse the problem.  You will be impressed by the breadth of challenges you and your classmates tackle: recommending locations to open new stores, recommending changes in airline crew management, predicting part failures in aircraft maintenance, optimising fleets of rental cars, choosing candidate companies for mergers and acquisitions, screening job applicants, classifying consumers by their browsing histories, and many more.  Meanwhile, in class, you are rapidly equipped with tools in data manipulation, data visualisation, and data analysis to make sense of these data.  We also build your consultancy skills in project management and professional communication and introduce you to accounting and finance, the language of business.  All this, and you are just getting started.

Two other courses in that initial Term 4, Probability and Statistics, and Optimisation, open the door to powerful techniques to understand and manage the complexity of engineering systems. In Term 5, you again work in a “2-D” project: one that crosses course boundaries by blending techniques from your courses in Engineering Systems Architecture and in Manufacturing and Service Operations. The Analytics Edge course in Term 5 also provides you that competitive edge in transforming data into decisions using advanced optimisation models. This fulfills the university promise for ESD students that every student will take a full course in data analytics.

The final core course in Term 6 is Simulation Modelling and Analysis which provides you with four fundamental methods for modelling dynamical systems: system dynamics, agent-based modelling, discrete-event simulation, and Markov chain Monte Carlo. So, whether you are faced with predicting the evolution of financial option prices, or devising scheduling rules to relieve airport ground transportation congestion, you will have the computational tools and modelling skills to solve the problem. As with every other term in the ESD programme, you will have a major project in this Term 6 class. We believe in project-based learning.

You hit your stride in Terms 7 and 8, working with students from other pillars on a major client-sponsored challenge: the capstone project. Beginning in Term 6, you also choose electives to develop a career specialisation.

Along the way in your ESD curriculum you continue to take courses in humanities, arts, and the social sciences, preparing you to be a new type of engineer, one who embraces the cultural and social context of technology in the modern world.

Focus Tracks

The ESD curriculum has been designed with flexibility in mind, so that you can customise it to suit your interests and aspirations.  You may choose to follow one of four tracks:

The four tracks provide exposure to specific industries and are composed of elective subjects usually taken in Terms 6, 7 and 8.  When you complete a track, it will be indicated on your transcript so that future employers can recognise this expertise.  Choosing a track is optional and you are expected to discuss your elective choices with faculty mentors.

How is the ESD curriculum more relevant to the needs of industry today and in the future, compared to a more traditional engineering degree?

An ESD graduate:

  • Has the same basic skills of an industrial engineer but combines that with expertise in
    • data and business analytics and
    • design approaches
  • Has a comprehensive understanding of the social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions of the world he or she is creating, designing, and building for.
  • Takes on a more holistic view of any problem and applies design techniques that lead to more satisfying and complete solutions.
  • As an experienced data analyst, he or she has the power of machine learning to bring together with simulation and optimisation tools to discover, analyse, and optimise the systems he or she studies.

An ESD graduate will find employment across the same spectrum of industries that employ traditional industrial engineers but with the addition of data analytics functions. Some graduates are hired into data scientist positions. Also, with a design orientation, an ESD graduate is more likely to be engaged in digital transformation projects and start-up ventures.


When students apply to SUTD, they do not directly apply to the ESD pillar. Although students may be asked to indicate their interest during the admission process, their final decision is made at the end of Term 3. During this time, students are encouraged to interact with faculty and attend ESD talks and events in order to make a more informed decision. There are no specific admission requirements to join ESD other than completing the freshmore term.

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