About the Program

The ISE Ph.D. program provides educational opportunities to talented students to acquire the advanced knowledge needed to become creative researchers as well as technical leaders and technology innovators in industrial and systems engineering.

This Ph.D. program of the Rackham Graduate School of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is located, administered, and offered by UM-Dearborn. The program observes the standards for admissions, registration, degree requirements, awarding of degrees, and other administrative policies and regulations established by the Executive Board of the Rackham Graduate School. 

Program Details

The program is a full-time, research-based degree designed to address the growing needs of society for scientific and engineering professionals with advanced knowledge, technical skills, and abilities to conduct original and high-quality translational research in industrial and systems engineering.

Students are admitted for full-time study and all admission offers are for the Fall term only. 

Program Description

The Ph.D. ISE program offers concentrations in integrated design and manufacturing, decision science and operations research, and human factors and ergonomics.

The program requires the core, concentration, and cognate coursework; qualifying and dissertation proposal examinations; a written dissertation; and an oral defense of the dissertation. The Ph.D. ISE degree is offered to exceptional students who have completed, with distinction, a master’s degree in engineering or a closely related field.

Degree requirements for the Ph.D. ISE include a minimum of 18 credit hours of coursework (beyond master’s) and a minimum of 24 credit hours of Ph.D. dissertation. The Ph.D. ISE is composed of five major milestones, which all students are required to pass successfully before graduation:

  • Filing an approved plan of study
  • Completion of the required coursework with the minimum GPA 3.3
  • Passing the qualifying examination on the core coursework
  • Advancement to candidacy
  • Passing the dissertation proposal examination
  • Completion of required dissertation research credit hours
  • Successful oral defense of an approved written dissertation

The target typical time of degree completion is four (4) years.

Program Goals

Learning Goal 1: To provide students with analytical skills that enable them to develop creative solutions for complex engineering problems

Learning Goal 2: To prepare students to conduct high-quality original research in areas of industrial and systems engineering

Learning Goal 3: To prepare students for the varied responsibilities and opportunities of careers in research in areas of industrial and systems engineering

Admission Requirements

The Ph.D. degree program will be offered to exceptional students who have completed, with distinction, a master’s degree in engineering or a closely related field. All students will be required to submit an application to be considered for the admission into the program.

  • DEGREE REQUIREMENT: A master’s degree in engineering, applied mathematics, computer science, or a physical science from an accredited program.
  • ELIGIBILITY: To be eligible for the program, students are required to have completed three semesters or 12 credit hours of calculus and a course in linear algebra.
  • COURSE PREREQUISITE/DEFICIENCIES: One course in operations research, one course in calculus-based probability and statistics, and knowledge of computer programming.
  • GPA REQUIREMENT: A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher on a 4-point scale for the B.S. degree and 3.5 or higher on a 4-point scale for the master’s degree.
  • GRE SCORE: All students are required to submit valid official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.
  • ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY: Foreign applicants whose native language is not English or do not have a degree from an English-speaking institution must provide the Test of English as a Foreign Languages (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score. A minimum score of 84 on IBT TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS is required for admission.
  • LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION: Three letters of recommendation, at least one of which must come from former faculty.

The application package must also include a curriculum vitae or a resume, an academic statement of purpose indicating the intended field or fields of research, and a personal statement that describes the background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational or other opportunities or challenges that motivate the decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The academic statement should identify one or two IMSE faculty with matching research interests.

Funding Support

We understand the financial commitment of continuing your education.  Our Ph.D. program adheres to the CECS full-funding model for Ph.D. students. All Ph.D. students receive full-funding in the form of an appointment as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Research Assistant (GSRA), or a combination of both which covers: a monthly stipend, health insurance, and tuition waiver.

Students admitted to the program are fully funded for up to five years. Funding is guaranteed based on continued good academic standing and adequate progress towards the Ph.D. degree.

Program Policies

In addition to the Rackham Graduate School policies for doctoral students, as a doctoral student in IMSE, you need to know the requirements, timeline, and processes for Pre-candidacy years 1 and 2, the Qualifying Exam at the end of year 2, Proposal Exam, and eventually your Dissertation Defense. See the Path to Degree section below.

Also, an Annual Progress Report completed by you and your faculty advisor must be submitted for review to the IMSE Ph.D. Committee in May of each year. 

The IMSE Ph.D. Committee and your Faculty Advisor are the main resources for information and guidance throughout your program. The IMSE Committee is chaired by Dr. Yubao Chen and includes Drs. Jian Hu and Bochen Jia.

Registration and Enrollment Requirements

Registration Policy

Students must register before the first day of classes.  A student who registers on or after the first day of classes (not including course adds, drops, or changes to initial registration) will be charged a late registration fee. 

Ph.D. Continuous Enrollment Requirement

Students in Ph.D. programs must register for each fall and winter term until final completion of degree requirements unless they have received an authorized leave of absence or have been approved for extramural study. 

Required Registration to Complete Milestones

  • A student who takes candidacy or preliminary exams in a spring or summer half term must register in that half term.
  • A student who defends the dissertation and/or finalizes degree requirements in a spring or summer half term must register for the full spring/summer term and submit the final dissertation and all materials by the published deadline to avoid registering for another term.
  • Pre-candidates preparing for qualifying exams may be enrolled in 980, “Dissertation/pre-candidate,” for the number of credit hours that reflect their effort and as required by outside agencies such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

Candidacy Registration and Enrollment Requirement

  • Ph.D. candidates will be registered for 990, “Dissertation/candidate,” which consists of 6 credit hours for a full term.
  • Ph.D. candidates register in the fall and winter terms for six credit hours of 990/Dissertation Candidate. Part-time enrollment is not permitted.
  • A student who defends in either the spring or summer half term must register for 6 credit hours of 990 for the spring/summer full term, or for both 3 credits in the spring half-term and 3 credits in the summer half-term.
  • A candidate who registers for a course (other than the 990) must seek prior approval from the faculty advisor and also register for 990.
  • When a candidate registers for a course during the fall, winter, or spring and summer half-terms but does not register for 990, the Registrar’s Office will add the 990 to the term and assess any required tuition.
Path to Degree

Please refer to the Path to Degree page for the procedures and forms for the following:

  • date/deadlines
  • milestone exams
  • candidacy
  • dissertation committee
  • dissertation proposal
  • dissertation
  • final oral defense


Satisfactory Progress Requirements

Only letter-graded courses at the 500+ level count toward the degree. Courses completed with a grade lower than B or a "U" grade are not accepted. 

To advance to candidacy, the cumulative coursework GPA (Grade Point Average) must be 3.3 or above on the 4.0-scale.

Coursework Requirement

Breadth Requirement:

The breadth requirement is satisfied by a student taking three core courses (9 credit hours) in the program. The minimum grade for breadth requirement courses is B.

Depth Requirement:

Students must select at least three courses (9 credit hours) from the same concentration area. The minimum grade for depth requirement courses is B.

Cognate Requirement:

At least 4 credit hours of coursework must be outside the industrial and systems engineering area.  See the Cognate section below for ways to satisfy this requirement. A list of cognate course is provided in the approved program courses section.



Required Seminar Courses

ENGR 700 Ph.D. Research Methodology Seminar:

This course provides doctoral students with the fundamental training for conducting high-level scholarly research used in the various fields of engineering. Topics include evaluation of information resources, intellectual property, writing for journals and dissertation, effective work with scientific literature, literature review, plagiarism, publication, bibliographic management, and library resources. Students also complete the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) and Scholarship Training workshops. Additionally, students appointed as GSIs are required to attend the approved GSI training workshop.

The course is required for all doctoral students in the first year of enrollment and prior to taking the qualifying exam. Passing is based on participation and attendance and passing the RCR exam. The seminars will carry no credit hours.

Approved Program Courses

A. Core Courses (select three courses, 9 credit hours)

  • IMSE 505: Optimization
  • IMSE 514: Multivariate Statistics
  • IMSE 548: Research Methods in Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • IMSE 581: Production and Operations Engineering II

B. Concentration Areas and Courses (9 credit hours)

AREA 1. Integrated Design and Manufacturing (SELECT 3 COURSES)

  • IMSE 511: Design and Analysis of Experiments
  • IMSE 519: Quantitative Methods in Quality Engineering
  • IMSE 559: System Simulation
  • IMSE 561: Total Quality Management and Six-Sigma
  • IMSE 567: Reliability Analysis
  • IMSE 538: Intelligent Manufacturing
  • IMSE 5655: Supply Chain Management
  • IMSE 580: Production and Operations Engineering I
  • EMGT 580: Management of Product and Process Design
  • AENG 589: Automotive Assembly Systems
  • AENG 587: Automotive Manufacturing Processes
  • IMSE 605: Advanced Optimization


AREA 2. Operations Research and Decision Science (SELECT 3 COURSES)

  • IMSE 5205: Engineering Risk-Benefit Analysis
  • IMSE 5215: Program Budget, Cost Estimation & Control
  • IMSE 5655: Supply Chain Management
  • IMSE 559: System Simulation
  • IMSE 581: Production and Operations Engineering II
  • IMSE 605: Advanced Optimization
  • IMSE 606: Advanced Stochastic Processes
  • MATH 562: Mathematical Modeling
  • MATH 583: Discrete Optimization


AREA 3. Human Factors and Ergonomics (SELECT 3 COURSES)

  • IMSE 511: Design of Experiments
  • IMSE 543: Industrial Ergonomics
  • IMSE 545: Vehicle Ergonomics I
  • IMSE 546: Safety Engineering
  • IMSE 577: Human-Computer Interaction for UI and UX Design
  • IMSE 593: Vehicle Packaging Engineering
  • AE 546: Vehicle Ergonomics II
  • PSYC 530: Psychology in the Workplace
  • PSYC 548: Psychological Assessment I


Cognate Courses

Computer and Information Science

  • CIS 505: Algorithm Design and Analysis
  • CIS 536: Information Retrieval
  • CIS 550: Object-Oriented Programming and Applications
  • CIS 556: Database Systems
  • CIS 571: Web Services
  • CIS 579: Artificial Intelligence
  • CIS 652: Information Visualization and Computer Animation

Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • ECE 533: Active Auto Safety Systems
  • ECE 531: Intelligent Vehicle Systems
  • ECE 537: Data Mining
  • ECE 542: Introduction to Robotic systems
  • ECE 552: Fuzzy systems
  • ECE 579: Intelligent Systems
  • ECE 5792: Unsupervised Machine Learning
  • ECE 5831: Pattern Recognition and Neural Networks
  • ECE 644: Advanced Robotics
  • ECE 679: Advanced Intelligent Systems

Mechanical Engineering

  • ME 560: Experimental Methods in Design
  • ME 552: Sustainable Energy Systems
  • ME 565: Mechatronics
  • ME 567: Reliability Considerations in Design
  • ME 580: Advanced Engineering Materials
  • ME 584: Mechanical Behavior of Polymers

Mathematics and Statistics

  • MATH 520: Stochastic Processes
  • MATH 525: Mathematical Statistics II
  • MATH 562: Mathematical Modeling
  • MATH 583: Discrete Optimization
  • MATH 584: Applied and Algorithmic Graph Theory
  • MATH 592: Introduction to Topology
  • STAT 535: Data Analysis and Modeling
  • STAT 530: Applied Regression Analysis


  • PSYC 530: Psychology in the Workplace
  • PSYC 548: Psychological Assessment I
  • PSYC 563: Sensation and Perception
  • PSYC 561: Learning and Memory
  • PSYC 565: Ind. & Grp Tech in Clinical Health Psycology
Cognate Requirement

The IMSE department recognizes the value of intellectual breadth in graduate education and the importance of formal graduate study in areas beyond the student’s field of specialization. The student can satisfy the Ph.D. ISE program cognate requirement in one of the following ways:

  • Completion of at least four hours of approved cognate credits, which must be from outside the IMSE department. The minimum acceptable grade for a cognate course is a B. The list of approved cognate courses can be found in the Approved Program courses section.
  • Completion of a University of Michigan master’s degree that included a cognate component. This coursework must be completed no more than five (5) years before admission to the Ph.D. ISE program.
  • Completion of a relevant master’s degree from another university that had coursework that meets the expectation of the program cognate requirement. This coursework must be completed no more than five (5) years before admission to the Ph.D. ISE program. These courses do not apply toward the minimum 18 credit hours in residence at UM-Dearborn required for the degree and do not appear on the university transcript.
Exams, Milestones and Timeline
  • Pre-Candidacy

    • All coursework
    • ENGR 700 seminar
    • RCR requirement
    • Completion of a 4-credit cognate course with a minimum B grade.
  • Qualifying Exam

    • Completed related Core area coursework 
    • Posting a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3 out of 4 at the time of applying for the exam

Students must take the Qualifying Exam by the end of the third term in the program.


  • Candidacy: Achieving candidacy for the Ph.D. ISE requires:

    • Completion of the coursework and Pre-candidacy requirements
    • Passing of the qualifying examination
    • Dissertation Chair or Co-Chairs
    • Submission of the candidacy application form
    • Posting a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3 out of 4 at the time of applying for the candidacy

Candidates must register for the IMSE 990 Dissertation course each fall and winter until completion of all degree requirements. A Ph.D. ISE student should achieve candidacy within two years from the time of initial enrollment in the program.


  • Dissertation Proposal Requirements: The dissertation proposal examination requires:

    • Achieving Candidacy
    • Identify a research advisor and agree on an appropriate topic
    • Submit and defend a proposal for the doctoral research content

The examination must be completed within a year of passing the qualifying examination.


  • Dissertation and Oral Defense: The dissertation examination requires the following:

    • Passing the dissertation proposal examination
    • Completion of required dissertation research credit hours
    • Conduction an original research
    • Submission of a written dissertation
    • A Pre-Defense meeting
    • An Oral Defense of an approved written dissertation

The dissertation defense may not be scheduled in the same academic term as the dissertation proposal examination.

The Ph.D. ISE program has a limit of 7 years. Students are expected to complete the degree within five years of achieving candidacy, but no more than seven years from the date of the first enrollment in the Ph.D. ISE program.

Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to assist both the department and the student in determining whether a student can be expected to perform at a sufficiently high level in advanced coursework and research to complete the requirements for the degree.

The examinations are given twice a year, once in the fall and once in the winter. The qualifying examination is composed of the following.

  • By the end of the third semester in the program, a student must take one three-hour written qualifying examination covering the material in three core courses taken in the program.
  • Each one-hour portion of the examination covers material from one of three core courses taken in the program: (1) Optimization (coverage of IMSE 505), (2) Applied Probability and Statistics (coverage of IMSE 514), (3) Production (coverage of IMSE 581), and (4) Ergonomics (coverage of IMSE 548).
Forming the Dissertation Committee

Dissertation Committee

The composition of a dissertation committee adheres to the Rackham guidelines (see the Rackham dissertation handbook).

  • The dissertation committee will consist of four members, including at least three tenure-track members (appointment as Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor) of the instructional faculty affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program.
  • The student’s dissertation advisor, who must be a member of the graduate faculty of the department, will serve as chair or co-chair.
  • Of the additional members, two must hold at least 50% appointment as tenured or tenure-track faculty of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering, with at least one being a member of the IMSE graduate faculty.
  • The third committee member (cognate member) must be from outside the department: a faculty member with at least 50% appointment from a Rackham Doctoral program other than Ph.D. in ISE.
  • The composition of the dissertation committee must be approved by the Ph.D. program committee and requires Rackham approval. 
  • A committee may have a sole chair or two co-chairs. By special arrangement, retired faculty members who were affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program or research professors may serve as sole chairs. Persons who may serve as co-chair, but not the sole chair, include:
    • tenure or tenure-track members of the University’s instructional faculty who are not affiliated with a Rackham doctoral program;
    • research faculty;
    • instructors and lecturers;
    • similarly qualified University faculty or staff, or person from outside the University; and
    • former University faculty members who have moved to a faculty position at another university.

In the cases when it is justified by the nature of the student’s research and by approval of the program committee, the dissertation work can be co-supervised by two co-chairs. Both co-chairs must hold at least 50 percent appointments as tenured or tenure-track faculty. One of them must be a member of the graduate faculty of the IMSE department. The other can be from the IMSE department or a department other than IMSE.

Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation Research

Please refer to the Path to Degree for the policies, procedures, and forms for the dissertation committee, dissertation proposal, dissertation, and final oral defense. 

Dissertation Proposal Examination

The main objective of the dissertation proposal examination is to ensure sufficient strength and feasibility of the proposed research topic, as well as the suitability of the student’s background and skills regarding the topic.

The examination consists of a written dissertation proposal and its open-to-the-public presentation by the student. The examination is conducted by the dissertation committee. As a rule, the dissertation committee continues overseeing the student’s work to the stage of the final dissertation defense.​​​​​


After passing the dissertation proposal examination, the student may proceed with the dissertation research and the writing of the dissertation. The dissertation should document the original contributions made by the candidate as a result of independent research. This research work should be of archival quality. In advance of graduation, all members of the student's dissertation committee must approve the dissertation. To obtain this approval a student must submit a written copy of the dissertation to the dissertation committee and defend the research work at a final oral examination open to other faculty, students, and the interested public. Students must be registered for IMSE 990 the full spring/summer term if defending the dissertation after May during the spring/summer term.

The dissertation must strictly follow the Rackham Graduate School Dissertation guidelines as described in the Dissertation Handbook Guidelines for copyrighting, publishing and distributing, dissertation embargo and distribution limitations.

Students are expected to complete the degree within two years of passing the dissertation proposal exam, but no more than seven years from the date of the first enrollment in the Ph.D. ISE program. The Ph.D. ISE committee conducts annual reviews to evaluate progress toward degree completion. Students defending the dissertation must be registered in the 990 Dissertation Research course.

Dissertation Research Requirement

  • At least 24 credit hours of doctoral research credit must be completed before graduation.
    • Students who have completed the coursework requirements but have not reached the candidacy status should register for IMSE 980 (Pre-Candidacy Dissertation Research). A maximum of 12 credits may be completed in IMSE 980 Pre-Candidacy course. 
    • Students who have achieved candidacy should register for 6 credits in IMSE 990 (Doctoral Dissertation Research).

Note that the actual completion of the dissertation project is likely to take several years at full-time enrollment and, thus, require more than the minimum number of credit hours.

Final Oral Defense

Upon completion of the dissertation work, the student initiates the last step toward the degree—the dissertation defense process. The process follows the official guidelines and consists of the following main stages:

  1. Preparation of a written dissertation formatted in accordance with the guidelines,
  2. Pre-Defense meetings with the members of the program committee,
  3. Written evaluations of the dissertation by the dissertation committee members presented to the Ph.D. program committee,
  4. The Oral Defense of the dissertation consisting of two parts:
    • Public seminar and open question session held by the student
    • Private deliberations by the committee,
  5. Final oral examination report and certificate of approval prepared by the dissertation committee and submitted to the Ph.D. program committee.
  6. Post-Defense meeting with the CECS Graduate Education Office

Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering

Heinz Prechter Engineering Complex (HPEC)
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