Complex systems engineering by self-organized virtual communities

With the increasing popularity of social media and Web 2.0 technologies, new paradigms of systems realization are emerging in which complex systems are developed in a bottom-up manner by self-organized virtual communities, as opposed to traditional hierarchical organizations. While self-organized communities have resulted in successful information-based products such as open-source software and open encyclopedias, the fundamental question from the standpoint of engineering design is:

Analysis and design of socio-technical systems

The focus in this area is on systems that cannot be designed from technical standpoint alone but require an integrated view of social and technical aspects. We are particularly interested in the science of human decision-making, and how such decisions affect the structure and performance of decentralized socio-technical systems.

Integrated design of products and materials

Traditionally, complex engineered systems such as automobiles, aircrafts, etc. have been realized by concurrently designing their subsystems, which are decomposed into components. The design considerations are limited to the component level, where a material which satisfies the design requirements is selected (using Ashby’s selection charts) from the database of available material options. Recently Olson’s Materials-by-Design has received popularity as a new paradigm in the materials research community.

Engineering design education

With increasing globalization and the availability of cheap labor overseas, organizations have started regarding engineers as commodities that can be easily replaced through outsourcing and off-shoring of jobs. Numerous reports call for a dramatic transformation from a narrow, technologically focused, lecture-dominated engineering curricula that worked reasonably well for the pre-globalization era, but are ineffective for the changing economy.