Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Learning Objectives

What We Will Do in This Course

  • Read the academic literature, including our own notes and papers.
  • Learn and practice some existing analytical methods, mainly network methods.
  • Appreciate the wide range of domains where theory and methods have been applied.
  • Critique existing theory and methods.
  • Share our knowledge and experience.
  • Analyze some real systems in detail.
  • Distil common concepts that emerge from theory and that apply to many kinds of systems.

How to Learn

  • We will learn about architecture/structure by examining a wide variety of systems such as biological, sociological, economic at a variety of levels in addition to the technological and organizational systems of most direct interest to us, because
  • These systems are similar in many ways, perhaps more than we think.
  • Since we want to influence structure (not just accept it as we are interested in design), we will also explore how structure is determined by looking at system typologies and constraints that influence or determine the structure.
  • We will use network methods - a choice of level of abstraction.

Important Topics at the "Research Front"

  • How useful are the metrics that exist for architectural or structural attributes in the case of Engineering Systems (high complexity and heterogeneity)?
  • Can we invent metrics for heterogeneous systems that are more useful indicators of important "properties of real systems"?
  • Can we quantify important properties such as flexibility and find analytical relationships to some structural metrics?

More Research Front Topics

  • To what extent are intuitively important aspects of architecture quantifiable and measurable?
  • Are there useful paradigms, patterns, principles or other lessons from natural systems that researchers on real system architectures can use - and how can they be used?
  • Assuming we know what functions, performance, and abilities we want, what methods can be used to create a suitable architecture?
  • Assuming we know what architecture we want, what are the most effective ways of influencing the architecture of complex, evolving engineering systems?

Textbooks and Readings

The required text for this course is:

Buy at Amazon Watts, Duncan. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age . New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004. ISBN: 0393325423.

Additional readings consisting of book excerpts and papers are assigned for most class sessions.

The course also uses this downloadable book that doubles as a user guide to UCINET software: Hanneman, R. A., and M. Riddle. Introduction to social network methods.


Students complete three homework assignments during the term.

Case Study Project

Students complete a team-based case study project, with periodic reports in class leading to a final presentation and a written report.


In-class Participation (Especially Reading Connections) 15%
Assignments (25%)
Assignment 1 5%
Assignment 2 5%
Assignment 3 15%
Project (60%)
Final Written Report 20%
Final Presentation 15%
Modeling Status Presentation 15%
1st Status Presentation 10%