Category Archives: News

SDM Alumnus Runs Kickstarter for Tech Startup

Jack Yao SDM ’15 is running a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring a portable external laptop monitor to market. DUO, a “completely portable dual-screen laptop accessory” produced by Yao’s startup, Mobile Pixels, was completely funded in four hours.

Yao graduated from MIT in June with two master’s degrees—one in mechanical engineering and the other in engineering and management earned through System Design & Management (SDM). Before MIT, he worked in aerospace with GE Aviation. He started Mobile Pixels after interning in 2016 at Amazon, where he found himself in real need of a second monitor.

Yao developed a prototype mobile monitor and then, working with Shruti Banda SDM ’15 and Stephen Ng of Northeastern University, launched Mobile Pixels. The startup’s first product, DUO, is a light and portable monitor that attaches to the lid of a laptop with magnets and serves as a secondary display.

Mobile Pixels has received seed funding from the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund and IDEA Northeastern. While the business has already reached its initial Kickstarter goal of $35,000, the campaign will run until July 24, 2018. Early backers can receive DUO monitors at a discount off the retail price.

For more information, please visit the Mobile Pixels site or the DUO Kickstarter page.

SDM Student Receives Robert B. Guenassia Award

Frederico Calil, SDM ’17

Frederico Calil, SDM ’17, has received a Robert B. Guenassia Award for 2018 from MIT’s Office of Graduate Education. This award grants $1,500 to a graduate student who has attended the École Centrale in France. Calil holds an MBA in project management from the Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Piracicaba, Brazil, and an MS in engineering from the École Centrale de Lyon in Lyon, France. Calil also has nearly 20 years of work experience in engineering, including 10 years with Whirlpool. SDM congratulates him on this award!

Recording and Slides Now Available: Renewable Energy Integration Opportunities in Chile

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Jorge Moreno and Donny Holaschutz, Cofounders, inodú; SDM Alumni

Jorge Moreno, SDM ’11, and Donny Holaschutz, SDM ’10

Date: Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Slides available here.

About the Presentation

Chile was one of fewer than 15 countries worldwide that had solar and wind energy production levels above 10 percent in 2017. Rapidly integrating these renewable sources into the power system has created significant challenges and opportunities for regulators, system operators, and market entities.

This webinar will explain how both public and private entities can take advantage of the transition now under way in Chile’s power system. It will cover:

  • challenges and opportunities created in the operation of the power system;
  • elements driving the need for flexibility to support renewable energy integration in the power system; and
  • key regulatory and policy challenges to incentivize a more flexible power system in the future.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speakers

Donny Holaschutz is a cofounder of the energy and sustainability consultancy inodú with experience in both for- and not-for profit ventures. As an SDM graduate he holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT. He also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jorge Moreno is an inodú cofounder with extensive experience in the energy industry in the United States and Latin America. As an SDM graduate, he holds an MS in engineering and management from MIT. He also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.


Recording and Slides Now Available: Establishing a Systems Engineering Organization

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Ben Levitt, SDM ’12

Ben Levitt, Consultant, Technology Strategy Partners; SDM Alumnus

Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Slides available here.

About the Presentation

New technologies, big data, and the demand for customization have made system integration increasingly difficult. While firms occasionally foresee this integration dilemma, too often it takes a massive failure to spur an investment in systems engineering and an attendant reduction in complexity.

The fundamental question for organizations that wish to get ahead of this issue is, “How do I start a systems engineering organization?”

In this webinar, SDM alumnus Ben Levitt, a consultant at Technology Strategy Partners, will discuss systems engineering best practices and methods of implementation. Drawing on his work on the advantages of systems engineering across industries, Levitt will:

  • explain the rationale for investing in systems engineering;
  • describe the best practices and capabilities that deliver competitive advantage;
  • outline the systems engineering delivery methods; and
  • provide a sample framework and lessons learned on the topic.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Ben Levitt is a consultant at Technology Strategy Partners. He has 15 years of systems engineering experience, including working at Raytheon as a technical product manager, systems engineering lead, product test lead, and systems algorithm engineer. As a graduate of System Design & Management, he has an SM in engineering and management from MIT. He also has a BS in industrial and systems engineering from Lehigh University.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

SDMs Take Leading Role in Sloan Healthcare and BioInnnovation Conference

Three members of MIT System Design and Management’s 2016 cohort played key roles in organizing the 16th annual MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, themed “Pathways to Innovation in Healthcare.”

The conference, held March 9, 2018, in the MIT Media Lab, brought together industry, academic, investment, and policy leaders from the healthcare industry for keynotes and panel discussions on today’s pressing issues and innovations.

Sloan Healthcare and Innovation Prize-winners (from left) Evan Monahan, Christopher Bayers, Lokendra Bengani, and Jacob Becraft receive their award checks while posing with event organizers Tim Chiang and Ben Linville-Engler, both of SDM.

The SDM students involved were:

  • Benjamin Linville-Engler, who served as the co-lead for the overall conference with Sloan MBA student Matt Swatzell;
  • Tim Chiang, who served as lead for MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovation Prize competition, a pitch contest for healthcare entrepreneurs that offers a $25,000 grand prize; and
  • Justin Burke, who served on the sponsorship team that helped raise money for the conference and the pitch contest prize money.

For more information, read the MIT News article.

SDM student organizers pose with others involved in the 16th annual MIT Sloan Healthcare and BioInnovations Conference, held March 9, 2018. From left: Kara Kelley, Maddy Sessions, Kelly Sullivan, and Daniel Lavie, all Sloan MBAs; Ned McCague, MIT Hacking Medicine Workshop lead; Kyle Henson and Matt Swatzell, both Sloan MBAs; Ben Linville-Engler, SDM ’16; Shantanu Sathe and Aditi Shankar, both Sloan MBAs; and Justin Burke, SDM ’16.

Recording and Slides Now Available: Balancing Usability and Cybersecurity in IoT Devices

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Tod Beardsley

Saurabh Dutta, SDM ’15

Saurabh Dutta, Director of Experience Design, Rapid7; SDM Alumnus
Tod Beardsley, Director of Research, Rapid7

Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Slides available here.

About the Presentation

The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing fast, with web-enabled devices now helping people to monitor their health, upgrade their cars, and control home heating—remotely. Yet, these advances come with increasing security risks. The technology research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 25 percent of identified enterprise attacks will involve IoT.

In this webinar, cybersecurity experts will discuss how to use systems thinking and related methodologies to reduce IoT risk while preserving usability. Attendees will learn:

  • what cybersecurity risks are common to IoT devices;
  • measures that can be taken to minimize those risks; and
  • how to weigh the tradeoffs between usability and security.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speakers

Saurabh Dutta directs the experience design team at Rapid7. He has worked in design and usability domains across physical and virtual products for more than 15 years. He has a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT as an alumnus of System Design & Management. He also has an MS in architecture and design from Mississippi State University and a BArch from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra in India.

Tod Beardsley is the director of research at Rapid7. He has more than 20 years of hands-on security experience, stretching from in-band telephony switching to modern IoT implementations. He directs the myriad security research programs and initiatives at Rapid7. He has a bachelor’s degree in information technology management from Western Governors University.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.


The Evolution of Systems Engineering in the US Department of Defense

The challenge: As the defense budget continues to shrink and the need to innovate continues to grow, the US Department of Defense (DoD) must make better use of its resources. Historically, the DoD has employed systems engineering (SE) to deliver products within cost, schedule, and scope targets. But, the increasing complexity of defense systems makes reaching such targets a constant challenge. The question is, what can the DoD do today to maximize its investment in SE?

The approach: In order to appreciate the DoD’s use of SE, it’s helpful to understand its origins. According to the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), the term “systems engineering” stems from the practices employed by Bell Telephone Laboratory in the early 1940s.1 While the DoD didn’t invent SE, it quickly started using the methodology during World War II. After the war, the nonprofit research institution RAND (its formal name was a contraction of Research and Development) was created to connect military planning with research and development decisions. According to RAND, “World War II revealed the importance of technology research and development for success on the battlefield… Forward-looking individuals in the War Department, the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and industry therefore began to discuss the need for a private organization to connect military planning with research and development decisions.”2

Over the course of the next several decades, RAND used system-based principles to develop strategic recommendations for aircraft, weapon and ship capabilities, and military basing locations, as well as to determine how to best implement an air defense campaign and how to develop life-cycle cost estimates for budgeting purposes, among other initiatives.3 While RAND uses a different name for the process, systems analysis (SA), the principles of holistic and system-based planning are very similar in nature to those of SE and have contributed to the body of knowledge we have today. The DoD continued to use these system-based principles to develop missile and missile-defense systems in an effort to stem Cold War aggression from the USSR. While the DoD cannot be credited with inventing SE, it was deeply involved in its evolution and continues to be at the forefront of developing its practices today.

As technology continues to advance, the DoD has evolved from procuring standalone systems to procuring complex and tightly integrated systems of systems. Today, tanks, ships, aircraft, satellites, and ground stations are collecting, processing, and disseminating real-time information to ensure military decision-makers receive the best data as quickly as possible. The interoperability requirements now imposed on project managers have reinforced the need for a disciplined approach to both SE and project management because an ever-increasing number of stakeholders across a wide range of domains must now be served. Figure 1 shows an example of the complex battle space in which the military must currently operate; each system has its own set of stakeholders, timelines, and programmatic risks.

Figure 1. Systems engineering principles are useful in managing military networks such as this one, which links information transmission among US aircraft, partner aircraft, ground stations, and space systems.4

The process: To improve the effective use of SE, the DoD must learn from past experience—both successes and failures.

Over the past 20 years, the DoD has had several successful, high-profile programs. This is largely thanks to adherence to sound SE principles. For example, according to a 2005 RAND study on the Navy’s F/A-18 E/F program, “The unparalleled success of the F/A-18 E/F acquisition program emerged from the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) functions meeting all of the products’ performance requirements, on budget, on schedule, and underweight by 400 pounds. All of this was confirmed in Operational Verification testing (the final exam) and described as an unparalleled success, passing with flying colors and receiving the highest possible endorsement.”

This same study stated that the F/A-18 E/F program’s success can be attributed to many factors, most related to good SE discipline. The report cited many examples of why the program was successful, including:

    • “Structuring the contractor team according to prior experience on the F-18 A/B/C/D programs. Specifically, lines of responsibility were clearly defined, with a designated prime contractor ultimately responsible for contract performance.”
    • “Cost and schedule estimates were relatively accurate and stable.”
    • “The airframe weight had only minor increases, reflecting a stable design.”
    • “Using the Navy’s evolutionary development approach for the moderately risky avionics technologies, which was funded outside of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development program.”5


By funding the new avionics outside the main development program, the program manager was able to compartmentalize his risk and undertake a new development project without impacting the rest of the program. If the new avionics failed, he could rely on the existing F-18 C/D avionics as a backup solution. While not all programs are designed in the same way, and risk tolerances vary across systems, understanding the advantages of these approaches can inform future development programs.

Despite increased emphasis on SE, the DoD has also learned important lessons from several significant failures to deliver weapons systems on time, on budget, and with the requisite capabilities.

In the cost domain, these failures can be measured in terms of Nunn-McCurdy breaches (Figure 2). According to the Government Accountability Office, “A Nunn-McCurdy breach occurs when a program’s unit cost exceeds certain thresholds. When that happens, DoD must notify Congress of the breach.”6 A significant breach is experienced when a program exceeds 15 percent of its current baseline cost (or 30 percent of its original cost), while a critical breach is when a program exceeds 25 percent of its current baseline cost (or 50 percent of its original cost). As part of the 2009 Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act, any program that experiences a critical breach is terminated unless it is certified by the secretary of defense. Programs that are certified typically undergo a restructuring, a revocation of previous milestone approvals, and require a written explanation as to the root cause of the cost growth.

Here are two recent and high-profile examples of Nunn-McCurdy breaches:

  • The F-35 Lightning II Program in 2010. This program saw significant cost growth in the per-unit price of the aircraft, causing it to exceed the 2002 baseline by more than 57 percent. One of the root causes was the discovery of a significant weight and design issue in the first prototype.8 If proper SE principles of risk management had been in place, this technical deficiency could have been caught before significant rework was required.
  • The Global Positioning System Next-Generation Operational Control System in 2016. “Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James declared the breach on June 30 [2016] after quarterly reviews showed inadequate systems engineering at program inception, Block 0 software with high defect rates, and Block 1 designs requiring rework.”9 From 2012 to the time of the breach, program cost estimates rose 22 percent from $3.4 billion to $4.2 billion.10

In both cases, lack of proper SE played a central role in the cost overruns.

Figure 2. This chart shows the number of critical and significant Nunn-McCurdy breaches in the Department of Defense between 2007 and 2015. Such breaches reveal failures that could be addressed through systems engineering.7

The process and tools: Organizational changes have been made at the DoD to emphasize the importance of SE. To help manage increased complexity within DoD programs, the Office of the Deputy Assistant of Defense for Systems Engineering, ODASD(SE), was chartered in 2011 as “the point of contact for policy, practice, and procedural matters relating to DoD System Engineering and its key elements including technical risk management, software engineering, manufacturing and production, quality, standardization, and related disciplines.”11 This office provides continued workforce development and ensures security across platforms and proper technical risk management. Additionally, it has ownership of the Systems Engineering Plan (SEP), a document required by all major defense acquisition programs that gives the project manager a framework for identifying the important SE components to execute a program. The SEP template addresses:

  • system architecture and interface control;
  • risk and opportunity management;
  • technical schedule and schedule risk assessment;
  • technical performance metrics and key performance indicators;
  • stakeholder management;
  • configuration and change management;
  • technical reviews and their associated entrance and exit criteria;
  • engineering tools; and
  • many other topics.

While templates and documentation are important in instilling SE discipline across an organization, it is equally important to ensure that their intent is carried out by the project team.

To accomplish this, ODASD(SE) oversees education, training, and competency screening. The office reviews the content of classes offered by the DoD’s source for project management and SE training, Defense Acquisition University, and staff members serve as subject matter experts in updating core competencies and the experiential requirements necessary to successfully execute core SE activities across the DoD. By establishing this office, the DoD is making a concerted effort to acquire, train, and retain the best SE talent possible.

Instilling sound systems engineering principles across a large enterprise requires both structural and cultural change. In addition to the organizational change mentioned above, the DoD established an initiative called Better Buying Power (BBP) in 2010.12 The intent of this initiative is to improve acquisition efficiency in the face of declining defense budgets. Architected by the former assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, this initiative consists of 23 principles aimed at increasing DoD efficiency and productivity. BBP has been revised twice since then, with BBP 3.0 expanding to focus on 36 goals in eight core areas:

  • achieve affordable programs;
  • achieve dominant capabilities and controlled lifecycle cost;
  • incentivize industry and government productivity;
  • incentivize industry and government innovation;
  • eliminate unproductive bureaucracy and processes;
  • promote effective competition;
  • improve tradecraft in services acquisition; and
  • improve professionalism of total acquisition workforce.

Several of these core areas are dependent on the development and execution of SE principles, specifically: controlling lifecycle cost, spurring and incentivizing innovation, removing unproductive processes, and improving the tradecraft and professionalism of the workforce.

Results: According to the 2016 Annual Report on the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System, “The Department of Defense (DoD) is making continuing progress in improving acquisition. The overall series [of reports] presents strong evidence that the DoD has moved—and is moving—in the right direction with regard to the cost, schedule, and quality of the products we deliver. There is, of course, much more that can be done to improve defense acquisition, but with the 5-year moving average of cost growth on our largest and highest-risk programs at a 30-year low, it is hard to argue that we are not moving in the right direction.”13

Specifically, from 2011 to 2015, the growth of contracted costs for major development acquisition programs (MDAP) shrunk from 9 percent to 3.5 percent, its lowest growth in 30 years. Additionally, it was mentioned in the discussion above that Nunn-McCurdy breaches are an indicator of cost growth that could be attributed to poor systems engineering discipline. In the years since BBP was implemented, these breaches have significantly declined. Figure 3 shows the decreasing trend in the percentage of breaches vs. the overall number of MDAP programs.

Figure 3. The Department of Defense (DoD) has seen a decrease in Nunn-McCurdy breaches since its Better Buying Power effort was initiated in 2011.This DoD chart shows the downward trend in breaches attributed to quantity changes.14

While cost growth seems to be moving in the right direction, schedule growth metrics show mixed performance in the report. The outcome of the metrics is largely based on the data that’s included (completed vs. active programs, etc.). In some cases, there is a decrease in schedule growth, while in other cases there is zero, or even an increase in schedule growth. This emphasizes the fact that continual improvement is required, and the DoD must continue to develop its workforce to instill the systems engineering discipline needed for success. It should be noted that independent of schedule overruns, the DoD has seen a significant increase in planned schedule duration, from an average of three years in 1980 to an average of six and a half years in 2016. This data directly correlates with the complexity of the systems the department is procuring. As the DoD moves from independent systems toward systems of systems, this duration will continue to grow, reinforcing the need for proper program control.

Next steps: While there have been many successful acquisition programs throughout the DoD’s history, there have also been numerous examples of programs that failed to deliver their product within cost, schedule, and scope targets. By implementing structural, cultural and strategic changes, the DoD can gain significant returns on its investment in SE—from basic research, to weapon development, to the integration of systems of systems. It is up to us, the future leaders, to help transform this vision into a reality.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Air Force or Department of Defense.

About the Author

Austin Page, SDM ’17

Austin Page is a major in the US Air Force. He has served as a program manager on various research and development, avionics, electronic warfare, and weapons projects, culminating in his work as deputy program manager for weapons integration in the F-35 program. He is currently a master’s degree student in MIT System Design & Management. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Wright State University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.






3 Digby, James, “Operations Research and Systems Analysis at RAND, 1948-1967.” April 1989






9 Root Cause Analyses of Nunn-McCurdy Breaches, Volume 1, RAND, 2011, pages 35-59






SDM Alum’s Robotics Nonprofit Awarded $2.5 Million Grant

MassRobotics, a nonprofit startup escalator co-founded by MIT System Design & Management (SDM) alumnus Fady Saad, has been awarded a $2.5 million grant to expand operations in Boston’s Seaport District.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced the grant on February 8. The award to MassRobotics was among nearly $7.5 million in MassWorks Infrastructure Program awards given to support projects in the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, Mattapan, South Boston’s Seaport District, and Roxbury.

“These projects will lead to long-lasting, positive benefits for their neighborhoods and the City of Boston,” Baker said. “Our administration is committed to economic development programs like MassWorks that help cities and towns invest in public infrastructure and unlock opportunities for private investment, housing, and new jobs.”

MassRobotics co-founder Fady Saad, SDM ’13, Photo by Mimi Phan

The four projects are part of the 2017 MassWorks Infrastructure Program award round, which totals nearly $85 million in infrastructure investments across the commonwealth. According to Baker’s office, the MassRobotics project alone is expected to support the creation of 3,000 new jobs within 10 years and attract more than $1 billion in venture capital funding and corporate investments to the commonwealth.

Growing robotics business

Centered on encouraging the growth of robotics and artificial intelligence companies, MassRobotics opened 15,000 square feet of shared workspace in the Seaport District in February 2017. Since then, it has grown to house more than 30 companies and organizations, including startups, mature robotics companies and university teams, with more than 70 people working in the space.

MassRobotics leaders said they are excited about getting support from the city to expand their operations. “This grant opens the door to more robust partnerships and sponsorship, and the space for robotics in Boston to grow,” said Saad, SDM ’13, who was named to the Boston Business Journal‘s “40 Under 40” list last fall. “The value of MassRobotics to Massachusetts and the industry is clear.”

MassRobotics’ Executive Director Tom Ryden added, “Year one has been a tremendous success. MassRobotics is busting at the seams, with every office and lab bench taken. We provide a center of gravity to Boston’s robotics community and are truly becoming the epicenter of robotics innovation. To support that growth, we need to expand, and we are excited about the cooperation and support from the City of Boston in this process.”

Incorporated in 2015, MassRobotics helps startups move from working prototype to marketable product by providing offices, a machine shop, and a robot testing platform; access to high-tech equipment such as electronics testing tools and a 3-D printer; and connections to partners. Saad co-founded MassRobotics with Stephen Paschall SM ’04; Tye Brady SM ’99; Daniel Theobald SB ’95, SM ’98; and Joyce Sidopoulos.

MassRobotics has said it plans to use the new grant to build out up to 35,000 square feet of additional space, which will include private offices; an open shared lab, prototyping and test space; a machine shop with 3D printers, laser cutters, and other tools to help make parts; an electronics lab; and dedicated labs for advanced manufacturing robots and university-supported research. There will also be public event space and a dedicated STEM lab where students and others can learn about the latest technologies that will be impact and inspire them.


SDM’s Amy Jones Named SAE/AEM Outstanding Engineer

Amy Jones, SDM certificate student

Amy Jones, a senior engineer in the Construction and Forestry Division of John Deere who is currently pursuing a certificate in MIT’s System Design & Management program, has earned the SAE International/AEM Outstanding Young Engineer Award.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and SAE International established the award in 1996 to recognize an outstanding young engineer in the off-highway or power plant industry. The award was proposed by senior engineering executives and is administered under the auspices of the SAE Engineering Meetings Board in cooperation with AEM.

We are pleased to support SAE and recognize the next generation as we promote industry workforce development and excellence,” stated Mike Pankonin, AEM’s senior director, technical and safety services. “We commend Amy for her work and dedication and wish her continued success.”

Jones received the award at the SAE 2017 Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress held earlier this year in Rosemont, Ill.

SAE provided background on Amy Jones:

Jones began her career as a project engineer at Sachs Electric Company in St. Louis, where she was responsible for the successful execution of large-scale industrial and commercial construction projects. In 2010, she joined John Deere as a software verification and validation engineer in the Construction and Forestry Division, where she had previously completed three internships as an undergraduate.

As a test engineer, she received recognition for leading the first team to successfully implement the complete embedded software development process on a construction product line. Her work led to an unprecedentedly smooth launch of the Excavators Outside the Americas product line, produced in Tianjin, China.

In 2014, Jones accepted her current position as senior systems engineer. In this role, she supervises and leads a global team to define, develop, and implement electrical systems that meet the needs of a diverse customer base.

Jones has a driving passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) outreach, which began during her undergraduate education. Since then, she has dedicated herself to creating opportunities for thousands of students in eastern Iowa. She is active in the Society of Women Engineers and IEEE.

In 2014, Jones was chosen as IEEE-USA’s New Face of Engineering. In 2016, her book “Quietly, Clearly, and Authoritatively” was published by IEEE as part of their digital series on Women in Engineering.

Jones earned an MS in electrical engineering from Purdue University. She also graduated with highest honors with a BS in electrical engineering and minors in business, mathematics, and psychology of leadership from Missouri University of Science and Technology.

SDM Core Faculty Honored with 2017 MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Award

Team members receiving the 2017 MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Award include, from left: Olivier L. de Weck, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems; Bryan Moser, SDM academic director and senior lecturer; and Bruce Cameron, director of the System Architecture Lab and lecturer in engineering systems. (Not shown: Edward F. Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering.) Photo courtesy of Office of Digital Learning

Dr. Bryan Moser, academic director and senior lecturer for MIT System Design & Management (SDM). along with several SDM faculty colleagues recently received the 2017 MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Award for online/in-class instruction, real-time communication, and polling technologies. The group included Moser; Edward F. Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Olivier L. de Weck, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; and Bruce Cameron, director of the System Architecture Lab and lecturer in system engineering systems for MIT SDM.

Please join us in congratulating them!

The MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Awards were established in 2016 to celebrate innovations in digital technology and the faculty who develop them. Read more.

Alum Navigates Systems Challenges to Launch Successful Milk-Chilling Business

By Sorin Grama, SDM ’07

The challenge: Milk is India’s lifeblood. Indians depend on milk for much of their daily nutrition. It is used in curries, the beloved chai, and even for religious rituals. India draws its milk supply from millions of small farmers in villages scattered across the vast countryside. Milk must be collected twice every day, 365 days a year, and rushed to a processing center before it spoils. As a result, the milk supply chain presents a huge challenge for dairy processors.

I learned about this challenge in 2007 when I was visiting India for the first time looking for business opportunities. One of our hosts was a dairy in Bangalore that was having a problem collecting fresh, quality milk. I learned that milk is collected in three steps:

  • Step 1: Individual farmers deliver 5–10 liters of milk to a collection center in a village. A collection center may aggregate from 500 to 2,000 liters of milk per day from 20–40 farmers.
  • Step 2: Milk is picked up and transported to a nearby chilling center. Because refrigeration is not used at the village collection center, the dairy processor needs to pick up the warm raw milk quickly, within 5–6 hours, before it spoils.
  • Step 3: The milk is transported from the chilling center to a processing center where it is pasteurized and processed into such products as cheese and ice cream.

These steps are repeated for thousands of collection centers, twice every day, all over India. It is a huge logistics challenge, and one that I soon discovered could have significant business potential.

One of the farmers who uses Promethean Power Systems’ equipment carries a jug of milk in the village of Mottur in Tamil Nadu, India. Image courtesy Promethean Power Systems

The approach: I began by studying the collection process fully so I could identify the pain points. In 2008 my team and I spent an entire month traveling through rural India following the “milk trail” from farmers to consumers. We made a video of this process so we could later explain the challenge to our US partners and investors.

We learned that the highest pain point in this supply chain was at the source, in the villages where the milk is produced. If milk is not refrigerated immediately after milking, bacteria starts to grow exponentially, changing the taste and eventually spoiling the milk. The sooner milk could be refrigerated, the better it would be for everyone in the system: farmers, processors, and consumers. If milk could be refrigerated at the village, multiple benefits would accrue, including:

  • Lower transportation costs. Milk could be picked up just once a day.
  • Access to additional supplies. Since refrigerated milk lasts considerably longer, the supply chain could extend farther into the countryside.
  • Better milk quality. This benefit is particularly significant since it would allow processors to sell higher-value milk products such as butter, yogurt, and ice cream.

If there are so many benefits to refrigerating milk at the source, I had to ask: Why weren’t dairies doing this? The answer is simple. Refrigeration in rural India is difficult to achieve because of an underlying problem: lack of reliable grid power. The milk supply challenge is really a power infrastructure challenge. If a refrigeration system could be reliably powered, the main problems in this supply chain could be addressed.

Figure 1. Traditionally, milk collection in India follows three steps (top image), which means fresh milk typically goes unrefrigerated for several hours—during which time bacteria can grow and spoil the milk. Promethean Power Systems was launched to facilitate a two-step process (bottom image) that refrigerates milk much sooner, curbing the growth of bacteria and preserving milk quality.

The tools: To understand the problem more deeply, I used contextual inquiries and immersion in my customers’ world, two user-centric design methods I learned in Product Design & Development, a course I took while a student in MIT System Design & Management (SDM). Based on these observations, I decided the best solution would be a stationary milk chiller that could be operated at a village collection center to chill milk immediately after it has been delivered by farmers.

To design this solution, I used the systems architecture and product design teachings that were still fresh in my mind at the time. I tackled the problem by first decomposing the system into modules that could be designed and developed separately. I then integrated these modules into a final system.

The two critical modules in this system are: the power module and the refrigeration module. For the power module, I quickly determined that solar power would be the best option. I had some experience with solar power—my SDM thesis was a survey of thin-film solar technologies—and believed that solar power costs would come down dramatically over time. Next, I began to explore different ways to achieve refrigeration efficiently using solar power. I investigated thermoelectrics, absorption chillers, and iceboxes, but I eventually settled on DC-powered vapor compressors.

Figure 2. Fixing on solar power made it possible to explore multiple concepts for refrigeration.

The results: My team and I built three prototypes over a period of three years, and with each prototype we learned something new and improved the design. However, the cost of solar power was still prohibitively high, a challenge exacerbated by the difficulty of obtaining the DC components we needed at a reasonable price. The most painful and vivid lesson came when our pilot customer rejected the system as too complex, too expensive, and too difficult to install. We had spent all our time and money to design a beautiful solar-powered refrigeration system only to discover that it was impractical and uneconomical. It was a tough lesson, and it looked as if it would be the end of the road for our startup.

But there was a glimmer of hope…

During the process of designing the solar power module, I had also designed a backup subsystem, since solar is not very useful unless you can store the energy and use it later. Because we were dealing only with refrigeration, I chose a simple thermal storage system comprised of a cold water tank. During the day, water can be chilled and stored in an insulated tank. The chilled water can then be used to chill milk in the early morning and late evening. The thermal backup was almost an afterthought, a necessary but not a critical component.

With a bit of reflection, I realized that we could drop the solar component and instead use the existing power grid with our thermal storage as a backup. The grid is usually available in villages; it just doesn’t always work when you need it. We could charge our thermal battery when the grid was on, and use it as a backup when the grid was off. It was a simpler and more elegant solution. We quickly built a prototype, tested it, and it worked.

From then on things moved quickly. We iterated and improved on the thermal storage system, which became our differentiator and the source of our competitive advantage over conventional milk chillers, which use diesel backup generators—an expensive option.

We eventually patented it and used it for other cooling applications. To date, we have installed more than 600 chilling systems throughout rural India. Each system has a capacity of 1,000 liters and serves the needs of 30 to 40 farmers.

The lesson: With the benefit of hindsight, I realize the mistake I made during my system design. To be fair, it was a complex system with a lot of moving pieces. I started by fixing on a power source (solar) and investigated different concepts for refrigeration. What I should have done is fixed on a known and economical method of refrigeration (AC-powered vapor compressor) and explored different concepts for generating reliable power: solar, biogas, battery, etc. After all, this was a power infrastructure problem that I was solving, not a refrigeration problem. My bias and preference for solar prevented me from truly exploring the full solution space for this problem. I learned my lesson the hard way, but I don’t regret the journey. Mistakes were costly, but they were also sources of inspiration.

Figure 3. Ultimately, it became clear that the solution space for India’s milk-chilling challenge should have included additional power source options.

About the Author

Sorin Grama, SDM ’07, is the cofounder of Promethean Power Systems, which manufactures and sells milk-chilling systems in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. After living in India for a few years, Grama is now back at MIT as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and the Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship.

Cultivating Aspiring Entrepreneurs Around the World

MIT Grad Reflects on How SDM Furthered His Life’s Mission

By Rajesh Nair, SDM ’12

The challenge: The world needs entrepreneurs for many reasons: to create jobs, to create wealth, and to develop new ways to address societal challenges. In 2007, when I was a student in MIT System Design & Management (SDM) and a Tata Fellow, I decided to find ways to create entrepreneurship communities in India’s underserved areas. My goal was to nurture aspiring student entrepreneurs and thus change villages, towns, and ultimately, the nation.

Author Rajesh Nair, SDM ’12, poses with students at a TinkerFest held in Delhi, India. Participation in such events is one way Nair is helping to support future entrepreneurship.

Today, most government and private initiatives that aim to develop entrepreneurs in India provide them with mentoring support during a startup’s early stage. However, this has not produced intended results. A simple systems dynamics model reveals that this is primarily due to the scarce supply of aspiring entrepreneurs.

This, in turn, appears to arise because not enough young people are being inspired, educated, and supported by their educational institutions, families, and communities to pursue entrepreneurship. In essence, we need to cultivate aspirants by giving them ample opportunities to learn the fundamentals of business before they take on their first real startups.

This was a challenge I understood personally. When my first company failed and I lost much of my own funds, I thought perhaps I was not born to be an entrepreneur. Close friends and family felt I should abandon my startup dreams and get a desk job. However, despite—or perhaps because of—my prior failure, I learned invaluable lessons and therefore felt better equipped than ever to succeed. I later applied the lessons I had learned to my second and third startups, which were progressively more successful.

The question was: How could I use my personal experience, my Tata fellowship, and my SDM thesis research to create a training process to catalyze and nurture young innovators and prospective entrepreneurs from underserved areas who otherwise would have simply taken a job?

The approach: As an SDM fellow and a systems thinker, I decided this would be the focus of my master’s thesis. I began by exploring the existing ecosystem to better understand why potential startup founders were not getting the help they needed. I traveled to several rural towns and villages in India as well as to nearby universities to explore how entrepreneurs could be nurtured to create long-term, systemic social impact.

I found students in rural colleges were as intelligent as their peers in top schools anywhere. However, they lacked exposure to a broad range of topics. By contrast, their peers in top schools learned new concepts faster through interpolating and extrapolating from adjacent concepts that they already knew. I believe what one already knows is a significant indicator of how fast one can learn a related concept, and fast learning of new topics builds one’s self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy, or the confidence to face an unknown challenge, is a key factor in determining whether one can “make it” as an entrepreneur. Self-efficacy develops through an iterative process that involves:

  • attempting challenges outside one’s current abilities,
  • facing failures and learning from them, and
  • repeating the effort and thus expanding one’s zone of competence.

However, there were several barriers to developing an academic system that could cultivate creativity, foster entrepreneurial courage, and build self-efficacy. These included:

  • Educational norms. India’s academic system largely focuses on rote memorization, not creative thinking. The goal is for students to pass technical licensing exams and get jobs.
  • Family expectations. Families typically encourage students to get jobs, rather than start businesses, because there is a common belief in India that entrepreneurship is too risky.
  • Community limitations. While the spirit of innovation in individuals is high in India, the actual drive to share lessons, propagate entrepreneurship, and create systemic change is not—due to cultural factors that limit the opportunities for scaling the solution across the nation.

I chose to address the entrepreneurship challenge by building students’ self-awareness and self-efficacy through developing an educational program grounded in systems thinking that could be adapted as needed by others and scaled across India. As an engineer, product designer, and entrepreneur, I focused on one question: Could students learn to design multidisciplinary product systems if we helped them learn skills in different disciplines such as team ideation, user experience, mechanical and electrical systems, and basic coding?

That question led to others:

  • Would applying their lessons learned to designing products enable students to relate better to what is taught in the classroom?
  • Would learning to design inspire them to create products that can help solve real-world problems?
  • Would that, in turn, lead students to consider the possible commercialization of these products?
  • Ultimately, would all this inspire students to take the nontraditional path of entrepreneurship?

The process: I developed and conducted a series of workshops to introduce students to different phases of product development and give them opportunities to move beyond their own thresholds of fear and limitation. I also worked with students individually to help them realize their potential to achieve entrepreneurial goals.

To move students through the process, I created a curriculum based on my own life experience and what I learned at SDM that focuses on the transitions I made—from a child growing up in a village in India, to new graduate, to product designer, and entrepreneur. This consists of four stages:

  • Zero: Students with unrealized potential looking to graduate and find steady jobs. Most university students fall into this category, many of them influenced by their parents’ career views and by social pressures to “settle down.”
  • Maker: Students learning to design and make prototypes and products. I use current technologies, such as digital fabrication, to teach students to rapidly design and create products. I created a program called 48-Hour MakerFest where attendees learn to ideate, design, and fabricate prototypes. Students learn to make things in teams and demonstrate their products in just two days.
  • Innovator: Students learning to identify and solve unmet human needs. I introduce design thinking to teach students to observe, engage, and empathize with customers; to identify and define needs; and ultimately to develop and validate solutions. I created a weeklong workshop that takes students through the making and design thinking process to create and demonstrate solutions for real problems in the community.
  • Entrepreneur: Students learning to launch a venture to commercialize solutions that address real-world needs. I developed a two- to four-week-long boot camp that takes the students through making, design thinking, and the startup process. In 2016, this became an accredited course at the University of Rhode Island.

Figure 1. The author identified four stages of entrepreneurship, ranging from students with unrealized potential (zero) to students learning to launch ventures (entrepreneur). Important areas of focus are shown for each stage. A ‘maker’ focuses on making things that are feasible. The ‘innovator’ addresses both the feasibility and desirability of the solution. And, the ‘entrepreneur’ considers all three.

In my classes, students learn to apply design thinking principles to identify needs, evaluate them as business opportunities, and then create solutions. They are asked to:

  • visit places outside their comfort zone—such as tribal villages, cattle farms, homes for the disabled, even red-light districts;
  • immerse themselves in these communities by observing and interacting with people;
  • use these interactions to identify unmet community needs; and
  • devise solutions to these unmet needs that could create impact.

This curriculum is intended to train students to innovate, create, and begin to consider entrepreneurship as a serious career option. The goal is to help them go beyond traditional ways of thinking about their prospects and potential and ignite a change in attitude, driven by self-efficacy.

The results: I have conducted more than 40 intensive, hands-on MakerFests, innovation workshops, and entrepreneurship boot camps around the world, reaching some 1,500 people. These events have given rise to several startups, whose products and services included mobile apps, medical products, and community building.

However, these workshops are not primarily about teaching technology, solving problems, or even launching ventures. They are about helping students build self-efficacy to pursue larger missions.

I strongly believe that if we want to build an ecosystem where entrepreneurship is seen as a valid choice, it is important to start changing attitudes while students are still young and unafraid to experiment. We need to build a community of students who can support each other in innovation, and we need to support them by providing mentoring as well as maker-spaces where they can meet and work on projects.

To do this, I am now moving my work into middle and high schools—helping the Indian government roll out Tinkering Labs and innovation training programs in more than 1,000 middle and high schools across the country to develop future innovators and entrepreneurs. As part of this endeavor, this summer I helped train 48 engineering and business students from top institutes around the world—including MIT—who subsequently went out to schools around Delhi and mentored students in eighth through 12th grade in basic design and making skills. This new, hands-on way of learning made a huge impression on the children, and I expect that for many the experience will seed a passion for innovation going forward.

Next steps: What began as an SDM research thesis has now become my life’s mission—my current goal is to incubate 1,000 entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will stumble and learn their way to founding companies that create jobs and wealth. I believe that catching them young will allow students to be unafraid of bypassing conventional routes to employment and live up to their full potential.

About the Author

Rajesh Nair is an award-winning entrepreneur and the holder of 13 US patents. He currently serves as chairman of Degree Controls Inc., a company he cofounded. He is a visiting scholar at MIT and a senior lecturer at the Asia School of Business, where he serves as director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

He holds two bachelor’s degrees: one in physics from the University of Kerala and one in electronics and communications engineering from the Indian Institute of Science. As a graduate of MIT System Design & Management, he also holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT.

Snapshot of Newest SDM Class

The cohort that entered MIT System Design & Management in fall 2017 is pictured on the steps of Building 10 at MIT.

MIT welcomed a new cohort of 58 early to mid-career technical professionals to the System Design & Management (SDM) program prior to the start of MIT’s new academic year.

Like their predecessors, the class entering in academic year 2018 represent a wide range of industries, including healthcare, US military, energy, software, information technology, US and foreign governments, consulting, and more. They work for well-established companies, new industries, and startups. Several are currently or aspiring entrepreneurs.

• 48 men / 10 women

Average age
• 33

• 36 on campus
• 18 local commuter
• 4 distance

• 43 company-sponsored
• 15 self-sponsored

• Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Ecuador, France, India, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States

Arthur Middlebrooks
Operations Research/Systems Analyst, US Army
“I am an instructor in West Point’s Department of Systems Engineering, so SDM’s leading-edge core courses and MIT electives will help me provide a state-of-the-art education to our cadets and continue to serve my country.”


Sonali Tripathy
Business Unit Head—Women’s Health, Embryyo Technologies
“Since I have been responsible for business development in women’s and children’s health, SDM will enable me to deep-dive into innovation, engineering, and marketing—and create higher impact in the future.”


Eunjin Koo
Manager for e-Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea
“SDM’s emphasis on leadership, teamwork, and diversity will help me develop customized diplomatic information systems applications and collaborate with internal and external colleagues to strengthen e-government capacity.”


Tolu Sodeinde
Global Consulting Director (Oil & Gas), Schneider Electric
“At SDM, I will focus on applying systems thinking with an entrepreneurial focus to several areas: business technology transformation in the oil and gas sector and artificial intelligence/ machine learning in energy sustainability.”


Frederico Calil
Engineering Manager, Whirlpool Corporation
“As an SDM student, I will learn how to manage flexibility and complexity in system design and how to organize an enterprise to effectively deliver projects.”



Sandhya Prabhu
Energy Trader, Boston Energy Trading & Marketing
“SDM’s systems thinking foundation, combined with electives in management, will help increase my effectiveness in business development within the energy/clean-tech space.”


Elizabeth Bieler
Systems Engineer, US Air Force
“At MIT SDM, I want to learn innovative solutions to improve acquisitions engineering and project management. Eventually, I would like to become an engineering director for a major aircraft system.”

Bryan Moser Named SDM Academic Director

Dr. Moser to serve on SDM leadership team and oversee quality of education and research

Bryan Moser

Bryan Moser has been named academic director and senior lecturer for MIT System Design & Management (SDM). Moser has been lead instructor and a member of SDM’s core faculty since 2013, along with Professor Edward F. Crawley, Professor Olivier L. de Weck, and Dr. Bruce G. Cameron. This team of faculty recently won MIT’s 2017 Teaching with Digital Technology Award.

“As a distinguished researcher, a superb educator, and an industry practitioner highly recognized for his contributions to diverse and technically complex projects, Bryan will be invaluable in helping SDM and MIT continue to be at the forefront of interdisciplinary research and education,” says Joan S. Rubin, executive director of SDM. “We are thrilled that he is joining the SDM leadership team.”

Team members receiving the 2017 MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Award included: Olivier de Weck, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems; Bryan Moser, SDM academic director and senior lecturer: and Bruce Cameron, director of the System Architecture Lab and lecturer in engineering systems. (Not shown: Edward Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering.)

In the past, Moser has taught leadership development in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program (TPP). He currently serves as associate director of MIT’s Strategic Engineering Research Group and is a project associate professor at the University of Tokyo and director of its Global Teamwork Lab.

Moser earned his doctorate at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, where he was mentored by Professors Fumihiko Kimura and Hiroyuki Yamato. He researched the dynamics and coordination of complex, global engineering projects.

Moser has more than 26 years of industry experience around the world in technology development, rollout, and sustainable operations in aerospace, automotive, heavy machinery, transportation, energy, telecom, and global services. His research focuses on developing high-performance teams for technically complex projects through the design of socio-technical systems.

“Because SDM students are already accomplished professionals when they matriculate, SDM faculty are required to have deep, relevant, and recent industry experience as well as cutting-edge research expertise in global leadership, teamwork and complex product development,” says Steven D. Eppinger, SDM industry co-director (management) and General Motors Leaders for Global Operations Professor of Management. “Bryan brings experience, expertise, and vision that will greatly enhance SDM’s already rich classroom exchanges.”

“Bryan’s track record of innovation in on-campus and distance education, coupled with his research and his commitment to the Institute, will benefit the SDM program’s industrial collaborators as well as our SDM students,” adds Warren Seering, Weber-Shaughness Professor of Mechanical Engineering and SDM co-director (engineering). “We are pleased that he will be an integral part of the SDM leadership team and help us evolve SDM’s pedagogical and research agendas.”

A long record of service to MIT

Beginning with his early academic years at MIT, Moser has had a long record of service to the Institute. He believes strongly in the engagement of scientists and technologists in public life.

As an undergraduate, while a student in Course 6 (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Moser twice served as president of the MIT student body and was subsequently awarded the Karl Taylor Compton Prize for outstanding achievements in citizenship and devotion to the Institute’s welfare.

As a graduate student he was selected as a Hugh Hampton Young (HHY) fellow. The award not only recognizes academic achievement, but also exceptional personal and character strengths, with heavy emphasis on the perceived overall potential of the candidate to have a positive impact on humanity. Today Moser serves as a trustee of the HHY Council, selecting fellows each year.

When he received his master’s degree from TPP, Moser was also awarded the MIT Alumni Award for Excellence in Technology and Policy.

A career distinguished by innovation and excellence

Moser was one of the first foreign engineers hired by Nissan Motors to work in its Oppama, Japan, factory and Central Research Labs. There he applied artificial intelligence to computer-aided design, multi-objective optimization, and robotic control problems. He later worked at United Technologies Corporation (UTC), where he established the company’s first technology and research center in Asia. He received UTC’s Outstanding Achievement Award for building the organization as well as UTC’s collaboration with industrial partners, universities, and national R&D programs across Asia.

In 1999, he founded Global Project Design (GPD), a company that brings system thinking, model-based project management, and teamwork design tools to complex engineering projects. GPD is still active today in the United States, Japan, and Germany.

Moser says he has been guided throughout his career by the MIT seal and motto. “The craftsman and the scholar, demonstrating “mens et manus” (mind and hand), are a necessary combination to stimulate discovery, rigor, and practicality which yield important innovations for our increasingly complex world.”

Raised in Northern Kentucky, Moser has lived around the world. He now resides in Winchester, MA, with his spouse, Harunaga Yamakawa Moser.

Using Technology Readiness Levels and System Architecture to Estimate Integration Risk

By Steven D. Eppinger, ScD, Tushar Garg, Nitin Joglekar, PhD, and Alison Olechowski, PhD

The challenge: Risk management is one of the most critical activities in new product development. Improper or insufficient risk identification practices can result in unanticipated schedule overruns, significant rework, budget inflation, and reduced capability for delivering the project’s chartered scope. Although several decision support tools exist to help project managers identify and mitigate risks, few explicitly consider the impact of a system’s architecture.

The approach: This article describes a practical risk identification tool that can be used by engineers and technical managers on projects involving integration of new technology components into systems. Its framework combines system architecture concepts and analysis with technology readiness levels (a metric describing where a given technology is on the path to full maturity) to focus attention on high-risk components and interfaces. It focuses specifically on technical risk, which deals with the uncertainty related to developing and integrating new or complex technologies.

Our goal is to offer a novel risk estimation framework that:

  • includes system architecture considerations;
  • embraces traditional project management literature;
  • defines risk as a combination of likelihood and impact;
  • uses technology readiness levels as a proxy for the likelihood that a component will require a change to fulfill its function;
  • and, given that change propagates through interfaces, employs network measures to estimate impact related to connectivity.

We then:

  • describe how this framework was applied to a project at a high-tech company where data was visualized in different formats to aid in analysis;
  • discuss insights gained from this analysis; and
  • demonstrate that the risk estimation framework provides insight that is in line with the experience of engineers at the company.

For more detailed information, please see our technical article with supporting citations and a thesis.

In developing this framework, we grappled with the following questions:

  • how to estimate technology integration risk using concepts of technical maturity, architecture, and connectivity; and
  • how to keep this assessment effort low enough to enable practical application within industry.

In defining technology integration risk, we focused on concepts of engineering change and change propagation. For highly complex systems, engineering change is required to address mistakes during the design process resulting from uncertainty. In some cases, those changes propagate through interfaces to other components in the system. When mismanaged, relatively small changes can propagate into a cascade of changes that sweep across the system, incurring significant costs and rework. We therefore began our definition by asserting that the technology integration risk of each component i is estimated using a common risk metric—the product of likelihood and impact as seen in this equation:

Riski = Li ∙ Ii

Li is the likelihood that the component technology requires a change to fulfill its function. This is estimated by using technology readiness levels (TRLs), which have been shown to be good estimators of uncertainty in the technology integration process.

Ii is the severity of impact if the component is forced to change. We examined the overall architecture, and the component interfaces specifically, to estimate the impact of context on change propagation.

The following sections describe the rationale and method behind the inputs for our risk calculation. Given that some of our inputs are unbounded scales, we chose to calculate relative risk rather than absolute risk by rescaling all inputs to fall in the 1–10 range. We choose 1–10 for our range as this is the standard used in failure mode and effects analysis.

A. Likelihood of change

There is a relationship between the likelihood of technical or integration problems in design and the degree of certainty that we have about the design, implementation, and capabilities of a particular component or technology. As we design, test, iterate, and integrate the product or system, we drive uncertainty out through a range of validation activities. To include uncertainty in our risk calculation, it was critical to establish a means of measurement. Fortunately, NASA’s TRL scale offered a well-documented, widely used scale for measuring the degree of maturity in a given component. Maturity is also an indicator for uncertainty: Highly mature components have been well-proven in relevant environments and thus have low uncertainty levels. This is precisely the purpose of integration and testing—to minimize uncertainty within the system. The full TRL scale is presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Summary of Technology Readiness Levels from NASA’s Office of the Chief Engineer.

We evaluate each component using this 1–9 TRL scale to get the base likelihood score. Since a TRL of 9 corresponds to the lowest possible uncertainty, and thus the lowest likelihood of manifesting risks, we inverted this scale and made a TRL of 9 correspond to likelihood value of 1, and a TRL of 1 to likelihood value of 9. This produces a vector where the highest value corresponds to the highest likelihood of risks manifesting. As mentioned earlier, we also rescaled the vector linearly so that the range falls between 1–10.

B. Severity of impact

When presented with a specific engineering change, a panel of experienced engineers can provide a rough magnitude estimate of the system impact with relative ease. However, without a specific change instance, it can be difficult to conceive of how impactful future changes to any particular component may be. One approach is to estimate the component’s potential to propagate change.

Change propagation should be closely monitored in development programs because it can lead to unanticipated impacts to costs and schedule. It has been shown that change propagates between components through their interfaces.[1] Therefore, when estimating the potential impact on the overall system, it is reasonable to consider the system architecture and the connectivity of each component.

Because change propagates through interfaces, we propose that components with higher connectivity are more likely to spread change within the system. With this assumption, there are several tools at our disposal to estimate impact severity. System architecture can be analyzed as an undirected network where components are represented as nodes and interfaces as the edges between nodes. With this view, a simple method for estimating the severity of impact would be to count the number of interfaces for each component. In network terms, this would be referring to the nodal degree of the components. After rescaling the degree count for each node to fall between 1–10, we obtained a vector of scores reflecting the severity of risk for each component. The severity score was then multiplied by our likelihood vector to obtain a risk score for each component. The key advantage to this method is ease of calculation. Engineers can compute this risk score for their system with simple tools such as Microsoft Excel and immediately reap the insights.

While nodal degree is a simple measure that can be applied for this analysis, it does not consider architectural characteristics beyond immediate interfaces of the component. Alternative network analysis metrics that account for more indirect change propagation paths could also be useful, such as closeness centrality, betweenness centrality, and information centrality. Each provides a unique perspective on the importance of network nodes; however, they are all highly correlated and in most cases will net similar insights to nodal degree. Still, on occasion there will be some nodes where different measures have significant differences, and generally these nodes have unique characteristics worth examining. Calculating the three centrality measures generally requires specialized software which, while freely available, may be less accessible and more difficult to understand. Practitioners must decide which centrality measure will be most meaningful for their application.

The overall method that we apply in this research is illustrated and summarized in Figure 1.

Summary of method used to calculate risk involved in integrating a new component into a system.

The results: Analog Devices Inc., a large multinational semiconductor company headquartered in Massachusetts, was our industry partner for this research. Together we analyzed a new product development program that is currently under way for a sensor package that could be used to precisely measure angular position. We gathered the following inputs:

  • a decomposition of the system into six subsystems and 20 components,
  • a list of interfaces between every component in the system, and
  • a TRL assessment for every component in the system.

Using these data, we built a view of the system architecture and developed a network representation of the system as illustrated in Steps 1 and 2 from Figure 1. Once all data was collected, we calculated our impact and likelihood vectors as in Steps 3, 4, and 5 of Figure 1 to obtain final risk scores (Step 6). For simplicity’s sake, we demonstrated this example using nodal degree as our measure for impact. The inputs and final risk calculation is shown in Figure 2, with bars in each cell representing magnitudes.

This graphical representation of the components and their change likelihood, change impact, and overall risk scores provides an insightful view of the system integration risk.

To preserve information about interfaces, we combined risk score information with a design structure matrix (DSM) view of the system (Eppinger and Browning, 2012). To do this, we chose each off-diagonal mark in the matrix to represent a risk score composed of the two interfacing components. The calculation is done according to this equation:

Interface riskij = max(Li,Lj) ∙ max (Ii,Ij)

Li and Lj represent likelihood scores for the two interfacing components, and Ii and Ij represent impact scores for each component. We can see the intuition behind this choice in the following example: Suppose a highly uncertain (low-TRL) component were to interface with a highly connected (high-impact) component. If the high-uncertainty component had to be changed during the design process, it is possible that the highly connected component would require a change as well, and it could take careful design and planning to ensure that the change would not propagate beyond that component. Indeed, it may not be possible to fully contain the changes at this highly connected component, and thus you can see the need to scrutinize that interface carefully. Figure 3 enables us to see the results of this analysis. We leave the component-level risk calculations as a vector in the “risk” column as an additional reference.

We presented our findings to Analog Devices team and discussed the results. Analysis suggests the riskiest components were both sensors (Sensor 1 and Sensor 2), followed by the analog-to-digital converters. This aligned with the Analog Devices team’s experience and expectations. In addition, analysis shows the die attach portion of the packaging subsystem is risky. In the early phases of the data collection, the managers had mentioned that the packaging was a point of concern for them, and this is seen in the risk of the die attach.

One manager remarked that the team at Analog Devices implicitly does this kind of risk assessment mentally to gauge risk level of various components in their program. The engineer would consider the “newness” or uncertainty of a component, and the centrality to its role in the system, and use these two ideas to estimate risk. He noted that the newly developed method formalizes the thought process, making it measured and objective.

The technology risk design structure matrix provides an architectural view of the system integration risk for the Analog Devices project.

Next steps: This method could be built into an analytical tool as an add-on to an existing DSM system architecture software toolkit (for an example, see These concepts are already being taught in MIT’s System Design & Management program and in other system-based classes.

This work will be presented at the International Conference on Engineering Design in Vancouver, Canada, in August 2017. The research team continues to pursue research related to technology integration risk, and in particular the technology readiness levels.

[1] P. J. Clarkson, C. Simons, and C. Eckert, “Predicting Change Propagation in Complex Design,” J. Mech. Des., vol. 126, no. 5, p. 788-797, 2004.

About the Authors

Steven D. Eppinger is MIT’s General Motors Leaders for Global Operations Professor, a professor of management science and engineering systems, and the codirector of MIT System Design & Management. His research centers on improving product design and development practices. He holds SB, SM, and ScD degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT.


Tushar Garg is a program manager in the low-voltage and system integration groups at Tesla. He has spent most of his career launching new products at automakers, including Kia, Hyundai, and Toyota. He received an SM in engineering and management from MIT as a graduate of System Design & Management. He also has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Irvine.


Nitin Joglekar is a dean’s research fellow and associate professor of operations and technology management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. His research focus is digital product management. He has a bachelor’s degree in naval architecture from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and two SM degrees from MIT, in mechanical and ocean engineering. He also has a PhD in management science from MIT.


Alison Olechowski is an assistant professor, teaching stream, at the University of Toronto in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering. She has a BSc from Queen’s University and an MS and a PhD from MIT, all in mechanical engineering.


Alum Navigates Systems Challenges to Launch Successful Milk-Chilling Business

Sorin Grama, SDM ’06

By Sorin Grama, SDM ’06

The challenge: Milk is India’s lifeblood. Indians depend on milk for much of their daily nutrition. It is used in curries, the beloved chai, and even for religious rituals. India draws its milk supply from millions of small farmers in villages scattered across the vast countryside. Milk must be collected twice every day, 365 days a year, and rushed to a processing center before it spoils. As a result, the milk supply chain presents a huge challenge for dairy processors.

I learned about this challenge in 2007 when I was visiting India for the first time looking for business opportunities. One of our hosts was a dairy in Bangalore that was having a problem collecting fresh, quality milk. I learned that milk is collected in three steps:

  • Step 1: Individual farmers deliver 5–10 liters of milk to a collection center in a village. A collection center may aggregate from 500 to 2,000 liters of milk per day from 20–40 farmers.
  • Step 2: Milk is picked up and transported to a nearby chilling center. Because refrigeration is not used at the village collection center, the dairy processor needs to pick up the warm raw milk quickly, within 5–6 hours, before it spoils.
  • Step 3: The milk is transported from the chilling center to a processing center where it is pasteurized and processed into such products as cheese and ice cream.

These steps are repeated for thousands of collection centers, twice every day, all over India. It is a huge logistics challenge, and one that I soon discovered could have significant business potential.

One of the farmers who uses Promethean Power Systems’ equipment carries a jug of milk in the village of Mottur in Tamil Nadu, India. (Images courtesy Promethean Power Systems.)

The approach: I began by studying the collection process fully so I could identify the pain points. In 2008 my team and I spent an entire month traveling through rural India following the “milk trail” from farmers to consumers. We made a video of this process so we could later explain the challenge to our US partners and investors.

We learned that the highest pain point in this supply chain was at the source, in the villages where the milk is produced. If milk is not refrigerated immediately after milking, bacteria starts to grow exponentially, changing the taste and eventually spoiling the milk. The sooner milk could be refrigerated, the better it would be for everyone in the system: farmers, processors, and consumers. If milk could be refrigerated at the village, multiple benefits would accrue, including:

  • Lower transportation costs. Milk could be picked up just once a day.
  • Access to additional supplies. Since refrigerated milk lasts considerably longer, the supply chain could extend farther into the countryside.
  • Better milk quality. This benefit is particularly significant since it would allow processors to sell higher-value milk products such as butter, yogurt, and ice cream.

    Figure 1. Traditionally, milk collection in India follows three steps (top image), which means fresh milk typically goes unrefrigerated for several hours—during which time bacteria can grow and spoil the milk. Promethean Power Systems was launched to facilitate a two-step process (bottom image) that refrigerates milk much sooner, curbing the growth of bacteria and preserving milk quality.

    If there are so many benefits to refrigerating milk at the source, I had to ask: Why weren’t dairies doing this? The answer is simple. Refrigeration in rural India is difficult to achieve because of an underlying problem: lack of reliable grid power. The milk supply challenge is really a power infrastructure challenge. If a refrigeration system could be reliably powered, the main problems in this supply chain could be addressed.

    The tools: To understand the problem more deeply, I used contextual inquiries and immersion in my customers’ world, two user-centric design methods I learned in Product Design & Development, a course I took while a student in MIT System Design & Management (SDM). Based on these observations, I decided the best solution would be a stationary milk chiller that could be operated at a village collection center to chill milk immediately after it has been delivered by farmers.

    To design this solution, I used the systems architecture and product design teachings that were still fresh in my mind at the time. I tackled the problem by first decomposing the system into modules that could be designed and developed separately. I then integrated these modules into a final system.

    The two critical modules in this system are: the power module and the refrigeration module. For the power module, I quickly determined that solar power would be the best option. I had some experience with solar power—my SDM thesis was a survey of thin-film solar technologies—and believed that solar power costs would come down dramatically over time. Next, I began to explore different ways to achieve refrigeration efficiently using solar power. I investigated thermoelectrics, absorption chillers, and iceboxes, but I eventually settled on DC-powered vapor compressors.

    Figure 2. Fixing on solar power made it possible to explore multiple concepts for refrigeration.

    The results: My team and I built three prototypes over a period of three years, and with each prototype we learned something new and improved the design. However, the cost of solar power was still prohibitively high, a challenge exacerbated by the difficulty of obtaining the DC components we needed at a reasonable price. The most painful and vivid lesson came when our pilot customer rejected the system as too complex, too expensive, and too difficult to install. We had spent all our time and money to design a beautiful solar-powered refrigeration system only to discover that it was impractical and uneconomical. It was a tough lesson, and it looked as if it would be the end of the road for our startup.

    But there was a glimmer of hope…

    During the process of designing the solar power module, I had also designed a backup subsystem, since solar is not very useful unless you can store the energy and use it later. Because we were dealing only with refrigeration, I chose a simple thermal storage system comprised of a cold water tank. During the day, water can be chilled and stored in an insulated tank. The chilled water can then be used to chill milk in the early morning and late evening. The thermal backup was almost an afterthought, a necessary but not a critical component.

    With a bit of reflection, I realized that we could drop the solar component and instead use the existing power grid with our thermal storage as a backup. The grid is usually available in villages; it just doesn’t always work when you need it. We could charge our thermal battery when the grid was on, and use it as a backup when the grid was off. It was a simpler and more elegant solution. We quickly built a prototype, tested it, and it worked.

    From then on things moved quickly. We iterated and improved on the thermal storage system, which became our differentiator and the source of our competitive advantage over conventional milk chillers, which use diesel backup generators—an expensive option. We eventually patented it and used it for other cooling applications. To date, we have installed more than 600 chilling systems throughout rural India. Each system has a capacity of 1,000 liters and serves the needs of 30 to 40 farmers.

    The lesson: With the benefit of hindsight, I realize the mistake I made during my system design. To be fair, it was a complex system with a lot of moving pieces. I started by fixing on a power source (solar) and investigated different concepts for refrigeration. What I should have done is fixed on a known and economical method of refrigeration (AC-powered vapor compressor) and explored different concepts for generating reliable power: solar, biogas, battery, etc. After all, this was a power infrastructure problem that I was solving, not a refrigeration problem. My bias and preference for solar prevented me from truly exploring the full solution space for this problem. I learned my lesson the hard way, but I don’t regret the journey. Mistakes were costly, but they were also sources of inspiration.

    Figure 3. Ultimately, it became clear that the solution space for India’s milk-chilling challenge should have included additional power source options.

    About the Author

    Sorin Grama, SDM ’07, is the cofounder of Promethean Power Systems, which manufactures and sells milk-chilling systems in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. After living in India for a few years, Grama is now back at MIT as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and the Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship.

    For more information about Sorin Grama, SDM ’07, and his company, Promethean Power Systems, visit

Spring 2017 SDM Tech Trek Report

By Juan Lara, SDM Certificate ’16

Each year, some of MIT’s best and brightest graduate students visit several of the world’s most innovative and successful companies to learn about leadership, innovation, and systems thinking from industry experts—and to explore recruitment opportunities.

Amazon (Photos by Ben Linville-Engler, SDM ’16)

The biannual MIT System Design & Management (SDM) Tech Trek is a tradition that has evolved over the past several years. Organized and run by SDM fellows, the treks were developed to enable SDM students to explore a variety of industries, examine different platforms and technologies, and speak with and learn from leaders at best-in-class companies. These up-close, personal interactions further the students’ education while also strengthening the relationship between SDM and host companies, fostering future opportunities. Two treks are held annually: one in the San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley area in the spring and one in Greater Boston each fall (see related story below).

During the spring 2017 trek, SDM visited Amazon, C3 IoT, Continental, Ericsson, Google, Intel, Planet Labs, and Tesla. Several of these have sponsored thesis research or other projects; some already have SDM alumni on their staff and/or are looking to hire SDM graduates.

SDM Executive Director Joan S. Rubin remarked on the generosity of the companies visited during the treks. “All of them opened their doors to SDM students and provided unsurpassed opportunities to hear from industry leaders, tour facilities, and experience product/technology showcases and demonstrations. Most importantly, they shared the time, knowledge, and experience of some of their most talented people with the SDM fellows—offering a privileged and much-appreciated opportunity for networking and learning.”

The 2017 spring tech trek was organized and led by SDM 2016 fellows Christian West and Jose Garza. Organizational assistance was provided by all student participants, as well as by Rubin, SDM Director of Recruitment and Career Development Jon Pratt, Logistics and Administrative Specialist Amanda Rosas, and Career Development and Alumni Associate Naomi Gutierrez.

Trip highlights



At Continental’s offices in San Jose, CA, the SDM group met with the company’s vice president and head of products for intelligent transportation systems (ITS), Pasula Reddy; the director of products for Access Solutions ITS, Raj Sundar; and the head of products in China ITS, Yao Zhai. These leaders provided a general corporate overview, described overall industry challenges, discussed the organization’s project development structure; and gave product demonstrations. Later, SDM fellows went on a company tour to see some of the infrastructure put in place to support the company’s evolution. Throughout the visit and during an informal networking session, Continental executives encouraged questions, feedback, and suggestions from the SDMs on what they had seen and heard. Tour hosts included MIT SDM ‘08 alumnus Anil Rachakonda, director of products, Smart Cities ITS, and Heather Pagh of human resources.



Speakers at Ericsson’s facility in Santa Clara, CA, presented an overview and shared the company’s vision for strategy and growth over the short and long terms, focusing specifically on developing new technologies and connectivity for social interactions. They described the role of innovation and the company’s processes to support it, including predictive and optimization models that use data in conjunction with demographics to develop high-value products and services. Tours, product demonstrations, and access to working prototypes showed Ericsson’s commitment to reinvention, innovation, and adaptation over the 140 years of its work in the technology arena. Curtis Ludwig, director of global talent management, was SDM’s host for the visit. Other speakers were: Diomedes Kastanis, head of technology and innovation; Eric Qian, director of product management; Alvin Jude, researcher; and Nese Ozler, who works in the company’s OnSite Experience Center.



At Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, members of the engineering and development teams described the company’s history, products, approach to innovation and design, and several roadmaps for its systems and applications. Students got a glimpse into how fast the company’s culture is evolving to meet aggressive business deadlines. Learning about Tesla’s approach to design and development, as well as how its leaders plan, develop, and execute projects at the highest level in one of the world’s most competitive industries was invaluable.

Planet Labs

Planet Labs

In San Francisco, CA, several Planet Labs leaders met with SDM fellows to deliver presentations. Topics included a company overview; Planet’s approach to agile systems; satellite construction and operation; space deployment methods; and logistics for in-orbit satellites. A discussion followed on product design; methods and tools for development and user feedback; and the discovery of new use cases. SDM fellows received deep insight into a company operating in a small niche market with large demands for data management and reliability; they also gained an understanding of Planet’s business models. Planet representatives included Matthew Ferraro from spacecraft research and development; Ryan Kingsbury from electrical engineering; Cole Murphy from product design; Joseph Mascaro from impact initiatives; Lee Frantz from people services; and Alex Shih SDM ’09 from product and ecosystem, who hosted the visit.

C3 IoT

C3 IoT

At C3 IoT headquarters in Redwood City, CA, the group heard presentations from two MIT alumni—President and CTO Ed Abbo SM ’86 and Director of Products Erick Corona SM MBA ’13. Students learned about the company’s history; how data technologies and connected products interact with society; and what opportunities exist for employing applications in large-scale industries, cyber systems, and data learning. Together with the SDM fellows, Abbo and Corona discussed strategies for rapidly developing products, customizing projects for specific companies/industries; and providing value. The visit concluded with a networking lunch with employees from several of the company’s key departments, including engineering, services, and products.


At Amazon in Tracy, CA, SDM fellows toured the state-of-the-art order fulfillment center, where robots are deployed for product handling, distribution, and manual labor. Students learned how this highly complex, flexible, automated system can quickly be reconfigured and adjusted for variables such as seasonal demand using a robust model that integrates data management inventory and scale. A question-and-answer session that followed the tour covered a variety of topics, including operations metrics; motivating people; the challenges of business growth; and inventory management logistics. Director of Operations Sanjeev Vaid led the visit, which was hosted by Community and Public Relations Specialist Danielle Tafoya.



In Mountain View, CA, students learned how systems thinking was applied at Google to develop the company’s autonomous car spin-off, Waymo. The hosts provided an overview of employee roles and responsibilities in system development for this complex project, and they gave students a look at project management and milestones—all of which aligned remarkably well with what fellows are learning in SDM’s core course. The visit also included a trip to Google’s ACME Lab where they saw how the company uses agile approaches to develop new products and applications as well as to address issues with existing products.


SDMs visited Intel’s product development lab at its San Francisco campus. There they saw how Intel uses rapid prototyping tools, and fellows examined sample products developed by Intel’s design team and marketed by partner companies. On-site discussions that followed focused on the design process, the challenges of developing wearable technology, and Intel’s market strategy.

Key Takeaways

While all the companies visited are technology-driven leaders in their fields, visiting them in rapid succession gave SDM fellows valuable insight into the differences in cultures, strategic and technical approaches, and market challenges—as well as the similarities from business to business.

  • Through meeting and engaging with SDM fellows, company leaders experienced the unique character that MIT SDM fellows share: All are experienced engineering professionals with an average of 10 or more years’ experience, and many already hold one or more advanced degrees. Several companies actively recruit during the trek and/or identify candidates for future recruitment.
  • SDM fellows return to MIT with new professional opportunities and an expanded appreciation of the versatility and applicability of their SDM education across industries.

Upcoming Tech Treks

Twice every year, fellows, faculty, and staff from MIT’s System Design & Management (SDM) program embark on tech treks to learn from leaders at best-in-class companies about how systems thinking is being used to address their most complex business challenges.

SDM will hold two treks in the upcoming year:

  • Fall 2017—a one-day trek to top technology-based companies in the Greater Boston area.
  • Spring 2018—a four- to five-day journey to the Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay Area that will covers a wide variety of industries.

If your company would like to participate in an SDM Tech Trek, please contact SDM Executive Director Joan S. Rubin at, 617.253.2081; SDM Industry Codirector (Name and contact info) or Director of SDM Recruitment and Career Development Jon Pratt at, 617.327.7106.

MIT Space Hotel Wins NASA Graduate Design Competition

For Immediate Release

MARINA in orbit. MARINA is a proposed concept for a commercially owned and operated space station to replace the International Space Station (ISS) following its planned retirement in the mid-2020s. (All photos courtesy of MIT MARINA team.)

Contact: Matthew Moraguez
Phone: +1 (561) 281-3934

(June 20, 2017) An interdisciplinary team of MIT graduate students representing five departments across the Institute was recently honored at the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts–Academic Linkage Design Competition Forum. The challenge involved designing a commercially enabled habitable module for use in low Earth orbit that would be extensible for future use as a Mars transit vehicle. The team’s design won first place in the competition’s graduate division.

The MIT project, the Managed, Reconfigurable, In-space Nodal Assembly (MARINA) was designed as a commercially owned and operated space station, featuring a luxury hotel as the primary anchor tenant and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a temporary co-anchor tenant for 10 years. NASA’s estimated recurring costs, $360 million per year, represent an order of magnitude reduction from the current costs of maintaining and operating the International Space Station. Potential savings are approximately 16 percent of NASA’s overall budget—or around $3 billion per year.

MARINA team lead Matthew Moraguez, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of Professor Olivier L. de Weck’s Strategic Engineering Research Group (SERG), explained that MARINA’s key engineering innovations include:

  • the extensions to the International Docking System Standard (IDSS) interface;
  • the modular architecture of the backbone of MARINA’s node modules; and
  • the distribution of subsystem functions throughout the node modules.

“Modularized service racks connect any point on MARINA to any other point via the extended IDSS interface. This enables companies of all sizes to provide products and services in space to other companies, based on terms determined by the open market,” said Moraguez. “Together these decisions provide scalability, reliability, and efficient technology development benefits to MARINA and NASA.”

MARINA’s design also enables modules to be reused to create an interplanetary Mars transit vehicle that can enter Mars’ orbit, refuel from locally produced methane fuel, and return to Earth.

A subset of members of the interdisciplinary MIT team that won first place in the graduate division of the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts–Academic Linkage Design Competition Forum. From left:Caitlin Mueller (faculty advisor), Matthew Moraguez, George Lordos, and Valentina Sumini.

MARINA and SERG team member George Lordos is currently a graduate fellow in MIT System Design & Management (SDM), a program offered jointly by the MIT School of Engineering and the MIT Sloan School of Management. Lordos pointed out that MARINA’s engineering design innovations are critical enablers of its commercial viability, which rests on MARINA’s ability to give rise to a value-adding, competitive marketplace in low Earth orbit.

Lordos also holds a Sloan MBA earned in 2000 and will enter the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics doctoral program in fall 2017. “Just like a yacht marina, MARINA can provide all essential services, including safe harbor, reliable power, clean water and air, and efficient logistics and maintenance,” said Lordos. “This will facilitate design simplicity and savings in construction and operating costs of customer-owned modules. It will also incent customers to lease space inside and outside MARINA’s node modules and make MARINA a self-funded entity that is attractive to investors.”

Dr. Valentina Sumini, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, contributed to the architectural concept being used for MARINA and its space hotel, along with MARINA faculty advisor Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller of MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“MARINA’s flagship anchor tenant, a luxury Earth-facing eight-room space hotel complete with bar, restaurant, and gym, will make orbital space holidays a reality”, said Sumini.

Other revenue-generating features include rental of serviced berths on external International Docking Adapter ports for customer-owned modules and rental of interior modularized rack space to smaller companies that provide contracted services to station occupants. These secondary activities may involve satellite repair, in-space fabrication, food production, and funded research.

Additional members of the MARINA team include:

* MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics graduate students and SERG members Alejandro Trujillo, Samuel Wald, and Johannes Norheim;
* MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering undergraduate Zoe Lallas;
* MIT School of Architecture + Planning graduate students Alpha Arsano and Anran Li; and
* MIT Integrated Design & Management (IDM) graduate students Meghan Maupin and John Stillman.


Kate Cantu Wins First-Year SDM Leadership Award for Class Entering in 2016

Kate Cantu, SDM ’15

On September 27, 2016, MIT System Design & Management (SDM) Industry Codirector Joan Rubin* announced that Kate Cantu won the annual MIT SDM Student Award for Leadership, Innovation, and Systems Thinking. The announcement was made during the annual SDM student-alumni networking session at Morss Hall on the MIT campus.

Created by the SDM staff in 2010, the award honors a first-year SDM student who demonstrates the highest level of strategic, sustainable contributions to fellow SDM students and the broader SDM and MIT communities; superior skills in leadership, innovation, and systems thinking; and effective collaboration with SDM staff, fellow students, and alumni.

The winner receives a monetary prize.

Cantu, a member of the SDM class that entered in 2015, was cited for numerous achievements, including the following.

  • She served as program manager for MIT’s CubeSat team, which competed in the Cube Quest Challenge, a small satellite competition run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In this role, she supervised several MIT undergraduate and graduate students while integrating 25 high school students into the team. She led the team to a second-place finish in one of four tournaments held to select satellites for an unmanned lunar flyby mission planned for launch in 2018. (Her team is still in the ongoing competition.)
  • She co-led the annual SDM Tech Trek to Silicon Valley, in which 25 students and five faculty visited nine companies in just five days.
  • She co-led SDM’s “Not a Drone” boat entry for MIT’s Crossing the Charles Competition. She helped plan and execute the boat’s design, build, test, and operation.
  • She conducted thesis research resulting in a proposed new model-based systems engineering framework of methods and tools for better aligning technology development for the US Department of Defense’s space enterprise.
  • She served on the SDM Student Leadership Council; was a panelist for two SDM information sessions; was a panelist and mentor at a US Air Force career day; and participated in an in-class panel on model-based systems engineering, where she shared the US Air Force perspective.
  • She led a student seminar titled “A Day Without Space.”

Beyond the MIT community, Cantu organized and/or volunteered for several activities at her children’s school, including developing and leading a rocket experiment for 90 second-graders as part of Science Day.

In addition to Cantu, this year’s nominees included Leo Barlach and Vikas Enti. Barlach was recognized specifically for his leadership roles with the 2016 MIT Sustainability Summit, the SDM Student Life Council, the Sidney Pacific Graduate House, SDM’s participation in the Crossing of the Charles celebration, and for his volunteer work with the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program.

Enti was commended for his leadership roles as associate director of the MIT $100K Startup Competition and as a co-leader of the fall and spring SDM Tech Treks, as well as for serving as Amazon Robotics’ MIT liaison.

All nominees and the winner are selected by the SDM staff, with input from the first-year SDM community.

* Rubin was recently named executive director of SDM.

Best Practices for Water Use at Thermoelectric Facilities in Chile and Latin America

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

From left: Jorge Moreno, SDM ’11; Donny Holaschutz, SDM ’10; and Carolina Gomez

Jorge Moreno and Donny Holaschutz, Cofounders, inodú; SDM Alumni
Carolina Gomez, Sustainable Development Division, Ministry of Energy, Chile

Date: May 8, 2017

Slides available here.

About the Presentation

Thermoelectric facilities are significant users of water, yet a variety of environmental, institutional, and social challenges have been triggered by withdrawing water from natural sources for this use. Some common hazards include impingement and entrainment of water organisms, the release of chemicals into the water, thermal pollution in the mixing zone, and water loss.

In this webinar, SDM alumni and inodú cofounders Jorge Moreno and Donny Holaschutz will join Carolina Gomez of Chile’s Ministry of Energy to describe best practices for water use at thermoelectric facilities and how Chile has approached its environmental, institutional, and social challenges. They will provide

  • an overview of some of the challenges caused by water use at thermoelectric facilities;
  • a summary of associated policy and regulatory initiatives in Chile; and
  • highlights from a recently published guide to best practices—the first of its kind in Latin America—that was developed by Chile’s Ministry of Energy with inodú.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speakers

SDM alumnus Donny Holaschutz is a cofounder of the energy and sustainability consultancy inodú. He is a seasoned entrepreneur with experience in both for- and not-for-profit ventures related to energy and sustainability. He holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

SDM alumnus and inodú cofounder Jorge Moreno has extensive experience in the energy industry in the United States and Latin America. He holds an MS in engineering and management from MIT and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Carolina Gomez works in the Sustainable Development Division at the Ministry of Energy in Chile, where she focuses on improving environmental impact assessments for energy and developing environmental standards for the country. She holds degrees in industrial civil engineering with a specialization in environmental engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and an MSc in environmental technology from Imperial College London.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

Applying Systems-Based Methods to Challenges in Product Development, Management, and Organizational Dynamics

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Ron Pepin, Former CIO, Otis Elevator Company Americas Region; SDM Alumnus

Ron Pepin, SDM ’97

Date: March 27, 2017

Slides available here.

About the Presentation

As an alumnus of the first graduating class of MIT System Design & Management (SDM) in 1999, Ron Pepin, former CIO of Otis Elevator Company’s Americas Region, has used systems-based methodologies to address the technical, business, and social components of complex challenges for nearly 20 years. In this webinar, Pepin will discuss the SDM tools he uses most frequently and the impact systems thinking has had on the teams he has led and on Otis Elevator as a whole.

Pepin will:

  • provide an overview of several MIT SDM principles, methodologies, and tools;
  • discuss how they complemented what he leaned as an undergraduate in electrical engineering and as an MBA grad; and
  • outline examples of how he used his SDM education to successfully deliver technology projects (especially through project and program management), personal and organizational motivation, and software development life-cycle models.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

SDM alumnus Ron Pepin, former CIO of Otis Elevator Company’s Americas Region, has more than 30 years of experience, with deep expertise in program management and group motivation. He has led technology teams that delivered measurable results in sales, field service, supply chain, and finance organizations. Pepin holds a BS in electrical engineering from Western New England College, an MBA from the University of Hartford, and, as an SDM alumnus, an SM in engineering and management from MIT. He is currently an information technology consultant.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

SDM Alum Ali Almossawi Publishes Second Book

Ali Almossawi, SDM ’11SDM ’11 Ali Almossawi has published a new book that explores the science of algorithms and how they can save you time and lead to better choices—Bad Choices: How Algorithms Can Help You Think Smarter and Live Happier (Viking, 2017).

A graduate of MIT System Design & Management, a master’s program offered jointly by the MIT Sloan School of Management and MIT’s School of Engineering, Almossawi sparked a word-of-mouth phenomenon with his first illustrated book, Bad Arguments. More than 2.7 million people have read the book, which features funny, clarifying explanations of complex subjects along with amusing illustrations drawn by his collaborator Alejandro Giraldo. Bad Arguments has been translated into 17 languages.

In Bad Choices, Almossawi uses entertaining stories and whimsical illustrations to demystify a topic of increasing relevance to our lives—and he does it in fewer than 200 pages. Almossawi reveals that we all use complex math more frequently than we realize. In fact, every day people apply algorithms to solve such problems as finding pairs of socks in a pile of clothes, deciding when to go to the grocery store, and determining how to prioritize tasks for the day.

Bad Choices acquaints readers with algorithmic thinking by highlighting different ways of approaching tasks and pointing out how these approaches fare relative to each other. It’s the perfect book for anyone who’s looked at a given task and wondered if there were a better, faster way to get it done.

Here a few of the questions that Bad Choices will make you consider:

  • Why is Facebook so good at predicting what you like?
  • How do you discover new music?
  • What’s the best way to organize a grocery list or sort your laundry?
  • What’s the secret to being more productive at work?
  • How can you better express yourself in 140 characters?

Almossawi credits his time at SDM with helping him learn the “thinking about thinking” approach he uses in his book. “I came from a computer science background; many of my classmates came from other engineering disciplines. Putting that kind of a mix of people into the same space and asking them to solve problems is just a fantastic learning experience,” he said. “SDM made me appreciate the value of domain-agnostic and general-purpose engineering tools.”

In Bad Choices, Almossawi uses such thinking to provide a guide to better choices—borrowing from the very systems that underline word processing, Google search, and Facebook ads. Bad Choices focuses on intuition-building and thinking, leading to learning that is more personal, transferable, and timeless. Once you recognize what makes a method faster and more efficient, you’ll become a more nimble, creative problem-solver, ready to face new challenges. Bad Choices will open the world of algorithms to all readers and is sure to be a perennial go-to reference for fans of quirky, accessible science books.

About the Author

Ali Almossawi is the creator of An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, which has been read by 2.4 million readers and translated into 17 languages (11 translations were done by volunteers from across the world). Now a principal data visualizer at Apple, Almossawi previously worked on the Firefox team at Mozilla. He is an alumnus of MIT System Design & Management, a master’s program offered jointly by the MIT Sloan School of Management and MIT’s School of Engineering, where he earned an SM in engineering and management. He also holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. In addition, he has worked as a research associate at Harvard and as a collaborator with the MIT Media Lab.

BAD CHOICES: How Algorithms Can Help You Think Smarter and Live Happier
Ali Almossawi
Viking / On-Sale: April 4, 2017
ISBN: 9780735222120/ Price: $20.00

A Smart City Pilot in Boston: Collecting Human-Centric Urban Data

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Nissia Sabri, CEO and Cofounder, Bitsence; SDM Alumna

Sabri, Nissia

Nissia Sabri, SDM ’14

Date: February 27, 2017

Download the presentation slides (pdf)

About the Presentation

In this webinar, SDM alumna Nissia Sabri, CEO and cofounder of Bitsence, will provide an overview of the unique potential of agile sensor technologies for city planning. She will also show how they can be connected and correlated to produce novel and rich new insights about the constellation of city spaces and stakeholders.

Sabri will begin by discussing roadblocks that have emerged to date in this arena, such as:

  • increased fragmentation of sensor technologies in the field;
  • technological tunnel vision and lack of system integration by end users; and
  • challenges in educating stakeholders, such as city planning offices, community advocacy groups, and individual citizens about the multifaceted need for sensors, as well as their value.

Sabri will also describe why a systems-based approach should be employed. She will illustrate with examples from:

  • Chicago’s Array of Things, which tested a variety of sensors working together in a single location; and
  • Boston’s Local Sense Lab, a public/private entities coalition chartered to guide city officials in evaluating, deploying, and analyzing data from networked sensors in order to design better urban infrastructure and improve community engagement.

We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

An alumna of MIT System Design & Management, Nissia Sabri is CEO and cofounder of Bitsence, which monitors human movement and behavior in physical space and also uses data and insights to improve cities, architecture, and real estate developments. She has seven years of experience in the energy sector, including working as a risk analyst creating data models to forecast the failure of complex systems. She holds three advanced degrees: an MS in engineering and management from MIT; an MS in nuclear and radiological engineering from the University of Florida; and an MS in physics from the Grenoble Institute of Technology in France. She is the recipient of the 2015 MIT SDM Student Award for Leadership, Innovation, and Systems Thinking.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed at

Joan S. Rubin Named MIT SDM Executive Director and Senior Lecturer

Joan Rubin, MIT SDM staff

Joan S. Rubin

(January 24, 2017, Cambridge, Massachusetts) Joan S. Rubin has been named executive director and senior lecturer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s System Design & Management (SDM) program.

As executive director, Rubin will be responsible for managing all facets of SDM to support the vision of a technically grounded degree program that develops leaders who can manage complex systems in an ever-changing world. Rubin will work closely with SDM’s faculty codirectors to review SDM’s vision and will then develop a three-year strategic plan that establishes the program’s top priorities for students, alumni, faculty, and corporate partners.

Rubin will also work directly with SDM students, advising them on their academic paths and careers beyond MIT. In addition, she will oversee the creation of new offerings for SDM alumni interested in career and professional development.

In her senior lecturer role, Rubin will work with SDM faculty to continue to evolve the core courses, engage faculty from across MIT in the SDM program, advise and supervise SDM fellows on thesis research, guide certificate students on group capstone projects, and teach.

Rubin joined SDM in 2010 as industry codirector and was instrumental in increasing the engagement of existing SDM industry partners and recruiting new ones. Among other important accomplishments, she was influential in redesigning the SDM core course sequence; she restructured the admissions process to improve the quality of admitted students; and she has broadly expanded SDM’s outreach and involvement with the corporate community.

Prior to joining SDM, she served as vice president of Covidien, a leading manufacturer of medical devices and supplies. As a graduate of MIT Leaders for Global Operations, Rubin holds an SM in management and an SM in mechanical engineering. She also earned an ScB in mechanical engineering from Brown University.

Further information:
Lois Slavin
MIT SDM Communications Director

NASA Names SDM Team a Winner in Startup Challenge

A team of students from the MIT System Design & Management (SDM) program recently won the NASA Startup Challenge in the category of wind energy production.

The team’s winning product is designed to harness wind energy resources at high altitudes, where wind speeds are higher and more sustained. The product uses a flexible, tethered kite that makes an 8-shaped motion, obtaining wind energy using ropes controlled by a ground station that employs a machine learning algorithm. The product has a very small land signature and is a cheap and efficient power generator.


Members of the MIT-SDM team, which won the NASA Startup Challenge in the wind energy category, are all fellows from the SDM cohort entering in 2015. Left to right: Charles Lambert, Erdem Yilmaz, Carlos Perez Damas, Jack Yao, and Burak Gozluklu, who is also the founder and president of the MIT Systems Thinking Club. Photo: Dave Schultz, SDM Media Development

The MIT-SDM team included five members of the SDM cohort that entered in 2015. “The team’s strength comes from the diversity of its members’ professional backgrounds and experience,” said SDM Executive Director (interim) and Industry Codirector Joan Rubin. For example:

  • Jack Yao earned an MS in operations research and has five bachelor degrees —one each in economics, Chinese language/linguistics, mathematics, industrial engineering, and finance/operations management.
  • Carlos Perez Damas earned a BS in petroleum engineering and most recently worked at Cenovus and Schlumberger.
  • Charles Lambert holds a BS in mechatronics engineering and is currently a test engineer at IBM.
  • Erdem Yilmaz has a BS and an MS in electrical engineering and computer science and most recently was the lead radio frequency engineer at Evolv Technology.
  • Burak Gozluklu holds a PhD in aerospace engineering and an MS and BS in mechanical engineering. He has worked as a lead engineer on the Airbus A350 project and, most recently, at Tesla Motors.

Jointly offered by the MIT Sloan School of Management and School of Engineering, SDM educates experienced technical professionals to lead effectively and creatively by using systems thinking to tackle complex challenges in product development and innovation. “Systems thinking provides a common language and set of tools that enable a diverse, multidisciplinary team to think and work together in new ways to innovate and create outstanding and unique products,” Rubin said.

All members of the MIT-SDM team belong to the MIT Systems Thinking Club (STC), founded in fall 2016 by Gozluklu and advised by Professor John Sterman. The team’s advisors include Professors Olivier de Weck and Nicholas Ashford. The startup competition, initiated in March 2016, was cofounded and cosponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in conjunction with the Center for Advancing Innovation.

“Competitions such as the NASA Startup Challenge are useful in many ways—and not simply by providing the opportunity to create new products,” Gozluklu said. “They also provide an opportunity to demonstrate the power and potential of systems thinking and related tools to develop new solutions to today’s complex and urgent challenges.”

The 160+ STC members include students in a range of MIT programs beyond SDM, including the MBA, PhD, and executive MBA programs, Sloan fellows, and students enrolled in Integrated Design & Management. MIT faculty and industry professionals from diverse backgrounds are also part of the STC community.

For further information on the MIT STC, visit Membership is open to all, both within and beyond the MIT community

Redesigning/Updating the Healthcare Information Infrastructure: A Systems-Based Approach

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

hartzbandDavid Hartzband, DSc, Research Affiliate, Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, MIT; Founder and Principal, Post Technical Research

Date: November 28, 2016

Download the presentation slides (pdf)

About the Presentation

Primary Care Associations (PCAs) are the federally chartered, one-per-state organizations responsible for providing guidance and services to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). This webinar will focus on the PCA in Texas, the Texas Association of Community Health Centers (TACHC), which serves 72 of the state’s 94 FQHCs, supporting approximately 2 million patients a year. The TACHC provides:

  • information technology (IT) consulting, deployment, and management of a statewide high-speed healthcare network;
  • development and maintenance services for a Health Center Controlled Network (HCCN) that supplies a data warehouse for clinical and demographic data across all centers;
  • analysis and interpretation of clinical and demographic data for clinical and operational improvement; and
  • an accountable-care organization for a group of health centers.

Non-IT related services are also provided.

In this webinar, Dr. David Hartzband will:

  • describe how he evaluated the technical infrastructure, organizational structure and processes, and cultural environment of the entity providing these services;
  • outline his findings, which included discovering highly conventional structures and technical components that were approximately three to five years out of date;
  • share a plan developed to update the health IT infrastructure and associated organizational structures; and
  • describe how this plan was received by the executive director and staff of the TACHC.

He will also outline the plan’s implementation and current status while sharing the challenges involved in working with organizational structures, processes, and culture.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

David Hartzband, DSc, is a research affiliate at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society. He is also the founder and principal of Post Technical Research, a technology consulting firm specializing in healthcare information technology and machine intelligence.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed at


Logistics That Learn: A Dynamic Engine to Drive a Smarter Logistics Future

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series


Ali Kamil

Ali Kamil, Cofounder and Head of Product and Technology, Wise Systems; MIT SDM Fellow

Date: November 14, 2016

Download the presentation slides (pdf)

About the Presentation

Logistics is in a state of transition, and no link in the supply chain is more in flux than the last mile (when goods reach stores or customers). The impatient demands of consumers and the pressure of the modern sharing economy (as emblemized by Uber and Airbnb) require companies to be more agile than ever. To compete at this new level, companies are increasingly making decisions in real time—adjusting to changes as they happen, while looking for ways to predict changes in advance.

Now, companies are using machine learning models to try to stay ahead of consumer demand without sacrificing efficiency. In this webinar, MIT SDM fellow Ali Kamil, cofounder and head of product and technology at Wise Systems, will discuss:

  • traditional logistics methods and why they are becoming obsolete;
  • dynamic decision-making models driven by operations research and machine learning;
  • examples of companies that are taking advantage of intelligent software; and
  • the exciting future of last-mile delivery (e.g., autonomous vehicles and connected everything).

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Ali Kamil is a cofounder of Wise Systems, where he serves as head of product and technology. His expertise is in employing big data, social computing, and system dynamics–based models to identify patterns of human behavior, connectivity, and urban mobility. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from the Georgia Institute of Technology and, as an MIT SDM fellow, will receive a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

Agile Project Dynamics for Aerospace and Defense Technologies and Plus Lessons for Other Sectors

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Firas Glaiel, Corporate Technology Area Director, Information Systems and Computing, Raytheon; SDM Alumnus


Firas Glaiel, SDM ’10

Date: October 17, 2016

Download the presentation slides

About the Presentation

Commercial software providers have adopted “agile” believing that it will help lower costs, shorten development times, and deliver greater customer satisfaction. Now government contractors are looking at agile methods to help them compete successfully in the aerospace and defense domains. For them, two questions are paramount: Can agile succeed in the large-scale government systems development domain? And if so, how?

This presentation by SDM alumnus Firas Glaiel, Raytheon’s corporate technology area director for information systems and computing, is designed for government contractors as well as professionals in a wide variety of other domains. Glaiel will:

  • provide a brief overview of systems thinking;
  • describe system dynamics—a method for modeling and understanding the dynamic behavior of complex systems; and
  • define agile practices and outline a framework for better understanding them.

He will then share research results, including:

  • the seven agile techniques (seven genes) used by successful project teams, aka the “genome of the agile”; and
  • a description of the system dynamics model developed from this research—agile project dynamics—including the structure and time-delayed relationships for capturing the impact of agile genes on emergent system behaviors.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Firas Glaiel is Raytheon’s corporate technology area director for information systems and computing. He is responsible for coordinating technology and research, including cross-business alignment, collaboration with universities and external organizations, and support for technology strategy development. He also works on strategic research and development projects in big data analytics, cybersecurity, high-performance computing, and agile systems development. He holds a BS in computer engineering from Lebanese American University, a BS in computer system engineering from Boston University, and as an alumnus of MIT System Design & Management, an MS in engineering and management from MIT.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.


Is the Commissioned Sales Force Model Right for Today’s Semiconductor Industry?

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Marvin, Heath

Heath Marvin, SDM ’14

Heath Marvin, Field Applications Engineer, Microchip Technology; SDM Fellow

Date: May 23, 2016

Download presentation slides

About the Presentation

The semiconductor industry has entered a new phase where growth has slowed to a pace more in line with the rest of the economy. This shift requires that business be conducted across the industry in new ways that will help to sustain and grow profitability. One area in critical need of reform is the way in which companies incentivize and compensate their sales forces. While the norm now is to pay commissions based on completed sales, current research indicates that there are benefits to using a sales process that does not include commissions.

In this webinar, SDM Fellow Heath Marvin will discuss how system dynamics can be used to test and compare the robustness of a commission-less model against the more traditional system. He will:

  • explain modeling and simulation techniques that can analyze the effects of using different types of incentive plans;
  • review results that reveal that a commission-less sales force is superior in nearly every scenario; and
  • demonstrate why a sales force can be more effective without commissions when selling a complex product in a complex industry—whether the economy is growing, stable, or in a recession.
A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Heath Marvin started his career as a semiconductor chip designer and has been moving closer to the customer ever since. He now works as a field applications engineer for Microchip Technology and spends most of his time working with customers designing embedded products, including a wide variety of microcontrollers. In June 2016, he will receive a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT as a System Design & Management graduate.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

Competing at Innovative Speed: Why Is It So Darn Hard?

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series


Steven J. Spear, DBA

Steven J. Spear, DBA, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management and School of Engineering; Author: The High Velocity Edge

Date: May 9, 2016

Slides available here

About the Presentation

Today’s companies can no longer lock in market share with barriers that keep competitors at bay and customers and employees from defecting. As a result, competitive paradigms have irrevocably transformed from finding and sustaining a position to practicing relentless innovation.

In this webinar, Dr. Steven J. Spear will define “relentless innovation” and how to use it to continually identify new targets and be the first to achieve them. He will discuss:

  • why management decisions can no longer be made primarily by using sophisticated models to gather and analyze data;
  • why today’s companies must also employ experiential and experimental approaches while constantly testing new ideas about what to do and how to do it; and
  • how to achieve this new level of competitiveness at innovative speed—and why that is easier said than done.

Attendees will learn:

  • ways to assess their organization’s willingness and ability to practice hyper-experimentation;
  • how to encourage the continual generation of fresh ideas;
  • why and how to discern if customers, suppliers, and vendors are competing at innovative speed;
  • tips for practicing “energy activation,” including how to cultivate the freedom to discover and understand what’s going right or wrong; and
  • how to identify recurring challenges, such as socio-psychological impediments, and address and mitigate them.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Dr. Steven J. Spear, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and School of Engineering, is a well-recognized expert on innovation. He has worked for the investment bank Prudential-Bache and the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment, among others, and taught at Harvard Business School. His consulting clients include Lockheed Martin, John Deere, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Spear is also an award-winning author. His book, The High Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition (McGraw Hill, 2010), has won several awards, including the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing Research and the Philip Crosby Medal from the American Society for Quality. He holds a BS in economics from Princeton University, an MA in management and an MS in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD from Harvard Business School.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

Cultivating Resilience with Heuristics and Systems Thinking: Lessons from New Industries

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Burl Amsbury, Business Consultant, Entrepreneur, Inventor, and Cattleman; SDM Alumnus

Date: April 25, 2016

Slides available here


Burl Amsbury, SDM ’99

About the Presentation

Regenerative ranching, sustainable agriculture, organic foods, integrative medicine, and other new or niche markets have much to teach companies of any age, in any industry. Two key elements many use to compete effectively are heuristics and systems thinking.

In this webinar, SDM alumnus Burl Amsbury will offer lessons in how to design or redesign your organization by sharing specific systems thinking heuristics drawn from his experience as an entrepreneur, startup executive, big company employee, US Navy pilot, engineer, and creative problem-solver. Using examples from new and/or niche industries, Amsbury will discuss:

  • common themes among industries that employ systems thinking principles—even if they don’t use that term;
  • why systems thinking is rapidly being put to work in so many disparate fields; and
  • heuristic principles for designing an entrepreneurial organization within a fast-growth niche in any industry.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Burl Amsbury graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1988 with a combined SB and SM in electrical engineering and, as an SDM alum, earned an SM in engineering and management from MIT in 2000. Between stints at MIT, he flew A-6E Intruders for the US Navy aboard the USS Kitty Hawk and helped develop what became the Segway self-balancing scooter. Amsbury has been an executive in four startup and high-growth technology-enabled companies located in Colorado’s Front Range region. He has been named the primary inventor on three patents and is a contributing inventor on 26 others, including Kiva System’s warehouse robot. A cattleman, Amsbury is a business coach and consultant for sustainable agriculture endeavors, natural/organic food enterprises, and functional medicine practitioners.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

Using Systems Thinking to Assess and Address Cybersecurity Challenges

By Charles Iheagwara, PhD, SDM ’10

The challenge: Cybersecurity is a growing industry, with a market expected to expand to about $120.1 billion by 2017. The proliferation of product offerings provides companies with a wide range of security options but makes it increasingly difficult to assess which product best suits specific intrusion prevention needs.

Users therefore need a method for:

  • Acquiring insight into the inherent characteristics and modes of operation for a wide variety of cybersecurity products;
  • Eliminating the pain points associated with choosing the wrong products;
  • Preventing the disastrous consequences of failing to detect and prevent intrusions; and ultimately
  • Meeting the intrusion prevention goals unique to their specific enterprises.

The approach: An SaaS application/tool has been developed to allow users of intrusion prevention products to customize a business case analysis for any deployment and target environment or market. The patent-pending tool (IntrusionPoint™) accepts a wide range of market data, technical parameters, and business/financial and service planning inputs that users can tailor to their own deployment plans. It simulates a network deployment and operations using a variety of technical, environmental, and service plans and produces a detailed analytical report, analytics output graphs, and key technical, deployment and implementation metrics.

The tools: The systems thinking mindset central to MIT’s System Design & Management (SDM) program, as well as several systems engineering tools commonly taught in SDM were employed to develop the application. The process included:

  • defining and designing a systems architecture to encapsulate the different modular system subcomponents;
  • conducting a systems dynamics analysis of the various factors that could affect the system in either a positive or negative direction;
  • developing an information flow schema;
  • developing an algorithm that performs mathematical computation using the system input data to produce a set of desirable system output in the form of decision-making intelligence reports, analytics, and visual charts;
  • developing the system analytics and visualization subsystems; and
  • developing a web portal.

The results: The IntrusionPoint application performs artificial intelligence decision-making analysis of enterprise intrusion prevention solutions, providing a computer-implemented method for evaluating the suitability of cybersecurity products for any particular user.

The method accomplishes the following tasks:

  • obtaining weights representing the relative importance of a plurality of attributes related to intrusion protection systems;
  • obtaining a plurality of attribute scores for each of the plurality of attributes related to intrusion protection systems; and
  • calculating a weighted sum of the plurality of attribute scores based on the weights.

The tool’s logical design construct and implementation provides a variety of analytics and visualizations from which end users, product developers, and vendors can gain insight into the pros and cons of each solution and thus make informed decisions related to purchases, product enhancements, and other cybersecurity tasks.

Intrusionpoint Compare 3

These charts represent a sampling of the analytics generated by the IntrusionPoint tool that enable customers to visualize the technical performance of various cybersecurity products.

Intrusionpoint Compare 4

About the Author


Charles Iheagwara, PhD, SDM ’10

Charles Iheagwara, PhD, is a customer solutions advocate and security solutions consultant at Cisco, Inc. Previously, he served as managing director at Unatek Inc. and as a consultant in various capacities at Grant Thornton, KPMG, Lockheed Martin, and Edgar Online. He holds a PhD from the University of Glamorgan in the United Kingdom and, as an SDM alumnus, an MS in engineering and management from MIT. He also earned an MS in mineral engineering from the University of Minnesota and a BS and MS in metallurgical engineering from Russia’s Moscow Institute for Steel and Alloys. Dr. Iheagwara has published widely and is a frequent speaker at industry events.


Ericsson, SDM Team Up on Autonomous Car Project

EricssonLogoEricsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) today announced an agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) System Design & Management (SDM) program to jointly create innovative solutions for Ericsson’s Autonomous Driving – Predictive Mobility project. The collaboration is a result of significant student interest expressed via a vote at MIT SDM’s annual SDM Project Forum and Core Technology Showcase, held in January at the MIT Media Lab. Ericsson and MIT SDM will also work together to explore additional ways to work closely together in the future.


Mike Kaul, Vice President, Technology, Business Unit Support Solution at Ericsson

Ericsson’s Autonomous Driving project takes an innovative software approach to combining data and analytics. This will enable Ericsson to better understand context, driver profiles and network awareness in support of app delivery to the autonomous car, including intelligent media streaming. One of the project’s many challenges is how to securely capture the driver’s identity to better understand preferences and behavior. The MIT SDM project team will work with Ericsson to define and design this “identity” module.

The 2016 SDM Core Technology Showcase attracted about 300 SDM students and faculty, as well as representatives from companies that presented 28 projects for students to judge and vote on for further development. SDM fellows, who will earn a master’s in engineering and management from MIT upon graduating, ranked Ericsson’s among the top two projects to pursue and deliver in May. This collaboration establishes an innovation-based relationship with the prestigious research university.

Joan Rubin, MIT SDM staff

Joan S. Rubin, Industry Codirector, MIT SDM

“We are eager to team with MIT to push the boundaries of autonomous car innovation,” said Mike Kaul, Vice President, Technology, Business Unit Support Solution at Ericsson. “MIT’s SDM program combines multiple academic disciplines, including engineering, management and systems thinking, for top-tier mid-career professionals with several years of work experience who want to innovate and lead. Their participation will offer fresh insight, and creative perspective to Ericsson’s important Autonomous Driving project.”

System Design & Management (SDM), the MIT master’s program in engineering and management, was created in 1996 in response to industry’s need to develop future generations of leaders. Offered jointly by MIT’s School of Engineering and the MIT Sloan School of Management, SDM is one of the world’s first graduate programs to integrate engineering, management, and systems thinking with leadership and innovation.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT, with five schools and one college that contain a total of 32 departments, is often cited as among the world’s top universities. The Institute is traditionally known for its research and education in the physical sciences and engineering and has as of 2015 85 Nobel laureates.

Notes to Editors

For media kits, backgrounders and high-resolution photos, please visit

Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society – a world leader in communications technology and services. Our long-term relationships with every major telecom operator in the world allow people, business and society to fulfill their potential and create a more sustainable future.

Our services, software and infrastructure – especially in mobility, broadband and the cloud – are enabling the telecom industry and other sectors to do better business, increase efficiency, improve the user experience and capture new opportunities.

With approximately 115,000 professionals and customers in 180 countries, we combine global scale with technology and services leadership. We support networks that connect more than 2.5 billion subscribers. Forty percent of the world’s mobile traffic is carried over Ericsson networks. And our investments in research and development ensure that our solutions – and our customers – stay in front.

Founded in 1876, Ericsson has its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden. Net sales in 2015 were SEK 246.9 billion (USD 29.4 billion). Ericsson is listed on NASDAQ OMX stock exchange in Stockholm and the NASDAQ in New York.


Ericsson Corporate Communications
Phone: +46 10 719 69 92

Ericsson Investor Relations
Phone: +46 10 719 00 00

How to Navigate the Perils and Promises of Intrusion Prevention Systems

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series


Charles Iheagwara, PhD, SDM ’10

Charles Iheagwara, PhD, Customer Solutions Advocate and Security Solutions Consultant, Cisco Systems, Inc.; SDM Alumnus

Date: March 21, 2016

Download the presentation slides

About the Presentation

Although the market is full of intrusion prevention products, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to every business need. In this webinar, SDM alumnus Dr. Charles Iheagwara will offer suggestions for how to cut through the jargon and evaluate which products will best meet your organization’s requirements.

He will discuss:

  • a working definition of intrusion prevention;
  • critical criteria for evaluating products that include—and go beyond—meeting budgetary and implementation needs;
  • how employing these criteria can enhance your cybersecurity strategy while addressing your organization’s technical, business, and socio-political challenges.

In short, there are ramifications to choosing one security solution over another. This session will suggest an approach to preventing the types of security failures that can reverberate throughout and beyond your organization.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us.

About the Speaker

Dr. Charles Iheagwara is a customer solutions advocate and security solutions consultant at Cisco, Inc. Previously, he served as managing director at Unatek, Inc., and as a consultant in various capacities at Grant Thornton, KPMG, Lockheed Martin, and Edgar Online. He holds a PhD from the University of Glamorgan in the United Kingdom and, as an SDM alumnus, an MS in engineering and management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He also earned an MS in mineral engineering from the University of Minnesota and a BS and MS in metallurgical engineering from Russia’s Moscow Institute for Steel and Alloys. Dr. Iheagwara has published widely and is a frequent speaker at industry events.

About the Series

Sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.


A Systems-Based Approach to Startups: Why They Fail and How They Can Succeed

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

MIT student portraits, System Management and Design

Fady Saad, SDM ’11

Fady Saad, Strategy, Research, and Business Development Director, Vecna Technologies; SDM Alumnus

Date: March 7, 2016

Download the presentation slides

About the Presentation

Any evaluation of the life cycle of established companies will reveal the importance of taking a holistic approach to fundamental business challenges such as product development, customer acquisition, financial growth, and employee and leadership recruitment. Making progress on all fronts simultaneously is critical for companies at all stages of development, but it is especially important for startups.

In this webinar, SDM alumnus Fady Saad, director of strategy, research, and business development at Vecna Technologies, will:

  • explain why mature companies can afford delays in responding to a broad set of internal and external issues while startups cannot;
  • reveal how early business and policy decisions can help and/or hurt a startup during subsequent phases of its life cycle; and
  • explore how an understanding of these business dynamics can impact the formation and growth of companies in both the short and long term.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Fady Saad is the strategy, research and business development director at Vecna Robotic Solutions, as well as the co-founder and Director of Partnerships of MassRobotics, and was previously cofounder and strategist of ePowerhouse. Prior to coming to MIT, he worked at Nokia Systems Networks in North Africa and Europe and consulted for the World Bank. As an SDM alumnus, Saad holds an MS in engineering and management from MIT. He also earned a BS in mechanical engineering from the American University in Cairo.

About the Series

The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program, features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings from prior MIT SDM webinars can be accessed here.

Naomi Gutierrez Named MIT SDM Career Development and Alumni Associate

By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director

March 1, 2016 – MIIT System Design & Management (SDM) program has announced anGutierrez, Naomi expansion of Naomi Gutierrez’s role within the program.

As career development and alumni associate, Gutierrez has assumed responsibility for all facets of SDM alumni relations in addition to her work in career development services for SDM students. Her expanded role now includes:

  • conducting SDM alumni outreach;
  • maintaining the expanded SDM job board;
  • providing SDM grads with access to MIT Sloan’s alumni job listings; and
  • arranging networking opportunities.

Prior to joining MIT, Gutierrez served as a program coordinator for the Psychology Department at Boston’s Suffolk University. She holds an MA in classics from Rutgers University.

“Our students and alums are SDM’s greatest assets,” said Gutierrez, who will be spearheading an alumni survey this spring to help SDM continue to improve its efforts to serve this constituency. “Before helping them advance toward their professional goals throughout their careers will continue to make the SDM community a place of fellowship, encouragement, and expanding opportunities for all.”

DE&S Fellow Duncan Kemp Speaks at MIT

By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director

MIT’s System Design & Management (SDM) program was honored to host a presentation in January 2016 by Duncan Kemp, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Fellow in the UK Ministry of Defence. Kemp spoke to SDM master’s students about how capability systems engineering has been used to understand different stakeholder positions, improve railroad capacity, and develop train requirements.

Kemp began with a brief overview of his career, which has spanned more than 25 years as a systems engineer—including service as chief systems engineer in the UK Ministry of Defence and Department for Transport. He was lead author of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) UK Capability Systems Engineering Guide and an author of the INCOSE Systems Engineering Vision 2025.

As the DE&S Fellow for Systems Engineering, Kemp is responsible for ensuring that the DE&S’ approaches are informed by global best practices.

Kemp discussed many important specifics, including:

  • use of systems engineering in World War II;
  • how soft systems methodology can be used to understand different stakeholder viewpoints;
  • ways to employ system dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations to improve railroad capacity; and
  • use of capability systems engineering to develop train requirements.

After Kemp’s presentation, US Army Captain J.D. Caddell, an SDM fellow, said, “It was interesting and valuable to learn about Duncan’s professional experience in applying systems engineering for the defense, information services, and rail industries. He demonstrated how the methodologies and tools we are learning in SDM are being applied in a diverse set of industries in the UK.”

SDM alumnus John Helferich, a member of SDM’s teaching staff and an MIT PhD student, said, “In the US we tend to hear the same kinds of examples of systems engineering. Learning about the UK experience, especially the work Duncan led in the rail industry, broadened our perspective.”

Helferich added, “In short, Duncan’s presentation was fantastic. Now we just need to work out how to get him back to Boston for a follow-up session!”

Architecting and Building Private Clouds by Leveraging Systems Thinking

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Deep Bhattacharjee, SDM ’07

Ratnadeep (Deep) Bhattacharjee, Head of Product Management, ZeroStack; and SDM alumnus

Date: February 22, 2016

Download the presentation slides

About the Presentation

Cost, performance, and regulatory restrictions frequently prevent companies from moving to a public cloud. Many want to build their own clouds; however, the norms for designing and operating public clouds cannot always be applied to private ones. Consequently, the challenge of creating a successful private cloud can be daunting.

In this webinar, SDM alumnus Ratnadeep Bhattacharjee, head of product management at ZeroStack, will describe how systems thinking can be used to design an alternative architecture that can deliver an optimal private cloud experience. He will discuss:

  • the evolution of software systems in general;
  • the sea change that public cloud services like Amazon Web Services has brought about regarding how enterprises design, manage, and deliver IT services to users; and
  • how understanding the above can help IT professionals avoid pitfalls in building a private cloud.

Attendees will learn about:

  • attributes of a general cloud-based system and how to measure its business value;
  • specific factors involved in developing and deploying a private cloud;
  • how to evaluate private cloud technology as an IT management system; and
  • the benefits a private cloud can offer, such as reduced maintenance, improved performance, and more.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!


About the Speaker

SDM alumnus Deep Bhattacharjee is the head of product management at ZeroStack. He previously worked at VMware as the group product manager responsible for re-architecting the company’s core management platform. He also served as head of cloud product management at Canonical and, earlier in his career, in various roles during 10 years at Sun Microsystems. He holds an MS in engineering and management from MIT and an MS in computer science from Pennsylvania State University.

About the Series

The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program, features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.


The Importance of (Big) Data for Healthcare Safety-Net Organizations


David Hartzband, DSc

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

David Hartzband, DSc, Research Affiliate, MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center

Date: February 8, 2016

Slides available here.

About the Presentation

Big data holds great promise for understanding the successes and failures of systems in a wide range of industries. This webinar will explore the use of big data in the healthcare system, with specific reference to a multiyear project that deployed Hadoop-based analytics at 33 Federally Qualified Community Health Centers with approximately 1.3 million patients.

The project analyzed five years of data to assess data quality and its impact on care and found that:

  • reporting of specific conditions was often lower than expected given known estimates for the US population;
  • the rates of obesity and heart disease as reported appeared especially low; and
  • these apparent data errors made identifying comorbidities problematic.

The speaker will explore possible system causes for these results, including:

  • a structural misalignment of electronic health records with actual health center practices;
  • impediments to proper reporting caused by sociocultural and organizational contexts; and
  • poor-quality data.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

David Hartzband, DSc, is a research affiliate of the MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center where he does research on technology evolution and adoption for healthcare organizations. He is the founder of PostTechnical Research, a technology futures and consulting firm that works primarily with early stage healthcare information companies on issues of technology evolution, product development, and technology landscape. He is also director for technology research at the RCHN Community Health Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on issues of healthcare policy and technology for Federally Qualified Community Health Centers nationwide. He holds a doctoral degree in mathematics.

About the Series

The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program, features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This WebEx service includes a feature that allows audio and any documents and other materials exchanged or viewed during the session to be recorded. By joining this session, you automatically consent to such recordings. If you do not consent to the recording, discuss your concerns with the meeting host prior to the start of the recording or do not join the session. Please note that any such recordings may be subject to discovery in the event of litigation.


Virtual Chat with SDM Admissions

Please join us online for a virtual chat session with SDM Admissions.

At the chat session, SDM admissions staff and current students will be available to answer questions you have about your application, and the SDM program structure and curriculum.

For specific questions about this event, please contact Lesley Perera at or call 617.452.2432.


A Systems Analysis of Tactical Intelligence in the US Army


Jillian Wisniewski, SDM ’14

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Jillian Wisniewski, Captain, US Army; System Dynamics Instructor, US Military Academy at West Point; SDM Alumna

Date: November 16, 2015

Download the presentation slides

About the Presentation

Modern intelligence analysts must generate and direct intelligence that supports the pace of tactical operations for a modular force with decentralized decision-making. Digital collection platforms, information systems, analytical software, and connectivity at the tactical level are useful but insufficient. Analysts need training in data analysis fundamentals to understand how to leverage these systems to support tactical mission planning and decision-making.

This type of analysis uses systems design tools to:

  • examine and model the design of military operations;
  • define the analyst’s required capability in the context of tactical operations;
  • explore, revise, and assess components of intelligence competency;
  • assess the relative costs of competency gaps; and
  • recommend improvements.

Webinar attendees will gain an understanding of how structural changes impact organizational processes as well as how performance shortfalls and shortcut methodologies impair military operations. They will also learn:

  • how to apply design thinking and systems methodologies to improve the training and educational requirements within an organization; and
  • how to apply system dynamics to explore the drivers of mission performance outcomes.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Jillian Wisniewski is an Army captain and system dynamics instructor at the US Military Academy at West Point (USMA). She holds a BS in operations research from USMA and, as an SDM alumna, she holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT.

About the Series

The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program, features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

Eppinger Honored with Two Awards


Steven D. Eppinger, ScD

By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director

MIT Sloan School of Management’s Steven D. Eppinger, ScD, recently received two important awards: the Medal of Excellence from the Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET) and the 2015 Distinguished Speaker Award from the Technology, Innovation Management, and Entrepreneurship Section (TIMES) of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Eppinger is the General Motors Leaders for Global Operations Professor of Management; Professor of Management Science and Innovation; and codirector of System Design & Management (SDM) and Integrated Design & Management (IDM).

Instituted in 2004, the PICMET Medal of Excellence recognizes the extraordinary achievements of individuals in any discipline who have made outstanding contributions to science, engineering, and technology management. Eppinger was honored for several important accomplishments, among them:

  • Co-authoring Product Design and Development (with Karl T. Ulrich)—currently in its sixth edition, this leading textbook has been translated into several languages and is used by hundreds of universities and over a quarter million students;
  • Conducting extensive research that has been applied to improving complex technical projects in a wide range of industries; and
  • Serving as Professor of Management Science and Innovation at MIT and as codirector of SDM and IDM, which are offered jointly by MIT Sloan and MIT’s School of Engineering.

Eppinger is the first faculty member from MIT Sloan to win the PICMET Medal of Excellence, although several Sloan faculty members have won other PICMET awards. For example, the following professors have received the organization’s Leadership in Technology Management Award: Eric von Hippel (2005); Edward B. Roberts (2006); Nam Pyo Suh (2012); and James M. Utterback (2014).

On November 2, during the INFORMS annual meeting in Philadelphia, TIMES presented Eppinger with the 2015 Distinguished Speaker Award in recognition of his outstanding academic leadership in the field of technology management. At that time, Eppinger delivered a presentation, “The Structure and Management of Technical Projects,” in which he reviewed some key design structure matrix (DSM) research results and described ways in which the method is used today to manage complex technical projects. He also offered thoughts on frontiers in technology management that may be addressed using DSM modeling and reflected on why it has taken more than 20 years to bring this practical method into common practice.

Other MIT Sloan faculty who have received the TIMES Distinguished Speaker Award include Roberts (2001), Hippel (2005), and Utterback (2012).

Eppinger is one of the most highly recognized scholars in product development and technical project management. His research is applied to improving complex design processes in order to accelerate industrial practices. He pioneered the development of the widely used DSM method for managing complex system projects. He has authored more than 70 articles in refereed academic journals and conferences. He is also the co-author of a book based on DSM research, Design Structure Matrix Methods and Applications, published by MIT Press.

In his current research, Eppinger delves into complex engineering systems with particular emphasis on:

  • the integration of complex engineered systems—to explore a new way to apply DSM to complex systems;
  • technology readiness—he and collaborators are investigating the state of the art in the use of technology-readiness-level assessment methods in system development; and
  • engineering communication networks—Eppinger and collaborators are investigating the patterns of technical process communications through engineering networks.

Eppinger previously served five years as deputy dean of MIT Sloan. He received SB, SM, and ScD degrees from MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Understanding and Measuring the Impact of Enterprise Social Software on Business Practices

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Suzanne Livingston, Product Manager, IBM; SDM Alumna

Date: November 2, 2015


Suzanne Livingston, SDM ’13

About the Presentation

Organizations are increasingly investing in enterprise social software, which provides collaboration tools such as communities and people profiles, to support their business goals. For many, however, the practical impact of such technologies is unclear. Companies struggle with insufficient usage to demonstrate meaningful impact and have difficulty comparing performance with social technology to performance without.

This webinar will provide research-based guidelines that can help companies understand:

  • whether a technology investment has been worthwhile;
  • which areas of the company have gained value from it; and
  • which areas of the company have seen no improvement.

Attendees will learn:

  • how to address user adoption issues to improve impact; and
  • how to identify business metrics they can use to compare performance before and after adopting social technology.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us.

About the Speaker

Suzanne Livingston is a product manager at IBM, where she manages a team of product and offerings managers in IBM’s Enterprise Social Solutions division, which encompasses mail, chat, meetings, audio/video, cognitive computing, social technologies, and more. In this role, she helped launch IBM Connections, a social software suite for businesses and organizations. Livingston is also a teaching fellow at Harvard Business School. As an SDM alumna, she holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT.

About the Series

The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program, features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.

How to Build a Culture of Innovation Through Design and Systems Thinking

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Andrea Ippolito, Presidential Innovation Fellow, US Department of Veterans Affairs; SDM Alumna

Date: October 19, 2015

About the Presentation

In this webinar, SDM alumna Andrea Ippolito, a presidential innovation fellow, will describe how the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) developed and implemented an innovators network. She will cover:

  • the human-centered design and systems methodologies used to develop the VA Innovators Network;
  • the strategy used to build a culture of innovation designed to help employees develop the best possible services and experiences for veterans and their supporters;
  • the VA Innovation Creation Series, an open innovation system designed to accelerate the development of personalized prosthetics and assistive technologies for veterans with disabilities; and
  • the development and deployment of an open innovation strategy–plus program at the VA using open challenge platforms such as InnoCentive and GrabCAD.

Webinar attendees will learn:

  • how to apply design thinking and systems methodologies to improve the innovation culture within organizations;
  • what open innovation tools organizations can use to harness the power of the crowd and improve innovation output; and
  • ways to build an innovation network at your organization, no matter what your industry.

We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Andrea Ippolito is a presidential innovation fellow based at the US Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation. A PhD student in engineering systems at MIT, she cofounded Smart Scheduling, a software firm specializing in medical appointment planning. She has also served as an innovation specialist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Innovation Hub, as co-leader of MIT’s Hacking Medicine, as product innovation manager at athenahealth, and as a research scientist within the corporate technology development group at Boston Scientific. As an SDM alumna, she holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT. She also has a BS and a master’s degree, both in biomedical engineering, from Cornell University.

About the Series

The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program, features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges. Recordings and slides from prior SDM webinars can be accessed here.


2015 Systems Thinking Conference (10/7/15)


A Whole-Systems Approach to Product Design and Development
October 7, 2015
Wong Auditorium, MIT
8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Preregistration recommended


Preconference Back-to-the-Classroom Sessions
October 6, 2015
Wong Auditorium, MIT
2–5 p.m.
Preregistration recommended

SDM Information Evening
October 7, 2015
Morss Hall, Walker Auditorium, MIT
6–9 p.m.

Registration details

The Technology-Based Transformation of the Media Industry


Irving Wladawsky-Berger, PhD

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, PhD, Visiting Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management

Date: September 21, 2015

Download the presentation slides

About the Presentation

Just about every industry has been transformed by the relentless advances of digital technologies that have taken place over the past 20 years. But, like few others, the media industry continues to be severely disrupted by the digital revolution. Everything seems to be changing at once, from the way content is produced, delivered, and consumed, to the sources of revenue and profits. Globalization, deregulation, technological innovation, and the convergence of previously separate industries such as entertainment, communications, and consumer electronics has led to a highly turbulent media landscape.

This talk will explore some of the huge changes taking place in the media industry, with particular emphasis on the major negative, as well as positive, impacts of these changes. The presentation will examine the similarly transformative changes that are taking place in other industries and will map out the innovations and cultural changes required to help companies not only survive but thrive amid such major technology-based transformations.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us.

About the Speaker

Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger retired from IBM in May 2007 after a 37-year career with the company, where his primary focus was on innovation and technical strategy. He led a number of IBM’s companywide initiatives, including the Internet, e-business, supercomputing, and Linux. From March 2008 to June 2014 he was a strategic advisor at Citigroup, working on innovation and technology initiatives such as the transition to mobile digital money.

Since 2005, Wladawsky-Berger has been writing a weekly blog,, which has also been published in The Wall Street Journal’s “CIO Journal” since April 2012.

He is a strategic advisor on innovation at HBO and at MasterCard, visiting lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, adjunct professor at the Imperial College Business School, and executive-in-residence at New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress. He is a member of the board of directors of Inno360 and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, and he serves on the advisory board of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab.

Wladawsky-Berger received an MS and a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago.

About the Series

The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, sponsored by the System Design & Management (SDM) program, features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.



Advancing Human-Computer Communication to Maximize Sales

Pirtle, Bryan1-VC

Bryan Pirtle, SDM ’13

By Bryan Pirtle, SDM ’13

The challenge: In today’s fast-moving, dynamic business environment, it is tougher than ever for businesses to reach the right clients in a meaningful way and achieve results. Sales and marketing professionals need highly specialized and effective technology to source clients, engage them, and close deals.

This is especially true for top-of-funnel outreach. Even if a sales/marketing professional has carefully selected targets, “cold call” emails are almost always deleted immediately. How can prospective customers be incentivized to engage with the material for mutual benefit?

The approach: Nova Labs was formed to address this challenge using an integrative, systems-based approach—coupled with deep knowledge of typical top-of-funnel challenges—to develop hyper-personalized email outreach technology that surpasses what is currently available to sales and marketing professionals.

First we conducted a massive information-gathering mission by interviewing dozens of lead users in companies across the globe. The goal was to understand how potential users in the sales/marketing field spend each day on the job. Findings produced a clear view of common and best practices and typical products already in use.

Next, we researched the market landscape to gain insight into what gaps exist at the leading edge of sales automation technology.

Finally, we created a software-as-a-service, business-to-business product designed to meet the new-customer acquisition needs of medium and large companies. The goal of this initial product, Nova, is to optimize email outreach for clients. Nova’s underpinning is a scalable personalization technology that can be extended into other domains and ultimately become a platform for future products. This technology will enable our customers to personalize not just email, but ads, engagement/re-engagement communications, upsell opportunities, and more.

The tools: The systems thinking mindset, technology strategy, and user-centered design—as well as system architecture and dynamics methodologies—that form the foundation of MIT’s System Design & Management program have provided many of the fundamental concepts on which Nova Labs built its core technology.

The product design/synthesis/feedback process included:

  • Transforming all of our documented experiences plus the synthesized information collected from the sales/marketing professional interviews into baseline product requirements;
  • Choosing and configuring the technology stack to be used;
  • Determining initial/future sources of information from the public Internet with which to construct meta-profiles for each prospect;
  • Creating a baseline scope for the personalization technology layer;
  • Designing the look and feel of user interfaces;
  • Designing the “glue layer” of how data flows to/from each interface, as well as usability/user experience;
  • Implementing all of the above in the chosen technology stack;
  • Sourcing beta clients and releasing the product to them; and
  • Feeding back client suggestions, concerns, and usability issues into the process to continue iterative design.

After analyzing and discussing the results of our data collection efforts at length, we were able to characterize our target market as follows:

  • The client: Sales development representatives, account executives, and personnel in inside sales roles.
  • What the client does: Spends five or more hours each day researching individuals on prospect lists to determine the right personal touch to add to an initial message to engage each person.
  • What the client currently uses: Static, template-based, single-email, and mail-merge (multiple-email, campaign-based) platforms that convert comma-separated values documents into bland, spammy-looking emails.
  • What the client wants: Dynamic, data-driven technology that allows for utilization of publicly available data and performance analytics to construct appropriate targeting language automatically and insert it into emails to capture each recipient’s attention and/or establish a personal connection—at scale.

We thus determined that a technology that combines the successful elements of existing products on the market with an automated personalization text-generation layer would have the potential to revolutionize sales and marketing top-of-funnel and save hours per day per professional.

To deliver this product, we created a robust and sophisticated software stack capable of asynchronously compiling and delivering the data needed for the personalization process and desired user experience. Our current stack with high-level relationships between components is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Nova Labs’ technology stack.

We decided to use contemporary open-source software built upon the Heroku platform as a service in order to achieve the following goals with our stack:

  1. Stability, gained by using robust, mature frameworks and software platforms;
  2. Flexibility, attained by picking and choosing the correct open-source tools and libraries for each product need; and
  3. Focus on application design rather than infrastructure design.

We built the primary user interface as a Google Chrome extension application. This design choice was primarily made to make use of the Google Apps mail client that most lead users preferred. We chose AngularJS as the front-end Javascript framework and “glue layer” to provide a more robust and streamlined real-time “desktop experience” in the web environment. The asynchronous and real-time data needs of the application were also simplified by the use of AngularJS. Figure 2 shows the real-time analytics in action in a campaign.


Figure 2. Screenshot of Nova’s “campaign view” with analytics data.

Once a client uploads a list of target email addresses, the personalization engine is employed on the back end to search target sources on the Internet. The engine then constructs a meta-profile for each person using his/her email as the key. We chose several initial data sources, including social media data aggregator APIs as well as our own data scrapers and search technology. Proprietary algorithms are then used to construct the meta-profile and custom attributes—such as seniority, influence, playfulness, and international orientation—from the collected raw data.

Once the meta-profiles are constructed, the personalization engine uses natural language processing and machine learning as well as statistical analysis of past analytics data to determine the proper personalization snippets, including tone, to add to the email for each recipient. The user may also customize correspondence from all available personalization types and tones that the engine has previously created. The personalization engine learns from the choices users make to continually adapt to recipient preferences.

The results:

  • Nova Labs has started beta testing with two dozen companies;
  • The pipeline increases daily with more than 200 companies expressing interest in the product;
  • More than 5,000 emails per week go through the Nova system; and
  • Nova-personalized emails perform more than 500 percent better on average than control (non-personalized) emails based on numerous experiments using real-world campaigns for both prospect engagement and response rates.

Nova Labs is continuing to meet its own internal milestones and is aggressively pursuing new client growth using its proprietary tools, product, and technology.

About the Author

Bryan Pirtle, SDM ’13, is chief technology officer of Nova Labs, Inc. He employed techniques from MIT’s System Design & Management (SDM) program to help shape the core of Nova Labs’ technology strategy and roadmap.


Assessing Regulatory, Environmental, Economic, and Technical Components of Sustainable Energy and Water Use in Thermoelectric Facilities in Chile

Editor’s note: The following is a summary of a study performed for the Chilean Energy Ministry with the support of the Ministry of the Environment. We would like to thank the Chilean Energy Ministry and Ministry of the Environment for supporting this project.

The report that includes the analysis conducted, the recommendations, and the next steps can be downloaded here.

By Donny Holaschutz, SDM ’10, and Jorge Moreno, SDM ’11

The challenge: Water use at thermoelectric facilities presents a complex systems problem for several reasons:

  • To operate safely and efficiently, the facilities need large amounts of water, yet water supplies are limited;
  • The social and environmental impacts of water use are becoming increasingly significant worldwide; and
  • A complex set of relationships exists among the overall environmental, economic, and social impacts of water use; how water is withdrawn from its source; how it is used at facilities; and how it is returned to the environment.

The most significant water use at a thermoelectric facility is associated with the cooling process, which in turn is tightly coupled to the overall performance and reliability of the plant. An adequate amount of water for the plant’s cooling system leads to a more energy-efficient thermoelectric facility—one that produces less atmospheric emissions per unit of electricity generated. This relationship creates an important tension in the design or upgrade of a plant’s cooling system between water use and performance.

Any cooling system design must consider a variety of factors, including:

  • local environmental conditions and geography, including access to and availability of water;
  • the ecosystems of the source body of water;
  • local social context; and
  • how specific system byproducts—such as water flow at the intake and the temperature of the water effluent—might stress the source body of water.

Inodú worked with the Chilean Energy Ministry and the Ministry of the Environment to identify and address some of the challenges posed by water use at thermoelectric facilities in Chile by conducting a preliminary assessment of the current regulatory, environmental, economic, and technical situation. This assessment helped address the following goals presented in the Chilean Energy Ministry’s Energy Agenda:

  • supporting the sustainable development of thermoelectric generation projects;
  • making progress toward overall territorial regulations focused on efficiency and sustainability; and
  • promoting energy efficiency as a state policy.

The approach: Inodú used an integrated set of methodologies grounded in systems thinking to elaborate its analysis.

First, we conducted an extensive literature review to gather facts and gain an understanding of the research, analysis, and regulation developed worldwide. Inodú found that in Chile most thermoelectric generation facilities are located by the coast, while in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 3 percent of power plants use ocean water. This indicated that solutions being developed for the United States might not necessarily apply to Chile.

Next, we engaged key Chilean stakeholders to gain a better understanding of how water is currently used and what solutions might be available. The stakeholders included:

  • cooling system technology providers;
  • thermoelectric facility technology providers;
  • construction companies; and
  • local generation companies.

Inodú also conducted a survey to calculate the potential for water withdrawal by the thermoelectric generation base. In Chile in 2013, the potential for water withdrawal from the Pacific Ocean was 530,400 m3/hr by thermoelectric facilities, the equivalent of withdrawing approximately 212 Olympic-size pools every hour[1] (see Figure 1). The potential for water withdrawal from water wells was 3,080 m3/hr.


Figure 1. The water cycle is shown at left for Chile’s thermoelectric facilities, marked on the map at right.

Chile typically withdraws water from the Pacific using an overhead syphon, a method that differs from that used in many other countries. The potential for water withdrawal using an overhead syphon was 495,434 m3/hr in 2013 (see Figure 1). Mitigating the environmental impact created by withdrawing water with an overhead syphon requires a different approach than that used for some of the common intake structures found in the United States, such as the intake channel or submerged intake structure flush with shoreline. Engaging local construction companies allowed inodú to understand the unique Chilean coastal conditions that made the overhead syphon the preferred water intake system.


Figure 2. Cooling system configurations in Chile.

Several cooling system configurations unique to Chile have developed over time as shown in Figure 2. The withdrawal and return of water generates the following relevant environmental impacts:

  • impingement and entrainment of water organisms;
  • chemicals released into the water (chemicals are mostly used to keep cooling systems clean);
  • increases in water temperatures; and
  • water loss.

The environmental impacts caused by withdrawing and returning water can be affected by the selection of the cooling system and the use of proper safeguards applied to the water intake and discharge systems. The velocity at the intake, the water volume, the location of the intake and discharge systems and the types of safeguards used (screens, racks, biomass handling systems, etc.) also affect the overall environmental impact of the cooling system. Environmental safeguards installed in water intake systems in Chile are shown in Figure 3.


Figure 3. Environmental safeguards installed in water intake systems in Chile.

The environmental impact of water use can be greatly influenced by the type of cooling system selected. For example, once-through cooling systems use the most water, but only consume small amounts of that water. Cooling towers and cooling ponds require less water, but they lose more water to evaporation. Finally, air cooled condensers (dry-cooling) require no water, but they are significantly more energy inefficient than the other types of cooling systems. In addition, the topography of the coastline in Chile can play a significant role in the amount of energy needed to pump water from the coast to the location of the thermoelectric facility—a factor that affects the overall efficiency and environmental impact of the system.

We found that 95 percent of the water employed by thermoelectric facilities is used for cooling and that, in the whole water cycle, approximately 3 percent of the water is consumed. Most of the water is used by once-through cooling systems. Currently, the northern region of Chile demands more cooling water than the central region as shown in Figure 1. Both regions have significant inland water constraints, especially the far north, home to some of the country’s important mining operations and well as to the Atacama Desert, one of the driest deserts in the world.

Once we had an understanding of worldwide best practices, what was possible in Chile, and the current state of water use at thermoelectric facilities, we began exploring:

  • what important tradeoffs would have to be considered to generate recommendations and future work; and
  • the techno-economic performance of different types of cooling systems at the four locations where thermoelectric generation is currently centered in Chile (Mejillones, Quintero, Quillota, and Coronel).

To assess the techno-economic performance across locations, inodú developed cases for comparison. The effectiveness of cooling systems depends on local environmental conditions such local air and water temperatures and humidity. The cases were developed by determining representative local environmental conditions at the four locations, then using the same thermoelectric facility for all cases as well as comparable design criteria.

In addition, to evaluate environmental and system performance, we explored:

  • how changes in system configurations could reduce important environmental impacts associated with the withdrawal and return of water such as impingement and entrainment of water organisms, the use of chemicals in water, increases in water temperatures, and water consumption (loss); and
  • how changes in system configurations could produce other environmental side effects such as changes in atmospheric emissions, noise, and plume.

The results: For a thermoelectric plant located by the coast, the analysis led to the conclusion that, in Chile, a once-through cooling system with the proper environmental safeguards tends to be the most adequate. In addition, cooling towers or other closed-loop cooling systems tend to be the most appropriate where the water intake elevation exceeds the elevation at which it is environmentally sustainable and economically efficient to pump the water volume required by a once-through cooling system. Dry-cooling systems should only be used when water usage concerns do not permit the use of a once-through cooling system or cooling towers. While dry-cooling systems decrease water use, they increase atmospheric emissions per unit of net-energy produced.

Ultimately, we found that clearer guidelines are needed to help stakeholders choose adequate cooling system configurations and safeguards that are socially, environmentally, and economically friendly. Inodú presented a set of next steps for creating such guidelines so that power plant developers and operators can reduce the environmental and social impact of their power plants.

About the Authors


Donny Holaschutz, SDM ’10

Donny Holaschutz, SDM alumnus and an inodú cofounder, is a seasoned entrepreneur with experience in both for- and not-for-profit ventures related to energy and sustainability. He has consulted for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies in the United States and Latin America. He holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.


MIT student portraits, System Management and Design

Jorge Moreno, SDM ’11

Jorge Moreno, SDM alumnus and inodú cofounder, has extensive experience in the energy industry in the United States and Latin America. He holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.




[1] 2,500 m3 is a value commonly quoted for the volume of an Olympic-size pool.

2015 MIT Sustainability Summit: Farming, Food, and the Future

Nolet, Sarah

Sarah Nolet, SDM ’15

By Sarah Nolet, SDM ’15

MIT students recently organized a conference focused on using systems thinking to reshape global agriculture to meet the climate, population, and resource challenges of the 21st century.

The event: The MIT Sustainability Summit is a student-led event that takes place every year during Earth Week on the MIT campus, drawing more than 350 attendees ranging from professionals to academics and students. The summit has emerged as a premier issue-driven event, featuring discussions with thought leaders and expert practitioners.

2015 theme: The seventh annual Sustainability Summit, held at MIT’s McDermott Court on Friday and Saturday, April 24-25, focused on the complex problems facing local and global agriculture systems. Summit talks centered on examining food and farming challenges through the lens of the “circular economy,” a systems-thinking approach focused on building a flourishing, sustainable world by intentionally cycling resources between production and consumption—in other words, from farm to table and back again.

“As a student-led event that is joined by leaders in the public, private, and civil sectors, the MIT Sustainability Summit is a perfect illustration of how we can all come together to foster collaboration and create lasting solutions to poverty,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, who delivered a keynote address at the event. “Oxfam America believes that together we can stand against injustice and recognize our ability to hold the powerful accountable. Through collaboration with corporations and by empowering consumers, we can influence decisions that promote sustainable food systems and increase global food security. The most important step toward that goal is bringing public and private sectors together, and that’s why this summit is so.

Focus Areas and Featured Speakers

Conference content was divided into three core focal areas:

  • Rethinking consumption
  • Creating resilience in production
  • Enabling the transformation to a more circular economy

Keynote speakers and panelists with backgrounds from across academia, industry, and the public sector addressed such questions as:

  • How can innovation and technology help us move beyond a single-use model of agricultural products?
  • What are viable ways to promote and harness the functions that biodiverse and resilient agricultural ecosystems naturally provide?
  • What is needed from individuals, businesses, and governments for a more sustainable, circular agricultural system to take hold?

Featured speakers included:

  • Fedele Bauccio, cofounder and CEO, Bon Appétit Management Company
  • L. Ann Thrupp, executive director, Berkeley Food Institute, University of California at Berkeley
  • Paul Matteucci, operating partner, US Venture Capital Partners
  • John Lienhard, director, Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab, MIT
  • Raymond C. Offenheiser, president, Oxfam America

Other highlights:

  • In-kind food sponsorships from Ben & Jerry’s, ABInBev, Boloco, and Stonyfield
  • Sustainably sourced food from MIT Sloan startup Foodium
  • Friday night networking happy hour and MIT Waste Research and Innovation Night

My role: As marketing codirector, I was responsible for social media, email marketing campaigns, live audience Q&A, on- and off-campus marketing efforts, and ticket pricing and sales. I am really proud of how the marketing team did this year: We held a kickoff event with local startups and students from across MIT, the summit sold out a week before the conference, we continued to sell tickets at the door through Saturday morning, and we more than tripled our social media engagement. I believe we are starting to create a recognizable brand for the MIT Sustainability Summit.

Looking ahead: I am thrilled to be managing codirector of the 2016 MIT Sustainability Summit. Organizing the summit this year was an amazing learning experience. I not only improved my social media marketing and graphic design skills, but more importantly my communication and leadership skills. I also made some amazing connections and lasting friendships. I believe that creating a more sustainable world is the critical challenge of our future, and I’m thrilled to be at MIT where we have a unique opportunity to bring business and societal leaders together with academic researchers and students to drive innovation and meet this challenge.

2015 Sustainability Summit Team

SDM ’15 Sarah Nolet (fourth from right) poses on campus with the 2015 MIT Sustainability Summit leadership team.

About the Author

Sarah Nolet, SDM ’15, is passionate about using technology to create a more sustainable global food system. She is currently conducting research on organic farming in India while also pursuing a Sustainability Certificate from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Nolet was a three-sport varsity athlete and All-America soccer player at Tufts University, where she double majored in computer science and human factors engineering. Nolet loves all sports, building rock walls, speaking Spanish, and deep woods backpacking.

SDM Info Evening, June 1

Please join us at The Kendall Hotel for an Information Evening on the System Design and Management (SDM) program, which offers a Master’s degree in Engineering *and* Management. You will have the opportunity to learn more about this exciting program designed for mid-career professionals, discuss career opportunities, and network with SDM alumni, faculty, students, and staff.

View event invite and RSVP

Wearables, Big Data, and Healthcare Innovation

Todd O. Coleman

MIT SDM Speaker Series

Todd P. Coleman, M.S., Ph.D., MIT; Associate Professor of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego; Director, Neural Interaction Laboratory; and Codirector, Center for Perinatal Health

Date: April 10, 2015

Time: 11 a.m. — noon EDT

Location: Wong Auditorium, MIT

Free and open to all

About the Presentation

Interdisciplinary collaboration holds great promise for improving healthcare around the world. Combining wearable devices with expertise in engineering, medicine, information technology, and design, for example, can facilitate better decision-making by providing clinicians with the data most relevant to treating patients from afar.

In this presentation, MIT alumnus Todd P. Coleman (M.S. and Ph.D., MIT) will discuss the complex challenges involved in developing and implementing a suite of tools that transforms “big data” into “small, relevant” data to aid decision-making in perinatal health and chronic disease management. He will:

  • Describe how flexible, multimodal electronics can be combined with physiologically guided analytics algorithms to provide vulnerability profiles that can be efficiently implemented in the cloud;
  • Explain how this suite of human-computer interface applications blurs the line between man and machine, while enabling humans and computers to play to their individual strengths;
  • Offer thoughts on the challenges of interdisciplinary research, using examples involving professionals from electrical engineering, medicine, management, and design; and
  • Discuss the socio-political and legal implications of this work and how they can be addressed.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us!

About the Speaker

Todd P. Coleman holds B.S. degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering (both summa cum laude) from the University of Michigan. He earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from MIT in electrical engineering and conducted postdoctoral studies at MIT in neuroscience.

Currently an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego, Coleman directs the university’s Neural Interaction Laboratory and codirects the Center for Perinatal Health. His research is highly interdisciplinary, focusing on the intersection of bio-electronics, medicine, and machine learning. He is conducting research in wearable health by wedding his research group’s expertise in large-scale analytics with its recent development of “epidermal electronics,” featured in Science in 2011. Current applications include perinatal health, chronic disease management, and cognitive monitoring during aging.

The National Academy of Engineering named Coleman a 2015 Gilbreth Lecturer. He is a science advisor for the Science & Entertainment Exchange at the National Academy of Sciences, and his research has been spotlighted by CNN, BBC, and The New York Times.

Todd P. Coleman, M.S., Ph.D., MIT

Developing a Technology Roadmap for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Systems

The challenge: In 2010, pharmaceutical leader Merck & Co., Inc., launched Target ’15, a five-year plan to transform manufacturing operations. One of its key goals was to develop new manufacturing technologies that would enable at least one critical therapy to reach a minimum of 80 percent of the world’s population by the end of 2015. To accomplish this, we needed a proven technology strategy framework that would:

  • provide effectiveness at size scales that could span global enterprises and supply chains;
  • accommodate time scales that would cross long-range, multi-year planning targets;
  • manage complexity and deliver clear guidance to the organization on where and how to focus;
  • build on key lessons from multiple industries; and
  • provide insight that could transcend different technical disciplines.

The approach: SDM’s Technology Strategy course, taught by MIT Senior Lecturer Michael Davies, provided essential tools and methodologies to help Merck craft its first-ever long-range technology roadmap for manufacturing. Merck’s roadmap included:

  • identification, selection, acquisition, development, exploitation, and protection of key technologies; and
  • development of an organizational structure for continued alignment and action toward Merck’s access goals.

The tools: We created a blueprint that allowed Merck to drive technology development and investment activities across a global manufacturing operation with hundreds of connected supply chains within time frames that reached years into the future.

Our steps included:

  • developing a concrete, shared definition of manufacturing technologies as combinations of knowledge, processes, and equipment that transform raw materials into products and deliver them in a useful form to patients and customers; and
  • creating global operations-level systems views that allowed for holistic management and consideration of systems changes.

Taken together, this created a visual of the larger system that is the subject of Merck’s technology transformation and deployment.

In this global view, process unit systems up to the plant scale can exist within each box, while site- and enterprise-level integration occurs along pathways defined by the connection of different boxes. Each processing unit box can be further blown out as necessary, but the overarching scheme allows for the taxonomy of future roadmaps for each node and each pathway (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: An example of a pathway is AKOQR, which represents the pathway for a small-molecule pharmaceutical oral dosage form.

We followed stakeholder mapping processes to account for external and internal constituencies and to clearly identify key stakeholder groups. Evolving global trends were mapped inward from the customer market and societal needs and outward from the business drivers and manufacturer requirements (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Stakeholder map for Merck’s global operation.

Stakeholder mapping also enabled us to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) for the global system, thus collapsing the trends and drivers identified into workable and measurable goals. These KPIs produce very precise operational definitions around which global operations-level changes can be made.

During the needs and requirements definition phase, subject matter experts created technology inventories that we were able to use as repositories of internal and external technology efforts and innovations. The KPIs, trends, and drivers were used to prioritize technologies by time order and importance. This enabled us to create our initial manufacturing technology roadmaps. Individual technologies were generally at the single- and multi-phase system- and process-unit level; thus, the roadmap visualization allowed for plant-, site-, and enterprise-level integration and planning (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Stylized example of a technology roadmap.

Some stakeholder needs were well-articulated (e.g. a solution needed for a distinct problem), and others were not (e.g. a desire to impact a problem in a big way). As we assessed transformation at a global operational level, it was vital that our efforts combined technologies and defined value drivers. These dual dimensions and the trade-off space defined the risk posture clearly for our investments in various areas (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Technology maturity is shown by extent of need.

A key technology management challenge was lack of visibility concerning how different efforts affect each other, including ones that need information from others to make a larger, more holistic transformation possible. In helping manage these interdependencies, we applied the multi-domain matrix (MDM). A mock version of an MDM is shown below for a sample manufacturing pathway.

Figure 5: Multi-domain matrix applied to manage interdependencies for technology initiatives.

The MDM shows relationships within like elements (e.g. the process to process connections in the design structure matrix [DSM] shown in the red box, or the operand to operand connections in the DSM in the blue box) or across unlike elements (e.g. operand to initiative, as shown in the area labeled 1).

Understanding the relationships between some of the most important potential efforts and the process or operands at the enterprise level was critical to managing multi-year efforts and to fostering the right knowledge-sharing and connections required as internal and external entities consider the portfolio of choices. The crosshairs within the matrix can represent the nature of the connection, e.g. “supporting,” “connected to,” or “integral.”

The importance of these technology initiatives and their ability to address multiple needs at the global operational level would not be seen if not for the mapping effort. Interactions between different global pathways were analyzed using DSM and MDM analyses. This created a portfolio of technology projects that is now managed through maturity by an enterprise-wide technology management process and governance, with information and knowledge refreshed annually as implementation progresses.

The results:

  • Merck has mapped and assessed more than 800 technologies with this process—focusing on 42 technologies in various time horizons organized into eight clear domain challenges.
  • The MIT SDM Technology Strategy class mindset, methodologies, and tools have helped Merck create a manufacturing-wide framework, language, and process by which strategies and investments can be discussed, debated, and ultimately managed.

As 2015 begins, Merck is well-positioned to meet its five-year goals for manufacturing and, more importantly, the company now has a robust and bullet-proof way of managing technology for the next half decade.

Editor’s note: The author wishes to thank Leigh Gautreau, SDM ’08, research manager at Endeavour Partners, LLC. As a teaching assistant for the SDM course, she was a critical reviewer of Chowdhury’s series, as well as of this article.

About the Author
Anando Chowdhury, SDM ’09, is director of Product Design: Innovation to Operations at Merck & Co., Inc. His four-part paper written for SDM’s Technology Strategy course when he was an MIT student laid the groundwork for Merck’s manufacturing technology roadmap.

Anando Chowdhury, SDM ’09

Update: IDM Curriculum Development

By Matt Kressy, Director, Integrated Design & Management

Editor’s note: The following is a snapshot of the curriculum under development for SDM’s new sister track, Integrated Design & Management (IDM). We wanted to share the vision as we design and build the program for the inaugural cohort entering this fall, but readers should keep in mind that curriculum details and requirements will continue to evolve. For the latest information, visit


The IDM core curriculum combines the inspired, intuitive methods taught in the world’s best art and design schools with the systematic, analytical methods of the world’s best engineering and business schools. In this spirit, IDM is offered jointly by MIT’s School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, and its graduation requirements reflect a balance of design, engineering, and management. IDM graduates earn a master of science degree in engineering and management conferred by MIT.

The IDM environment—ID Lab

The Integrated Design Lab (ID Lab) will be a physical space, an intellectual resource, and a state of mind—an immersive environment that inspires individual IDM students and IDM teams to create, to fail, to flourish, to succeed, and to support each other steadily throughout the process.

As a physical entity, ID Lab will be a maker space, i.e. a design studio environment with state-of-the-art tools such as 3D printers and robotic arms. A materials and methods instructor who is expert in all tools, fabrication methods, and material uses will provide group and individual instruction. The continuity afforded by dedicated ID Lab space will enable students to build prototypes and return to them later, quickly re-immerse themselves, and iterate as needed—all necessary steps to creating great products and businesses.

The IDM curriculum

Offering a powerful combination of state-of-the-art design, business, and engineering methodologies, the IDM curriculum will be:

  • taught by MIT faculty who will provide in-depth instruction on the product development/product design process;
  • supplemented with lectures by successful entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, and thought leaders who will share their experience, insight, and expertise; and
  • enhanced by IDM students as they learn to present their passions, concepts, rationales, and solutions professionally.

Tentative ID Lab schedule

IDM-required activities (two days/week):

  • Faculty lectures
  • Design workshops
  • Team project work
  • Guest lectures

Other degree requirements (three days/week):

  • Engineering and management foundation courses and electives
  • Work in ID Lab

Students may also have the chance to intern at top innovation companies and to work on design-related consulting projects.

IDM components

Sample IDM core lecture topics:

  • opportunity identification
  • user needs research
  • user experience
  • product specification
  • creative concept generation
  • concept selection
  • industrial design
  • prototyping strategy
  • economics of product design and development
  • environmental sustainability
  • intellectual property
  • product architecture
  • design leadership
  • risk management

Sample ID Lab workshop topics:

  • hand tools
  • power tools
  • machine tools
  • 3D printing
  • composites
  • laminates and forming
  • sketch modeling
  • CNC (computer numerically controlled) milling
  • user interface and user experience (UI/UX)
  • wireframes
  • thermoforming
  • mold making and casting

Team project activities may include:

  • Practicing product and business development processes using tools discussed in lectures
  • Receiving real-time feedback from faculty via informal design reviews;
  • Working on team building, brainstorming, and strategy
  • Engaging users—through interviews, observation, needs lists, personas, and image boards
  • Generating concepts—through sketching, modeling, rendering, wireframing, and storyboarding
  • Testing—using functional, emotional, market, business model, and selection techniques
  • Receiving formal design reviews

IDM projects

  • Student-generated or industry-sponsored project topics can be either tangible, three-dimensional hardware products or software or web-based products that offer solutions to societal problems. Major projects will lead to thesis topics, with the intent of a business launch.
  • IDM partners will have a dedicated, ongoing relationship with the program. They will be welcome to spend time in the ID Lab, attend design reviews, mentor students, and bring real-world perspectives to campus. IDM partners will be encouraged to engage in any projects in which they see potential through collaboration, licensing, or investment.

IDM partners

  • have a dedicated, intimate, ongoing collaboration with IDM
  • spend time in the ID Lab
  • attend design reviews
  • invest in student projects of their choice
  • get right-of-first-offer on products and intellectual property, subject to student interest and negotiated price
  • have priority access to hiring IDM graduates

M.S. requirements

  • IDM core with ID Lab: 38 units (required)
  • Management and engineering foundations: 12+ units each (required)
  • Engineering and design electives: 15+ units (required)
  • Management and leadership electives: 15+ units (required)
  • Internship (optional)
  • Consulting (optional)
  • Thesis: 24 units (required)

IDM program options

  • 13 months full time, on campus


  • 21 months part time, on/off campus


In the fall semester, students taking the 13-month option

  • arrive in mid-August for a “boot camp”/orientation;
  • participate in a three-week project in the IDM core to familiarize themselves with IDM’s product development process and philosophy;
  • engage in a four-week project, repeating the above process so that it becomes familiar;
  • participate in a final project near the semester’s end, working on it in great detail; and
  • make final presentations in which their products are demonstrated to fellow students, faculty, potential investors, and the general public.

During the one-month Independent Activities Period (IAP) session, students

  • manufacture 100 units of product to be offered for purchase at a sales gala open to fellow students, potential investors, and the public.

In the spring semester students taking the 13-month option

  • put what they have learned into practice for a major project that spans 28 weeks;
  • participate in another end-of-semester gala open to potential investors and the general public;
  • offer products for sale;
  • complete interdisciplinary theses based on their projects;
  • participate in consulting engagements and recruitment/hiring activities; and
  • join MIT SDM-IDM’s lifelong learning community of alumni, students, and industry partners.

IDM’s 21-month option is still under development.

Matt Kressy

Improving Efficiency and Patient Safety in Intensive Care Units


Julia SomerdinThe challenge: A cost-effective, reliable, and real-time information system for monitoring the stress of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) is missing from current ICU systems. This presents an important opportunity because:

  • Five million patients are admitted annually to ICUs in the United States, with an average daily cost of over $10,000;
  • Post-surgery ICU patients require a higher level of acute care than most other hospitalized patients because they need services such as cardiovascular support, invasive monitoring, and intensive observation;
  • ICU patients, often unable to report on their stress and pain levels, rely primarily on nurses’ training and knowledge—yet, because nurses can visit patients only periodically, pain can only be assessed intermittently;
  • Pain and stress ratings are often subjective, even guesswork, and nurses treating the same patients often disagree with each other because of their varying levels of training and experience; and
  • The dramatically increasing demand for ICU beds has significantly added to the workload of nurses and physicians.

Here is a typical hospital setting in which patients are receiving intensive care and monitoring. Traditionally, nurses or medical staff check and record a patient’s status periodically.

Creating a means to remotely monitor stress and pain with real-time data visualization can help address these issues.

The approach: ICU Cam enables non-invasive monitoring of stress and pain using a remote smart camera mounted on top of a patient’s bed. Its capabilities include:

  • remotely measuring stress during complex dexterity tasks, such as surgery; and
  • transfer of reliable real-time results to physicians via data visualization;

ICU Cam uses a smart camera to automatically capture several patient vital signs and send this information to doctors in real time.

The tools: The embedded software system consists of four modules:

  1. Camera server-side data collection and processing
  2. Networking module for Wi-Fi transmission
  3. Client-side data receiver
  4. Graphical user interface that provides data regeneration and interpretation

The results: During lab testing, ICU Cam measured heart rate and heart rate variability with over 96 percent accuracy. Additional benefits may include:

  • Early detection of pain to help doctors provide early relief to patients incapable of self-reporting;
  • Reduced length of ICU stay, resulting in substantial savings for hospitals and insurance companies; and
  • Increased ICU efficiency and reduced nurse workload.

Physicians can review patients’ information on tablets and smart phones even when they are not physically in the hospital. If patients need urgent attention, a text alert message will be sent along with key patient information.

Next steps: Last fall, we visited local healthcare facilities to help us better understand problems in current ICU systems. At Boston Medical Center, Gerardo Rodriguez, M.D., anesthesiologist and critical care physician at the surgical ICU in East Newton, MA, gave us a tour, explained how patients are monitored there, and described the system’s shortcomings. He expressed enthusiasm about testing ICU Cam in patient care settings and discussed additional applications of this system to, for example, provide support for new doctors.

In the coming months, the ICU Cam team will:

  • improve the beta version prototype;
  • research hardware alternatives to reduce costs;
  • initialize clinical trial paperwork in MIT’s medical center to further understand the process; and
  • identify a large hospital for a pilot system launch.

For further information, please contact Julia Somerdin at

About the Author
Julia Somerdin, SDM ’13, is an entrepreneur in healthcare/patient monitoring and a professional in the mobile communication industry specializing in system solution architecture and system integration. She holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from China’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology; an M.B.A. from Northeastern University; and, as an MIT System Design & Management student, she will earn an M.S. in engineering and management in 2015.

SDM Holds First Project Forum and Core Technology Showcase

By Joan S. Rubin, SDM Industry Codirector

On January 12, 2015, Professor Olivier de Weck, faculty lead and coordinator of the SDM Core Teaching Team, welcomed more than 150 SDM master’s and certificate students, alumni, industry partners, staff, and invited guests to the MIT Media Lab for a day-long SDM projects forum and technology showcase.

First, de Weck introduced the members of the SDM Core Instructor Team and their areas of focus:

  • Bruce Cameron, Ph.D. (system architecture)
  • Bryan Moser, Ph.D. (project management)
  • Qi Van Eikema Hommes, Ph.D. (systems engineering)
  • Pat Hale, SDM Executive Director (systems engineering)

He went on to introduce the core teaching assistants, each one an SDM alumnus or student:

  • John Helferich (team lead)
  • David Erickson (director, SDM Certificate Program in Systems and Product Development)
  • Ricardo DeMatos
  • Vai Naik
  • Tina Srivastava
  • Parag Vijay

Next, de Weck gave a brief overview of SDM and its overall learning objectives, including discussing the creation of the new SDM core course as it has evolved from three separate one-semester classes into an integrated, intensive, three-subject sequence that spans the fall, January Independent Activities Period (IAP), and spring semesters.

The rest of the morning was devoted to a technology showcase in which SDM students displayed posters indicating their research interests in avionics, electronics, energy, healthcare, information technology, materials, transportation, and other areas. This was followed by an afternoon session in which industry partners and other invited guests described research opportunities in their domains. Students had an opportunity to indicate their interest in participating in these projects and were matched into teams by the TAs at the end of the day.

The event concluded with a dinner featuring a keynote presentation by Kaigham (Ken) J. Gabriel, president and CEO of Draper Laboratory. In addition to the technology showcase and the project forum, the 2015 IAP included the kickoff of student teams’ semester-long projects, a networks and graph theory workshop, a team-based design challenge, and lectures in system architecture and project management.

Professor Olivier de Weck

SDMs Join in Third Annual MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition

Four-Week, Online Competition Enlists Top Engineering Students to Execute Simulated Industry Takeover

The third annual MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition kicked off at the beginning of February. During the four-week, online competition, seven cross-university teams from top engineering schools—including MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, and the University of Southern California— participate in a business simulation where they act as management in the takeover of a domestic automobile company.

The competition is part of an overall initiative of the Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC) to raise awareness for the master of engineering management (MEM) degree; expand its value-added opportunities; forge business partnerships with employers, potential job candidates, students, and faculty; and promote alumni networking.

“The MEMPC is dedicated to elevating the profile of the MEM degree, and its PriSim Business War Games Competition plays an important role in this initiative by fostering business skills and offering the opportunity to connect with future colleagues,” said Joan S. Rubin, industry codirector of MIT SDM. “The teams will compete directly against each other and their results will depend upon how the competitors interact, what new products are introduced, and how these products are supported.”

Rubin added, “The cross-school teaming requires members to work in a geographically distributed way, which closely emulates today’s real-world, global scenarios. Participants also have the opportunity to develop or further enhance robust social networks.”

Strategic management is at the core of all decisions made in the competition. Students start by conducting an analysis of the business environment and then articulate the vision and mission of their new organization. Each company begins the simulation with three vehicles and then must decide how best to improve product performance and potentially enter new market segments that offer opportunities for growth.

“As an industry leader in customized, computerized business simulation games, PriSim is proud to play an integral role in the MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition and provide an opportunity for future graduates to practice with the tools needed to be successful in their careers,” said David Semb, partner at PriSim Business War Games Inc. and adjunct professor at Northwestern University.

In 2013, several SDM students participated in the competition and each was assigned to a different multi-school team that played the role of a company in the domestic automobile industry. Teams managed short- and long-term objectives and made decisions about how to interact with competitors, what new products to introduce, and how to support new products. Each team was responsible for establishing its own organization.

SDM student Terence Teo, whose team won the competition that year, said his group began by identifying its company’s strengths and weaknesses as well as market opportunities and trends. According to Teo, his team succeeded in large part because the members were all willing to agree on a strategy—to maintain their product line of high-value cars with a small market and big margins. “We kept our focus on upgrading existing models and on introducing new vehicles quickly,” he said. Teo also credited his team’s success to the members’ respect for each other’s views.

The competition began the week of February 2 and will wrap up on March 5, 2015, when the leadership team at PriSim and the MEMPC will judge the submissions. Winners will be announced on March 6. For more information about PriSim Business War Games, Inc., visit

For more information, please contact:
Lois Slavin
MIT SDM Communications Director

How to Open-source the Creative Process: Democratizing Innovation, Product Design and Development, and Technology Strategy


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar SeriesAli Almossawi

Ali Almossawi, Data Visualization Engineer, Mozilla; Author, An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments; and SDM Alumnus

Date: February 23, 2015

Download the presentation slides (PDF)

About the Presentation

The creative process is a combination of engineering and design decisions, experimentation, iteration, integration, informed decisions, and luck—all of which hopefully culminate in a marketable artifact. The creator, with all the tools and knowledge available to him or her, is often presumed to know best. But, that’s not always the case.

In this webinar, SDM alumnus Ali Almossawi will discuss the benefits of expanding the creative process through open-sourcing on the Internet, where there are more creators, fewer industry gatekeepers, and endless opportunities to engage directly with users. He will:

  • describe a model for open-sourcing the creative process and how it can be used to build a self-sustaining product or business;
  • outline the key players—often a combination of professionals with expertise in technology, business, and/or design;
  • discuss what is needed for team members to work together effectively—and the pitfalls to avoid;
  • provide examples of failure, success, and failure leading to success; and
  • offer next steps that can be adapted and applied across all industries.

A Q&A will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us.

About the Speaker

SDM alumnus Ali Almossawi holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT and a master’s degree in software engineering from Carnegie Mellon. He has spent time at Harvard, the Software Engineering Institute, and the MIT Media Lab, where his research involved creating predictive models of source-code quality as well as investigating architecture adaptability in software.

Almossawi currently resides in San Francisco, where he works on Firefox data visualization for Mozilla. He is the author of An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, which has been read by 1.4 million people, and is currently writing a novella about computer algorithms. His work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired, Fast Company, and more.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.

Chevron: Using the Beer Game to Address Complexity

Shira Hetz By Shira Hetz, Analytics Business Analyst, Chevron

The challenge: Like many global corporations, Chevron is challenged with improving organizational thinking, fostering collaboration, and sharing best practices in the face of relentlessly increasing complexity in many areas of the enterprise. Specific factors include:

  • A large and geographically dispersed workforce;
  • A wide variety of services offered; and
  • A range of analytical methodologies in use throughout the company.

These factors present significant barriers to using a common analytical methodology across the value chain.

The approach: Chevron developed a comprehensive strategy focused on growing the organization’s capability in analytics. A key component was the Modeling and Analytics Community of Practice (M&A CoP), which was formed in 2011 to:

  • target individuals with varying levels of analytical experience across various Chevron business functions, such as drilling, supply and trading, information technology, etc.;
  • provide opportunities for these individuals to enhance their understanding of analytics; and
  • hold events focused on internal knowledge sharing.

In addition, Chevron identified universities specifically aligned with Chevron’s strategic recruiting needs and leveraged their learning exercises.

For example, Chevron has recruited from and collaborated with the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), for more than 10 years. The ongoing relationship with the Supply Chain Management Center of Excellence (SCM COE) within the McCombs School of Business has consistently encouraged Chevron’s participation in curriculum development and classroom engagement. This strategic alignment was the perfect context for implementing classroom education methodologies within a Fortune 5 corporation.

The tools: “The Beer Game” is a business simulation game centered on beverage distribution that was created by Dr. Peter Senge at the MIT Sloan School of Management in the early 1960s to demonstrate the dynamics of a supply chain. This game is played every year by students at Sloan, McCombs, and other universities as well as at corporations around the world..

Through multiple initiatives during the fall 2014 semester, it became apparent that several members of the UT Austin faculty were familiar with this experiential learning game, creating a perfect context for applying MIT’s systems thinking approach to the supply chain, which is a critical and dynamic component of the energy industry and virtually every other industry, large or small.

The game was hosted at Chevron’s downtown Houston office and open only to Chevron employees and contractors. The thirty participants, representing diverse levels of experience and business function, included, for example:

  • a newly hired data scientist;
  • an early career business analyst; and
  • a veteran global advisor in supply and trading.

The latter, Diego Jaramillo, business analyst for supply and trading, commented, “This game opened my eyes and assisted me to understand the effects of our actions and the complexity of a system like a supply chain.”

Wade Wallinger, general manager of Chevron’s Value Chain Optimization Center of Excellence, said, “As one who represents our executive sponsorship of the Supply Chain Management COE at McCombs, it is impressive to see the impact of this collaboration in action and how it is expanding the internal competencies regarding analytics and system thinking.”

The results: “The Beer Game” showed that each member of the value chain has a very direct, although not always instant, effect on the organization. This important lesson is invaluable for Chevron’s workforce.

Attendees from the M&A CoP gained insight into the dynamic aspects of the supply chain in a non-subject-specific way, and their view of their own impact on the system clearly changed. Several later shared what they learned within their respective teams.

Moving forward, Chevron will continue to look to its many university partners for learning opportunities as it builds its workforce through recruiting, classroom lectures, and workshops . MIT has created a brand of innovation that reaches beyond academics to impact industry, not only by educating highly talented individuals, but by creating academic methodologies such as “The Beer Game” that develop the growing analytics workforce.

The author wishes to thank fellow Chevron colleagues and University of Texas faculty and staff who helped make this opportunity a success.

Shira Hetz

SDM Alum Honored for Leadership in Boston Innovation Community

Mona Vernon By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director

On December 4, 2014, MIT System Design & Management (SDM) alum Mona Vernon was named one of Boston’s “50 on Fire” at a celebration recognizing the city’s inventors, disruptors, luminaries, and newsmakers across all industries. The award was established by Streetwise Media, a digital media and events company, and its local unit BostInno.

The 50 winners were carefully selected from more than 2,000 nominations. They were cited as a group for “mixing creativity, bravery, presence … and a special spark that is changing Boston in remarkable ways that flat-out cannot be ignored.”

Vernon, who is vice president of the Data Innovation Lab at Thomson Reuters, was honored specifically for her leadership role in the innovation community, including fueling the thriving Cambridge and Boston Innovation District’s startup ecosystem with early adoption of technology from big data startups such as Recorded Future and Tamr. She was also cited for creating the Data Innovation Lab.

Since its inception early in 2014, the lab has offered several events through the Knowledge Worker Innovation Series, a Thomson Reuters series created by Vernon. Inspired by innovators and entrepreneurs, the series features thought leaders and experts from industry and academia who discuss, dissect, and explore technology topics and trends, particularly in the big data arena. The events are free and open to all.

“Mona continues to inspire not only those at MIT and SDM, but many more in Boston and beyond,” said SDM Executive Director Pat Hale. “All of us here at SDM are very proud of her.”

View Vernon’s presentation in the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series: “System Architecture for Corporate Innovation: How to Run a Successful Initiative and Deliver Tangible Results.”

Mona Vernon, SDM ’09

Designing Intelligence

Jillian Wisniewski By Zach Wener-Fligner, MIT News correspondent

Jillian Wisniewski spent Thanksgiving 2009 at a US Army base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, with just weeks until the end of her deployment and return to the United States.

Back then Wisniewski, now a student in the System Design and Management program at MIT, was an Army captain working in aviation intelligence. Her team was a motley crew, including an experienced soldier who had worked in armor, a recent college graduate who had studied criminology, and a helicopter pilot who contributed his programming skills to her intelligence section after he was grounded from flight due to migraines.

“We had very diverse skillsets, but we worked together like a well-oiled machine,” she says.

The team practiced threat modeling and risk analysis — for example, figuring out the safest flight routes, operational times, and landing zones, with life-or-death ramifications. The team deployed in December 2008; within their first month, an American helicopter was downed in the Korengal Valley of northeastern Afghanistan.

Intelligence work was difficult. There were tons of data and many opportunities to make mistakes, owing to the complexity of the analysis and errors in the data itself.

So Wisniewski called upon the analytical skills from her undergraduate degree in operations research and applied them to intelligence collection and analysis. Not wanting to rely on existing databases to answer her team’s intelligence questions, she pushed to get raw data from various sources so that she could begin to direct other platforms, including pilots, to provide more detailed collection.

Wisniewski and her team ultimately came up with a methodology for efficiently collecting appropriate data, building a database of relevant variables, and implementing workflow practices that reduced errors and redundancies in processing and analysis. Perhaps most importantly, they started communication channels so pilots could benefit from intelligence gathered by those on the ground, and vice versa.

With improved methodologies, the team was able to contribute beyond the normal scope of duties for an aviation intelligence section. They felt invested in the mission and safety of coalition forces — so much so that on that Thanksgiving in 2009, the team found the prospect of returning home to be bittersweet. For Wisniewski, the art of tactical-level intelligence analysis is in helping to reduce uncertainty in future events; the act of leaving seemed to only to increase that uncertainty.

“I don’t want to be egotistical in saying what we had was great,” Wisniewski says. “But it is fair to say we had a great team dynamic. We were able to work systematically and effectively because we understood the mathematical foundation of our tools. And I think that process is replicable.”

Wisniewski’s interest in replicating the workings of that intelligence team on a large scale is what drew her to System Design and Management at MIT. The program, jointly offered by the School of Engineering and MIT Sloan School of Management, educates mid-career professionals in using systems thinking to address large-scale, complex sociotechnical challenges.

For Wisniewski, the program couldn’t be more applicable to her military work. Her thesis, “A Process Improvement for Tactical Level Military Intelligence Analysis,” will propose new intelligence solutions that better prepare and empower analysts to make smart intelligence judgments.

After Wisniewski graduates at the end of this year, she’ll head back to West Point, where she will teach in the Department of Systems Engineering and work with the Army Operations Research Center.

How she got there

Wisniewski grew up in Virginia and West Virginia with two older brothers. Her father commuted to Washington, where he worked in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. She hadn’t always wanted to go to West Point — in fact, she hadn’t even thought of it until the summer before her senior year, when her brother, Jake, a fellow Army soldier who went on to receive a Purple Heart for actions during one of his tours in Iraq, encouraged her to apply. At the time, he was a cadet within Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets, and his sister took to heart his advice to apply to the Academy.

She was intimidated by the hefty application: West Point applicants must go through intense physical performance and medical examinations and be recommended by a member of Congress, on top of the typical requirements for a college application. Wisniewski remembers thinking, “If I even finish this application, I deserve a badge or something.”

When she started the application process, she hadn’t been completely decided. Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“That sealed the deal,” she says. “There was no doubt in my mind that if I got in, I would go. And that I would never quit.”

Wisniewski finished the application and was awarded no badge. Instead, she was accepted.

She was 17 years old when she first arrived at West Point. The rigor and discipline took some adjustment; at times, it all felt almost absurd.

“I didn’t realize what I was getting into,” she says. “We do have to wear uniforms at all times, and it does matter what color socks you’re wearing.”

In uniform, toting helmet and dummy rifle, often wearing a grin and a giant rucksack on her petite frame, Wisniewski soon earned the nickname “Myrtle the Turtle.”

“I thought it was funny, and also incredible. I remember looking at the long line of soldiers marching and just thinking, ‘This is so awesome, and I’m a part of it,'” she says. “I did get in trouble for smiling a lot.”

At West Point, Wisniewski studied operations research, which would directly impact her future work in intelligence. “My undergraduate education was more important to my field even than my military intelligence training,” she says. “At first I felt like I was playing dress-up. And by the end it was complete transformation. I felt like I had found a sense of purpose.”

Balancing it all out

On top of her studies and military work, Wisniewski is also a mother and a wife. She and her husband were high-school sweethearts who had their first date in 1999 and went to their prom together in 2002. They both went to West Point and have been together ever since.

She has two children, ages 7 and 2; balancing child care with the schedule of her husband, an MBA student at Harvard Business School, is no easy task.

“You’re trying to make the ideal happen,” she says. “You try to be a supermom and a super-student. I think I’ve learned the truth in the saying, ‘It takes a village,’ and I’m fortunate enough to have my mother to help care for my family. It’s challenging for all of us, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I think we will all benefit from this experience together.”

Jillian Wisniewski, SDM ’14

Innovation at Mobile Technology’s Cutting Edge

Kevin Shatzkamer By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director

Kevin Shatzkamer already had a bachelor’s in engineering and an MBA, yet he nevertheless decided to pursue a master’s in engineering and management through MIT System Design & Management (SDM). Why? The former distinguished engineer at Cisco and recently named CTO for mobile networking at Brocade wanted to learn more.

“I needed to learn how to apply my thinking in a more consistent, complete way and use that to go from patent to product to market,” he explained. “In addition, SDM offers a solid theoretical framework and a proven tool set that would enable me to more effectively lead innovation at technology’s cutting edge,” said Shatzkamer, who will graduate in February 2015.

Technology innovation has been an ongoing theme in Shatzkamer’s career. When he joined Cisco in 2000 as an intern, he was the company’s first official hire into the new mobile organization. He then became one of the first to be trained, and later to train others, in how to understand, apply, and develop new products in the emerging mobile market.

Over the next four years, Shatzkamer served as a consulting systems engineer, collaborating with customers (including the world’s 18 largest mobile operators) to develop a strategy and architecture for next-generation mobile standards and solutions. Cisco subsequently appointed him chief architect for mobile networking, putting him in charge of devising three-year strategies, architectures, and solutions based on customer demands and worldwide industry trends.

In less than 10 years, Shatzkamer became the youngest employee in Cisco’s history to be named distinguished engineer. He concentrated on long-term strategy and the evolution of Internet systems architecture. He looked specifically at the intersections of cloud technologies, digital media assets, and mobile networks across the entire value chain/ecosystem. “It was truly an honor to be selected for this role,” he said.

Shatzkamer now holds more than 50 patents and says his MBA gave him a good foundation for taking new technologies to market. Yet, he decided to enroll in SDM because the program offers a rigorous education in leadership, innovation, and systems thinking—combined with the opportunity to take courses at MIT’s No. 1-ranked School of Engineering and its world-class Sloan School of Management.

While he said his SDM classes have been invaluable, the lessons he learned from fellow SDM students—primarily experienced technical professionals—have been just as important because he has had an opportunity to gain insights from professionals with deep experience in arenas other than his own.

“I’ve learned how to apply various perspectives to my work, to look at different industries to solve problems within my own space, and to understand how seemingly unrelated developments and innovations from the past can provide vital clues to solving current and future problems,” he said.

As Brocade’s CTO of mobile networking, Shatzkamer will devote time to considering the mobile Internet as a system, as well as a system of systems, and will explore the implications of networking on mobility and the Internet of Things. He will think about what can be done with today’s technology as well as how it can evolve. He will also lead teams of innovators who will work to make this evolution happen.

In short, Shatzkamer plans to put MIT’s motto “Mens et Manus” (Mind and Hand) into practice. “MIT is about the practical side of innovation,” he explained. “The theory, tool set, and lessons learned at SDM will help me lead others to successfully transform their ideas into products at the cutting edge of technology.”

Kevin Shatzkamer, SDM ’14

Studying Health Care from Every Angle

Sahar Hashmi, SM '11 By Kathryn O’Neill
Courtesy of MIT Sloan

Dr. Sahar Hashmi, SDM ’11, is dedicated to medicine, teaching, and helping domestic violence victims

This past spring, Dr. Sahar Hashmi, SDM ’11, became one of the first two students to earn MIT Sloan’s new Healthcare Certificate. A medical doctor, a graduate of MIT’s System Design and Management program, and a full-time PhD candidate in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division, Hashmi is a recipient of the Hugh Hampton Young Memorial Fund Fellowship, which recognizes both academic achievement and the perceived potential of the candidate to have a positive impact on humanity. In 2013 she also received MIT’s Bridge Builder Award, which honors civic leaders who have formed partnerships across racial, social, economic, and geographic barriers for the betterment of their communities.

Recently, Hashmi shared her thoughts on her career and education with MIT Sloan.

Why pursue an MIT PhD when you already have a medical degree?
My PhD studies are teaching me to address and solve difficult, health care systems-related problems using various engineering tools. For example, I’m learning to improve design models of complex, chronic disease management for the current system of health care. This work, which is my career goal, may eventually save thousands of lives at once.

What inspired you to enroll in the new Healthcare Certificate program at MIT Sloan?
I took a class called Introduction to Healthcare Delivery in the U.S., which was taught by Associate Professor Vivek Farias and Professor Retsef Levi. It gave me full exposure to the type of systemic problems that currently exist in the health care industry. Also, Senior Lecturer Janet Wilkinson spoke with me in detail about the benefits of pursuing the certificate program. That inspired me to complete the program to enhance my ability to perform well in the field of my research, which is related to improving health care delivery processes in a cost-effective manner. I found the certificate program particularly useful since it provides a great in-depth overview of the basics of the health care system.

What were your key takeaways from the program?
This program provides opportunities to learn about health care in a systematic, comprehensive, and organized manner. It is important to understand and view the health care system as a complex, interdependent system. I believe in order to tackle any problem in health care, one must have the knowledge and the ability to view the problem from different angles and perspectives.

Action learning is central to the Healthcare Certificate program. What did you do to meet this requirement?
In this program we are required to work with a health care management company, hospital, or clinic to complete course requirements. The projects are team-based and allow people from various backgrounds with different skill sets to work together to achieve the goal of solving a specific issue that the CEO of the hospital or the management team is experiencing.

I really enjoyed this portion of the program as it allowed me to select a problem that currently exists in hospitals and perform operations management research to form recommendations to help solve that particular challenge. The work is pragmatic and challenging, and we are dealing with a real-life dilemma—not a theoretical case study. For instance, in one of the field projects, I was able to provide some useful feedback to a primary care clinic to solve the weekend patient scheduling problem faced by the physicians. Similarly, by working with a team of my classmates, I was able to help provide detailed insights into the problem of patient no-shows in a diabetes clinic. My team recommended specific interventions geared toward resolving this problem.

Through these experiences, I learned that the health care system features so much variation in delivering care processes and in managing each disease that it is almost impossible to standardize these processes in the system. Nevertheless, this is the ideal goal of health care management.

What professional commitments do you have outside of class?
I have done summer internships at hospitals associated with Harvard Medical School to learn more about my thesis topic, which is related to using models to improve the management of care for chronic disease patients.

Recently I also helped design and develop a new course called Medicine for Managers and Entrepreneurs, which is a required course in the Healthcare Certificate program here. It was an amazing experience as I learned a lot from the faculty. It combines academia with industry in a unique and creative manner, and I highly recommend it to both graduate and undergraduate students.

I’m passionate about teaching, so I have also served as a teaching assistant for various operations and supply chain management, integrated lean enterprise architecting, organizational transformation, statistics, and social sciences—related courses, both at MIT Sloan and in the Engineering Systems Division at MIT.

Another great opportunity for me came in 2011, when I was an invited speaker at the MIT SDM Conference on Systems Thinking for Contemporary Challenges; I gave a joint presentation on systems research in health care and education. I have also presented my work at various other conferences related to health care.

Do you have any volunteer activities?
I volunteer with blood and food drives as well as at free health clinics in Boston and Cambridge. I also donate my time to help victims of domestic violence and abuse. Many of these victims are highly educated women who have been forced to feel ashamed due to the cultural or societal stigma associated with voicing their abuse. I have traveled extensively, so I am very aware of how privileged we are to be living in the United States where women can speak and stand up for their rights.

Dr. Sahar Hashmi, SDM ’11

MIT Establishes New Master’s Track Integrating Design and Management Matthew S. Kressy named to lead, develop, and teach

Matt Kressy By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director

(September 3, 2014, Cambridge, Massachusetts) Matthew S. Kressy has been named director of the Integrated Design & Management (IDM) master’s degree track offered by the MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program. Scheduled to admit its first cohort in September 2015, IDM is the first MIT graduate program to offer a master’s degree that combines industrial design, engineering design, and other design disciplines with management. Like SDM, IDM is offered jointly by the MIT School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management and is targeted at early to mid-career professionals. Graduates will receive an MIT master’s degree in engineering and management.

Kressy brings to MIT extensive expertise in globally distributed, interdisciplinary, design-driven product development, from deep user research and concept generation to prototype iteration, risk reduction, and volume manufacturing. An entrepreneur and founder of Designturn, he has designed, invented, engineered, and manufactured more than 100 products for Fortune 500 clients and others, including Kronos, Massachusetts General Hospital, APC, the US Army and Teradyne Corporation.

Kressy’s experience in academia includes co-teaching SDM’s Product Design and Development courses (15.783 and ESD.40) at MIT since 1999. He has also taught at Harvard Business School, Babson College, Olin School of Engineering, and the Rhode Island School of Design (from which he holds a bachelor of fine arts in industrial design). Companies that have helped to fund projects in his classes include Intel, Nokia, Marriott, and General Mills. In his role as IDM director, Kressy will lead the new track’s development and teach its primary and required courses.

Professor Steven Eppinger, MIT Sloan SDM codirector, said, “Matt is a brilliant industrial designer. Not only is he a hands-on expert in interdisciplinary product development, he has consistently received teaching accolades from students at MIT and the Rhode Island School of Design over the past 15 plus years.”

Warren Seering, MIT School of Engineering SDM codirector, added, “In order to succeed, companies need design professionals with expertise in engineering and management, like those that MIT IDM will produce. Matt brings the perfect combination of industry experience, design expertise, and teaching excellence to IDM.”

About MIT Integrated Design & Management

Formally launched in 2014 as a new track within the MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program, Integrated Design & Management (IDM) integrates industrial design, engineering design, and other design disciplines with management. Offered jointly by the MIT School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, IDM is targeted at early to mid-career professionals and will be taught in an innovative design studio format. Graduates will be awarded a master of science degree in engineering and management.

Potential students and industry partners can learn more about IDM by contacting Matthew S. Kressy at Visit the IDM website for more information.

Matthew S. Kressy
Photo by Dave Schultz

Hacking Medicine and the Rx It Offers for Innovation in All Industries


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar SeriesAndrea Ippolito

Andrea Ippolito, SDM ’11, Ph.D. Student, Engineering Systems, MIT
Allison Yost, Ph.D. Candidate, Mechanical Engineering, MITAllison Yost

Date: June 16, 2014

Download the presentation slides

About the Presentation

Based at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, MIT Hacking Medicine brings together stakeholders who are passionate about changing the status quo in healthcare. The “hacking” approach fosters an ecosystem of empowerment for launching disruptive healthcare solutions. To date, more than 16 hackathons have been held across four continents, resulting in more than 600 idea pitches and the formation of more than a dozen companies—including PillPack, Podimetrics, Smart Scheduling, RubiconMD, Eagle Health Supplies, and Twiage.

In this webinar, you will learn how to apply the hacking approach to your industry and domain. Based on their experience in hacking medicine, MIT’s Andrea Ippolito and Allison Yost will:

  • discuss the hacking philosophy and the powerful promise of this approach;
  • describe what is needed to short-circuit (and continue to short-circuit) the flaws in innovation; and
  • share their mantras for hacking healthcare and medicine and reveal ways to develop mantras for innovation in your organization.

A question-and-answer period will follow the presentation. We invite you to join us.

About the Speakers

SDM alumna Andrea Ippolito is a Ph.D. student in engineering systems at MIT. While at SDM, she served as a research assistant in the MIT Lean Advancement Initiative, where she and fellow team members worked directly with the US Army’s chief of tele-health to architect the future delivery system for the US Department of Defense. Prior to coming to MIT, she worked as a product innovation manager at athenahealth and as a research scientist at Boston Scientific Corporation. Ippolito holds a B.S. in biological engineering and an M.Eng. in biomedical engineering from Cornell University.

Allison Yost is a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at MIT. Her research focuses on designing microfluidic devices at the nanoscale for medical and biotech applications. She aspires to be an entrepreneur in the healthcare and medical space. Yost received her S.M. in mechanical engineering from MIT and her B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of New Hampshire.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.

Program Management Engineer Discovers Value of Systems Thinking

Juan Romeu, SDM '13 By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director

Juan Romeu, SDM ’13, joined MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program in January 2013 as a distance student, and he has already found that learning about systems thinking has made a significant difference in his professional evolution.

“I’m able to apply systems thinking at work in the decision-making process,” said Romeu, a program management engineer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, MI.

This process includes determining how to set and balance key product attributes; defining trade-offs that will deliver customer value without compromising those attributes; and using a holistic approach to propose product alternatives. “Every day I think more like a system architect than a traditional program manager,” he said.

Romeu got interested in becoming an engineer by watching his father, a chemical-industrial engineer in the automotive accessories industry. In high school, Romeu spent summer vacations helping his dad to design and build accessories for trucks and trailers. “He taught me how to interact with colleagues; to understand and negotiate with customers; and how hard you have to work to achieve your goals,” said Romeu, adding that those “working vacations” are what ultimately led him to choose engineering as his career.

After graduating from Universidad del Valle de México with a bachelor of science in mechatronics engineering, Romeu joined Ford of Mexico as a programs and engineering services trainee. He subsequently worked in computer-aided design, followed by a stint as a program management engineer, where he led the successful launch of the 2012 Ford Ikon in the Mexican market. For the past two years, he has served as the program management design studio engineer for the Lincoln brand.

Recognizing that business management was becoming increasingly important to his professional development, Romeu considered pursuing an MBA. He also thought about getting a master’s degree in engineering to further develop his technical acumen. But then he learned about SDM from colleagues at Ford of Mexico, an SDM partner company.

“I chose SDM because it offered the best of both worlds—engineering and management. It’s an unbeatable combination,” he said.

Since starting the program, Romeu has attended classes online in real time and used videoconferencing tools to collaborate on class projects with teams of SDM fellows—gaining the full benefits of his MIT education while continuing to work full time. These benefits include working with sophisticated mid-career professionals from a wide range of industries.

“The rigor of the methodologies and the diversity and excellence of the SDM cohort are helping me adjust my way of thinking about engineering management and shape my ability to analyze, understand, and manage projects and people,” said Romeu. “It will help me enhance my career in project management, where understanding how complex systems work will definitely assist in delivering the value that the customer is expecting.”

Currently Romeu is working on narrowing the topic for the required SDM master’s thesis. “I’m considering dissecting the design phase of the product development process in order to understand how to incorporate market and customer requirements into holistic engineering targets,” he said. “A system architecture approach, where objects of form and function are integrated to deliver value, will enable us to lay the foundation for designing a product that meets both aesthetic goals and functional targets. After all, [every product] not only has to look great, it also has to function well.”

Juan Romeu, SDM ’13

Turning Waste into Energy, One Community at a Time

Adeyemi By Kathryn O’Neill, courtesy of News@MITSloan

On a good day, residents in Lagos, Nigeria, get eight hours of electricity—far from enough for a rapidly growing city of 18 million. To address this shortfall, students from across MIT have teamed up to launch a waste-to-energy company that will provide Lagos residents with cheap, reliable electricity.

“Lagos has a severe waste problem, severe unemployment, and an environmental problem. Millions of people are running diesel generators on a daily basis,” said Adetayo “Tayo” Bamiduro, an MIT Sloan MBA ’15 student from Nigeria. The company the students founded, NovaGen Power Solutions, aims to supply biogas to apartment buildings while providing local jobs. “The impact is social, environmental, and economic,” Bamiduro said.

The brainchild of Adeyemi “Yemi” Adepetu, a student in MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program, NovaGen will collect organic waste from apartments and convert it into biogas to fuel generators. The system will be piloted this summer at a seven-unit building and scaled up to 10 buildings, serving 70 units in total. If the pilot succeeds, the next step would be for NovaGen to equip all 210 units managed by their partner real estate company, Property Mart Real Estate Investment.

“We think what’s available is too expensive,” Adepetu said. “Our idea was: Look at the technology out there, build locally, and make it affordable for people.”

While NovaGen will employ existing technology, it has a novel strategy, Bamiduro said. “The innovation is our business model. We’re not targeting large businesses or customers one by one. We’re looking for that sweet spot,” he said, wherein 20-70 families share one waste-to-energy system. “That’s why we picked real estate.”

The fledgling company has racked up a number of successes in entrepreneurship competitions. The team—which also includes Ellen Chen, a Master’s in City Planning (MCP) candidate in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning—was a semifinalist this spring in the MIT Africa Innovate Business Plan Competition, the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, and the MIT $100K Pitch and Launch Entrepreneurship Competitions (emerging markets track).

Adepetu was recently named a finalist for the 2014 Echoing Green Climate Fellowship, which supports next-generation social entrepreneurs committed to working on innovations in mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Adepetu also has a Legatum Fellowship that supports his work on NovaGen and is supported by the MasterCard Foundation.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Adepetu said the idea for the company had been percolating for a long time before he came to MIT and was inspired to act. “I thought [NovaGen] was 10 years away. MIT was the crucial influence that took me from the corporate world,” said Adepetu, who spent several years working for United Technologies. “Before MIT… I thought I’d do this when I was done with my first career.”

At MIT last fall, Adepetu met Chen in New Enterprises, a class designed to help students launch startups. “I wanted to do something in emerging markets and Yemi’s was the only idea in a developing country,” said Chen, whose interest in housing inspired the idea of targeting residential real estate. Adepetu had originally envisioned serving hospitals.

Bamiduro was the next team member to join NovaGen, bringing with him crucial, up-to-date contacts with the Lagos business community. (Adepetu had been out of the country for nine years, but Bamiduro had just left a lead analyst role in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.) Bamiduro said his goal in attending MIT was to gain the skills necessary to create “a high impact energy venture that would employ a lot of people.”

NovaGen’s founders credited the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship for first believing in their idea, as well as the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, MIT Africa Interest Group, and the student club Energy for Human Development with giving them opportunities to meet mentors and connect to others with a passion for energy and the developing world. “The ecosystem at MIT Sloan gives you the chance to test your ideas vigorously,” Bamiduro said. The MIT D-Lab group has also been a source of mentorship and advice, he added.

All three founders are committed to a future with NovaGen—although Chen won’t graduate until December, and Bamiduro won’t complete his degree until 2015. Adepetu, who will graduate this spring with a master’s degree in engineering and management, said he expects to spend the next couple years building the company in Nigeria, but the long-term plan for NovaGen is to build a U.S.-based multinational company. For now, the founders are actively seeking early seed investors, mentors, and additional business partners to help them move forward.

Adeyemi “Yemi” Adepetu

SDM Team Develops New Solar Power Solution

Alex PiñaSean Gilliland

Editor’s note: SDM students Alex Piña ’13 and Sean Gilliland ’13, cofounders of Avalanche Energy (AE), believe that solar energy should be accessible to everyone, everywhere. The company won first prize in the 2013 Boston Lean Startup Challenge, was a finalist at the New York Future Energy Pitch Competition, and was a semifinalist in both the MIT $100K Pitch and Accelerate contests. Visit AE’s website at

By Alex Piña ’13 and Sean Gilliland ’13
May 21, 2014

The challenge: A wave of interest in green energy has started to move across the nation as people seek to curb the greenhouse gas emissions generated in heating and providing electricity to homes. These greenhouse gases have become a focal point of concern as they have been increasing the rate of climate change, which has led to more severe storms and to other natural disasters. Still, today most people participating in the green revolution are wealthy enthusiasts; middle-class homeowners have been waiting on the sidelines, wary of “going solar” for several reasons, including:

  • significant upfront costs;
  • a long payback period for return on investment; and
  • the need for large arrays of solar panels, which can mar a home’s aesthetics.

These problems are particularly apparent in Southern California. Although the 7.7 million homes in this area experience some of the highest solar intensities in the nation, only around 100,000—less than 2 percent—are equipped with any kind of system for solar energy generation.

Figure 1. This map shows the intensity of solar radiation throughout the United States. Much of Southern California is in the red area of highest intensity.

The approach: Avalanche Energy asked the question: What prevents more homeowners from purchasing and installing solar energy systems—even in California where the state provides significant incentives to do so?

Conversations with potential purchasers of solar systems helped AE identify the three key factors outlined above. Of these, AE found that the primary factor is the roughly $20,000 price tag associated with installing a solar system that can generate and store enough energy for daily use. Recognizing that the acceptance of renewable energy cannot wait for existing products to drop in price, AE determined that a new approach is necessary.

The status quo for solar energy systems became a personal problem for Alex Piña and his family when they sought to supplement their natural gas hot water heating with solar power for their home in Colorado. After being unable to find a solar solution that met his family’s budget and space constraints, Piña realized that other people were likely facing the same problem. Visualizing this need, he decided to enroll in a program that would help him architect a solution while developing the management aspects of the project. At MIT, he gained a broader understanding of how to solve such a complex problem and was able to find a team as passionate about the subject as he was.

SDM provided Piña and his team with a multitude of perspectives and approaches to the challenges of system design and management as well as to product design and development. The team created a detailed profile of the target customers for solar power—their incentives, expectations, and frustrations with existing products. Based on this customer profile, the team sought to develop an all-in-one solution that would address each key point they had identified and enable middle-income homeowners to participate in the energy revolution.

The tools: SDM’s emphasis on systems thinking and systems engineering provided an excellent foundation for the creation of the final product, a patent-pending solar hot water collector. The team’s overall vision is based on real-world requirements analysis, and the group used problem decomposition to further refine their product and create a working prototype.

During the summer of 2013, the team enrolled in System Engineering and started analyzing their concept to ensure that it was sound technically. During the course, Piña, Gilliland, and their teammates (Scott Peterein and Pitiporn Thammongkol) performed a series of analyses that included design structure matrices, quality function deployment, and a problem-solving methodology called TRIZ. The result was a sound architectural framework.

Figure 2. This design structure matrix represents the general architecture AE used for its solar hot water and electricity generation system.

The team also utilized diagramming techniques from the object process methodology to determine the architecture of the system during their System Architecture class in fall 2013. The architecture AE developed was then used as the basis for an alpha prototype design.

Figure 3. This object process methodology diagram shows a residential solar thermal water heating system, demonstrating the function of each system component.

The results: AE team members used the information from their SDM coursework over six months to design a patent-pending double reflector solar thermal collector. This collector is roughly twice the size of a satellite dish and provides the equivalent of 8 kilowatt-hours of energy per day in the southwestern United States. The team’s design enables the system to more efficiently heat water while reducing the weight and size of the system through the use of two focused reflectors instead of the traditional single-reflector system. The water is then connected directly to a homeowner’s existing hot-water tank, providing high heat-transfer efficiency and substantially reducing system and installation costs.

The team has taken its vision for the solar future to the next step by manufacturing a full-scale working prototype. After performing functionality testing out of Piña’s Somerville, MA, apartment, the team tested the alpha prototype of their low-profile solar thermal collector at a home in San Jose, CA.

Figure 4. Alpha prototype of the patent-pending solar hot water collector that was tested in San Jose, CA. Photo courtesy of Avalanche Energy

During the test, the system was proved to have nearly 50 percent end-to-end energy transfer efficiency (i.e. amount of energy collected by the system that raised the water temperature divided by the theoretical maximum of energy available from the sun). The team was able to identify areas of improvement to help the system move closer to the theoretical maximum efficiency of 92 percent. (Current products for heating hot water using solar energy are about 60 percent efficient. Solar photovoltaics are only about 20 percent efficient.)

The AE team plans to offer a low-profile solar thermal collector that:

  • lowers the barriers for entry to solar power use;
  • immediately provides homeowners with savings on hot water heating bills;
  • provides a maximum energy benefit using a minimum of space; and
  • offers a platform that will be able to grow as the homeowner’s needs increase and change.

On top of all this, AE’s system, when installed in place of an electric water heater, will displace 3 tons of CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere over 10 years. Avalanche Energy believes that combining all these benefits into one product will change the landscape of sustainable energy for this generation and empower homeowners to achieve the solar future today.

Next steps: With the successful completion of alpha prototype testing in January, the team is now moving to refine its product based on performance data and customer feedback. Since the students are still at MIT, they are beginning by installing the upgraded system on five beta sites across Massachusetts during the summer of 2014 in an effort to validate performance, gain additional customer feedback, and identify key suppliers and manufacturers necessary for full-scale development of the product. The team is also refining its go-to-market strategy, business model, and long-term financial projections.

Following a successful beta period, the team plans to continue product development and move toward realizing their vision of a solar future—an end-to-end replacement of non-renewable home energy sources with solar alternatives. Divided into three phases, AE plans first to focus on supplementing and eventually replacing other sources for heating water using solar thermal energy. This system would then become the backbone of a modular whole-home energy system that generates electricity in Phase 2. In the final phase, solar energy would also provide all home heating and cooling.

Figure 5. This chart shows AE’s planned rollout of product offerings in three phases.

The team is starting to accept investments from family and friends to cover initial startup costs and finance the first five beta units. In addition, AE will be trying to raise $100,000 through a Kickstarter project begun in the summer of 2014 to start financing the production and validation of their product and finalize development of the user-facing website. The final step of the funding roadmap will be to obtain angel or venture capital investment that will allow Avalanche Energy to begin distributing the product to target customers in California.

For more information, visit AE’s website.

Alex Piña

Sean Gilliland

SDM Sponsors MIT Sustainability Summit

April 30th, 2014MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program has become a major sponsor of the MIT Sustainability Summit, which will take place May 3-4, 2014, at the MIT Media Lab. The conference’s theme is “Coastal Cities, Sustainable Futures.”

“The MIT Sustainability Summit is student-led, faculty-advised, and joined by leaders in the public, private, and civil sectors—including our alumni. It is a fantastic example of what can happen when the MIT community of innovators comes together to tackle big challenges. Cities are a fantastic focus of our conversation this year; they are both sites of greatest vulnerability and hotbeds of innovation for new ways of living and working,” said Jason Jay, lecturer and director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan.

“Sustainability is one of the most complex and urgent issues of our time, especially around coastal cities,” said SDM Director Pat Hale. “SDM is honored to support the MIT Sustainability Summit and proud of SDM student Marianna Novellino, who is the summit’s managing director.”

Coastal cities are caught at the nexus of three forces that dominate the 21st century: rapid urbanization, climate change and destabilization, and continued integration of the global economy. What business models are contributing to the growth of these economic hubs? What policies are being discussed to combat unsustainable growth? What trends are shaping coastal cities’ development agendas? How best can industrial professionals, policymakers, urban designers, and communities connect to develop solutions to these challenges?

These questions and more will be addressed at the Sixth Annual MIT Sustainability Summit. Slated keynote speakers include:

  • John Fernandez, professor, Department of Architecture, MIT
  • Nancy Kete, managing director, Rockefeller Foundation
  • Brian Swett, chief of environment and energy, City of Boston
  • Aisa Tobing, senior advisor to the governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, for international affairs
  • Molly Turner, director of public policy, Airbnb

Panel discussion topics will include:

  • Designing the coastal cities of the future. This panel will explore current measures to guard against and recover quickly from natural disasters as well as ways to promote vibrant and attractive waterfront neighborhoods for the future.
  • The collaborative city. This panel will examine ways in which new companies, equipped with innovative business models, disrupt traditional notions of urban planning and economic development. What tradeoffs must cities make to accommodate the growing collaborative economy, and what impacts do these businesses have on social and economic equality?
  • Waste management and diversion from landfills—what’s next? This panel brings together experts in organic, can and bottle, and e-waste reuse to explore innovative ways businesses and regulators can increase the diversion of waste from landfills. How can we capitalize on recycling efforts? What are the economic and regulatory forces that shape waste management behavior?
  • Sustainable supply chains and coastal cities—a long and vital relationship. This session will cover the trends in supply chain designs. What are the implications of logistic networks in human economic activity and development in coastal cities?
  • Reinventing mobility. This panel will explore ways cities can reshape urban mobility to meet growing travel demands while strengthening transportation systems’ resiliency.
  • Infrastructure financing—what is the value of preventing damage? This panel will feature industry experts discussing innovative approaches and financial products for funding resilience-building urban infrastructure.
  • Opportunities by the sea. This panel will consider the perspectives of industry players along the coast as well as port regulators/operators in an attempt to find balance among businesses, food production, and even the provision of water while protecting oceanic resources.
  • Energy resilience for coastal cities. This panel will look at where and how resilience can be built into the energy system, as well as how private and public institutions can create and capture value. Recognizing that a low-carbon economy is a key solution for mitigating the effects of climate change, panelists will also explore opportunities to drive green development in coastal cities and beyond.
  • Planning for the new economy. This panel will consider how the interrelationship of environmental, economic, and social challenges transforms the way we conceptualize the planning, design, and management of cities.

Other highlights include:

  • Workshop: My City Garden/The MOVE Tour
  • Workshop: Greenhouse gas emissions through computer-aided analysis tools
  • Workshop: New England Climate Adaptation Project
  • Tour of Harpoon Brewery through sustainability lens

In addition to SDM, current sponsors of the Sustainability Summit include Keurig Green Mountain, the Tata Center at MIT, Zipcar, Complete Recycling, and Thoughtforms.

For more information, to register for the conference, or to inquire about sponsorship, please visit:

Eppinger Named Runner-up for POMS Best Paper Award

Rajesh Nair, SDM '12 Anshuman Tripathy By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director
April 24, 2014

MIT SDM Faculty Codirector Steven D. Eppinger has been honored by the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) as runner-up for its Wickham Skinner Award for Best Paper published in Production and Operations Management during 2013. The winning paper, “Structuring Work Distribution for Global Product Development Organizations,” was co-authored with Anshuman Tripathy, an associate professor of production and operations management at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore.

Tripathy, whose dissertation work the paper is based upon, holds a Ph.D. in operations management from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Eppinger, who is also the General Motors Leaders for Global Operations Professor of Management Science and Engineering Systems at MIT, received his Sc.D. from MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research centers on improving product design and development practices.

The award will be presented on May 11, 2014, during the POMS 25th Annual Conference held in Atlanta.

Steven D. Eppinger

Anshuman Tripathy

Rajesh Nair, SDM ’12: Teaching Entrepreneurship in India

Rajesh Nair, SDM '12, poses with his entrepreneuship students at Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology in Trivandrum, India.Rajesh Nair, SDM '12 By Kathryn O’Neill, MIT SDM Correspondent
April 11, 2014

A successful entrepreneur with two master’s degrees, Rajesh Nair, SDM ’12, applied to MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program to gain a broader, systems perspective on his business. What he got was a new mission in life—to tackle the problems of the developing world through entrepreneurship.

"I am still the CTO and chairman of my company, but now I see a much larger role that I want to play in the world," said Nair, who created an entrepreneurship program in India with the aid of a fellowship from MIT’s Tata Center for Technology and Design. "Now my goal is to create a program that can generate 1,000 entrepreneurs in the next three years."

A self-described "gadget designer," Nair got his first master’s in electronic product design and technology from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. But, he soon realized that a product’s design is only as good as it is manufacturable. So, he got a master’s in manufacturing engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Nair went on to found his own company, Degree Controls, which specializes in heat management for electronics. But after the business had become a multimillion-dollar venture, Nair found himself eager to investigate larger, systems challenges. "Every technical product we were making was a subsystem to a larger system, which in in turn was a subsystem itself—all finally serving a broader social system," he said. "That started to interest me a lot."

He decided to get another master’s degree—in engineering and management—from SDM because the program had something he couldn’t find anywhere else: "The program gives you that 30,00-foot view," Nair said.

At SDM, Nair realized that entrepreneurship could solve many of the complex, systems challenges facing developing countries like India, where he grew up. "If you can convert more graduates into entrepreneurs, they will go out and solve these problems and create jobs," he said. "If you look at the last 30 to 40 years, you see that almost all new jobs are created by startups. Existing companies were negative job creators."

For his SDM thesis project, Nair therefore decided to investigate whether entrepreneurship training could inspire college students to launch new businesses in India. Synthesizing many of the lessons he learned at SDM—in system architecture, system dynamics, product design and development, and more—Nair developed and ran a seven-week workshop on entrepreneurship at Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology, a small school in the south of India with no existing entrepreneurship program.

Rajesh Nair, SDM ’12, poses with his entrepreneuship students at Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology in Trivandrum, India.

"My thought was if I could go to the general population, a village or school, and teach them a basic method where any average student could take on entrepreneurial thinking, you could get more entrepreneurs," Nair said, who introduced students to a full range of entrepreneurship skills, from product design to business strategy.

The result? Out of 50 students, more than 30 now say they now want to become entrepreneurs, and the class spawned six startups—at a college that had produced just one student startup in the previous 12 years.

"These students helped me find my next mission," said Nair, who is now trying to streamline his workshop so that he can kick-start businesses more quickly; he plans to teach another workshop in India this April. "I think we can inspire the next generation to take the [entrepreneurship] risk."

Rajesh Nair, SDM ’12
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography

SDM Alums Use Systems Thinking to Help Power Chilean Observatory

Jorge Moreno, left, and Donny Holaschutz at the Paranal Observatory.Figure 1. The European Southern Observatory's facilities.Figure 2. Artist's rendering of European Extremely Large Telescope.Figure 3Figure 4 By Jorge Moreno, SDM ’11, and Donny Holaschutz, SDM ’10
March 27, 2014

Jorge Moreno, SDM ’11, and Donny Holaschutz, SDM ’10, launched their consulting company, inodú, to bring innovative solutions to the globe’s energy and sustainability challenges. Recently, the company took on a major project to help the Chilean Energy Ministry and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) find energy supply alternatives for one of the most advanced observatory complexes in the world. Learn more about their work in this presentation, which is part of the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series.

Jorge Moreno, left, and Donny Holaschutz at the Paranal Observatory.

The challenge: With crystal clear skies and dry air, the European Southern Observatory is located in one of the best 1,000 square kilometers for astronomic observation on the planet (Figure 1). In the next 10 years, the ESO plans to expand its facilities by constructing the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) on a mountain in Chile known as Cerro Armazones (Figure 2). The E-ELT will be 22 kilometers from the existing Paranal Observatory. The addition of the E-ELT will triple the electricity consumption in an area that is currently isolated from the grid.

Figure 1. The European Southern Observatory’s facilities. © ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

Figure 2. Artist’s rendering of European Extremely Large Telescope.[1] © ESO/L. Calçada

The planned construction of the E-ELT and the challenges faced by the current energy system encouraged ESO to re-evaluate its energy supply strategy. Working with the Chilean Energy Ministry and ESO, inodú developed solutions that could help the latter cope with planned increases in energy consumption, identify energy efficiency measures, and satisfy the need for electricity in a more reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly manner. The project led by inodú is part of a long history of collaboration between the Chilean government and ESO, and it aligns with the goals of the Chilean Energy Strategy 2012-2030, which aims to scale up the deployment of renewable energy projects and energy efficiency measures.

The approach: To re-architect ESO’s energy system and identify sustainable energy-efficiency measures, inodú used an integrated set of methodologies grounded in systems thinking. The company began by investigating the facts and key stakeholders’ perceptions of how the energy system should create value for current and future observatory operations. The team visited the Paranal Observatory facilities to evaluate the existing energy system and to learn what is needed for a night of observations. Finally, inodú engaged local suppliers of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and various types of fossil fuel generators to explore what potential energy solutions are available in the market.

The inodú team then developed energy system goals and requirements. By engaging the stakeholders and understanding the local context, the team was able to consider the system beyond purely economic considerations—including such properties as reliability, maintainability, flexibility, adaptability, reparability, modularity, evolve-ability, robustness, and environmental friendliness. The system goals and requirements synthesized by the team were used to establish a frame of reference by which all possible solutions could be evaluated.

Next, inodú employed a powerful modeling tool to evaluate many hybrid system configurations (solar, wind, batteries, and fossil fuel generators) and assess them in light of the defined system goals and requirements. These potential solutions were then compared to connecting the observatory to the grid, 50 kilometers from the facility. Finally, the team conducted a study to identify some of the legal and permitting challenges associated with the development of the project.

Figure 3. Potential hybrid system solutions shown against cost and environmental friendliness metrics.

The findings: The "design space" was defined and analyzed through the frame of reference set by the system goals and requirements. The team identified the following insights (Figure 3):

  • Based on wind and solar resource assessments, the expected observatory load profile, and equipment alternatives, the solar/fossil fuel generator hybrid solution will be more reliable, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly than a wind/fossil fuel generator hybrid solution.
  • The size and number of the fossil fuel generators are the design variables that have the most impact on the current configuration’s environmental friendliness and cost efficiency metrics.

Understanding the stakeholders’ needs and constraints allowed the team to finally arrive at five potential solutions based on hybrid systems. In addition, the team evaluated the option of developing a transmission line to connect the observatory complex to the grid. The alternatives can power Paranal’s energy demand with the E-ELT included. A summary of the evaluation is presented in Figure 4. It was found that the cost of the transmission is comparable to the cost of developing hybrid-isolated system solutions in the region.

Figure 4. Evaluation of cases against defined requirements.

The results: By synthesizing the key stakeholders’ constraints and perceptions of how the energy system should create value for the observatory—as well as visiting Paranal to observe the system and the operators at work—inodú facilitated a joint fact-finding process that allowed the Chilean government and ESO to systematically evaluate different alternatives for providing energy to the Paranal Observatory and the future E-ELT.

Inodú found that developing a high-voltage transmission line to Chile’s Central Interconnected System is comparable in cost to developing a highly reliable hybrid isolated system. The development of a transmission line would elegantly satisfy the primary system goal, which is to facilitate astronomic observation in a more reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly manner.

Special thanks: We would like to thank Marcel Silva from the Chilean Energy Ministry and Roberto Tamai from the European Southern Observatory for their support of this project.

Learn more about inodú

About the authors

Jorge Moreno
SDM alumnus Jorge Moreno, an inodú cofounder, has extensive experience in the energy industry in the United States and Latin America. He holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Donny Holaschutz
SDM alumnus Donny Holaschutz, also an inodú cofounder, is a seasoned entrepreneur with experience in both for- and not-for-profit ventures related to clean and sustainable technology. He holds a master’s degree in engineering and management from MIT and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.


1The E-ELT will have a 39-meter mirror, making it the biggest telescope in the world to observe in the visible and the near-infrared spectra. The total cost of the E-ELT is €1,083 million, spread over 10 years.

MIT Natural Resources Study Tour: Digging Deep into the Chilean Mining Business

Stakeholders and members of the MIT Mining and Oil & Gas Club, which was founded by SDM students.Diego Hernandez (right) with SDM alumni John Helferich (left) and Juan Esteban Montero (center)Participants in the MIT Natural Resources Study Tour at the Komatsu plant By Renato Lima de Oliveira, MIT Ph.D. Student, Political Science
March 25, 2014

An interdisciplinary group of researchers, faculty, and students from MIT and Harvard traveled to Chile in December 2013 to explore innovation, technology transfer in the mining industry, and a vision for the future of cities that are impacted by the exploitation of natural resources in a study tour organized by the MIT Mining and Oil & Gas Club (MOG), MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (better known as MISTI) Chile, and the MIT Sloan Latin America Office. The aim of the group was both to learn more about Chile’s mining industry and to exchange information and practices to further contribute to the industrial and social developmental of the Andean country.

Stakeholders and members of the MIT Mining and Oil & Gas Club, which was founded by SDM students.

Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper and is known for combining increasing levels of economic and social development with a commodity-based economy. "This trip was a concrete effort to increase the awareness and interest inside the MIT community about the natural resources industry on a global scale. At the same time, it helped to promote MIT to the stakeholders of the natural resources industry. We selected Chile because mining has been its most important industry for the last century," said Juan Esteban Montero, SDM ’12, one of the founders of MOG and himself a native Chilean. "During this trip, we had the opportunity to work together with people from every part of the industry, from engineers to community leaders and government officials. I think that MIT founder William Barton Rogers, who was a geologist and educator, would be proud to see the MIT students, researchers, and professors working together in a multidisciplinary way in one of the most important mining regions of the world." In addition to minerals, Chile is a large producer and exporter of wines, fruits, and forestry products.

The workshop kicked off December 1 in Santiago, with the opening ceremony of the Eighth Meeting of the Copper 2013 Conference. The Copper 2013 Conference, an important copper industry conference that takes place only every three years, featured presentations by MIT faculty and students, including Assistant Professor Antoine Allanore of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Miguel Paredes, Ph.D. student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and Sergio Burdiles, Sloan Fellow ’12.

Also during Copper 2013, Nancy Leveson, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems at MIT, presented research based on her recent book, Engineering a Safer World (MIT Press, 2012). In this work, she proposes a model of systemic evaluation that leads to safer systems, the Systems-Theoretic Accident Model and Processes, or STAMP. She also presented the STAMP approach and its advantages over traditional methods during a meeting at the Chilean Safety Association (ACHS), which was very well received. "We want to bring the best practices to Chile, and this talk by Professor Leveson on system safety was really important to further our mission," said Sebastian Reyes, vice president of strategy at ACHS. The association provides safety and insurance solutions to half of the corporate market of Chile, employing about 5,000 people. Leveson was joined in introducing the STAMP model to Chile by John Helferich, SDM ’10, an MIT Ph.D. student in materials science. Helferich presented the model and its uses for food safety to the MIT Chile Club, which gathers the MIT alumni community from that country.

Diego Hernandez (right), ex-president of Corporacion Nacional del Cobre de Chile (Codelco-Chile), the largest copper production company in the world, with SDM alumni John Helferich (left) and Juan Esteban Montero (center), a cofounder of MOG, at the Copper 2013 Conference in Santiago, Chile.

In addition to participating in the Copper 2013 Conference, on the third day of the trip the group visited the Advanced Mining Technology Center (AMTC) at the University of Chile. The AMTC comprises almost 200 researchers working in five different groups: exploration and ore deposit modeling, mine planning and design, mineral processing and extractive metallurgy, mining automation, and water and environmental sustainability. In common, all groups aim to address the challenges facing today’s complex mining production. The AMTC produces both basic research as well as specific projects with mining companies, such as the Chilean state-owned Codelco and international giants BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Vale. MIT students and faculty learned about the main projects that each research group is conducting, such as developing physical models of completely automated mineral extraction for underground mining, driverless cars for mining applications, and bacterial leaching of copper sulfide ores in underground mining. The principal investigator of this last project, Dr. Tomás Vargas, hosted the MIT group in its visit to the AMTC along with Rodrigo Cortés, manager of the technology transfer division.

Santiago has a significant concentration of the population, universities, and companies of Chile, but the mining industry is centered in other regions. Following mens et manus, the guiding MIT spirit of "mind and hand," the workshop proceeded to where production actually takes place, which meant traveling more than 1,000 kilometers from Santiago to Antofagasta, a municipality in the north of Chile in the Atacama Desert. The second part of the workshop started December 4 in Antofagasta and comprised visits to the Escondida mine and the Komatsu factory as well as talks with local stakeholders and social entrepreneurs.

The Escondida Copper Mine

Chile is the major world producer of copper, and the Escondida mine is itself the biggest copper mine of the world, producing 5 percent of global output. It was discovered in 1981, and commercial exploration started 10 years later. The mine is operated by BHP Billiton and employs about 15,000 workers and subcontractors. It is located at 3,100 meters (10,170 feet) above sea level and 170 kilometers (100 miles) from Antofagasta. There, the workshop participants had access to several facilities and productive process, getting to know this massive operation that is managed by state-of-the-art techniques and capital equipment. "While visiting Escondida, I had the opportunity to speak with local workers and I was extremely impressed with their dedication to improve their condition through innovation," said Jared Atkinson, an MIT Ph.D. student in geophysics.

Building a Better Antofagasta

On December 5, the MIT group dived into the reality of the mining city of Antofagasta. In different activities, the group helped to articulate a vision for the future of the city and to devise solutions to day-to-day problems. In a truly interactive and hands-on experience, the group started the day promoting Antofagasta’s first "hackathon" to discuss the future of the city, 200 years from now. A hackathon is a collaborative event focused on creating solutions to given problems, an idea originally created by computer programmers. This activity was followed by a meeting with local executives and social entrepreneurs, who provided their insights to the MIT students and also learned business, technology, and social practices from the group from Massachusetts.

Participants in the MIT Natural Resources Study Tour at the Komatsu plant.

Political scientists and economists frequently point to the unique developmental challenges that resource abundance brings. To help Antofagasta manage its resources, the workshop promoted a meeting with local stakeholders to discuss the future of the city that today is heavily dependent on the copper industry and susceptible to the fluctuation of commodity prices. An initial presentation by MIT Ph.D. candidate Julio Pertuze addressed the history of MIT and its more than 150 years of innovation and close collaboration with the industry.

Participants were then divided into two groups and worked to envision the headlines of a newspaper published 200 years from now. In this activity, they discussed what they want the city to be and what paths of action are conducive to long-term development and diversification. "Desert is the place to live: Antofagasta beats Oslo in quality of life," read one headline. This kicked off a discussion of quality of life in the city and opportunities for knowledge creation, adoption of renewable sources of energy, and sustainable environmental practices. "I think we have a lot of potential in Antofagasta. We have to believe in our capacity to innovate and build a better city," said Mathias Werth, an industrial engineer who participated in the hackathon and has lived most of his life in the city. Werth is manager of the Komatsu plant, a unit that provides support for heavy machinery used in the mining industry. The next day, Werth hosted the MIT visitors at the Komatsu factory, showing them all the facilities and revealing how the adoption of new technologies and production process has enabled this local unit of a multinational company to expand production, local employment, and markets beyond Chile.

Following the hackathon, local entrepreneurs joined the group from Cambridge for an exchange of knowledge and best practices. The meeting gathered participants from a variety of backgrounds, including startup investors, community organizers, college students, and cultural producers. Each of the more than 20 groups at the meeting presented their business activities and main challenges, followed by mentoring from the MIT students. Issues ranged from financial challenges such as raising capital to social issues, including improving local education and youth inclusion.

The mentoring activity was an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to meet each other, exchange experiences, and develop team solutions to common challenges with the help of the MIT team. To achieve that, students trained in the M.B.A. and Sloan Fellows programs presented their business experience and talked about business strategies and how to develop them, providing examples from their own personal experiences and methodologies developed through the MIT social enterprise program.

The message resonated with the locals. "What impressed me the most was the inspirational message that I heard today. No matter what happens, I know I want to be a successful entrepreneur," said Giselle Cerda, a native of Antofagasta who recently graduated with a degree in tourism and is working on a proposal for a social project aimed at improving the identification of inhabitants with the city and its history. The exchange of experiences was also a highlight for Grace Zamorano, a teacher who is trying to fund a project aimed at introducing recycling practices in the mining city. "It was really helpful and I heard lots of good ideas," said Zamorono.

December 6, the final day of the trip, was dedicated to a visit to the Komatsu plant and social projects in Antofagasta. Members of MOG praised the schedule and organization, which had being locally managed by Francisco Delpino, who is also a mining engineer. "I really liked the trip as a whole. We learned about the mining industry from many angles. This trip gave me a unique perspective about the people who work in this industry and the opportunities that technology can offer to solve problems and necessities that can change the production and human beings," said Yuly Fuentes-Medel, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT Sloan and one of the founders of MOG.

"The impact of this trip aligned well with the goals of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office. I was able to promote various academic programs to potential applicants, there was some serious exchange of cutting-edge research, and the students really committed themselves by not only observing what was happening but influencing and exchanging ideas through the hackathon and the entrepreneurship workshop with local stakeholders. These events encouraged new multidisciplinary ways of thinking," stated Julie Strong, director of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office.

Excited by the results of the trip, club members are already planning new activities. "This trip to Chile, with its sound planning and impressive execution, went beyond the highest expectations, adding real value and leaving a strong impression on all those involved. Initiatives like this must be repeated, and we have been analyzing scenarios for visiting East Africa, Brazil, or Australia, where the extractive industries are facing particularly interesting challenges," said Jorge Le Dantec, SDM ’13, president of MOG.


Antoine Allanore — MIT Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Bernhard Stohr — MIT M.B.A. ’13
Bill Finney — MIT Water Quality and Environment
Cristobal Garcia — MIT S.M. ’04
Emele Uka — MIT Chemical Engineering Undergraduate
Juan Esteban Montero — MIT Engineering Systems Graduate Student (Participant & Organizer)
Jared Atkinson — MIT Ph.D. Student, Geomechanics
Jason Gonzales — MIT M.B.A. Student
John Helferich — MIT Ph.D. Student, Materials Science and Engineering
Jorge Moreno — MIT S.M. ’13, Engineering Systems
Julie Strong — Director, MIT Sloan Latin America Office
Julio Pertuze — MIT Ph.D. Student, Engineering Systems
Nancy Leveson — MIT Professor Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Rachel deLucas — MIT Materials Science Researcher
Renato Lima de Oliveira — MIT Ph.D. Student, Political Science
Sergio Burdiles — MIT Sloan Fellow
Tomas Folch — Harvard Graduate School of Design Research Associate
Yuly Fuentes-Medel — MIT Postdoc, Sloan School of Management
Camila Nardozzi — MIT MISTI Program Manager MIT-Chile (Organizer)

Daniel Adsit, SDM ’13: Systems Integration

Daniel Adsit, SDM '13 By Kathryn O’Neill, MIT SDM Correspondent
March 18, 2014

Daniel Mark Adsit, SDM ’13, discovered the importance of systems thinking—and of combining engineering with management—even before entering MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) master’s program.

In his first job, as a website designer and developer for small nonprofits, Adsit observed that business leaders frequently have trouble understanding the language of technology and that technical personnel, in turn, often lose sight of business objectives. "I started out as a technical person, but I realized that’s not really going to get it done," Adsit said. "Solving real-world problems is what’s important."

That’s why he chose SDM. "I’d thought about an M.B.A. but it never really felt like the right fit for me," said Adsit, who came to SDM with seven years of experience working on large-scale information technology and supply chain integration projects in more that 15 countries.

SDM offered Adsit the opportunity to work with other mid-career professionals who shared his interest in using systems thinking to solve large-scale, complex challenges. "In SDM you get a rich experience working with people from different industries and different backgrounds," he said. "I’d spent most of my career in manufacturing and supply chains, so it was wonderful to work with people from healthcare, software development, nonprofit, and the military who are all experiencing analogous systems challenges."

Adsit joined SDM from Eaton Corporation, where he worked as a specialist evaluating, selecting, and implementing new system technologies to improve information visibility, enhance business capabilities, and streamline global order fulfillment. Although he entered the program as an experienced systems integrator, SDM was able to provide him with fresh insights.

"What I got out of SDM was a way to organize the experiences I’d had and make sense of them," Adsit said. "The key takeaway from the program is about optimizing the overall system rather than any particular piece."

Adsit graduated from MIT in February and launched his own company—Mergence Systems—to put systems integration tools and techniques, including concepts learned at SDM, to work helping companies integrate new technologies into existing systems. "I make sure technology is delivering value in a way that is relevant to stakeholders and those using the system," he said.

While Mergence Systems is still a new venture, Adsit is already making use of his SDM skills—particularly those taught in Systems Engineering, a required course. "Quality functional deployment is really helpful for relating a system’s technical requirements to user needs," he said. "And, Pugh analysis can be used for evaluating, selecting, and combining concepts based on those underlying requirements."

Coursework from SDM Leadership: The Missing Link is also proving valuable. "That course is all about trying to have better interactions with people so you can better solve their problems," Adsit said. "It’s such a meaningful course."

When he’s not on the job, Adsit enjoys traveling—particularly to Eastern Europe—but he says he’ll always be glad he spent time in Boston with SDM. "Being involved with something at MIT was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "SDM is amazing."

Wilfredo ‘Alex’ Sanchez Honored for Leadership, Innovation, Systems Thinking

By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director

sanchez copy

Alex Sanchez
Photo by Dave Schultz

March 10, 2014

On March 10, 2014, the SDM community convened for the presentation of the Class of 2013 MIT SDM Student Award for Leadership, Innovation, and Systems Thinking. The award, created by the SDM staff in 2010, honors an SDM student who, during his or her first year of matriculation, demonstrates the highest level of:

  • strategic, sustainable contributions to fellow SDM students and the broader SDM and MIT communities;
  • skills in leadership, innovation, and systems thinking; and
  • effective collaboration with SDM staff, fellow students, and alumni.

All nominees and the winner are selected by the SDM staff.

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Marianna Novellino
Photo by Dave Schultz

This year’s winner, Wilfredo “Alex” Sanchez, received a cash prize. He was honored for numerous contributions, including:

  • serving as chair of SDM’s Student Leadership Council;
  • coordinating logistics for the MIT Career Fair attended by 6,000 students—including contracting, catering, mail service, hotels, and parking for 400 organizations and 1,500 human resources representatives as well as corresponding with 400 organizations to raise SDM’s visibility in advance of the event;
  • assisting with SDM Silicon Valley Tech Trek outreach and recruitment efforts; and
  • fostering an environment of inclusion for all SDM fellows by serving as an active member of Sloan LGBT, participating in an LGBT panel during fall 2013 Sloan Innovation Period, and meeting with Sloan LGBT AdMITs during campus visits.

Finalists for the award included SDM ’13s Suzanne Livingston and Marianna Novellino. Both were cited for several significant contributions, including serving as key members of WiSDM (Women in SDM) and cofounding (with others) the MIT Product Management Club (PMC).

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Suzanne Livingston
Photo by Dave Schultz

Since its founding in spring semester, 2013, the PMC:

  • grew from fewer than 20 members to over 300;
  • offered meetings and workshops for students with experts from Microsoft, LuckyLabs, Google, Cisco, Yelp, the venture capitalist community, and product management educator John Mansour;
  • created a highly attended (80+ students) mock interview event that brought experienced project managers from Google, IBM, Akamai, and others to MIT to help students sharpen interviewing skills;
  • became the first SDM-initiated club to be recognized by Sloan, which provides significant funding and marketing opportunities;
  • established a partnership between MIT and the Boston Product Management Association (BPMA), enabling all MIT students to attend BPMA events and recruiting sessions at reduced membership rates.

In addition, Novellino:

  • Served as managing director of MIT’s 2014 Sustainability Summit and as a panel coordinator for the 2013 Sustainability Summit;
  • Helped coordinate 32 events during 2013 as a member of the SDM Student Life Committee; and
  • Currently works on water supply systems in rural communities in India as a Tata Fellow.

Congratulations and thank you to all!

Sagini Ramesh, SDM ’14: Gaining Engineering and Management Skills to Help Others

Sagini Ramesh, SDM '14, with her mother, son, and husband.Sagini Ramesh, SDM '14 By Kathryn O’Neill, MIT SDM Correspondent
February 27, 2014

As a volunteer in tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka, Sagini Ramesh, SDM ’14, saw firsthand what it’s like to live without easy access to technology. That’s why her goal in attending MIT’s SDM master’s program is to gain the engineering and management skills she needs to help those less fortunate.

"I looked at SDM and I thought: Yes, it can help my career, but it can really help me help other people. And that was key," said Ramesh, who hopes one day to build a consulting practice providing technology to developing countries. "SDM will give me the knowledge, background, and connections to do that."

A native of Sri Lanka, Ramesh escaped the island’s civil war with her family when she was just 5 years old. She returned for the first time as a college student following the 2004 tsunami and discovered a country very different from Canada, where she grew up. "It was a culture shock," she said. "The northeast section where I was didn’t have grid electricity—they had to use generators. There were no cellphone networks and no Internet."

Ramesh had volunteered to rebuild houses, but she found her programming skills were in higher demand. So, she helped construct an ambulance tracking and medical records system for a local hospital. "This was first time I felt I worked on something meaningful," she said, noting that the experience opened her eyes to the advantages of a career in software. "We take a lot of things for granted growing up in North America."

Ramesh graduated from Waterloo University and went on to work as a software engineer for Vistaprint. She is currently a senior project manager for Vistaprint’s global customer service centers. She planned to attend graduate school, but initially she was unsure whether to pursue engineering or management. "I loved working with people from diverse backgrounds, strategizing and managing projects, but when I looked at an MBA, it honestly wasn’t so appealing to me," she said. "I am an engineer at heart: I want to understand how things work and how they come together, and have the technical aptitude to be able to design and innovate."

Then she heard about SDM, which combines management and engineering. "I looked at it and said, ‘Wow, this is perfect.’"

Ramesh started in January and has already put several lessons to use from her initial SDM projects. For example, a design challenge given to the cohort provided her with benchmarking experience she can directly apply at work. "I picked up skills I’ll be using the next time I select vendors," she said.

Meanwhile, Ramesh is advancing her long-term goals by taking a class in Humanitarian Logistics that centers on how to move materials into areas of need. "This is what I eventually want to do, so I’m learning how the supply chain works," she said.

She is also benefiting from SDM’s emphasis on team-building skills. "That’s very different from typical school, which is so competitive," she said. "[Here] you simultaneously learn from, and educate, each other.

It’s a familiar model for Ramesh. Raised by a single mother, Ramesh learned the value of education early as her mother worked factory jobs to put her and her sister through college. Ramesh, in turn, helped put her younger sister through medical school. And now, her mother is helping Ramesh and her husband—Ramesh* Sundralingam, a lab technician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—care for their 3-year-old son, Ellalan, so Ramesh can attend SDM.

Sagini Ramesh, SDM ’14, with her mother, son, and husband.

"I wouldn’t be where I am without Amma [Mom]," she said. "She’s the biggest reason I could go back to grad school and work a full-time, demanding job."

* In the Tamil Sri Lankan tradition, wives take their husbands’ first names as their last names.

Sagini Ramesh, SDM ’14
Photo by Dave Schultz

SDM Innovates Academic Core, Calendar

Pat Hale By Pat Hale, MIT SDM Executive Director

All successful organizations know that it’s not just risky but dangerous to rest on their laurels. Whether it’s IBM or SDM, no matter what the industry, the key to success is innovation.

This is especially true at MIT, where some of the world’s leading thinkers set the pace for leadership, innovation, and systems thinking. For example:

  • Professors Ed Crawley and Tom Magnanti developed and designed SDM in response to industry’s need to educate future leaders in 1996;
  • SDM has since led the Institute in developing a career-and-family-compatible degree-granting graduate program; and
  • SDM is jointly offered by the MIT School of Engineering and MIT Sloan School of Management and offers an interdisciplinary master’s degree in engineering and management.

A testament to SDM’s success is the fact that similar programs have been formed in Japan, Mexico, and other countries around the world.

Over the past 17+ years, SDM has continued to evolve and innovate to provide:

  • full-time, part-time, and distance options; and
  • an ever-widening range of academic offerings.

However, there’s more.

In 2014, SDM will initate significant academic and operational innovations that will better meet the needs of industry and our students. For example:

  • Beginning in August, all of SDM’s cohort-building on-campus “boot camps” will be held immediately before the start of the fall semester. The last traditional boot camp will run this coming January, and another will be offered in August for the 2014 cohort that will matriculate that month. This operational change was made to give SDM students the opportunity to matriculate as a cohort in the fall semester when most other new students arrive at the Institute. This will enable SDMs to foster relationships with a wider number of their peers across MIT.
  • SDM’s core curriculum in system architecture, systems engineering, and system and project management will evolve. Beginning in fall 2014, these three separate courses will be integrated into a single “SDM Core” course offered over the fall and spring semesters and taught by a team of SDM faculty. This effort is being led by Professor Olivier de Weck and a team of key stakeholders, including faculty, alumni, and industry sponsors. The intent is to provide a more integrated approach to systems engineering processes as applied in real-time across multiple industry domains.

All of us here at SDM are excited about these changes because we believe they will help the program continue to serve students and industry by offering education at the cutting edge of engineering and management, combined with leadership, innovation, and systems thinking. We look forward to celebrating these milestones as we continue our work to ensure SDM is the world’s premier program of its kind.

Pat Hale

George Clernon, SDM ’14: Applying Systems Thinking at Analog Devices

George Clernon, SDM '14, mans a booth at Analog Devices' Design Conference 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany.George Clernon, SDM '14 By Kathryn O’Neill, MIT SDM Correspondent
February 20, 2014

A native of Ireland, George Clernon, SDM ’14, began looking for a graduate program several years ago that would combine systems thinking with advanced engineering and a management curriculum—but it wasn’t until after he moved to Boston that he found what he wanted in MIT’s SDM master’s program.

While he considered other U.S. options, his employer ultimately tipped the scales toward SDM. "My director had experience with SDM, and he said the MIT program was much better from a company point of view—it was much more aligned with what we needed to do," said Clernon, whose enrollment is sponsored by Analog Devices.

George Clernon, SDM ’14, mans a booth at Analog Devices’ Design Conference 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany.
Photo by Melanie Huber

Initially, he admits he doubted SDM could live up to its exceptional reputation. "At one of the information sessions someone said they were applying what they learned every day at work," he said. "I was pretty skeptical about that."

Just two months into the program, however, he’s a believer. "I regret my skepticism," said Clernon, who works as an engineering tools manager in Analog Devices’ core markets and marketing division. "There’s an ongoing application of learning as I come back to my day-to-day work."

During SDM’s month-long on-campus "boot camp" in January, for example, he took a class called the Human Side of Technology and learned the importance of putting emotions aside to focus on the problem at hand. "Even in engineering, which is fact-based, people’s personalities come into play," he said, explaining that people tend to become attached to their own ideas. "When you put emotions in the equation, you start making decisions about the emotion rather than about the facts."

Clernon said he is looking forward to gaining additional insights from his spring courses, particularly Technology Strategy, which provides strategic frameworks for managing high-technology businesses. "Analog Devices is No. 1 in analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters and has been for a long time," Clernon said. So, he hopes Technology Strategy will help him answer the question: "How do we develop new technology to be a disruptive force so we can retain our position?"

Currently, Clernon is endeavoring to develop a platform that will provide Analog’s core customers with online engineering tools to support the company’s 10,000-plus products. "We have so many products going to so many customers, there’s a strong need for a more systems-based approach," he said. "SDM is helping me further that solution and move it along at a better pace."

After 16 years with the same company, Clernon said he particularly values the opportunity SDM has given him to work with people from a wide range of industries. "One thing about coming to SDM is that it’s a great way to make yourself uncomfortable—not in a bad way but in a challenging way," he said. "I’m working with different people and organizations and it’s inspiring."

When he’s not studying, working, or taking classes, Clernon said he’s likely to be found playing with his 14-month-old son, Eoin, who loves Legos, and enjoying time with his wife, Cherry, who recently started her own baking business, Cherry With a Cake on Top. How does he manage it all? "I’ve just realized how much free time I had before that I was misusing," he said.

George Clernon, SDM ’14
Photo by Dave Schultz

Christopher Choo, SDM ’14: From the Singapore Grand Prix to MIT

Choo in the Grand Prix control roomChristopher Choo, SDM '14 By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director
January 6, 2014

It’s been said that the best achievement is striving to surpass yourself, and that’s something SDM ’14 Christopher Choo knows a lot about. After several successful years working for the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, the “next big thing” for Choo involves moving from the Far East to Cambridge, MA, then back to Singapore to earn two master’s degrees in about two years.

Choo arrived in the United States in January 2014 to matriculate into the MIT–Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) Dual Masters’ Program. The program offers outstanding individuals the chance to maximize their potential in the fields of technology and design. Successful applicants receive a range of benefits, including a full tuition scholarship to both the SDM and SUTD programs, a monthly stipend, round-trip airfare between the United States and Singapore, and more.

Choo will first spend one year at SDM completing the requirements for an MIT master’s degree in engineering and management, followed by one year at SUTD to earn a master’s of engineering degree in research.

Why would someone who already holds one advanced degree (a master’s in computing from the National University of Singapore) want to pursue two more—especially when he already has such a fulfilling and exciting career?

Choo summed it up in three words: “acquiring new knowledge.” He then elaborated: “SDM is ideal for someone like me who has varied interests across both engineering and management disciplines. Being plugged into the rigor of a full-time program in MIT’s world-class university environment and an SDM cohort whose members have worked in different industries, in various engineering and technical positions, will be a great way to absorb cutting-edge knowledge fast.”

Speed is one of Choo’s specialties, thanks to four years spent working with the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix. There he was responsible for race circuit infrastructure, track lighting, civil works, telecommunications, site electrical, on-site broadcasting, and logistics services. He worked with technical consultants to develop client requirements, review project specifications, and procure equipment and services. He also developed plans with government agencies regarding infrastructure, traffic management, radio frequency allocation, and aerial filming operations. Previously, Choo worked with the Singapore Tourism Board, which laid the groundwork for his Formula One foray. In total, he’s been involved in various capacities in six Singapore Grand Prix races.

SDM ’14 Chris Choo in the control room of the Singapore Grand Prix

Upon completing the dual degree program Choo said he may return to the Grand Prix or he may decide—after researching and writing two theses in two years—that he wants to switch gears and try something new. “I believe that both degrees will help me develop a broader foundation in engineering and management that will lead to exciting prospects in future,” said Choo.

Whatever he decides, one thing’s for sure—Choo will be looking to surpass himself once again.

Christopher Choo,
SDM ’14

SDM Announces New Admissions Deadlines, Core Curriculum for Fall 2014 Matriculation

By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director
November 14, 2013

In 2014, the MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program will initiate significant academic and operational innovations that will better meet the needs of industry and our students, specifically:

  • Beginning in August 2014, all of SDM’s cohort-building on-campus "boot camps" will be held immediately before the start of the fall semester. This operational change from running "boot camps" in January was made to give SDM students the opportunity to matriculate as a cohort in the fall semester when most other new students arrive at MIT. This will enable SDMs to foster relationships with a wider number of their peers across the Institute. SDM’s new admissions calendar for August 2014 is available here.
  • SDM’s core curriculum in system architecture, systems engineering, and system and project management will evolve. Beginning in fall 2014, these three courses will be integrated into a single "SDM Core" course offered over the fall and spring semesters and taught by a team of SDM faculty. This effort is being led by Professor Olivier de Weck and a team of key stakeholders, including faculty, alumni, and industry sponsors. The intent is to provide a more integrated approach to systems engineering processes as applied in real time across multiple industry domains.
  • Required courses that were formerly taught in the summer will be moved to other terms to accommodate the growing interest in summer internships.

"Successful organizations know that it’s not just short-sighted but dangerous to rest on their laurels. Whether it’s IBM or SDM, no matter what the industry, the key to success is innovation," said SDM Executive Director Pat Hale. "All of us here at SDM are excited about these innovations because they will help the program continue to serve students and industry."

Jillian Wisniewski, SDM ’14: Systems Engineering, Operations Research, the US Army, and Two Kids

US Army Capt. Jill Wisniewski and colleagues in Afghanistan

US Army Capt. Jill Wisniewski and colleagues in Afghanistan

Jillian Wisniewski, SDM '14 By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director
November 5, 2013

She’s a US Army captain who earned a Bronze Star, a wife, a mother, and now an SDM student. Her name is Jillian Wisniewski.

A 2006 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, where she earned an undergraduate degree in operations research (OR), Wisniewski chose to apply to MIT’s SDM master’s program because it offers technical depth, management breadth, and leadership skills through MIT’s No. 1 rated School of Engineering and its top business school, MIT Sloan. “I felt that an SDM education would enable me not only to apply systems engineering and OR concepts, but to effectively communicate those concepts to my future students as well,” she said.

Future students? Yes. After Wisniewski earns her MIT MS in engineering and management, adding “SDM graduate” to her list of accomplishments, she will also put “faculty member at West Point” on her resume, following in the footsteps of SDM alumni Nathan Minami, Kristina Richardson, and Joshua Eaton. She is slated to teach systems engineering during a three-year assignment, spending one of those years at the Army’s Operations Research Center.

“SDM will help me achieve my longer-term goals as well,” she said, noting her plans to help significantly change the Army’s education for military intelligence analysts at user, operational, and strategic levels. “Intelligence personnel must sift through hundreds, if not thousands of data points to make sense of adversaries’ actions, yet they receive no training in basic data analysis,” she explained. “Too often this results in misinterpretation and errors.

“So far I have been able to effect some change on a local level, but I would like to have a larger impact on the branch itself,” she continued. “I believe that my SDM education, combined with teaching systems engineering and working at the Army’s Operations Research Center, will give me a solid platform to research, develop, and implement real solutions on a larger scale over the long term.”

While Wisniewski is studying at SDM, her husband, Isaac Jahn, is attending the MBA program at Harvard Business School. High school sweethearts, they both attended West Point and served together in the United States and Afghanistan. Their oldest child, Anna, now 6, was born during their first assignment together at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. When both were deployed to Afghanistan, which is where Wisniewski received a Bronze Star for exceptional service as a squadron intelligence officer, Anna stayed in the United States with her paternal grandparents. The couple now also has a son, Isaac Edward, who is almost 2.

After managing to handle war-time deployment, Wisniewski said she is looking forward to a different type of adventure at MIT. “This is an experience that I am proud to share with my family. I am confident that the rigors of academics at MIT will provide a new set of challenges that will help us grow even stronger together and will ultimately enhance my contribution to the military.”

Jillian Wisniewski,
SDM ’14

Security Threats in Integrated Circuits

Fig 1. Evolution of cyber-security threats over timeFig 2. Trusted and untrusted components of design and manufacturing chainFig.3. Vulnerable steps of modern IC life cycleFig. 4. A simple Trojan [Source: J Rajendran et al.]Fig. 5. Detailed taxonomy of hardware Trojans [Source: Wang et al.]Fig. 6. Classification of triggers based on digital/analog mechanismsXFig. 7. Example of Trojans with trigger mechanisms [Source: R.S Chakraborty]Fig. 7. Example of Trojans with trigger mechanisms [Source: R.S Chakraborty]Asif Iqbal, SDM '11 By Asif Iqbal, SDM ’11
October 22, 2013

With the ubiquity of embedded processors in almost everything, security has become a matter of grave concern. Digital hardware-software-based platforms are increasingly deployed in military, financial systems, and other critical infrastructures like smart grid, healthcare, public records, etc. These platforms have always been at high risk and have been historically compromised by myriad software and social engineering attacks. Adversaries have been exploiting the Internet and the "connected world" at will. There have been numerous cases and significant published literature showing that creative software techniques can sneak through the crevices of modern software systems. With the current available tools, such software threats are increasing; however, the sophistication of the hackers is on the rise.[i] At the same time, we are well aware of these hacks, and software security is a mature field of study. The figure below shows how software-related hacks have grown in sophistication over the years.

Fig 1. Evolution of cyber-security threats over time[ii]

So, what’s the next big thing in cyber security—the ultimate level of sophistication, the unthinkable destructive impact, and the crack in the backbone? The following short excerpt from an article in IEEE Spectrum[iii] builds context for the discussions to follow.

September 2007—Israeli jets bombed a suspected nuclear installation in northeastern Syria. Among the many mysteries still surrounding that strike was the failure of Syrian radar, supposedly state of the art, to warn the Syrian military of the incoming assault. It wasn’t long before military and technology bloggers concluded that this was an incident of electronic warfare and not just any kind. Post after post speculated that the commercial off-the-shelf microprocessors in the Syrian radar might have been purposely fabricated with a hidden "back door" inside. By sending a preprogrammed code to those chips, an unknown antagonist had disrupted the chips’ function and temporarily blocked the radar.

The above example was a case of an infected integrated circuit (IC) leaking information, a Type II attack that will be discussed later. If we think of the case mentioned above, the damage was the leak of information. However, thinking this through more deeply, it could have easily been a "kill switch" (Type III attack) with the potential to detonate the missile in the carrier jet or a Type IV attack capable of changing the target’s location. This is an infection at the most fundamental level, difficult to detect, incurable, and potentially destructive not only to finance and global resources, but also to human life.

Recently there have been numerous media reports that confirm this. For years, fake and infected ICs have been deeply infiltrating military warfare systems. With embedded smart processors handling data of increasing value, such as consumer banking credentials, security of other critical infrastructures is at risk. There are additional case studies noted in the appendix.

In response to this threat, hardware security has started to emerge as an important research topic. In the current literature, the agent for malicious tampering is referred to as a hardware Trojan horse (HTH). An HTH causes an integrated circuit to malfunction to perform some additional malicious functions along with the intended one(s). Conventional design-time verification and post-manufacturing testing cannot readily be extended to detect HTHs due to their stealth nature, inordinately large number of possible instances, and large variety of structures and operating modes.

An HTH can be designed to disable or destroy a system at some future time, or to leak confidential information and secret keys covertly to the adversary[iv]. Trojans can be implemented as hardware modifications to microprocessors, digital signal processors (DSP), application-specific ICs (ASIC) and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts. They can also be implemented as FPGA bit streams[v].

This paper borrows theoretical concepts and design examples from current research literature and my prior experience in circuit design. To build a theoretical context, I will start with the definition of hardware security and explain the intent of a secure hardware design. Building on this concept, I will expose threats posed by HTHs and methods for detecting them. Types of attacks with associated agents will be discussed. In the latter half of this paper, taxonomy is also presented along with design examples for a few classes.

What Is Hardware Security?

In abstract terms, the word "security" can be used to cover several very different underlying features of a design. Every system design will require a different set of security properties, depending on the type and value of the assets or the resource worth protecting; security is about trying to defend against malicious attack.

A property of the system that ensures that resources of value cannot be copied, damaged, or made unavailable to genuine users.

The fundamental security properties on which nearly every higher-level property can be based are those of confidentiality and integrity.


An asset that is confidential cannot be copied or stolen by a defined set of attacks. This property is essential for assets such as passwords and cryptographic keys.


An asset that has its integrity assured is defended against modification by a known set of attacks. This property is essential for some of the on-chip root secrets (keys, encryption algorithms) on which the rest of the system’s security is based.


In some circumstances, a design cannot provide integrity and instead provides the property of authenticity. In this case, an attacker can change the value of the asset, but the defender will be able to detect the change (by verifying authenticity) before the chip function is compromised. In some implementations, the chip may cease to function in the event of tampering.

Types of Attacks

IC security issues are mainly attributed or at least traced back to the physical security of the design or manufacturing facilities. Different mechanisms for performing attacks are broken down into four classes: hack attacks, shack attacks, lab attacks, and fab attacks.

Hack Attack

A hack attack is one where the hacker is only capable of executing a software attack. Examples include viruses and malware, which are downloaded to the device via a physical or a wireless connection. In many cases of a successful hack attack, the device user inadvertently approves the installation of the software, which then executes the attack. This is either because the malware pretends to be a piece of software that the user actually wants to install or because the user does not understand the warning messages displayed by the operating environment.

Shack Attack

A shack attack is a low-budget hardware attack using equipment that could be bought from a store like Radio Shack. In this scenario, attackers have physical access to the device, but not enough equipment or expertise to attack within the integrated circuit packages. They can use logic probes and network analyzers to snoop bus lines, pins, and system signals. They may be able to perform simple active hardware attacks, such as forcing pins and bus lines to be at a high or low voltage, reprogramming memory devices, or replacing hardware components with malicious alternatives. Some of the existing IC testability features, such as JTAG debug, boundary scan I/O, and BIST (built-in self-test) facilities, can be used to hack a chip’s functional state.

Lab Attack

The lab attack is more comprehensive and invasive. If attackers have access to laboratory equipment, such as electron microscopes, they can perform unlimited reverse engineering of the device. It must be assumed that attackers can reverse engineer transistor-level detail for any sensitive part of the design, including logic and memory. Attackers can reverse engineer a design, attach microscopic logic probes to silicon metal layers, and introduce glitches into a running circuit using lasers or other techniques. They can also monitor analog signals, such as device power usage and electromagnetic emissions, to perform attacks such as cryptographic key analysis.

Fab Attack

A fab attack is the lowest level of attack wherein malicious code is inserted into the net list or layout of an integrated circuit in the foundry or fabrication plant. Circuitry fabricated in the chip cannot be easily detected by chip validation.

Trust in Integrated Circuits

Security in integrated circuit design and manufacture is the final line of defense for securing hardware systems. Because of the fabless business model, third-party IP reuse, and untrusted manufacturing of the semiconductor industry, ICs are becoming increasingly vulnerable to malicious activities and alterations.[vi] [vii] These concerns have caused the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to initiate the Trust in ICs program.[viii]

An IC product development process contains three major steps and agents: design, fabrication, and test and validation. These steps are pictorially represented below along with their trust levels. An untrusted agent is a potential source of infection. IC security is more of a physical security issue, which can be held in check by tight control and vertical integration over the complete manufacturing process.

Fig 2. Trusted and untrusted components of design and manufacturing chain



Design starts with specifications wherein alterations can be made to modify the functions and protocols or design constraints. This is considered to be a trusted component and insider attack is very unlikely. From my research to date, no cases have been reported; however, the possibility cannot be negated.

Third-party IPs and Libraries

Due to the ever-increasing complexity of designs and time-to-market constraints, high reuse is prevalent in the IC industry. This includes third-party soft/firm/hard IP blocks, models, and standard cells used by the designer during the design process and by the foundry during the post-design processes. These third-party IPs and libraries are considered untrusted.

CAD Tools

Cadence, Mentor Graphics, Magma, and Synopsys provide the industry-standard CAD tools for design. These tools are considered trusted. However, from my personal experience and interviews, design engineers have been using untrusted third-party TCL[ix] scripts (open source or proprietary) on trusted CAD software for design automation even in big design houses.


Fabrication involves preparing masks and wafers, which is an integrated manufacturing process of oxidation, diffusion, ion implantation, chemical vapor decomposition, metallization, and lithography. In the present context, with fabrication being outsourced to the third-party foundries, trust is in question. The adversary could change the parameters of the manufacturing process, geometries of the mask, or even embed a malicious circuit at the mask layout level. The mask information is contained in an electronic file format called GDS. Entire mask sets may be replaced by replacing the GDS and the adversary could substitute a compromised Trojan IC mask for the genuine one.[x]

Manufacturing Test

In the testing phase, test vectors are applied to the inputs of the manufactured IC, and output ports are monitored for expected behavior. Generally, the automated test equipment fails to detect a Trojan. However, test vectors or automated test equipment can be constructed to mask Trojans. Hence testing would be considered trusted only if it is done in the production test center of the client (semiconductor company or government agency).

Fig.3. Vulnerable steps of modern IC life cycle [Source: R.S. Chakraborty et al.]

Design Abstraction Levels

Trojan circuits can be embedded at various hardware abstraction levels. As we move to a lower abstraction level, the level of sophistication required increases, i.e. it is more difficult to embed a desired malicious functionality into lower levels of abstraction, as compared to higher levels.

The netlist or the gate level of a design is considered to be secure and must not be tampered with by hand. It is interesting to note that changes are made directly in the netlist or gate level at late design stages for legitimate purposes. An experienced engineer can insert a malicious circuit directly in the gate level.

The different levels of abstraction at which design is done and a Trojan may be inserted are listed below.

  • At the system level in different hardware modules and interconnection and communication protocols. This requires a low level of sophistication.
  • At the register transfer level (RTL), a Trojan can be inserted by coding its behavioral description along with the intended functionality of the chip. This is difficult in terms of physical access, but low in complexity of attack.
  • At the gate level a hacker can carefully control all aspects of the inserted Trojan, including size and location. Physical access is difficult and the hack is complicated.
  • At the transistor level, hacks are related to changing circuit parameters to compromise the reliability of the chip and cause ultimate mission mode failure. This is a very sophisticated attack, still in the trusted zone with difficult physical access.
  • At the layout level, hacks are related to foundry attacks and physical access is easier because of the untrusted zone. However, this hack has the highest level of sophistication.

Ensuring Authenticity

There are two main options to ensure that a chip used by a client is authentic, meaning it performs only those functions originally intended and nothing more. They are:

  1. Make the entire fabrication process trusted.
  2. Verify the trustworthiness of manufactured chips upon return to the clients.

While the first option is expensive and nearly impossible considering the current business climate and trends in the global distribution of the IC design and fabrication, the second option requires tightly controlling testing and validation to ensure the chip’s conformance with the original functional and performance specifications. Tehranipoor et al.[xi] call this new step silicon design authentication.

Deep Dive into Hardware Trojans

Hardware Trojans are modifications to original circuitry that are inserted by adversaries who have the malicious intent of using hardware or hardware mechanisms to gain access to data or software running on the chips. The example in Figure 4 shows cryptographic hardware with the output bypassed with a simple multiplexer. When the select line is high, the unencrypted input is sent to the output. The multiplexer is the Trojan here, which when activated by a trigger alters the intended functionality and sends the unencrypted data to the adversary.

Fig. 4. A simple Trojan [Source: J Rajendran et al.]

An interesting point to note here is that bypass structures like the one in Figure 4 are used routinely in design for debug and design for testability (DFT).[xii] It is very difficult to distinguish such modifications and detect this type of Trojan, which may be disguised as a normal debug function. There are many other characteristics of a hardware Trojan, such as small area and rare trigger, which make it difficult to detect. Hardware Trojan detection is still a fairly new research area, but it has gained significant traction in the past few years.

Difficulty of Detection

Detection of malicious alterations is extremely difficult, for several reasons.

  • Reuse. There is a great deal of third-party soft or hard Internet Protocol (IP) integration in ICs to accelerate the time to market. The IPs are getting increasingly small and detecting a small malicious alteration in a third-party IP is extremely difficult.
  • Small Size. Small, submicron, IC feature sizes make detection by physical inspection and destructive reverse engineering very difficult and costly. Moreover, destructive reverse engineering does not guarantee a comprehensive test, especially when Trojans are dispersed throughout the entire chip.
  • Low Activation Probability: Trojan circuits, by design, are activated under very specific low probability conditions, such as sensing a specific low-frequency toggling design signal or such analog parameters as power or temperature. This makes them unlikely to be activated and detected using random or functional stimuli during limited test times, but more easily triggered during the mission mode.
  • Insufficient Manufacturing Tests. Tests of manufacturing faults, such as stuck-at and delay faults, cannot guarantee detection of Trojans. Such tests are limited by test times, which are typically a few milliseconds per chip. Within this time frame, they cannot activate and detect Trojans. Even when 100 percent fault coverage for all types of manufacturing faults is possible, there are no guarantees as far as Trojans are concerned, since all functional use cases and state vectors are not exercised.
  • Decreasing Physical Geometry: Devices are getting smaller each day because of improvements in lithography. As physical feature sizes decrease, process (PVT) and environmental variations have a greater impact on the integrity of the circuit parameters (voltages, current, power, and I/O delay). This makes parametric detection of Trojans using simple measurement of signals ineffective.

Taxonomy of Trojans

Wang, Tehranipoor, and Plusquellic[xiii] developed a detailed taxonomy for hardware Trojans. Wang et al. suggest three main categories of Trojans according to their physical, activation, and action characteristics. Although Trojans could be hybrids of this classification (for instance, they could have more than one activation characteristic), this taxonomy captures the elemental characteristics of Trojans and is useful for defining and evaluating the capabilities of various detection strategies.

Fig. 5. Detailed taxonomy of hardware Trojans [Source: Wang et al.][xiii]

Physical Characteristics

The physical category describes the various hardware manifestations of Trojans. This type of category partitions Trojans into functional and parametric classes. The functional class includes Trojans that are physically realized through the addition or deletion of transistors or gates, whereas the parametric class refers to Trojans that are realized through modifications of existing wires and logic.

The size category accounts for the number of components in the chip that have been added, deleted, or compromised. The distribution category describes the location of the Trojan in the chip’s physical layout. The structure category refers to the case when an adversary is forced to regenerate the layout to insert a Trojan, which could then cause the chip’s physical form to change. Such changes could result in different placement for some or all design components. Any malicious changes in physical layout that could change the chip’s delay and power characteristics would facilitate Trojan detection.

Trigger Characteristics

Trojans can also be classified based on their activation or trigger characteristics. A Trojan consists of a trigger and a payload. The trigger function causes the payload to be active and carry out its malicious function. Once activated, the Trojan may continue to be in an activated state or return to its base state (one-shot activation). These triggers are further divided into two categories, externally activated and internally triggered.

Externally triggered Trojans require external inputs to act. The external trigger can be an adversary input or a legitimate user input or even a lab component’s output. User input triggers may include push buttons, switches, keyboards, or keywords/phrases in the input data stream. An external component trigger could be a signal that is received by an antenna or sensor and triggers a payload inside the circuit. The activation condition could be based on the output of a sensor that monitors temperature, voltage, or any type of external environmental condition (such as electromagnetic interference, humidity, or altitude).

An internally triggered Trojan is activated by an event that occurs within the target device. The event may be either time–based or physical condition–based. Common methods include hardware counters, which can trigger the Trojan at a predetermined time. These are also called time bombs. Triggering circuitry may monitor physical parameters such as temperature and power consumption of the target device. When these parameters reach a predetermined value, they trigger the Trojan. The Trojan in this case is implemented by adding logic gates and/or flip-flops to the chip, and hence is represented as a combinational or sequential circuit. Action characteristics identify the types of disruptive behavior introduced by the Trojan.

"Always On" Trigger

The "always on" trigger keeps the Trojan active, continuously deteriorating the chip’s performance. This trigger can disrupt the chip’s normal reliability and function at any time. This subclass covers Trojans that are implemented by modifying the chip’s geometries such that certain nodes or paths have a higher susceptibility to failure.

Another classification of Trojan based on triggers is done by Chakraborty et al.[xiii] Based on this classification, trigger mechanisms can be of two types: digital and analog.

Fig. 6. Classification of triggers based on digital/analog mechanisms[xiii]

Analog-triggered Trojans are based on detection methods of chip power or current levels. Digital-triggered Trojans can again be classified into combinational and sequential types. A combinational trigger is a logic function of internal circuit state variables. Typically, an attacker would choose a rare activation condition so that it is very unlikely for the Trojan to trigger during a conventional manufacturing test. On the other hand, sequentially triggered Trojans are activated by the occurrence of a sequence, or a period of continuous operation. The simplest sequential Trojan triggers are synchronous stand-alone counters, which trigger a malfunction on reaching a particular count. In general, detecting sequential Trojans is more difficult because the activation probability is lower due to the content and timing variables. Additionally, the number of such sequential trigger conditions for arbitrary Trojan instances can be insurmountably large for a deterministic logic testing approach, making testing and detection impractical.

Fig. 7. Example of Trojans with trigger mechanisms [Source: R.S Chakraborty][xiv]

Payload/Effect-based Classification

Payload consists of the circuitry designed for the intended functionality. Payload can characterize a Trojan by the severity of the effect. A Trojan can change the function of the target device and can cause errors that may be difficult to detect in testing but are detrimental in mission mode. Another class of Trojans can change specifications by changing device parameters. They may change the reliability, functional, or parametric specifications (such as power and delay). Trojans can also leak sensitive information through a secret or already existing channel. Information can be leaked by radio frequency, optical and thermal means, and via interfaces such as RS 232 and JTAG. Trojan can also be designed to create backdoor access to assist in software-based attacks like privilege escalation and password theft. Trojans can hog chip resources, including bandwidth, computation, and battery power, causing the chip to malfunction, emulating a denial of service. Some Trojans may physically destroy, disable, or alter the configuration of the device (kill switches).

Another way to categorize Trojans is based on the type of circuitry: digital and analog. Digital Trojans can either affect the logic values at chosen internal nodes, or can modify the contents of memory locations. Analog payload Trojans, on the other hand, affect circuit parameters, such as performance, power, and noise margin. Another form of analog payload would be generation of excess activity in the circuit and accelerating the aging process of an IC and shortening its lifespan. All this happens without affecting the IC functionality.

Current Trojan Detection Methods

Detection of Trojans is extremely difficult for the reasons discussed in the previous sections. It is an important area of research that has led to the development of some Trojan detection methods over the past few years. These are categorized mainly as chip-level solutions and architectural-level Trojan detection solutions.

Chip-level Methods

Power and Current Measurement

Trojans typically change a design’s parametric characteristic by, for example, hampering performance, increasing or decreasing power, or causing reliability problems in the chip. Measuring current and voltage can provide information about the internal structure and activities within the IC, enabling detection of Trojans without fully activating them.

A weakness of such methods is that a Trojan can draw only a very small amount of current and that it could be submerged below the noise floor and process variation effects, thus making it undetectable by conventional measurement equipment. However, Trojan detection capability can be greatly enhanced by measuring current locally and from multiple power ports or pads, switching off certain sections of the chip, and thus increasing the small differential of voltage or current with respect to the normal operating parameters.

Timing-based Methods

In timing-based methods, Trojans can be detected by measuring the delays between a circuit’s inputs and outputs. Trojans can be detected when one or a group of path delays are extended beyond the threshold determined by the process variations level.

Many different samples from a process lot are checked under the same test patterns and compared. An outlier is a suspect of Trojan infection. This method uses statistical analysis to deal with process variations. However, it is not suitable for today’s complex circuits, which contain millions of paths between inputs and output. Measuring all these paths, especially the short ones, is not easy.

Architecture-level Trojan Detection

An attack can occur at different levels of design abstraction, for example at the specification, RTL, gate level, or post-layout level. At the most abstract level, the adversary can access the interpreter and perform software tampering, scan-chain readout, or a fault attack. At the hardware microarchitecture and circuit levels, the attacker takes into account power energy consumption or electromagnetic energy. As we ascend to an upper level of abstraction, the required sophistication of the attacking agent decreases and detectability of the Trojan decreases. This is because the automated synthesis and automated place and route process distribute the logic all over the chip area.

Design for Trust

One approach is to design chips for detectability of any tampering. The CAD and test community has long benefited from Design for Testability (DFT) and Design for Manufacturability (DFM). Design for Trust is another "ility" that is critical for Trojan detection. These design methods, proposed by the hardware security and trust community, improve Trojan detection and isolation by changing or modifying the design flow. They help prevent insertion of Trojans, facilitate easier detection, and provide effective IC authentication.

Some methods are physical-level tamper-proofing techniques, such as placing security parts into special casings with light, temperature, tampering, or motion sensors.

Suh, Deng, and Chan et al.[xv] have proposed a design-level tamper-proofing method. In their paper, they discuss an encryption microarchitecture featuring a high-end secure microprocessor. A secure processor is authenticated by a checksum response to a challenge within a time limit. The unique checksum is based on the cycle-to-cycle activities of the processor’s specific internal micro-architectural mechanism. The authors showed that small differences in the crypto-architecture result in significant deviations in the checksum.

The architectural detection methods are specific and have to be built into the design for easy tamper detectability. The chip-level methods are too high-precision and error-prone because it is so difficult to identify a trigger in the presence of chip noise and process variation.


The issue of IC security and effective countermeasures has drawn considerable research interest in recent times. This paper presents a survey of different Trojan types and emerging methods of detection. Analog Trojans present a major future challenge because there are numerous types of activation and observation conditions. Considering the varied nature and types of IC vulnerabilities, a combination of design and test methods would be required to provide an acceptable level of security.

Designs are inherently made secure each day. However, the hacker is always one step ahead!! Engineers are reacting to changing security needs. They are proactively designing in "trust-ability" and making designs more secure, but physical access is something beyond the control of the academic and engineering communities. Businesses have to be aware and procurement policies have to be improved. The threats to IC security are more severe in regards to physical security. Vertical integration of the entire manufacturing chain would bring up trust in the manufacturing process, enabling many Trojans to be controlled.

Appendix: Short Cases of IC Vulnerability[xvi]

The sensitive assets that each market sector tries to protect against attack are diverse. For example, mobile handsets aim to protect the integrity of radio networks, while television set-top boxes prevent unauthorized access to subscription channels. The varied type and value of the assets being protected, combined with the different underlying system implementations, mean that the attacks experienced by each also vary.

Mobile Sector

Two critical parts of a GSM handset are the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) code, a unique 15-digit code used to identify an individual handset when it connects to the network, and the low-level SIMLock protocol that is used to bind a particular device to SIM cards of a particular network operator.

Both of these components are used to provide a security feature: the IMEI is used to block stolen handsets from accessing a network, and the SIMLock protocol is used to tie the device to the operator for a contract’s duration. On many handsets both of these protection mechanisms can be bypassed with little effort, typically using a USB cable and a reprogramming tool running on a desktop workstation.

The result of these insecurities in the implementation is an opportunity for fraud to be committed on such a large scale that statistics reported by Reuters UK suggest it is driving half of all street crime through mobile phone thefts, costing the industry billions of dollars every year.

Security requirements placed on new mobile devices no longer relate only to the network, but also to content and services available on the device. Protection of digital media content through Digital Rights Management (DRM) and protection of confidential user data, such as synchronized email accounts, is becoming critical as both operators and users try to obtain more value from their devices.

Consumer Electronics and Embedded Sector

The requirements placed on consumer electronics, such as portable game consoles and home movie players, are converging with those seen in the mobile market. Increasing wired and wireless connectivity, greater storage of user data, dynamic download of programmable content, and handling of higher value services all suggest the need for a high-performance and robust security environment.

Security attacks are not limited to open systems with user-extensible software stacks. Within the automotive market most systems are closed or deeply embedded, yet odometer fraud, in which the mileage reading is rolled back to inflate the price of a secondhand vehicle, is still prevalent. The US Department of Transportation reports that this fraud alone costs American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars every year in inflated vehicle prices.

Security features typically encountered in these embedded systems are those that verify that firmware updates are authentic and those that ensure that debug mechanisms cannot be used maliciously.


iCyber Security in Federal Government, Booz Allen Hamilton

iiSource: Booz Allen Hamilton.

iii"The Hunt for the Kill Switch," IEEE Spectrum, May 2008

iv"The Hunt for the Kill Switch," IEEE Spectrum, May 2008

vAn FPGA, or field-programmable gate array, is a general-purpose programmable chip with logic blocks and programmable interconnections. FPGA often replace application-specific ICs for small-volume applications. A bit stream is the interconnection information between the logic elements of the FPGA. A bit stream defines the function of the FPGA.

viReport of the Defense Science Board Task Force on High Performance Microchip Supply, Defense Science Board, US Department of Defense, February 2005;

viiInnovation at Risk: Intellectual Property Challenges and Opportunities, white paper, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International, June 2008.


ixTool control language: Standard CAD tools support a common tool control language for automating design flows and batch mode jobs

x"The Hunt for the Kill Switch," IEEE Spectrum, May 2008

xiTowards a Comprehensive and Systematic Classification of Hardware Trojans, J Rajendran et al.


xiiiX. Wang, M. Tehranipoor, and J. Plusquellic, "Detecting Malicious Inclusions in Secure Hardware: Challenges and Solutions," Proc. IEEE Int’l Workshop Hardware-Oriented Security and Trust (HOST 08), IEEE CS Press, 2008, pp. 15-19

xivHardware Trojan: Threats and Emerging Solutions, Rajat Subhra Chakraborty et al.

xvG.E. Suh, D. Deng, and A. Chan, "Hardware Authentication Leveraging Performance Limits in Detailed Simulations and Emulations," Proc. 46th Design Automation Conf. (DAC 09), ACM Press, 2009, pp. 682-687.

xviSource: Building a Secure System Using TrustZone™ Technology, ARM Technologies white paper

Asif Iqbal, SDM ’11

SDM Alumni Networking Event

Please join us for SDM’s annual alumni-student mixer!

October 9, 2013
EVOO Cambridge
350 Third Street (Kendall Square)
Cambridge, MA

Open to SDM alumni and students only.

We look forward to seeing you!

Understanding Patient Wait Times at the LV Prasad Eye Institute

Figure 1. Service time variability at LVPEI.Figure 2. Patient arrivals by time of day.Figure 3. Patient's adherence to appointments.Dmitriy Lyan, SDM '11, right, meets with two ophthalmologists at the LVPEI retina clinic in Hyderabad, India..Dmitriy Lyan, SDM '11, receives a free consultation from an LVPEI optometrist in Hyderabad, India.Ben Levitt By Ali Kamil, SDM ’12, and Dmitriy Lyan, SDM ’11
October 4, 2013

The challenge presented in this project was to reduce patient wait times and variability at LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, India. Since its inception, LVPEI has served more than 15 million patients, of which more than 50 percent were served at no charge. Each outpatient department (OPD) clinic sees 65 to 120 patients in a given day, with the average wait time ranging from 45 minutes to 6 hours. This variability in service time and associated long delays is a source of angst for patients, stress for hospital staff—who consistently work overtime, and damage to the reputation of the clinic in the region (see Figure 1). The MIT Sloan team was tasked with applying management and engineering principles to investigate the source of the variability and delays at LVPEI.

Figure 1. Service time variability at LVPEI.

The process

To understand the problem holistically, the team attempted to build a reference model of the problem experienced at LVPEI. From January through March 2013, the team:

  • Communicated with the leads from LVPEI’s clinical and administrative operations staff;
  • Conducted interviews with key stakeholders to understand patient flow dynamics; and
  • Focused on qualitative metrics, due to constraints in accessing actual data points.

To identify existing best practices in managing patient flows and reducing variability, the team also conducted research at Boston-area eye clinics—Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital, and Mount Auburn Hospital.

The team traveled to Hyderabad, India, in March 2013 to conduct on-the-ground research and collect quantitative metrics for patient service and wait times. Operating from the hospital, the team:

  • Conducted time and motion studies in four of LVPEI’s OPD clinics, including two cornea and two retina clinics;
  • Collected time stamps as patients and corresponding medical folders moved through the clinics;
  • Interviewed stakeholders, including faculty ophthalmologists in each of the studied clinics, administrators who oversee appointment scheduling and resource allocation, and operations professors from the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, to understand their prior work on patient wait time trends at LVPEI;
  • Conducted patient surveys at walk-in counters to understand the motivation for choosing the walk-in option, and surveyed patients at the checkout counter to gauge patient satisfaction levels and concerns about their LVPEI experiences;
  • Constructed a system dynamics model—based on the qualitative data gathered from numerous interviews and observations—that reflects the core structure of LVPEI OPD operations and simulates patient flow in a given day; the model was then validated by key stakeholders and calibrated to the data collected on site (see Figure 2); and
  • Worked with key stakeholders to validate and calibrate the data collected on site.

Figure 2. Patient arrivals by time of day.

Figure 3. Patient’s adherence to appointments.

The findings

Based on our work on the ground and subsequent application of system dynamics to determine the cause for variability and long service times, we showed that:

  • Given a fixed OPD capacity, patient wait times are largely a function of service demand, scheduling, and resource-specific factors;
  • Demand and scheduling factors include the complexity of patient cases, their volume, and the way they are scheduled in a given day; factors impacting resource allocation and utilization include patient workup time, patient investigation time, and the operating hours of the OPD clinic;
  • To accommodate larger daily volumes of patients, providers reduce the time they spend with each patient, thereby undermining the quality of care provided and increasing the likelihood of medical errors; and
  • Walk-in patients are the source of variability in the system and cause the established schedule at LVPEI to deviate.

Given the fixed OPD capacity and service staff, we recommended that LVPEI consider allocating blocks of time in the day dedicated specifically for walk-in patients and follow-up patients. Increasing awareness and enforcing adherence to an appointment-based scheduling system will enable predictable patient wait and service times.

Next steps

Further analysis is needed to study the relationship between the volume of patients, the number of incorrect diagnoses, and the number of patients that return to the clinic to receive additional treatment as a result of error. The team is continuing its work with LVPEI to obtain additional data on patient check-in and checkout times. Additionally, the team is working to make the system dynamics model robust under extreme scenarios and able to delineate among patient types—i.e. walk-in, appointment-based, or follow-up patients.

About the Authors

Ali Kamil is a graduate student at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. His research focuses on understanding managerial and organizational effectiveness in low-resource settings—specifically developing and emerging markets. His expertise lies in employing system dynamics–based modeling and tools to simulate complex operations and devise effective policy measures. Prior to MIT, Kamil was an engagement manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP, where he advised leading media, entertainment, and telecom clients in matters of competitive strategy, operations, and technology implementation/outsourcing. He holds a B.S. in computer science and economics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Dmitriy Lyan is a senior product manager of technical product at Amazon. He is a graduate of the MIT System Design and Management program, where he specialized in the development of performance management systems for shared value-focused organizations. In his thesis work, Lyan applied system dynamics methodology to explore performance dynamics in US military behavioral health clinics. Prior to MIT, he worked in the investment management and software development industries. He holds an M.S. in financial engineering from Claremont Graduate University/Peter F. Drucker School of Management and a B.S. in computer engineering from the University of California, San Diego.

Dmitriy Lyan, SDM ’11, right, meets with two ophthalmologists at the LVPEI retina clinic in Hyderabad, India.

Dmitriy Lyan, SDM ’11, receives a free consultation from an LVPEI optometrist in Hyderabad, India.

Children wait to be seen at the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India.

Supply Chain and Risk Management

Constantine G. VassiliadisFigure 2Figure 3Figure 4Figure 5Table 1Figure 6Figure 7Figure 8Figure 9Figure 10Figure 11Figure 12Figure 13Figure 14Figure 15Figure 16Figure 17Figure 18Figure 19Figure 20Figure 21Figure 22Figure 23David Simchi-LeviIoannis M. KyratzoglouConstantine G. Vassiliadis

Making the Right Risk Decisions to Strengthen Operations Performance

By Ioannis Kyratzoglou
October 3, 2013

This study analyzes the supply chain operations and risk management approaches of large companies and examines their operations and financial performance in the face of supply chain disruptions. It proposes a framework and a set of principles to help companies manage today’s risk challenges and prepare for future opportunities. Using this framework, business leaders can increase their awareness of where their companies and their competitors stand.


Executive Summary

The MIT/PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Supply Chain and Risk Management Survey is a study of the supply chain operations and risk management approaches of 209 companies with global footprints. As globally operating organizations, they are exposed to high-risk scenarios ranging from controllable risks—such as raw material price fluctuation, currency fluctuations, market changes, or fuel price volatility—to uncontrollable ones such as natural disasters.

The findings validate five key principles that companies can learn from to better manage today’s risk challenges to their supply chains and prepare for future opportunities.

  1. Supply chain disruptions have a significant impact on company business and financial performance.
  2. Companies with mature supply chain and risk management capabilities are more resilient to supply chain disruptions. They are impacted less and they recover faster than companies with immature capabilities.
  3. Mature companies investing in supply chain flexibility are more resilient to disruptions than mature companies that do not invest in supply chain flexibility.
  4. Mature companies investing in risk segmentation are more resilient to disruptions than mature companies that do not invest in risk segmentation.
  5. Companies with mature capabilities in supply chain and risk management do better along all surveyed dimensions of operational and financial performance than immature companies.

"Capability maturity," as referred to above, was determined using our supply chain and risk management capability maturity framework. This framework assesses the degree to which companies are applying the most effective enablers of supply chain risk reduction (e.g., flexibility, risk governance, alignment, integration, information sharing, data, models and analytics, and rationalization) and their associated processes. The model depicts where a company stands in relation to its competition and the rest of the industry.

According to the survey results, as many as 60 percent of the companies pay only marginal attention to risk reduction processes. These companies are categorized as having immature risk processes. They mitigate risk by either increasing capacity or strategically positioning additional inventory. This is not a surprise as the survey also shows that most of these companies are focused either on maximizing profit, minimizing costs, or maintaining service levels.

The remaining 40 percent do invest in developing advanced risk reduction capabilities and are classified as having mature processes. Our research validated that companies with mature risk processes perform operationally and financially better—something for CEOs and CFOs to note. Indeed, managing supply chain risk is good for all parts of the business—product design, development, operations, and sales. Using the capability maturity model, companies can benchmark their ability to respond to risks and then increase their capability maturity to gain competitive advantage.

When Mature Risk Management and Operational Resilience Pay Off

On March 11, 2011[1], Nissan Motor Company Ltd. and its suppliers experienced a 9.0-magnitude earthquake as it struck off the east coast of Japan. The quake was among the five most powerful earthquakes on record. Tsunami waves in excess of 40 meters traveled up to 10 km inland, causing a "Level 7" meltdown at three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. The impact of this disaster was devastating: 25,000 people died, went missing, or were injured; 125,000 buildings were damaged; and economic losses were estimated at $200 billion.

In the weeks following the catastrophic earthquake, 80 percent of the automotive plants in Japan suspended production. Nissan’s production capacity was perceived to have suffered most from the disaster compared to its competitors. Six production facilities and 50 of the firm’s critical suppliers suffered severe damage. The result was a loss of production capacity equivalent to approximately 270,000 automobiles.

Despite this devastation, Nissan’s recovery was remarkable. During the next six months, Nissan’s production in Japan decreased by only 3.8 percent compared to an industrywide decrease of 24.8 percent. Nissan ended 2011 with an increase in production of 9.3 percent compared to a reduction of 9.3 percent industrywide.

How was Nissan able to successfully navigate a disruption of this magnitude so successfully?

  1. To begin with, Nissan responded by adhering to the principles of its risk management philosophy. It focused on identifying risks as early as possible, actively analyzing these risks, planning countermeasures, and rapidly implementing them.
  2. The company had prepared a continuous readiness plan encompassing its suppliers, including: an earthquake emergency response plan; a business continuity plan; and disaster simulation training. Nissan deployed these advanced capabilities throughout risk management and along the supply chain.
  3. Management was empowered to make decisions locally without lengthy analysis.
  4. The supply chain model structure was flexible, meaning there was decentralization with strong central control when required. This was combined with simplified product lines.
  5. There was visibility across the extended enterprise and good coordination between internal and external business functions.

These capabilities allowed the company to share information globally, allocate component part supplies on higher margin products, and adjust production in a cost-efficient way.

Why This Study?

Counterintuitive stories such as Nissan’s are at the heart of this study, illustrating that companies with highly mature capabilities in both supply chain management and risk management will be able to effectively address risks, outperform the market, and even gain competitive advantage.

We believe that linking the customer value proposition, sound supply chain operations, and robust risk management is key to success. Moreover, there are supply chain and risk management principles, frameworks, and processes that enable companies to address complex market challenges and achieve superior performance.

The MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) launched the Supply Chain Risk Management Survey to assess how global organizations address these challenges and their impact on business operations. The survey was distributed to members of the MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation and worldwide clients of PwC. In total, 209 companies completed the survey. Appendix A characterizes the participant population.

The Challenges of a More Global Supply Chain

When a company expands from a local or regional presence to a more global one, the operations strategy needs to be adjusted to align with the changes. The economic crisis in Europe is a good example of this. Due to the decrease in demand for many products and services on the continent, companies are changing strategies, seeking alternate global markets. That’s when operations become more complex. Transportation and logistics become more challenging, lead times lengthen, costs increase, and end customer service can suffer. With a more a global footprint, different products are directed to more diverse customers via different distribution channels, which require different supply chains.

To address the challenge successfully, there are a number of questions companies need to consider as their operations globalize.

  1. What are the drivers of supply chain complexity for a company with global operations, and how have they evolved over the recent past?
  2. What are the sources of supply chain risk?
  3. How can vulnerability and exposure to high-impact supply chain disruptions be properly assessed and managed?
  4. How can supply chain resilience be improved?
  5. What supply chain operations and risk principles will guide the improvement of the company’s bottom line: the operations and financial performance?

Through this research, we aim to provide valuable insight in response to these questions.

What Are the Drivers of Supply Chain Operations Complexity?

Supply chains are exposed to both domestic and international risks. The more complex the supply chain, the less predictable the likelihood and the impact of any disruption. In other words, exposure to risk is potentially higher. We asked survey participants their views on how certain key supply chain complexity drivers have evolved over the past three years. The responses are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Evolution of supply chain complexity over the past three years.

In recent years, the size of the supply chain network has increased, dependencies among entities and functions have shifted, the speed of change has accelerated, and the level of transparency has decreased.

Overall, developing a product and getting it to the market requires more complex supply chains needing a higher degree of coordination.

What Are the Sources of Supply Chain Risk?

Risks to global supply chains vary from known-unknowns and controllable, to unknown-unknowns and uncontrollable ones[2]. In the Nissan case, the devastating natural disasters were unknown-unknowns (difficult to quantify the likelihood of occurrence) and uncontrollable (you cannot manage the expected risk and its impact).

To understand the level of exposure to diverse and broad-ranging sources of risk, we asked survey participants to identify the sources of risks faced by their supply chain. The results are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Survey participants’ view on sources of risks faced by their supply chain.

Interestingly, all the top six risks, with the exception of environmental catastrophes, are known-unknowns and controllable to some degree.

To What Parameters Are Supply Chain Operations Most Sensitive?

Respondents replied that their supply chain operations were most sensitive to skill set and expertise (31%), price of commodities (29%), and energy and oil (28%). See Figure 3.

As an example of the energy and oil parameter, according to the US Department of Energy Information Administration, US diesel prices rose 9.5 cents per gallon in February 2012. Cognizant of the sensitivity and impact diesel prices can have on their financial bottom line, shippers adjust their budgets to offset the increased costs higher fuel prices produce.

Figure 3. Parameters to which survey participants’ supply chain operations are most sensitive.

How Do Companies Mitigate Against Disruptions?

What kind of actions do our survey respondents currently take to reduce the exposure of their supply chain to potential disruptions or to mitigate the impact? Nissan had a well-thought-out and exercised business continuity plan ready to kick into action to facilitate a quick recovery. And indeed, 82 percent of respondents said they had business continuity plans ready. See Figure 4.

Figure 4. Actions companies take to mitigate supply chain risk.

The Supply Chain and Risk Management Maturity Framework

Strengthen Supply Chain and Risk Management

As Nissan illustrated, to reduce vulnerability and exposure to high-impact supply chain disruptions, companies need advanced capabilities along two dimensions: supply chain management and risk management. But how can they understand the maturity level of their capabilities in these areas before designing ways to strengthen them?

The Seven Supply Chain and Risk Enablers of Maturity

There are seven factors that enable stronger capabilities in both supply chain management and risk management. By matching their practices against these seven "enablers," companies can assess how mature or immature their capabilities are. This is the basis of our Supply Chain and Risk Management Maturity Model—an empirical framework that applies set questions across the seven enablers.

  1. Risk governance—the presence of appropriate risk management structures, processes, and culture.
  2. Flexibility and redundancy in product, network, and process architectures—having the right levels of flexibility and redundancy across the value chain to be able to absorb disruptions and adapt to change.
  3. Alignment between partners in the supply chain—strategic alignment on key value dimensions, identification of emerging patterns, and advancement toward higher value propositions.
  4. Upstream and downstream supply chain integration—information sharing, visibility, and collaboration with upstream and downstream supply chain partners.
  5. Alignment between internal business functions—alignment and the integration of activities between company value chain functions on a strategic, tactical, and operational level.
  6. Complexity management/rationalization—ability to standardize and simplify networks and processes, interfaces, product architectures, and product portfolios and operating models.
  7. Data, models, and analytics—development and use of intelligence and analytical capabilities to support supply chain and risk management functions.

According to our survey, companies consider alignment between partners in the supply chain as the most important factor in enabling risk reduction (60%). See Figure 5.

Internal and external process integration is also very important (49%) and (47%). Risk governance (44%) and network flexibility and redundancy (37%) are also being included in the mix. Finally, despite recent advances, data, models and analytics (28%), and complexity management/ rationalization (26%) are low on the priority list. As analytics continue to mature, this may change.

Figure 5. Survey participants’ view on which capability enabler they consider the most important.

Four Levels of Maturity in Supply Chain Operations and Risk Management

Supply chain operations and risk management processes go hand in hand and complement one another. At lower maturity levels, the processes are decoupled and stand alone, but at high maturity levels they are fully intertwined. For developing and deploying capabilities to manage supply chain risk effectively, a high level of supply chain sophistication is an absolute prerequisite. There are four levels of supply chain and risk management process maturity:

Level I: Functional supply chain management and ad hoc management of risk. Supply chains are organized functionally with a very low degree of integration. They are characterized by high duplication of activities, internally and externally disconnected processes, and an absence of coordinated efforts with suppliers and partners. Product design is performed independently and there is little visibility into partners/suppliers operations. Inventory and capacity levels are unbalanced, leading to poor customer service and high total costs. There is no risk governance structure and poor visibility into sources of supply chain risk. Only very limited vulnerability or threat analysis is performed. Risk is managed in an ad hoc way with no anticipation or positioning of response mechanisms.

Level II: Internal supply chain integration and positioning of planned buffers to absorb disruptions. Supply chains are cross-functionally organized. Internal processes are integrated, information is shared, and visibility is provided between functions in a structured way. Resources are jointly managed and there is a higher level of alignment between performance objectives. Integrated planning is performed at strategic, tactical, and operational levels—leading to a single company plan. Risk management processes are documented and internally integrated. Basic threats and vulnerabilities are analyzed. Scenarios concerning the base integrated plan are conducted to position targeted buffers of capacity and inventory to absorb disruptions. Postponement or delayed differentiation product design principles are explored to improve response to changing demand patterns. There is minimum visibility, however, into emerging changes and patterns outside the company.

Level III: External supply chain collaboration and proactive risk response. Supply chains feature collaboration across the extended enterprise. Information sharing is extensive and visibility is high. Key activities such as product design or inventory management are integrated among supply chain partners. External input is incorporated into internal planning activities. Interfaces are standardized, and products and processes are rationalized to reduce complexity. Information sharing and visibility outside the company domain is exploited to set up sensors and predictors of change and variability to proactively position response mechanisms. Formal quantitative methodologies for risk management are introduced and sensitivity analysis is conducted. Suppliers and partners are monitored for resilience levels and business continuity plans are created.

Level IV: Dynamic supply chain adaptation and fully flexible response to risk. Companies are fully aligned with their supply chain partners on key value dimensions across the extended enterprise. Individual strategies and operations are guided by common objectives and fitness schemata. Supply chains are fully flexible to interact and adapt to complex dynamic environments. Emerging value chain patterns resulting from this interaction are probed and identified and higher value equilibrium points are achieved. At this level, the supply chain is often segmented to match multiple customer value propositions. Risk sensors and predictors are supported by real-time monitoring and analytics. Risk governance is formal but flexible. Full flexibility in the supply chain product, network, and process architecture and short supply chain transformation lead-times allow quick response and adaptability. Supplier segmentation is performed. Risk strategies are segmented based on supplier profiles and market-product combination characteristics.

Table 1 summarizes the criteria used as a basis for the questions and the maturity levels.

Table 1. Capability maturity classification model.

How Mature Are Company Capabilities?

The framework is a useful tool in evaluating each company’s capabilities. Importantly, according to our study, it shows that the majority of the companies surveyed have immature supply chain operations and risk management processes in place. See Figure 6.

Specifically, of the companies surveyed, only 41 percent were classified as having mature processes, based on their responses; 59 percent of companies have immature processes in place to effectively address incidents. Only a minority of companies (9 percent) are fully prepared to address potential challenges from supply chain disruptions in increasingly complex environments.

Figure 6. Companies classified by capability level.

Key Insights—More Mature Capabilities Lead to Better Operational Performance

Having assessed the maturity levels of the 209 companies in the survey, we then analyzed their business and operational performance indicators over the previous 12 months. Our aim was to understand the impact of disruptions on mature vs. immature companies.

The indicators cover a wide spectrum of company performance including profitability, efficiency, and service. Both the scale of the impact and the time it took to recover to prior or improved levels of performance were measured. These are the key insights from the 209 companies surveyed.

1. Supply chain disruptions have a significant impact on company business and financial performance.

To better understand the impact of disruptions[3], we assessed the performance of companies that faced at least three disruptive incidents over the previous 12 months. If performance indicators were negatively affected by 3 percent or higher, this was considered "significant impact." As Figure 7 illustrates, 54 percent said that sales revenue was negatively affected and 64 percent suffered a decline in their customer service levels. Across all the operational key performance parameters (KPIs) examined, at least 60 percent reported a 3 percent or higher loss of value. For example, in India’s textile industry, raw material costs rose by 6 percent due to India’s recent sharp currency fall, causing fabric prices to rise[4]. This currency volatility triggered a rise in total costs for fabric makers.

The importance of having mature capabilities in place to deal with supply chain disruptions is clear.

Figure 7. Percentage of companies that suffered a 3 percent or higher impact on their performance indicators as a result of supply chain disruptions in the previous 12 months.

2. Companies with mature supply chain and risk management processes are more resilient to disruptions than those with immature processes.

According to the survey results, companies with mature (maturity levels III & IV) supply chain and risk management processes are more resilient to disruptions than companies with immature (maturity levels I & II) processes. The more mature companies suffer lower impact and enjoy faster recovery.

Figure 8 shows the percentage of companies with more than three incidents that suffered an impact of 3 percent or higher on their performance as a result of supply chain disruptions in the previous 12 months.

Only 44 percent of the companies with mature processes suffered a 3 percent or more decline in their revenue compared to 57 percent with immature processes. The higher resilience trend for mature companies is common for all the KPIs examined. The difference is striking in key areas such as total supply chain cost, order fulfillment lead times and lead-time variability. These KPIs are among those most heavily impacted by supply chain disruptions, so mature companies gain a distinct advantage by investing in the proposed set of capabilities.

Figure 8. Performance of companies with mature vs. immature capabilities.

3. Mature companies that invest in supply chain flexibility are more resilient to disruption than mature companies that don’t.

Flexibility is critical to a company’s ability to adapt to change. A greater degree of flexibility allows companies to better respond to demand changes, labor strikes, technology changes, currency volatility, and volatile energy and oil prices. However, flexibility does not come free, and the higher the level of flexibility the more expensive it is to achieve. Similarly, achieving a higher level of service can be costly. It’s a difficult trade-off between the desire to minimize costs vs. investing in flexibility or increasing customer service levels.

We asked the respondents to identify the key supply chain value drivers for their leading customer value proposition. High customer service level (34 percent) and flexibility (27 percent) were cited as the top two drivers followed by cost minimization (22 percent) and efficient use of inventory (14 percent). See Figure 9.

Figure 9. Key supply chain value driver to match customer value proposition.

Two distinctive groups emerge from this response:

  • The cost-efficient group—mature companies that selected cost or efficiency as their key supply chain value driver.
  • The flexible-response group—mature companies that selected flexibility or customer service levels as their key supply chain value driver.

When we compared the performance resilience of these two groups, we learned that the flexible-response group fared significantly better. The performance of cost-efficient companies suffered more from the changes and disruptions in their supply chains, even though they possess mature capabilities in deploying their strategy. Mature companies investing in flexibility, responsiveness, and customer service demonstrate higher performance resilience compared to companies whose strategies emphasize cost and efficiency. Figure 10 highlights the major differences.

Figure 10. Performance of mature cost-efficient vs mature flexible-response companies.

Figure 10 also illustrates that the largest majority of cost-efficient companies (80 percent) face high variability in their supply chain lead times once a supply chain disruption takes place. This is interesting given that low variability is one of the key drivers of an efficient operating strategy.

4. Mature companies that invest in risk segmentation are more resilient to disruptions than mature companies that don’t.

Companies with different market value propositions prioritize different value dimensions in their supply chains. Today, companies often target different market segments and therefore have several customer value propositions. For example, one part of the product portfolio may emphasize price as the key differentiator while another emphasizes product innovation or product selection and availability.

We asked our survey respondents to identify the key value dimension of their leading customer value proposition. The top three choices were: quality (23 percent), innovation (14 percent), and price (14 percent). See Figure 11.

Figure 11. The key value dimension of the leading customer value proposition of survey participants.

Different value propositions—and the corresponding operating strategies—do not necessarily have the same risk profile. Value dimensions are not exposed to the same threats and vulnerabilities. As a result, the management of supply chain risk—exposure reduction and mitigation strategies—may need to vary significantly based on the value dimension.

Consider a value proposition emphasizing product innovation. The high speed of innovation, the corresponding lower forecast accuracy, the higher price risk, and the higher supply risk will essentially determine the type of strategy the company deploys with its supplier. If the price risk or supply risk is higher as a result of the speed of innovation then it is more likely that flexible risk-sharing contracts, rather than a buildup of inventory buffers is appropriate. Thus, risk strategies needs to be segmented according to the value driver.

We asked survey respondents whether they actively pursued risk strategy segmentation. Almost 60 percent do and 40 percent don’t. See Figure 12.

Figure 12. Percentage of companies that perform risk strategy segmentation.

We asked the 59 percent of companies that pursued risk segmentation, "What product differentiators do you use as a basis for risk strategy segmentation?" The top three choices were: strategic importance (56 percent), demand volatility (52 percent) and sales volume (45 percent). See Figure 13.

Figure 13. Key product differentiators for risk strategy segmentation.

Companies with mature capabilities were clustered into two main groups: those that perform risk strategy segmentation and those that don’t. We then compared the performance resilience to supply chain disruptions for both groups. We observed that mature companies investing in risk segmentation based on different value propositions demonstrated higher performance resilience than companies that did not invest in risk segmentation.

Figure 14 highlights the major difference between the two groups across operations and financial performance indicators. Of particular note is the sales revenue category. Only 32 percent of the mature companies that segment their risk management strategy were significantly impacted as a result of incidents that occurred. This compares to 70 percent of mature companies that don’t segment—a 38 percent difference!

Figure 14. Performance of companies based on risk strategy segmentation.

5. Companies with mature capabilities in supply chain management and risk management do better along all surveyed dimensions of operational and financial performance than immature companies.

We compared how company operations and financial performance differed between the mature and immature companies over the prior 12 months. As Figure 15 highlights, companies with mature capabilities in supply chain and risk management did better along all surveyed dimensions of operational and financial performance.

This finding suggests that there is a direct link between having mature supply chain and risk management capabilities and higher overall performance.

Figure 15. Business and financial performance difference between mature and immature companies.

The capability maturity evaluation will enable company executives to gain insight into the risk position and maturity of the company measured in terms of operations and financial performance.

Appendix A: Survey Demographics and Trends

The majority of the 209 survey participants are from Europe. Figure 16 illustrates the geographical distribution of survey participants according to where their headquarters are based.

Figure 16. Distribution of survey participants’ headquarters by region.

Figure 17. Distribution of survey participants by industry.

Figure 18. Distribution of survey participants by annual sales revenue based on 2011 reported sales revenues.

The majority of survey participants (64 percent) are manufacturing companies. See Figure 19.

Figure 19. Percentage of manufacturing vs. non-manufacturing survey companies.

A total of 83 percent of the participating companies have their manufacturing operations dispersed in multiple geographic regions while only 17 percent have them in the same region as their headquarters.

Figure 20. Distribution of companies by scale of operations globalization.

With 83 percent of the companies having operations across regions, we examined how the split of operations volume by regions compared with the split of their sales volume by region to get an indication of the use of regional vs. global operations strategies to meet demand. For the previous 12 months, we observed that sales vs. operation volumes per region were mostly aligned—indicating use of regional strategies by survey participants.

Figure 21. Comparison between manufacturing operations volume and sales volume by region.

This is a comparison between the current and the future operations volume in 2015 by region based on the expectation of survey participants. America’s operations remain constant. A 3 percent growth is shown for Asia and a corresponding 2 percent decline for Europe, indicating a shift of operations from Europe to Asia.

Figure 22. Comparison between current vs. future expected operations by volume.

Survey participants expect a drop in their sales volume in Europe by 2015 and an increase in sales volumes in most of other world regions with Asia, the Middle East, and Africa contributing the biggest part.

Figure 23. Comparison between current vs. future expected sales volumes by region.

Appendix B: Key Performance Indicator Definitions

The key operations[5] and financial performance indicators used in this study are described below:

Market value
The current market value of a company is the total number of shares outstanding multiplied by the current price of its shares. Recent research has shown that shareholder value can be significantly impacted by severe supply chain disruptions. An example is Mattel, the world’s largest toymaker, which had to issue a major product recall due to quality issues. Mattel’s stock price suffered a steep fall when the recall was announced in Q3 2007 and did not recover for many months.

Sales revenue
The revenues a company makes after the sale of its products. Supply chain disruptions or structural market shifts can impact a company’s ability to deliver the value proposition and lead to loss of sales volume and sales revenue.

Market share
The company’s sales over the period divided by the total sales of the industry over the same period. Loss of delivery capability or damaged brand image can lead to market-share loss, especially when the impact of a supply chain disruption is long-lasting.

Earnings before income and taxes margin
The earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by total revenue. EBIT margin can provide an investor with a clearer view of a company’s core profitability.

Total supply chain cost
The sum of fixed and variable costs to perform the plan, source, make, and deliver functions for company products. Supply chain disruptions have an impact on total supply chain cost as a number of activities need to be expedited or redesigned across the various functions.

Supply chain asset utilization
Supply chain asset utilization is a measure of actual use of supply chain assets divided by the available use of these assets. Assets include both fixed and moving assets. Fixed assets enable direct product development, transformation, and delivery of a company’s products or services, as well as indirect support, and typically have greater than one year of service life. A disruption can directly impact the usability of assets and resources or cause their repositioning. As a result, the utilization of key assets and resources may deviate significantly from the set targets.

Inventory turns
Inventory turnover ratio measures the efficiency of inventory management. It reflects how many times average inventory was produced and sold during the period. A disruption or change may impact inventory efficiency either by introducing increased obsolescence or by changing inventory positioning and consumption plans.

Customer service levels
The probability that customer demand is met. The loss of delivery, customer communication, or customer service capability due to a supply chain disruption can impact customer service levels.

Order fulfillment lead time
The average actual lead times consistently achieved, from order receipt to order entry complete, order entry complete to start build, start build to order ready for shipment, order ready for shipment to customer receipt of order.

Total supply chain lead time
Total supply chain lead time in supply chain management is the time from the moment the customer places an order (the moment you learn of the requirement) to the moment the product is received by the customer. In the absence of finished goods or intermediate (work in progress) inventory, it is the time it takes to actually manufacture the order without any inventory other than raw materials. Supply chain disruptions can introduce significant delays across all stages of the supply chain.

Total supply chain lead-time variability
Total supply chain lead-time variability is the time variation around the total supply chain lead-time mean. Exposure to incident disruptions introduces variability and fluctuations in the standard lead-time levels within the supply chain.

About the Project Team

Professor David Simchi-Levi, MIT

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Engineering Systems Division, MIT

Professor David Simchi-Levi is considered to be one of the thought leaders in supply chain management. He holds a Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University. His research currently focuses on developing and implementing robust and efficient techniques for logistics and manufacturing systems. He has published widely in professional journals on both practical and theoretical aspects of logistics and supply chain management. He is also the editor-in-chief of Operations Research, the flagship journal of INFORMS, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

Ioannis M. Kyratzoglou

System Design and Management Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mr. Ioannis M. Kyratzoglou is a fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the School of Engineering. He holds a master of science and a mechanical engineer’s degree from MIT. He is currently a principal software systems engineer with The MITRE Corporation. His interests are in software engineering and data analytics.

Constantine G. Vassiliadis

Principal Manager, PricewaterhouseCooper, The Netherlands

Dr. Constantine Vassiliadis holds a Ph.D. from Imperial College, London, in process systems engineering. He has been working as a consultant on supply chain improvement programs with companies worldwide for the past 15 years. In parallel, he is involved in supply chain research and thought leadership initiatives with leading academic institutions.


  1. Nissan Motor Company Ltd.: Building Operational Resiliency: William Schmidt, David Simchi-Levi, MIT Sloan Management: Case Number 13-150
  2. Operations Rules: Delivering Value Through Flexible Operations, David Simchi-Levi, 2010, The MIT Press.
  3. Information about disruption impacts is self-reported by survey participants.
  4., Fabric prices rise on weaker rupee, 5 September 2013
  5. David Simchi-Levi, Phil Kminsky, Edith Simchi-Levi (2008). Designing and Managing the Supply Chain: Concepts, Strategies, and Case Studies, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill Irwin

MIT SDM Sponsors Conference on Big Data and Systems Thinking

Alchemist By Lois Slavin, MIT SDM Communications Director September 19, 2013

On October 10, 2013, experts from industry and MIT will meet in MIT’s Wong Auditorium for the annual MIT SDM Conference on Systems Thinking for Contemporary Challenges. This year’s focus is "Systems Thinking and Big Data: Going Beyond the Numbers."

Sponsored by the MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program, the event will highlight best practices for using systems thinking and big data to strategically deploy a company’s technical and managerial resources.

SDM Executive Director Pat Hale will open the day by framing the challenges and the competitive imperative of using systems thinking in conjunction with big data. A "back to the classroom" session on systems dynamics will follow, led by SDM faculty member J. Bradley Morrison, Ph.D.

Speakers will include several SDM alumni who have risen to the top of the big data arena in their industries. They include:

  • Troy Hamilton, SDM ’97, CIO, NYSE Technologies, Infrastructure Solutions, NYSE Euronext
  • Brian J. Ippolito, SDM ’98, President and CEO, Orbis Technologies
  • John Baker, SDM ’07, Founding Member, The Data Sciences Group
  • Sandro Catanzaro, SDM ’04, Cofounder and Senior Vice President of Analytics and Innovation, DataXu

A panel discussion on "Leveraging Big Data for Business Value" will be moderated by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Ph.D., Vice President Emeritus, IBM, and Visiting Lecturer, Sloan School of Management and Engineering Systems Division, MIT. Panelists include:

  • Mona Vernon, SDM ’09, Senior Director, Emerging Technologies, Thomson Reuters
  • David Deitrich, Advisory Technical Education Consultant, Global Education Services, EMC
  • Puneet Batra, Former Chief Data Scientist, Kyruus

SDM Industry Codirector Joan Rubin will conclude the day with an overview of insights and next steps.

Additional information/registration

Jaume Plensa’s Alchemist sits across Massachusetts Avenue facing MIT’s main entrance. Comprised of stainless steel symbols and mathematical equations, this modern-day alchemist has been interpreted by some to represent the need to internalize knowledge so that it can then be used to address contemporary challenges and transform today’s world.
(Photo by John Parrillo )

Systems Thinking Webinar Series Marks Significant Milestone

Daniel Sturtevant

On May 6, 2013, at noon, the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series will offer its 50th webinar. “Technical Debt in Large Systems: Understanding the Cost of Software Complexity” will be presented by SDM alum and ESD Ph.D. Daniel Sturtevant. The event is free and open to all.

Founded in November 2010, the series is an MIT SDM distance learning offering that disseminates information on how to employ systems thinking to address the engineering, management, and socio-political components of today’s complex challenges. All webinars feature research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners, and are open to all at no charge.

According to Pat Hale, Director of the SDM Fellows Program, webinar topics have included leadership, innovation, software, product development and design, inventory management, safety, organizational transformation, Lean, and more. Because industries represented by the audience vary from defense, automotive, and aerospace to healthcare, energy, new drug development, and others, each presentation is designed to offer attendees a high-level view of how to apply systems thinking to complex challenges in their own domains.

“Literally thousands have attended the live webinars or listened to on-demand recordings,” said Hale. “We’ve received reports that in some companies, teams watch them to learn together. In addition, many folks attend regularly, no matter what the topic.”

The series was created by SDM Communications Director Lois Slavin, with the support of SDM Operations Manager Christine Bates. Each webinar is hosted by Lois, with Steven Derocher serving as technical director.

Access to previously recorded on-demand webinars can be found on our webinars page.

Daniel Sturtevant

Jonathan Pratt Named SDM’s Director of Career Development and Recruiting

Jonathan Pratt By Lois Slavin May 3, 2013

The MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program is pleased to announce that Jonathan Pratt recently joined SDM as director of career development and recruiting.

“We are fortunate—and delighted—that Jon has joined SDM in this capacity,” said Pat Hale, director of the SDM Fellows Program. “His expertise and superb track record in career development and recruiting for the MIT Supply Chain Management (SCM) program; his industry background and knowledge; and his knowledge of MIT and the Engineering Systems Division (ESD) will enable him to make significant contributions to the SDM program and the community it serves.”

Pratt spent almost five years in SCM as program manager for career development, recruiting, and alumni relations. His achievements include creating and fostering an SCM-specific career development strategy for individual and collective student needs; working closely with alumni, engaging them in both the career development and recruitment processes; and achieving manifold increases in the number of recruiting companies.

Prior to joining MIT, Pratt was a global recruiting and staffing manager at Stax Inc., a management consulting firm focused on in-depth research and analysis. He has also worked for State Street Corporation as a recruiter, as an account executive, Comcast Media Group as a recruiter, and Robert Half International as an executive recruiting and staffing manager. He holds a BS in sports management/exercise management from Old Dominion University.

“Having worked in ESD’s SCM for several years and collaborated with SDM, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know SDM quite well,” said Pratt. “Its master’s in engineering and management offers a distinctive interdisciplinary curriculum in leadership, innovation, and systems thinking that is unsurpassed.”

“Moreover,” he continued, “because SDM Fellows are mid-career technical professionals with significant experience and achievements, they can offer prospective employers a unique and powerful combination of technical and managerial expertise—and the ability to use systems thinking to address today’s complex challenges. The career paths and achievements of SDM alumni clearly demonstrate this success in a wide range of organizations, and each graduating class is even stronger. I’m truly honored to be part of the SDM team and look forward to working with SDM Fellows, alumni, industry partners, and prospective employers.”

Companies interested in learning about recruiting SDM Fellows may contact Jon Pratt at

Jonathan Pratt

SDMs Join First MEMPC Simulation Competition

MEMPC's first simulation competition By Lynne Weiss
April 26, 2013

Several SDM students recently had the opportunity to build their systems thinking capabilities and expand their professional networks when they participated in a simulation competition organized by the Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC).

Founded in 2006, MEMPC was formed to raise awareness of the value of the master of engineering management (MEM) and similar degrees, as well as to share best practices, curricular innovations, and information among member institutions, including MIT, Northwestern, Stanford, Cornell, Duke, and the University of Southern California.

Mark Werwath, director of Northwestern’s MEM program, proposed the simulation competition to give MEMPC students an experience comparable to the business case and business plan competitions offered in traditional MBA programs. He also hoped that the multi-school teams would help students expand their professional networks beyond their own institutions.

The competition, MEMPC’s first, was managed and moderated by Jeff Lefebvre and David Semb of PriSim Business War Games. Both men are also adjunct faculty in Northwestern’s MEM program. "Business simulations are great at building systems thinking capability," Semb said in a recent interview. Lefebvre noted that simulations help engineers let go of the idea that there are "right" solutions to business problems.

The five SDMs who participated were Brian Hendrix, Daniel Camacho Gonzalez, Terence Teo, Shiladitya Ray, and Dexter Tan. Each was assigned to a different multi-school team that played the role of a company in the domestic automobile industry. Teams managed short- and long-term objectives and made decisions about how to interact with competitors, what new products to introduce, and how to support new products. Each team was responsible for establishing its own organization. "Teams could organize by function or by product line," LeFebvre said, noting that there is no one right way to organize any business or team.

The competition began February 11 after students had a chance to review the competition manual and explore PriSim’s website. The winning team was announced on March 11.

Teo, whose team won, said his group began by identifying its company’s strengths and weaknesses as well as market opportunities and trends. Teo felt that a big part of his team’s success was the willingness of members to agree on a strategy—to maintain their product line of high-value cars with a small market and big margins. "We kept our focus on upgrading existing models and on introducing new vehicles quickly," he said.

Teo also credited his team’s success to the members’ respect for each other’s views. One of the few areas of serious disagreement related to pricing. To get advice on this issue, they used one of the two "lifeline calls" to Semb that each team was allowed. Semb suggested they compare the prices dealers paid for cars to what they charged customers. "We realized we had to set a price that was competitive, and that let dealers make higher profits in order to motivate them," Teo said.

Hendrix said he volunteered for the simulation because he wanted to "reinforce some of the real-life experiences I’ve had and put some of the theory I’ve learned into action." A product development engineer for Ford Motor Co., Hendrix learned from the opportunity to make executive decisions regarding supply chain and brand management.

Although only one team came out on top, Lefebvre said that in his experience, participants on the teams that struggle most often learn the most. Tan, who works for Continental AG, a German auto manufacturer, agreed. Although his team finished fifth, Tan said he learned leadership skills and the importance of planning and communication. He was enthusiastic about the experience because it provided a "risk-free platform" for testing competitive innovation strategies that he has learned about in class.

SDM Fellow Terence Teo was a member of the winning team in the MEMPC’s first simulation competition. He and his teammates each received a Nexus 7 wifi tablet.
Photo by Dave Schultz

Christine Meier, SDM ’13: Diversity, Organizational Transformation, and Systems Thinking

Christine Meier By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director
April 19, 2013

Ask Dr. Christine Meier, SDM ’13, about ongoing themes in her career and her response will be brief and emphatic: "Diversity and a desire to help others".

Diversity is evident both academically and professionally. She holds a Ph.D. in human factors psychology from the University of South Dakota and an M.S. in educational research from West Chester University.

Moreover, Meier has worked in a wide diversity of settings, including Fortune 500 and 1000 companies, the U.S. federal government, a start-up, and a company of one that she founded. Often her roles involved technical, managerial, and/or leadership responsibilities. And the industries ranged from health care, financial services and mining safety to computer manufacturing and enterprise software.

The other theme of Meier’s career, helping others, is illustrated by her ongoing work in ergonomics, specifically mitigating repetitive motion disorders and making software accessible to users with disabilities. Her intention to serve humankind has become an ever-increasing emphasis in her career choices over the years.

For example, take Meier’s work at Ameriprise Financial. Hired to lead an already fully mature program to reduce repetitive stress injuries, she collaborated with the General Accounting Office (GAO) on an in-depth investigation of the program, which the GAO later identified as one of the five most successful programs in the U.S.

Meier said that the GAO found common elements that each program shared: management commitment; employee involvement; identification of problem jobs; training and education; and medical management. These later formed the basis for ergonomic Occupational Health Safety and Health (OSHA) regulations. And Meier subsequently adapted several elements for inclusion in an accessibility program at BMC Software that she created and led and for a program she developed from the ground up for Unisys.

Having already earned doctoral and masters degrees and made significant contributions in diverse business arenas while helping others, why would Meier return to academia for yet another degree? And why SDM?

"Virtually all of my understanding concerning enterprise design and transformation has been through on-the-job experiences, so the SDM curriculum will provide specific, state-of-the-art methodologies and tools taught by expert MIT faculty," she said, adding that she is currently a research assistant for Professor Deborah Nightingale’s Enterprise Architecting course. "I look forward to learning about and employing a systematic, systems-based approach for enterprise transformation that, along with my past experiences, would enrich my future work and provide exceptional value to my next employer. SDM’s focus on the technical, managerial and leadership components of success, as well as the opportunity to work on team-based projects with SDM fellows who, like me, have significant experience, offers exceptional opportunities".

And not surprisingly, given her focus on helping others, Meier added an excerpt from First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that is one of her guiding principles:

"When you work hard and done well and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed."

Christine Meier
Photo by Dave Schultz

MIT Expert Richard de Neufville to Deliver Webinar on Flexibility in Engineering Design

Richard de Neufville By Lois Slavin
April 17, 2013

Flexibility in Engineering Design is the topic and the title of the April 22 offering of the MIT System Design and Management Program’s Systems Thinking Webinar Series. The presentation will be delivered by acclaimed MIT professor Richard de Neufville of the MIT Engineering Systems Division and department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Registration is free and open to all.

Both an engineer and a system designer, de Neufville is currently focusing his research and teaching on inserting flexibility into designing technological systems.

"Major industrial and government projects show that the use of ‘real options’, enables managers to react to unanticipated events, which significantly increases overall expected performance," he explained.

This work implies a fundamental shift in the engineering design paradigm, from a focus on fixed specifications, to a concern with system performance under the broad range of situations that could occur. His book, "Flexibility in Engineering Design", (co-authored with Stefan Scholtes of the University of Cambridge) was published by the MIT Press in 2011.

In de Neufville’s webinar, participants will get learn about:

  • the problems with predetermined forecasts or requirement sets;
  • the benefits of flexibility in engineering design and its role in designing and developing products that can adapt to a wide range of uncertainties;
  • how to utilize flexibility in engineering design;
  • how flexibility in engineering design delivers value by reducing or eliminating downside risks, increasing access to upside opportunities, and ultimately producing overall win-win solutions and developmental strategies, and;
  • a framework and next steps for applying flexibility in engineering design in your organization.

De Neufville’s webinar is free and open to all. Details/registration

De Neufville is renowned at MIT and elsewhere for innovations in engineering education. He was the Founding Chairman of the MIT Technology and Policy Program, and author of 6 major texts on systems analysis in engineering. His work has received extensive recognition by many, among them the Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, the NATO Systems Science Prize; the Sizer Award for the Most Significant Contribution to MIT Education; and the US Federal Aviation Award for Excellence in Teaching.

At present he is part of the MIT faculty team developing the new Singapore University of Technology and Design, which features a holistic education centered on technological design.

De Neufville is known worldwide for his applications in airport systems planning, design, and management and has been associated with major airport projects in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia — as well as others in Africa and Latin America.

In his spare time, he rows a single scull annually in Boston’s Head of the Charles regatta, and regularly goes on week-long hiking treks into the mountains.

Richard de Neufville

SDM Fellows Create MIT’s First BigData Club

Peter Gloor

Inaugural event, featuring Sloan’s Peter Gloor, scheduled for April 25 and open to all

By Lois Slavin
April 18, 2013

The newly-formed BigDataExplorers@mit, the Institute’s first student club dedicated to big data, has announced its inaugural event, "COOLHUNTING: Tracking the Emergence of New Ideas through Individual, Organizational, and Social Network Analysis." Scheduled for April 25 in E51-149, the presentation will be delivered by MIT Sloan’s Peter A. Gloor, a research scientist at the Center for Collective Intelligence. Registration is free and open to all. Refreshments will be served.

According to the club’s co-founder and president, Rohan Kulkarni, the goal of BigDataExplorers@MIT is to create a platform to enhance understanding of various aspects of big data, explore its applications in a variety of fields, and network with other big data experts and enthusiasts. Kulkarni, a fellow in MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program, emphasized that while the BigDataExplorers@MIT is student-run, membership is open to all members of the MIT community, alums, and the big data community at-large.

"Big data applications are so diverse and spread across so many industries that we felt it was imperative to create a common platform at MIT that would bring together folks from various domains and with varied expertise to discuss and explore this fascinating field," said Kulkarni. "We invite everyone to attend Dr. Gloor’s presentation and to get involved in developing the club’s speaker series and other activities."

Gloor will introduce and discuss the concept and framework of "coolhunting", which deals with analyzing the process of new idea creation by tracking human interaction patterns on three levels: global, organizational and individual. He will then describe projects in all of the aforementioned realms and engage the audience in a Q&A. An informal networking session will follow, along with a brief meeting for anyone who is interested in becoming a club member.

BigDataExplorers@mit was co-founded by Kulkarni, along with Carlos Alvidez, Sascha Boehme, and Juan Esteban Montero, who are also fellows in MIT’s System Design and Management program, and Aditi Kulkarni, Program Manager at Cigna. SDM is the club’s sponsor.

SDM ’12 Elizabeth Cilley Southerlan Receives Award for Leadership, Innovation, Systems Thinking

Elizabeth Cilley SoutherlanJuan Esteban MonteroAlvaro Madero By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director
March 26, 2013

On March 14, 2013, the SDM community convened for the presentation of the 2012 MIT SDM Award for Leadership, Innovation, and Systems Thinking.

The award, created by the SDM staff in 2010, honors a first year SDM student who demonstrates the highest level of:

  • strategic, sustainable contributions to fellow SDM students and the broader SDM and MIT communities;
  • superior skills in leadership, innovation, and systems thinking; and
  • effective collaboration with SDM staff, fellow students, and alums.

All nominees and the winner are selected by the SDM staff. In addition to Southerlan, this year’s nominees included Juan Esteban Montero and Alvaro Madero.

Southerlan was acknowledged for her numerous contributions to her cohort, the SDM program and the MIT community at-large. Among them are:

  • serving as logistics director for the MIT Career Fair where she helped increase SDM’s visibility in industry by positioning SDM students as front-runners for moderators of company and industry information panels;
  • working as an executive board member of Women in SDM (WiSDM), and collaborating closely with colleagues to put together the WiSDM symposium portion of the annual SDM conference;
  • organizing, as SDM social chair, several sponsored events for students only and with their families; and
  • working with SDM’s Marketing and Alumni Relations Coordinator Melissa Parrillo and Industry Co-director Joan Rubin to understand the program’s target demographics, gauge SDM’s presence by industry and geography, and confer on next steps.

Southerlan received a $1,000 check as part of her award.

Nominee Alvaro Madero was specifically cited for, among other contributions, co-chairing the 2013 SDM Tech Trek and serving as the SDM Industrial Relations Committee’s media chair. Nominee Juan Esteban Montero was recognized for founding the MIT Mining, Oil, and Gas Club which, in under one year, has over 150 members from the MIT student and faculty communities, as well as from industry and academic communities worldwide.

Elizabeth Cilley Southerlan

Juan Esteban Montero

Alvaro Madero

Sussman to Present "Understanding and Designing Complex Sociotechnical Systems" at MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Joseph M. Sussman By Teresa Lynne Hill
March 26, 2013

MIT Professor Joseph M. Sussman believes that everyone, no matter what their profession, needs to understand the complex sociotechnical systems inherent in today’s most significant problems—plus what goes into designing solutions to the challenges they present. At his April 8th webinar, "Understanding and Designing Complex Sociotechnical Systems", Sussman aims to reach out to all attendees—engineers, managers, policy makers, healthcare professionals, educators, students, and more—across industries and disciplines, throughout the world.

Sussman believes that while command of technical factors is necessary to understanding what he calls "critical contemporary issues" (CCIs), such as climate change, economic growth, mobility, large-scale manufacturing, health, and developing country megacities, more integrated knowledge is needed to address them. He will define sociotechnical systems, describe their components and characteristics, discuss how they intersect, and argue that design solutions must focus not only on the advanced technologies that characterize contemporary life, but also on their relationship to the organizations and institutions through which they function. After defining the various kinds of complexity inherent in sociotechnical systems, he will discuss examples drawn from various fields including transportation and health.

A member of the MIT faculty for 45 years, Sussman is the JR East Professor in the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Engineering Systems Division. He is renowned for his work on transportation issues, including regional strategic transportation planning (RSTP), intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and high-speed rail in the U.S. and abroad. He is the author of the definitive textbook Introduction to Transportation Systems, and the recipient of many awards and honors in both disciplinary contributions and teaching. In his honor, ITS Massachusetts established the annual "Joseph M. Sussman Leadership Award" in 2002.

Sussman has worked extensively in computational applications to engineering problem solving, particularly in the transportation field, and contributed to the development of the Integrated Civil Engineering System (ICES) one of the most widely used computer systems in the engineering world. He developed the CLIOS (Complex, Large-Scale, Interconnected, Open, Sociotechnical Systems) Process designed to deal with many critical contemporary issues. He is currently developing a new methodology for regional strategic transportation planning (RSTP) embedded in the CLIOS Process, integrating ideas from strategic management, scenario-building, and technology architectures.

In an era in which all institutions — and especially research universities — must contribute to the solution of the global problems we face, Sussman’s goal is to educate "T-shaped" professionals who are able to integrate the vertical axis of in-depth technical expertise with a broad appreciation (horizontal axis) of institutional, managerial, and other socially-related fields of view.

Attendees at Sussman’s webinar will find new ways to view and understand complex sociotechnical systems and to think about designing solutions to address the challenges they present from one of the foremost thinkers at MIT. The MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series is honored to present Professor Sussman’s webinar.

Joseph M. Sussman, JR East Professor in the Engineering Systems Division and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT
Photo by Barry Hetherington

A Systems-based Approach to Product Design and Development in Patient–centric Health Care

Anand Yadav By Lois Slavin, SDM Communications Director
March 19, 2013

A systems-based approach to product design and development in connected health will be the topic for the March 25, 2013 offering of the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series. Anand Yadav, SDM alumnus and co-founder/product lead of Neumitra, will discuss how the company is developing a patient-centric product for healthy behaviors with aggregate analytics for clinicians to evaluate the effects of medications, therapies, and treatments. Pre-registration is required and can be completed here.

The product, named "bandu," is designed to fit into watch and bracelet templates and continuously measures the autonomic nervous system. The biosensing technology connects to a smartphone app to help the wearer stay healthy and productive. The autonomic nervous system is the body’s regulatory mechanism for controlling heart rate, respiration, and perspiration. Variations in symptoms are associated with stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestion, blood pressure, and other health metrics. Studies are underway to examine a wide range of symptoms from our stressful daily lives.

The technologies behind bandu monitor real-time changes in the user’s motion, temperature, and skin conductance to encourage healthy habits including exercising, practicing meditation, and listening to music. During daily life events, the watch-based biosensor alerts the wearer with suggestions on how to increase health, productivity, and happiness. The resulting data is used to triage medical care, evaluate treatment options, and identify pain points.

During this webinar, Yadav will:

  • provide an overview of brain health challenges, the current state of brain treatments, and the opportunities for innovation;
  • describe Neumitra’s technologies and their goals to address daily life demands and encourage healthy habits at home, during work, and for fun;
  • discuss the product development strategy that addresses the needs of clinicians and patients; and
  • describe an approach used in developing a connected health device balancing strict regulatory requirements with user-driven experiences and aesthetics at an affordable cost.

Yadav, then a SDM fellow, and co-founder Robert Goldberg, a neuroscientist, met at MIT in the Neurotechnology Ventures course taught by Ed Boyden and Joost Bonsen. They currently lead a team of engineers in driving the growth of their operations. Neumitra was founded to blend eastern and western approaches to medicine with "Neu" coming from the Latin for "new" and "mitra" from the Sanskrit for "friend". They soon realized the subtle homage to the Institute as well. The company has received seed funding from the founders of Boston Scientific and Yahoo and has won several prestigious awards. The company’s technologies are inspired by the effects of mental health treatments on their family members and the benefits of daily exercise, meditation, and even music in their personal lives. Yadav is a mechanical engineer who previously led an engineering group at The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. As a team member at the Whitehead Institute, Yadav helped developed a large-scale automated system for the Human Genome Project. He is deeply motivated to bring the benefits of meditation to daily life.

Anand Yadav

Ben Levitt, SDM ’12: Using Systems Thinking for Sports Analytics and Defense

The Monday Morning QuarterbackBen Levitt By Ted Bowen
March 8, 2013

SDM ’12 Ben Levitt excels at the detail-oriented aspects of engineering—whether in his work at Raytheon or for MIT Sloan’s acclaimed annual sports analytics conference. The senior systems engineer at defense contractor Raytheon has won accolades for weeding out bugs and inefficiencies and for guiding complex projects to timely completion. Moreover, as a designer/developer for the Sloan conference, he created two of its most popular events. Now, as Levitt looks toward tackling more technical and complex projects both inside and outside of the workplace, he’s finding the key is not just accounting for more variables, but also factoring in whole new categories of variables.

Levitt, trained as an industrial engineer, incorporated some of that discipline into his work as systems developer, project manager and efficiency expert. He started out as a manufacturing engineer with an eye toward efficiency and minimizing defects. At Raytheon, he adapted his techniques for improving manufacturing processes for use in systems and software engineering, and testing his calculations through complex software algorithms and models. He went on to focus on systems and software engineering for missile defense systems including following his products through the entire product lifecycle. And he received a Raytheon Technical Honor award in 2010.

As an undergraduate, Levitt gravitated to industrial engineering because it draws on other engineering disciplines to produce tangible results. In a similar fashion, he sees the MIT System Design and Management program as a way to tap into and integrate seemingly disparate bodies of knowledge to solve complex problems. He chose SDM for its dual engineering and management focus and for its flexibility, which has allowed him to concentrate on subjects most relevant to his current job and the next stages of his career.

Levitt said the SDM program’s management strategy offerings were eye-opening. For example, he learned how personnel strategies could affect quality in ways that are not immediately apparent, but become especially relevant in tight deadline situations when employees are tired, but there is still zero margin for error.

His academic focus includes engineering systems, interoperability, and corporate innovation. His evolving research delves into the dynamics of system interoperability and systems safety in the defense industry.

As a welcome break from the defense world, Levitt, who competed in cross-country for Division I Lehigh, was a student organizer for the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, held March 1st and 2nd. The student-run conference, named the Super Bowl Of Sports Analytics by Forbes magazine, was in its 7th year and attracted over 2,700 attendees.

Levitt was given the authority to build two panels—an in-game coaching session entitled "Monday Morning Quarterback" and another called "Big Data". He developed the panels and lined up participants from sports, business, media and technology sectors.

The in-game coaching panel used video and audience interactivity to encourage the panelists, a collection of the NFL’s best coaches and managers, and the audience to explore the use of analytics in all aspects of play calling.

The big data panel, composed of the world’s best data experts, discussed how tomorrow’s top athletes, coaches and sports franchises can turn petabytes of ‘motion capture’ and multispectral data into competitive advantage.

The Monday Morning Quarterback: In-Game Coaching Panel included (left to right) Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator, Denver Broncos; Tony Reali, host, ESPN’s Around the Horn; Thomas Dimitroff, general manager, Atlanta Falcons; Brian Burke, founder, Advanced NFL Stats; Ben Levitt, panel producer/developer and SDM ’12; Herm Edwards, ESPN football analyst and former head coach, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets.
Photo by SLY Photography

Ben Levitt

An Analysis of Global Opportunities for Chile’s Mining Industry

MIT MOG logoEnrique Miranda

Enrique Miranda, General Manager IIMCh

Date: Thursday March 7, 2013

Time: 5:00 pm EDT

Location: 66-144 (map)

Free and open to all

Refreshments will be served.

About the Presentation

Chile’s copper reserves and its production level are positioning the country for international opportunities. This presentation will analyze the future of Chile’s copper supply and compare it with global demand for copper and other minerals. Demand fundamentals, especially for copper, will be discussed and differentiated by industry sector.

The presentation will also outline, from the perspective of the IIMCh (Chilean Association of Mining Engineers), the challenges for Chile in light of the current high demand for its copper.

About the Speaker

Enrique Miranda is currently general manager of the Chilean Association of Mining Engineers.

Miranda’s experience, mainly in finance and operations, spans over 20 years. Among the important Chilean companies he has worked for areCODELCO and Telefonica Chile.

He is an alumnus of the MIT Sloan Fellows Program (1989) and received a degree civil engineering/mining from Universidad de Chile. Miranda is also a pilot and a member of the Club Aereo de Santiago.

Enrique Miranda

Can a Shorter Workweek and a Greener Economy Provide Relief?

Nicholas Ashford By Teresa Lynne Hill
February 23, 2013

On March 11, 2013, MIT Professor Nicholas Ashford will deliver a presentation entitled "The Crises In Employment, Consumption, Economic Growth, and the Environment: Can a shorter work week and a greener economy provide relief?" As part of the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, the event is free and open to all. Recording and slides are available here.

The webinar, based on Ashford’s new book, Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development: Transforming the Industrial State describes a "perfect storm" of global circumstances threatening to exacerbate the widening gulf between rich and poor, environmental degradation, and industrial stagnation.

Ashford will discuss the effects of the global financial crisis that began in 2008 and has left many people with too little money and/or willingness to spend. In the US, a loss of some 40% of family wealth has drastically reduced purchasing power, resulting in too few goods and services being produced and thereby further increasing unemployment. The poor do not have access to essential goods while other economic actors consume too much energy and resources, exacerbating environmental problems at local and global levels. Neither financial resources nor sufficient willingness to take commercial risk provides adequate incentives to innovate. Two solutions are frequently suggested to address the present crises: spread work out through fewer weekly working hours to reduce unemployment and excessive consumption and green the economy. An analysis of the likelihood of success of each is the focus of this webinar.

In his presentation Ashford will argue that reforms have overlooked structural problems in the economic system and the worsening economic well-being and earning capacity of individual citizens. New metrics beyond GDP and productivity are essential to evaluate the effectiveness of policies in pursuit of stable and sustainable development.

Ashford will suggest a new perspective, examples, and next steps for attendees from a wide array of sectors and industries. These options will describe key relationships and potential remedies for those grappling with these challenges and the need for innovative policy in monetary, fiscal, employment, environmental, and other systemic elements of the crisis. For example:

  • industry—how to focus on producing more environmentally-sound essential goods and services for a larger segment of the population, and create opportunities for employment. This requires a shift from pursuing profit at all costs.
  • academia—how to broaden its perspective in a trans-disciplinary sense to address all aspects of sustainable development in its research and teaching, specifically in economic welfare, innovation in products and services, environmental impacts, and employment creation. He will describe how curricula restructuring and hiring of a broader-oriented faculty are essential.
  • government—how to integrate its industrial, financial, environmental, employment, and trade initiatives rather than adopt a piecemeal approach to societal problems and demands. Reform of the financial sector and job creation should receive immediate and paramount attention.
  • other interested attendees—how to reframe concerns from a focus on economic recovery to transforming the industrial state.

Professor Ashford came to MIT in 1972 as assistant director for the Center for Policy Alternatives. He has become the Institute’s only faculty member with the title of Professor of Technology and Policy. Holding a JD as well as a PhD in chemistry, he teaches courses in environmental law, policy, and economics; law, Technology, and public policy; and sustainability, trade, and environment. He is the author of several hundred peer-reviewed articles in academic journals and law reviews, and has written or co-authored seven books. Environmental Law, Policy and Economics (2008, MIT Press), coauthored with Charles Caldart, focuses on the issues to be discussed in the seminar as they have played out in the US. Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development (2011, Yale University Press), written with MIT PhD Ralph Hall, is the culmination of 13 years of research.

Nicholas Ashford

Brian Hendrix SDM ’13: Combining Engineering, Management, and Auto Design

Brian Hendrix By Ted Bowen
February 21, 2013

While working in the quintessential assembly line business, SDM ’13 Brian Hendrix avoided becoming overspecialized. In his dozen years at Ford Motor Company, he had assignments in product design, research and development, manufacturing, and quality control. This broad range of experience gives Hendrix, who was trained as a chemical engineer, the versatility to address the needs and opportunities of a Big Three automaker that is in the midst of another reinvention.

Now several years into a major transformation, Ford is recasting its product and marketing strategies, consolidating platform and vehicle designs, and promoting a less hierarchical, more accountable management culture, one that is receptive to new technologies and better attuned to customer demand. And while the company is not immune from product issues, its new approach encourages business units to address problems more openly and earlier in the development cycle.

This dovetails with expertise Hendrix gained in quality control, including the Six Sigma system developed at Motorola in the 1980s that aims to raise quality by identifying defects and their likely causes. Hendrix has trained Ford employees in Six Sigma and productivity analysis and was responsible for adding quality control, benchmarking and testing to the design and manufacturing of power train products.

After earning a bachelors degree in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, Hendrix became the third generation in his family to work for Ford when he joined the company as a paint supervisor. After several years and numerous productivity improvements, he moved into power train operations, where his analysis of the resources that went into transmission production resulted in over a million dollars in savings. He went on to oversee engineering projects and train managers, engineers, and autoworkers in Six Sigma methodologies.

Hendrix then rotated to planning the integration of tools in the manufacturing process for Ford’s Livonia, Michigan transmission plant. In 2006, he shifted to focus on quality engineering, devising benchmarks for senior managers to track product failures and developing guidelines to improve the soundness of air induction systems.

Shifting to product design, he tapped into the more creative side of engineering. While developing high-pressure ducts for the Ford Mondeo line in Europe and Asia, he designed an engine noise suppressor, or resonator. Ford applied for patents based on his design and the resonator is now in production as an option on some vehicles.

This experience led Hendrix to rethink his advanced training. Rather than follow the auto executive’s traditional MBA route, he preferred the creativity and rigor of an engineering focus. The integrated technology and management approach of MIT’s System Design and Management program, with its emphasis on systems thinking, suited his plans.

"At high levels of leadership, systems thinking becomes even more critical due to the complex, open-ended problems you encounter," he said. "I want to develop more into the type of manager who looks at an array of requirements and makes the right decision based on that array."

Decisions informed by a dual emphasis on technology and management can steer automakers away from choices that favor short-term profits over quality, according to Hendrix. And, in the case of Ford, because the company increasingly looks to develop future generations of vehicles internally rather than via acquisition, there is a greater need to integrate engineering, design, and business strategies.

Systems thinking can help companies address the various factors influencing the design and development of vehicles, whether government regulations, customer demand, or the physics of the environment, according to Hendrix.

He is currently a lead product development engineer for air induction systems and turbo ducts for Ford trucks. Post-SDM, Hendrix intends to continue with his passion in a role in the auto industry.

Brian Hendrix

Shingo Kawai, SDM ’13: Globalizing Research and Development

Shingo Kawai By Lynne Weiss
February 21, 2013

Shingo Kawai, a senior research engineer for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Network Innovation Laboratories, is pursuing a master’s degree in engineering and management because he wants to "systematically solve problems in complex systems" and address technological and social problems.

Although he already holds a Ph.D. in electronic and electrical engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology, as a manager in charge of research and development operations in his lab, Kawai came to believe that his training as a researcher was not enough. In collaborating on product development and maintenance with colleagues at NTT operating company Acess Network Service Systems Laboratories and with corporate customers on solution sales, he realized that he had developed strengths not commonly held by other NTT researchers.

Kawai explained that while he and many of the other NTT researchers have very strong engineering skills, simply developing technology is not sufficient in today’s business world. "The research needs to guide the company in the right direction, so even technological managers must be trained in strategy and corporate management perspectives," he said.

Consequently, he began to explore pursuing yet another degree.

"Initially I considered MBA programs that could help me gain a corporate management perspective," Kawai said. However, when he discovered MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program he was especially impressed that it was offered jointly by the Sloan School of Management and the MIT Engineering Systems Division within the School of Engineering. Because he could study both technology and business at MIT, he chose SDM.

While Kawai’s first and most important learning goal will be to gain insight into global innovation management, corporate management, and organizational strategy, he also wants to learn leadership skills for a global business environment.

The reason? Although Kawai’s research for NTT has been in fiber optic systems, he believes that no single laboratory or company can conduct research on the scale needed for present-day applications. In the long term, he is interested in globalization of research and development. He believes that collaboration with research institutions in other countries is especially important because cultural factors must be considered in conducting research. For example, people in different societies will place different value on various telecommunications services, and may be willing to pay more—or less—to receive them. In short, successful collaboration with research and government institutions, as well as with local telecommunications firms, is essential to creating the added value his company needs to survive.

When Kawai is not working, he enjoys scuba diving off Japan’s Izu peninsula and has taken about 100 hours of underwater video of rare fish and other unusual sights.

Shingo Kawai

Cultivating Leadership for Learning Organizations

Paul F. Levy By Lois Slavin
February 20, 2013

The February 25th virtual presentation in the MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series, entitled "Leadership for Learning Organizations", will feature author Paul F. Levy, former president and CEO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIMDC), former executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), and soccer coach for over 20 years. In this webinar, Levy will draw on commonalities from these seemingly disparate environments, discuss challenges in each, show how they were addressed, and share thoughts on how to apply the concepts and tools in a wide variety of venues, from the workplace to the playing field.

Levy’s signature achievement as president and CEO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was helping to integrate two newly-merged and well-respected hospitals with vastly different cultures and infrastructures, which needed to learn to work together while under the threat of bankruptcy. He accomplished this through creating a culture based on eliminating preventable harm, transparency of clinical outcomes, and front-line driven process improvement.

Earlier in his career during his tenure as the MWRA’s executive director, Levy oversaw the cleanup of Boston Harbor, then known as the "dirtiest harbor in America." He oversaw the $3.8 billion invested in the treatment facilities at Deer Island and worked with governmental and community stakeholders to achieve what is widely recognized as one of the nation’s greatest environmental achievements.

Levy’s recently-published book, "Goal Play! Leadership Lessons from the Soccer Field," explains how his 20+ years experience in coaching a local girl’s soccer team taught him tools and techniques for leading in business and public service.

During his webinar, Levy will cover several areas, including:

  1. Definitions of leadership and learning organizations
  2. How to assess complex issues, no matter what the venue,
  3. using qualitative and quantitative information

  4. Developing frameworks to manage individual team players’ learning process
  5. How to help an organization learn to behave more consciously
  6. Examples of cultivating company-wide vigilance to continually unveil and address systemic risks
  7. Next steps that webinar attendees can take in their own organizations.


Paul F. Levy

Chris Babcock, SDM ’13: Systems Thinking for Energy Challenges

Chris Babcock February 6, 2013

Chris Babcock believes the solution to specific energy problems requires a deep understanding of the overall energy system.

Babcock, who has several years of experience in the wind energy field, earned his BS in biomedical engineering with a concentration in mechanical engineering from the University of Rochester. He received a scholarship to study for a fifth year after receiving his bachelor’s degree. During that time, he focused on renewable energy technologies and sustainability.

After college, Babcock went to work for Second Wind, a company that uses sound technology sensors to measure wind speed and other wind characteristics up to 200 meters off the ground — about twice as high as previous sensors allowed. This information aids in efficient planning, financing, and operation of wind generation facilities.

The United States is second only to China in installed wind energy capacity. "Wind energy is one of the fastest growing slices of the energy economy," Babcock said, and explained th