June 20, 2011

EP announces concentration in human systems engineering

The Johns Hopkins University’s Engineering for Professionals program, part of the Whiting School of Engineering, is offering a new concentration in the field of human systems engineering. The concentration, an option in the part-time master’s degree program in systems engineering, will be available beginning in fall 2011.

Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on how complex systems should be designed and managed over their life cycles, taking into account hardware, software and human elements. Disregarding the human element in systems engineering can lead to less-effective system performance and even to catastrophic failure, the program organizers say. For example, a contributing factor in the Three Mile Island power plant incident in 1979 was operator confusion resulting from poor design of control panels and an overabundance of unmanageable alarms.

“It is essential that systems engineers include human factors in their design of complex systems,” said Sam Seymour, vice chair of the Systems Engineering program. “The addition of knowledge and skills in this domain will set the graduates of Johns Hopkins apart from their peers and will enable viable, successful products to be developed with this holistic view.”

The human systems engineering concentration will enable students to consider human participants and other stakeholders in a system as part of an overall system solution. A number of factors must be considered, including human capabilities and limitations; human performance measurement and analysis; integration of people and technology; system use in complex operational situations; and the influence of environmental, organizational and social factors on system requirements and design.

The Systems Engineering program has developed a series of courses that comprise the core of the new concentration: Foundations of Human Systems Engineering, Integrating Humans and Technology, Social and Organizational Factors in Human Systems Engineering, Methods in Human-Systems Performance Measurement and Analysis, and Human-Computer Interaction.

In this concentration, students will gain a deeper understanding of how the appropriate application of human systems engineering adds value to systems, and they will be able to make informed judgments when involved in developing and operating a complex system.

To receive a master’s degree in systems engineering with a concentration in human systems engineering, students must complete 10 one-semester courses in five years, including a master’s project.

For more information about the new concentration, call 443-778-5711 or go to www