Program goal

The Ph.D. in Systems Modeling and Analysis is offered jointly by the Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research and the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. The program focuses on the development of the mathematical and computational skills used to conceptualize and analyze real-world systems. Faculty and students will engage and collaborate to contribute to the knowledge base used in the fields of science, medicine, business and engineering. The continued development of applied mathematics, discrete mathematics, operations research and statistics is critical to scientific advancement in the 21st century. The curriculum enables students to expand the frontiers of knowledge through original, relevant research involving quantitative and qualitative complex systems derived from real, contemporary problems facing our world.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Gain a solid foundation in the theory and application of optimization, stochastic processes, simulation, decision analysis and biomathematics, and demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of these concepts
  2. Learn to perform appropriate collection, modeling and analysis of data using statistical methods
  3. Demonstrate the ability to identify situations in which mathematics, operations research or statistics can be applied and model the situation
  4. Demonstrate the ability to solve a wide variety of mathematics, operations research or statistics problems using the software commonly used in industry
  5. Demonstrate the ability to write code using appropriate research programming environments to implement research ideas
  6. Learn how to interpret the analysis from mathematics, operations research or statistics models to draw meaningful conclusions about the systems being studied
  7. Gain the ability to successfully communicate research ideas through writing and presentations
  8. Gain the skills needed to successfully participate in research under the guidance of faculty

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Degree: Semester(s) of entry: Deadline dates: Test requirements:
Ph.D.FallFeb 1GRE-General
SpringNov 1
SummerJul 1

Note: Assistantships are only available starting in the fall semester. Spring and summer semester admission deadlines are only for students not seeking an assistantship.

In addition to general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, the following requirements represent the minimum acceptable standards for admission:

  1. Have completed an undergraduate degree with at least 30 credit hours of undergraduate-level mathematics, including calculus I and II, multivariate calculus, linear algebra, probability and statistics
  2. Have completed 18 credit hours in the following six graduate courses: optimization, stochastic simulation, mathematical statistics I and II, differential equations and real analysis, or they can be conditionally admitted to the program pending completion of these six courses with a minimum grade of B in each course

Students who received their previous degree more than three years prior to entering this program and who have not taken additional courses in mathematics, operations research or statistics in the past three years will be required to take an entrance exam covering the six graduate courses listed in item 2 above.

Degree requirements

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students are required to complete course work in core and elective courses and to conduct significant research.

  1. Credit hour requirements: Students in the systems modeling and analysis Ph.D. program are required to earn a minimum of 57 graduate-level credit hours beyond the baccalaureate. At least one-half of the credit hours presented for graduation must be at the 600 level or higher.
  2. Qualifying exam: Students must pass a qualifying exam covering material from each of the first three core courses they take after admission to the program. Two attempts are allowed for each exam. This requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the semester following completion of 18 graduate credit hours. Students are exempt from a qualifying exam if they earned an A in the corresponding core course or if they took an equivalent course at another university, as determined by the Ph.D. steering committee.
  3. Doctoral candidacy: Admission to candidacy is made by evaluation of a qualifying portfolio, including exams and project work from courses; writing samples from the research seminars (SYSM   681, SYSM   682 and SYSM   683); research products from systems research projects (SYSM   697); and statements from faculty advisers and instructors. The portfolio can be submitted after all course work has been completed, as well as any additional preparatory course work required at admission. The candidacy committee will evaluate the student’s readiness to begin their dissertation work. Supplementary examination may be required by the committee.
  4. Dissertation proposal: After admission to candidacy and the completion of all course work, the student will prepare a written and oral proposal of the intended dissertation research area, including a complete literature review. A successful proposal must be completed at least nine months prior to the dissertation defense.
  5. Dissertation defense: The student must complete 18 credit hours in SYSM   798 resulting in a publishable dissertation and a successful oral defense. The student also must have submitted at least one paper to a refereed academic journal and prepared a second manuscript or given a conference presentation on the research prior to the defense.

Curriculum requirements

Choose three from the following foundation courses:9
Ordinary Differential Equations I
Fundamentals of Graph Theory I
Optimization I
Mathematical Statistics I
SYSM   681Systems Seminar I1
SYSM   682Systems Seminar II1
SYSM   683Systems Seminar III1
SYSM   697Systems Research 13
SYSM   798Dissertation Research18
Electives (Choose courses from lists below.) 224
Total Hours57

Students are required to take SYSM   697 with a faculty adviser before admission to candidacy. 


Students must complete at least nine credit hours at the 700-level and must complete courses in at least two of the following subject areas: discrete mathematics, mathematical biology, operations research and statistics from the lists below. Electives will be determined based on a student’s research interests and in consultation with their advisers and the graduate program director. 

Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 57

Elective courses in discrete mathematics

MATH   750Combinatorics I-II3
MATH   751Combinatorics I-II3
MATH   756Graph Theory I3
MATH   757Graph Theory II3
MATH   759Graph Enumeration3
MATH   787Special Topics in Discrete Mathematics3

Elective courses in mathematical biology

MATH   715Numerical Solutions for Differential Equations3
MATH   732Ordinary Differential Equations III3
MATH   740Mathematical Biology II3
MATH   769Special Topics in Mathematical Life Sciences3
SYSM   780Stochastic Methods in Mathematical Biology3

Elective courses in operations research

OPER   731Discrete Optimization3
OPER   732Optimization Under Uncertainty3
OPER/STAT 736Mathematics of Knowledge and Search Engines3
OPER   741Advanced Stochastic Simulation3
OPER   743Decision Analysis II3
OPER   791Special Topics in Operations Research1-3

Elective courses in statistics

STAT   725Advanced Multivariate Statistical Methods3
STAT/OPER 736Mathematics of Knowledge and Search Engines3
STAT   742Design and Analysis of Experiments II3
STAT   744Regression II3
STAT   745Advanced Bayesian Statistics3
STAT   746Spatial Data Analysis3
STAT   791Special Topics in Statistics1-3
SYSM   780Stochastic Methods in Mathematical Biology3

Other electives

MATH   601Abstract Algebra I3
MATH   602Abstract Algebra II3
MATH   603Advanced Probability Theory3
MATH   604Advanced Probability Theory3
MATH   607Measure and Integration Theory3
MATH   608Real Analysis II3
MATH   610Advanced Linear Algebra3
MATH   615Numerical Analysis3
MATH   620Theory of Partial Differential Equations3
MATH   632Ordinary Differential Equations II3
MATH   633Asymptotic and Perturbation Methods3
MATH   634Partial Differential Equations3
MATH   640Mathematical Biology I3
MATH   655Dynamics and Multivariable Control II3
or EGRE   655 Dynamics and Multivariable Control II
MATH   707Functional Analysis I3
MATH   711Complex Analysis I3
MATH   712Complex Analysis II3
MATH   719Operational Methods3
MATH   721Boundary Value Problems3
MATH   770Fourier Analysis3
OPER   627Optimization II3
OPER   635Network Models and Graph Theory3
OPER   636Machine Learning Algorithms3
or STAT   636 Machine Learning Algorithms
OPER   639Practical Optimization3
OPER   641Stochastic Simulation and Monte Carlo Methods3
OPER   643Decision and Risk Analysis3
OPER   645Queuing Theory3
OPER   647Multiobjective Decision Analysis3
OPER   648Systems Reliability Analysis3
or STAT   648 Systems Reliability Analysis
OPER   649Statistical Quality Control3
OPER   691Special Topics in Operations Research1-3
STAT   613Stochastic Processes3
STAT   623Discrete Multivariate Analysis3
STAT   625Applied Multivariate Analysis3
STAT   636Machine Learning Algorithms3
or OPER   636 Machine Learning Algorithms
STAT   645Bayesian Decision Theory3
STAT   648Systems Reliability Analysis3
or OPER   648 Systems Reliability Analysis
STAT   649Statistical Quality Control3
or OPER   649 Statistical Quality Control
STAT   650Design and Analysis of Response Surface Experiments3
or BIOS   650 Design and Analysis of Response Surface Experiments
STAT   675Time Series Analysis I3
STAT   691Special Topics in Statistics1-3

Graduate program director
J. Paul Brooks, Ph.D.
Associate professor, Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research
Phone: (804) 828-4637

Additional contact
J. Alex McWhorter
Administrative assistant
Phone: (804) 828-6820

Program website: