2022-2023 Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletin (with addenda) 
    Jun 13, 2024  
2022-2023 Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletin (with addenda)

Urban Systems, Ph.D.

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The NYU Doctoral program in Urban Systems offers an interdisciplinary learning and research environment designed to meet the needs of students pursuing careers in academia, research organizations, local and national government and public service agencies. This Ph.D. program expands upon the unique legacy of decades of collaboration in education and research, development and training between NYU faculty, city agencies, and industry. The program is administered by NYU Tandon in partnership with other NYU schools including: the Stern School of BusinessLangone HealthWagner Graduate School of Public Service, and NYU research centers including the Center for Urban Science and Progress and the Center for Connected Mobility C2SMART

This program is aligned with the vision and commitment of the university to work within the ‘city as a lab’ to accelerate the field deployment of innovative solutions to emerging urban needs. Areas of study include sustainability and climate action, infrastructure and resilience, public health and equity. This interdisciplinary laboratory of urban research and innovation brings together expertise and the research excellence of NYU faculty in New York as well as our global campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, and study abroad sites in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Florence, and Prague. Drawing from the expertise of the Urban Faculty across the university, we have built a unique and competitive interdisciplinary educational environment based on the following disciplinary pillars:

  • Data Science & Informatics
  • Communication and Information Science
  • Social Studies, Health, and Policy
  • Systems Engineering
  • Economics, Finance, and Planning                                 

The program is available to students with diverse educational backgrounds pursuing their studies across disciplines, including Engineering, Environmental Science, Architecture, Urban Planning, Computing, Data Science, Systems Science, Economics, Finance, Public Health, Public Policy, and Law. Development of skills in mathematics, statistics, and programming is included in the course of study, depending on the need associated with the student’s dissertation topic.


Application Requirements

  1. Master’s or Bachelor’s degree from an accredited program in physical and mathematical sciences, social sciences, or engineering (other fields upon approval of program administrator).
  2. Minimum Master’s and Bachelor’s degree GPA of 3.5/4.0, and 3.0/4.0, respectively.
  3. Submission of GRE, and English language proficiency test scores (when applicable).

An applicant who has not yet earned a master’s degree may be directly admitted into the Ph.D. program with the written approval of the program director. Applicants with a master’s degree in any discipline other than Master of Science may be required to have prerequisites in the subjects listed below:

  • Calculus with analytic geometry
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Introduction to computer programming

In addition to these degree requirements and the NYU Tandon general admission requirements, acceptance to the program will depend on (1) academic excellence, (2) research interests congruent with areas of urban scholarship and faculty research at NYU including the global campuses, and (3) positive recommendations (e.g., from former employers or research advisors).

Note: Application and/or admission to the program does not require prior identification of a research advisor. Acceptance to the program is not automatically accompanied with financial support.


Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. curriculum includes 54 credits of graduate coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree and 21 credits of dissertation research, totaling 75 credits. The student may use 30 credits from an approved Master’s degree completed within 10 years of admission to the program, as well as 18 additional graduate credits subject to approval of the program director. The program also includes a qualifying exam, a research proposal exam, and the dissertation defense.

To earn a doctoral degree in Urban Systems, the candidate must meet the following requirements:

  1. 54 credits of graduate coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree (not including the Ph.D. dissertation), with cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale. Up to 6 credits of the 54 credits may be satisfied by individual guided studies, readings, and projects.
  2. Successful completion of the qualifying examination. The qualifying examination has a written section and an oral section. The written exam is based on the program’s three core courses, while the oral exam is designed to judge the students’ critical thinking. The qualifying exam is administered only once, regularly scheduled at the end of spring semester of the first year of the program.
  3. Passing of the dissertation proposal exam. This exam should be administered on or before the spring midterm of year two of the program, and signed off by the dissertation/guidance committee and submitted for the record within a week of the exam. Meeting this deadline is a requirement of the program.
  4. Completion and successful defense of 21-credits of dissertation. Dissertations must consist of original research that advances the state of the art in the research subject area and should result in the publication of at least three papers in a peer-reviewed journal (2 published by time of defense, another under review). It is expected that the student is the first author; it is also encouraged to engage the dissertation guidance committee members to the extent that they may be justified as co-authors.
  5. Submission of the Ph.D. dissertation following the University’s Guidelines for Dissertations. It is encouraged that the student’s publication be planned in advance such that they may be used as the backbone of the dissertation content.

Course Requirements

The program includes fifty-four (54) credits of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree and twenty-one (21) credits of dissertation research. A total of 12 of the 54 course credits are based on required courses, while the remainder are electives. The required courses include three Core courses (9 credits),CE-GY 7815 Urban Systems Seminar  (1.5 credits), and a Community Impact Project (1.5 credits) which takes place as an immersion, outside of the classroom/campus (see section on required courses). The program’s elective coursework is designed to be flexible in order to support the student’s research interests, educational background and career goals, offering an integrated education program that blends urban domains with supporting informatics content. Below are details on dissertation credits and minimum credit requirements.

a. CE-GY 998X Dissertation Level Research : Dissertation level research, up to 6 credits can be taken before passing the qualifying exam.

b. CE-GY 999X Ph.D. Dissertation in Civil & Urban Engineering : Dissertation level research. A minimum of 15 credits of CE-GY 999X must be taken after passing the qualifying examination.

c. Registration for CE-GY 998X is optional before registering for CE-GY 999X.

d. After the qualifying exam, registration for a minimum of 3 credits per term of dissertation work is required, and must be continuous (excluding summer semesters), unless a formal leave of absence is requested and approved.

f. Ph.D. candidates who have completed the 75-credit requirement, including all dissertation credits, will be permitted to maintain their student status by registering for Maintenance of Studies (MOS) every fall, spring and summer, up to the program completion (limited to total of 5 years from start of the program).

Required Courses

Other Required Courses (3 credits)

Electives (9 credits)

Below are only selected options, other courses are permissible; please consult the program director for feedback.

Urban Systems

Statistics and Data Science

Urban Informatics

Finance, Governance, and Society

These course are offered from other NYU schools outside of Tandon.

  • ELEC-GG 2840 Citizenship Culture: Art, Urban Governance 2 Credits
  • FINC-GB 3186 Project Finance and Infrastructure Investment  1.5 Credits
  • PADM-GP 4443 Financing Urban Government 1.5 Credits
  • PHD-GP 5902 Research Methods 4 Credits
  • URPL-GP 2612 Adapting the Physical City 3 Credits
  • URPL-GP 2625 Environmental Infrastructure for Sustainable Cities 3 Credits
  • URPL-GP 2645 Planning for Emergencies and Disasters 3 Credits
  • URPL-GP 2660 History and Theory of Planning 3 Credits

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam will be administered shortly after the completion of the second semester of the programs first year. The exam will be in two parts, written and oral. The written portion will be based on the program core courses, while the oral portion is meant to judge student’s skills in critical thinking and to assess the student’s ability to carry out independent research. This exam has a pass/fail grade, and may not be retaken.


Dissertation Advisor and Committee

Students declare a dissertation/research advisor during the fall semester of year two, shortly after passing the Ph.D. qualifying exam. The student and the advisor will subsequently select a dissertation guidance committee by start of the spring semester of the same academic year. The guidance committee will be composed of the research advisor and three other faculty members including one external advisor (from another institution or from an NYU school other than the primary advisor). The function of the dissertation guidance committee is to monitor and support the student’s progress on an ongoing basis, starting from the dissertation proposal planning. Declaration of the primary advisor and the dissertation committee is done by submitting the designated forms according to the timeline described above.

Research Proposal Examination

The research proposal examination, overseen by the dissertation guidance committee, must be passed by the spring midterm of program’s second year. The objective of this exam is to ensure the student has chosen an appropriate Ph.D. research topic and that the research plan is rigorous with a high likelihood of success. The results of each student’s proposal examination must be submitted by the primary advisor no later than one week following the exam, along with the proposed scope of work, the student and the dissertation committee copied. A memo on passing of this exam and the committee composition will be documented at the NYU Tandon graduate affairs office. Failing to pass this exam in a timely fashion may result in the student being placed under probation.

Progress Assessment

At end of each term, the student submits a progress report outlining the term’s academic progress. Subsequent to passing the proposal examination, the progress report should be signed off by the dissertation guidance committee prior to submission.

Dissertation Defense

With the dissertation research advisor and the dissertation guidance committee’s approval, the student will submit a written dissertation, in compliance with all requirements of NYU Tandon. It is expected that the student has published at least three articles in a reputable peer reviewed journal (two accepted and one under review). The dissertation must be provided to the guidance committee members who also serve as the examination committee, at least two weeks prior to the defense. The defense includes a public presentation by the student and with questions from the audience. Following the public presentation, the student meets privately with the committee members for comments and/or further questions. The committee makes a decision that is then transmitted, in writing, to the program director and there from to the registrar.

Interruptions in the Course of Study

Given unforeseen circumstances that warrants an interruption in the course of study, the student may request a leave of absence, term withdrawal, or total withdrawal. Further information on leave of absence may be found HERE.

Application for Graduation

Students should apply for graduation via NYU Albert. The application must be completed before the deadline set by the Registrar’s office, which can be found on the NYU Academic Calendar.

For further information, contact the Urban Systems Ph.D. Program Director
Masoud Ghandehari, Ph.D.

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