Urban Systems, Ph.D. | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Urban Systems, Ph.D.

On Campus

Central park as viewed from a tall building at one end.

Request Information

The NYU Doctoral Studies 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 governments and public service agencies. The Ph.D. program expands upon the unique legacy of decades of collaboration in education and research, development and training among the NYU faculty and city governments and industries. This 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 the Center for Urban Science and Progress and the Center for Connected Mobility C2SMART

This program aligns with the vision and commitment of the university to work within the ‘city as a lab’ to accelerate field deployment of innovative solutions to emerging urban needs, including sustainability and climate action, infrastructure and resilience, and public health and equity. This interdisciplinary laboratory of urban innovation brings together expertise and research excellence of NYU faculty in New York as well as 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 a variety of educational backgrounds pursuing their studies across disciplines, including Engineering, Environmental Science, Architecture, Urban Planning, Computing, Data Science, Systems Science, Economics, Finance, Public Policy, Social Sciences, and Public Health. Mastery 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.

View Urban Faculty


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

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.


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. The program also includes a qualifying exam, a research proposal, 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 (not including the Ph.D. dissertation) in relevant areas of study beyond the bachelor’s degree, with an average grade of B or better (cumulative average of 3.0 or better on a 0-4 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. Composition of 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 regularly administered at the end of second semester of the program. If the student does not pass the qualifying examination as result of unforeseen circumstances such as an illness etc., the student may request a retake of the examination, to be carried out within three months of the original exam. In such cases, the student must submit an examination retake request to the program director (along with supporting documents) within 1 week of receiving results of the original exam.

  3. Approval of the dissertation proposal, which should be administered by end of February of year two of the program. The approved dissertation proposal signed by the dissertation committee is subsequently submitted to the program director.

  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 (2 published by time of defense, another under review) in a peer-reviewed journal. It is expected that the student is the first author, and it is entirely acceptable to have participation of dissertation guidance committee members as co-authors.

  5. Submission of the PhD dissertation following the University’s Guidelines for Dissertations.

The program includes fifty-four (54) credits of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree and twenty-one (21) credits of dissertation research. 12 of the 54 course credits are required and 12 are electives. The required courses include three Core courses (9 credits), an Urban Systems Studio (1.5 credit), and a Community Service Project (1.5 credits) which takes place 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 backgrounds, 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, can be taken before passing the qualifying exam.

b. CE-GY 999X: 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. Registration for a minimum of 3 credits dissertation (post qualifying exam) must be continuous (excluding summer semesters), unless a formal leave of absence is requested and approved.

e. Registration for 3 to 12 credits of dissertation per semester is permitted. In the final semester of research.

f. PhD 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 and spring (and summer) until they defend.

Core Courses

Urban Infrastructure Systems; CE-GY 784

Monitoring Cities; CE-GY 6053

Introduction to Applied Data Science; CUSP-GX 7013


Other required courses

Urban Systems Studio CE-GY; 7815

Urban Systems Immersion for Social Good; CE-GY 7915 (Alternative: CP-GY 9941)

(Below are selected options, other courses are permissible subject to program director approval)

Urban Systems:

Building Information Modeling: (BIM) CE-GY 8383

Disaster Risk Analysis: CE-GY 7993/CUSP-GX 8006

Selected Topic - Climate and Energy; CE-GY 7713/TECH-GB 2384

Urban Ecology; ENYC-GE 2070

Water, Waste and Urban Environment; FOOD-GE 2036

Data-driven Mobility Modeling and simulation; TR-GY 7353

Forecasting Urban Travel Demand; TR-GY 6113 / CE-GY 804


Statistics and Data Science:

Artificial Intelligence I; CS-GY 6613

Algorithmic Machine Learning and Data Science; CS-GY 6763

Introduction to Data Science; DS-GA 1001

Probability and Statistics for data science; DS-GA 1002

Programming for Data Science; DS-GA 1007

System Optimization Methods; ECE-GY 6233

Statistics for Data Analysts; MG-GY 6193

Robotic Perception; ROB-GY 6203

Regression and Multivariate Data Analysis; STAT-GB 2301

Practicum in Applied Statistics: Applied Probability; APSTA-GE 2351


Urban Informatics:

Machine Learning for Cities; CUSP-GX 5003

Big Data Management and Analysis; CUSP-GX 6002

Applied Data Science; CUSP-GX 6001

Urban Spatial Analytics; CUSP-GX 7002

Big Data Analytics for Public Policy; CUSP-GX 2505/PADM-GP 2505

Urban Decision Models; CUSP-GX 7004

Large-scale Visual Analytics; CS-GY 6323

Geographic Information Systems and Analysis; URPL-GP 2618

Advanced GIS: Interactive Web Mapping and Spatial Data Visualization; URPL-GP 4650


Finance, Governance, Society:

Financing Urban Government; PADM-GP 4443

Project Finance and Investment; FINC-GB 3186

Citizenship Culture: Art, Urban Governance; ELEC-GG 2840

Adapting the Physical City; URPL-GP 2612

Planning for Emergencies and Disasters; URPL-GP 2645

Environmental Infrastructure for Sustainable Cities; URPL-GP 2625

History and Theory of Planning; URPL-GP 2660

Research Methods; PHD-GP 5902

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam will be administered shortly after the completion of the second semester. 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.


Students declare a dissertation/research advisor during the third semester, shortly after passing the Ph.D. qualifying exam in May of the first year. The student and the advisor will subsequently select a dissertation guidance committee at the beginning of fourth semester. This committee will be composed of the research advisor and two to 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 which should be approved during the fourth semester. Declaration of the primary advisor and the dissertation committee is done by submitting their names to the Urban Systems Ph.D. Program Director by the above-mentioned times, notifying all parties involved.

The Research Proposal examination, overseen by the dissertation guidance committee and based on a dissertation proposal and research plan, must be passed before the end of fourth semester. 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 and has high likelihood of success. The results of each student’s proposal examination must be submitted by the primary advisor to the program director 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 delivered by the program director to the Registrar of NYU Tandon in writing, no later than one week following the receipt of results. Failing of the exam will lead to intervention by the program director and may result in placing the student in probation.

Subsequent to passing the proposal examination, and at end of each term, the student submits a progress report to the program director, outlining progress of the proposed plan including the specifics for that term. These reports are reviewed by the dissertation guidance committee prior to submission, will ensure tracking of the student progress at end of each term, where comments by members of the committee are included.

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. The dissertation must be provided to the dissertation guidance committee members, who also serve as the examination committee, at least two weeks prior to the defense. The defense includes a formal, public presentation by the student, with the program director present and with questions from the audience. Following the public presentation, the student meets privately with the committee members for questions. The committee makes a decision that is then transmitted, in writing, to the program director and there from to the Registrar.

Application for Graduation

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