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

Urban Systems, Ph.D.

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NYU Doctoral Studies program in Urban Systems offers an interdisciplinary, educational, and research environment designed to meet the needs of students pursuing careers in academia, research organizations, local and national governments, and public service agencies. This program is administered by NYU Tandon in partnership with other NYU schools including Stern School of Business, Langone Health, and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and centers like the Center for Urban Science and Progress and C2SMART, as well as NYU’s global campus network such as NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. Drawing from the expertise of faculty associated with these entities, 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. 

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 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 resiliency, public health, and equity. This interdisciplinary laboratory of urban innovation brings together expertise and research excellence of NYU faculty in New York and global campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, as well as study abroad sites in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and Prague, offering an inclusive and globally impactful study program.


  1. Master  degree from an accredited program in physical and mathematical sciences, social sciences, or engineering (other fields upon approval of program administration)
  2. Minimum GPA of 3.5/4.0
  3. Submission of GRE scores
  4. Approval of the Urban Systems Program Admission Committee (PAC)

An applicant who has not yet earned a master degree may be directly admitted into the Ph.D. program with the written approval of the program admission committee.

Applicants with a master 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 the degree requirement, acceptance to the program will depend on (1) academic excellence, (2) research interests congruent with those of program faculty, and (3) positive recommendations (e.g., from former research advisors).

Find out more about admission 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 required coursework for the Ph.D. in Urban Systems is followed by 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, projects, and theses.
  2. Completion and successful defense of a 21-credit dissertation related to the area of study. 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 two papers in a strictly peer-reviewed technical journal related to the subject.
  3. Successful completion of the qualifying examination. The qualifying examination is a written session and an oral session. Composition of the written exam is based on any of the post-bachelor courses taken by the student, while the oral exam is designed to judge the student's critical thinking.

This exam may be taken as early as the end of the first year, and not later than the middle of the second year. In the case of failure, the right to a second examination within six months is at the discretion of the examination committee and the approval of the program director.

The program includes fifty-four (54) credits of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree and twenty-one (21) credits of dissertation research. The required graduate coursework is followed by a qualifying exam, a research proposal, participation in the university’s urban seminars, completion of a social service project, and the dissertation defense. 

In satisfying the basic PhD requirements, students must satisfy the two following conditions: 

  • Completion of Core Courses shown below, and
  • Minimum of two (2) courses from the list of Elective Courses.

Ph.D. level 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.

Urban Systems; CE-GY 7843 (3 credits)

Monitoring Cities; CE-GY 6053 (3 credits)

Principles of Urban Informatics; CUSP 5003  (3 credits)

Urban Systems:

Building Information Modeling; CE-GY 8383

Water, Waste & Urban Environment; GE 2036

Urban Ecology; GE 2070

Data-driven Mobility Modeling; TR-GY 7353

Forecasting Urban Travel Demand; TR-GY 6113


Statistics and Data Science:

Introduction to Data Science; DS-GA 1001

Regression & Multivariate Anal.; STAT-GB 2301

Applied Probability; APSTA-GE 2351

Statistics for Data Analysts; MG-GY 6193

Probability & Statistics; DS-GA 1002

Interactive Web Mapping; URPL-GP 465


Urban Informatics:

Machine Learning for Cities; CUSP 5006

Urban Big Data Management; CUSP 5008

Applied Data Science; CUSP-GX 6001

Urban Spatial Analytics; CUSP-GX 7002

Large-scale Visual Analytics; CS-GY 6323


Finance, Governance, Society:

Financing Urban Government; PADM 4443

Project Finance & Investment; FINC 3186

Culture: Art, Urban Governance; GG 2840

Adapting the Physical City; URPL 2612

Planning for Emergencies URPL 2645

Doctoral Research Methods; PHD-GP 5902


Students must choose a dissertation research advisor by the end of the first year, with the approval of the program committee. A dissertation guidance committee, composed of the research advisor and three other faculty members and one external faculty member) will be named with the approval of the program committee. The function of the dissertation guidance committee will be to monitor the student’s progress throughout the program.

A Research Proposal examination, overseen by the dissertation guidance committee and based on a dissertation research proposal and preliminary data, must be passed by the end of the third 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 and has high likelihood of success. The results of each student’s proposal examination will be delivered to the Registrar of NYU Tandon in writing, no later than one week following the exam.

The dissertation guidance committee will continue to meet once per year with the student for a review of progress, and will provide detailed feedback advice to the student. A report following each annual meeting must be filed with the program committee.

With the dissertation research advisor’s and the dissertation guidance committee’s approval, the student will submit a written dissertation meeting all requirements of NYU Tandon. The dissertation must be provided to the dissertation guidance committee members at least two weeks prior to the defense. The defense includes a formal, public presentation by the student, 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 Registrar.