Clark School Home UMD

About the Institute for Systems Research


The Institute for Systems Research is a permanent, interdisciplinary research unit within the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Since its beginnings as one of the National Science Foundation's original Engineering Research Centers in 1985, ISR has been at the international forefront of interdisciplinary research and education in the system sciences and systems engineering. ISR attained permanent institute status at the university in 1992 and graduated from the NSF program in 1996. ISR's founding director was Dr. John Baras.

ISR is home to nearly 80 faculty and other researchers from 14 departments and four colleges across the University of Maryland. We believe teams of researchers with diverse backgrounds are needed to address society’s most important and challenging problems.

Today’s frontiers of engineering and biological system development have expanded because engineers have the tools to support analysis and design. ISR was one of the pioneers creating these tools, which address the need to analyze and simulate new types of automated, distributed, adaptable, resilient, extensible and economically competitive systems.

Our basic research has resulted in many new algorithms and sophisticated models for decision making and control (the sense-decide-actuate lifecycle), communications, and computing needed to model and design engineering systems that are highly automated, autonomous and distributed. New approaches to the planning and multi-objective optimization-based design of engineering systems also have been developed.

Because large-scale science requires systems engineering and, conversely, systems engineering and implementation of modern real-world systems doesn’t occur without good systems science, ISR develops both basic solution methodologies and tools for systems problems in a variety of different areas. Our advances in the system sciences have been driven by a wide range of complex applications, which have changed over time. ISR’s current main research areas are:

  • Communication systems and networks
  • Control systems and methodologies
  • Neuroscience and biology-based technology
  • Micro and nano devices and systems; robotics
  • Design, operations and supply chain management
  • Systems engineering methodologies
  • Computing, speech, artificial intelligence, data mining

ISR research expenditures totaled $19 million in 2012. Its funding comes from federal sources such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology; as well as our research partnerships with industry and the Maryland state government.