The Institute for Systems Research was founded in 1985 as the Systems Research Center at the University of Maryland and Harvard University. We were established by a National Science Foundation grant as one of NSF's first six Engineering Research Centers. Dr. John Baras was our first director.
ISR’s initial driving motivation was to advance the efficient design and control of complex, large-scale, spatially distributed engineering systems. Such systems operate at multiple time-scales and under multiple criteria, performing complex functions in high-tech services, government agencies and industry. A hub of interdisciplinary idea exchange, ISR has been instrumental in creating the tools and systems that propel innovation and tackle society’s biggest challenges.
The early pioneers of ISR recognized that innovative, complex systems required careful coordination—a synthesis of systems control, communications, manufacturing, and information processing—and ISR quickly became known for its expertise in devising these integrated systems. Industry collaboration, which began with a handful of projects for DuPont in the 1980s, informs much of the work at ISR and has led to the development of new technologies and processes for industry and federal agency benefit.
Over the years, our research has changed from a process-based philosophy to one that’s quantifiable, relying on models and tools for design exploration. We have diversified our intellectual reach to deliver discoveries, concepts, and inventions that advance the complex constructs of our world. Today, in addition to our founding competencies in control, communications, manufacturing, and computing, ISR has research interests in artificial intelligence, energy, information theory, micro and nanosystems, neuroscience, operations research, robotics, and systems engineering methodologies.
As we approach our fourth decade, ISR has already nurtured several generations of systems-savvy alumni, who are in turn making a difference in their own professional lives in academia, industry and government. Our research continues to anticipate and keep pace with the evolution of systems science, technology and tools, and we’re working to make sure ISR’s systems thinking continues to make push the boundaries of what is possible far into the future.
Whether you are a student, an academic researcher, or a professional in industry or the government, we invite you to join us!