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Information for Students

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Faculty of Engineering

Title: Human Systems Concentration in Systems Design Engineering, MASc, PhD
Est: 1985
Granted last 3 years: MASc 13, PhD 5
Part-time: yes
Distance learning available: no
HFES student chapter: yes
Program: The emphasis of the program is a human factors engineering approach to improving the performance of humans in complex systems through engineering design. Cognitive engineering and user centered approaches to requirements specification are supplemented with techniques from human-computer interaction, visualization, and cognitive ergonomics to reach design solutions. Solutions are then evaluated with human factors methods such as experimentation and human performance modeling to assess viability in a systems environment. Domains of interest are usually complex systems such as aviation, air traffic control, transportation, military, power systems, education, or healthcare. Solution technologies may include the design of displays, collaborative systems, novel input devices, adaptive interfaces, and novel display environments large or small, and augmented reality systems.
Contact: Catherine Burns, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. West, Waterloo, ON Canada N2L 3G1, 519/888-4567 ext. 33903;,
Catalog: See

Deadline: February 1 deadline to start in the Fall term (Sep), June 1 deadline to start in the Winter (Jan), and October 1 deadline to start in the Spring term (May)
Fee: $100 (Cdn); One application with specific departmental requirements for Systems Design

GPA: 75% minimum average from an honors bachelor's program
GRE: n/a
Other: English language requirements
Previous research activity: high
Work experience: high
Extracurricular activities: medium
Letters of recommendation: high
Interview: medium

Students applying last year: 15
Accepted: 6
Entered program: 6
Openings/year: 6

Per term: $2,785.04 (Cdn, domestic), $6,665.04 (Cdn, international)

% receiving: 100
Amount per term: $5,666.66 (Cdn) MASc, $7,075.00 (Cdn) PhD, minimum
Available: Teaching assistantship, research assistantship
Apply: Before or concurrent with application for admission

MASc: 4 units, thesis, no comprehensive exams, languages, or practical experience required, 2 years typical
Nonthesis option: no
PhD: 3 units, dissertation with oral defense, comprehensive exams, no languages or practical experience required, 3 years typical

Required courses: Determined by supervisor
Electives (terms): User Centered Design (1), Interface Design (1), Cognitive Ergonomics (1), Collaborative Systems Design (1), Cognitive Engineering Methods (1), Human Factors Testing (1), Selected Topics in Human Systems (1)
Required courses outside department: none
Recommended courses outside department: Human Computer Interaction (1), User Interface Tools (1), Advanced Topics in Human Computer Interaction (1)
Offered: No nights or weekends, some summer courses
Class size: 5–60

Research facilities: A comprehensive R&D space shared by the 5 research lab groups. Lab equipment includes EEG/GSR sensors, a variety of simulators (UAV, flying, driving, military, financial), Oculus Rift, Google Glass, multi-touch tabletops, interactive large wall displays, ICU and other medical equipment, etc.
Teaching: Teaching assistantships are regularly available including opportunities in undergraduate human factors courses, TA application required
Current research: Cognitive engineering, virtual and augmented reality, collaborative systems, interface design, interaction design, human performance modeling, complexity on human performance, human factors in driving, situation awareness design

Active: 73% men, 27% women
First-year students: 5
Mean scores: n/a
Employment, past year's graduates: 50% academia, 50% industry

Catherine Burns, PhD 1998, U. of Toronto; HFES member; cognitive engineering, ecological interface design, cognitive work analysis, graphical interface design and visualization
Shi Cao, PhD 2013, U. of Michigan; HFES member; human performance and mental workload modeling, decision making, skill learning, fatigue, computational modeling, artificial intelligence, discrete event simulation, cognitive engineering, ACT-R, QN-ACTR
Stacey Scott, PhD 2005, U. of Calgary; collaboration, human-computer interaction, interactive large wall displays, multi-display environments, interaction design
Carolyn MacGregor, PhD 1993, U. of Toronto; HFES member; virtual reality, input devices, user centered design, usability
Jonathan Histon (adjunct), PhD 2008, MIT; complexity, human performance, air traffic control, simulation, training

[Updated January 2015]

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