Research & Innovation

SERC Launches the Helix Project, An Investigation into the “DNA” of the Systems Engineering Workforce

The Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) – a University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) representing the nation’s largest community of systems engineering researchers – has embarked on the Helix Project, a new initiative led by Stevens Institute of Technology to investigate the “DNA” of systems engineers in the defense community.

Sponsored by the DoD and the National Defense Industrial Association Systems Engineering Division (NDIA-SED), the Helix project seeks to answer important questions about the systems engineering workforce for the defense industry. Currently, a number of converging factors require government and defense industry employers to improve the effectiveness of their systems engineers.

First, many systems engineers in the defense workforce are nearing retirement and they will carry with them thousand of years of experience. Secondly, budgets and schedules are being dramatically compressed. Finally, as mission requirements demand ever more sophisticated and complex systems, the tools, processes and technologies that systems engineers must master keep changing ever more rapidly.

The Helix Project will collect two types of data from participating organizations: institutional documents and face-to-face interviews. Qualitative and quantitative research methods will be employed to analyze the data and to periodically report findings to the larger systems engineering community in an anonymous aggregated manner.  Helix will also inform government and defense industry employers about the impact of various workforce improvement efforts designed for systems engineers.

“This novel investigation will deepen our understanding of the systems engineering workforce and identify gaps, telling government and defense industry employers where to focus their investments,” said Dr. Art Pyster, distinguished research professor at the School of Systems and Enterprises (SSE), Chief Operating Officer of the SERC, and the Principal Investigator of the Helix Project.

The multi-year Helix Project began in November 2012, and data collection is currently underway. Initial findings will be reported beginning late 2013.

The Helix research team at Stevens includes Dr. Pyster, Dr. Stan Rifkin, Deva Henry, and Nicole Hutchison. Organizations are welcome to participate in the Helix project. Please contact Dr. Pyster at [email protected] for further information.