Research in the System Design Optimization (SDO) Laboratory explores how engineering design decisions should be made that maximize system value when near and long term outcomes are considered. We do this by creating tools and methodologies that advancing the state-of-the-art in engineering design theory and design automation. Our products help engineers navigate the interdisciplinary challenges associated with designing consumer products and complex systems.


Why is this research important?

Engineers constantly balance tradeoffs. These tradeoffs result from the organizational, political and human interactions that serve to define the criteria under which the system operates. Our research is motivated by the fact that on a daily basis, even the most basic decisions require making tradeoffs to maximize the value of the design. Fundamental questions driving this work include:

  1. What is the right mix of products to offer because of variety in customer taste?
  2. What drives customer purchasing / adoption decisions?
  3. What is the relationship between system configuration/architecture and needs and preferences that change over time?
  4. What information is needed to make effective design decisions when considering a market systems context?


What tools do we use?

To address these challenges, we draw upon research in design theory, multiobjective / multidisciplinary optimization, customer preference modeling, and complex systems. Currently, the lab pursues five primary research directions:

  1. Designing complex engineered systems capable of reconfigurability, evolvability and resilience
  2. Demand modeling, product platforming, and mass customization
  3. Design of materials
  4. Product sustainability
  5. Improving engineering design education


Who has sponsored our research?



Who we are

The System Design Optimization Laboratory was founded by Dr. Scott Ferguson in 2008 when he arrived at NC State. Members of our lab work as a team, and we work to foster a collaborative, productive research environment. Where possible, Dr. Ferguson works with his students to identify research projects that fit within the lab vision and match their interest and passion.


Opportunities for new students

The SDO lab is always interested in finding motivated, ambitious PhD students who are interested in conducting research in the area of engineering design theory and design automation. Please contact Dr. Ferguson for further inquiries.