Master of Science in complex systems science

Complex adaptive systems science focuses on the behavior and consequences of highly interactive and networked systems by investigating the common principles underlying these diverse structures. The program will focus on the general theoretical foundations, modeling methods and a broad overview of application domains.

The Master of Science in complex systems science is currently offered through ASU Online.  Complex systems are at the core of all real-world challenges, including health, sustainability, engineering, economics, urban and social systems, and basic sciences. Expertise in complexity empowers graduates to contribute to practical and theoretical solutions in multiple fields, thus fitting with ASU’s charter to advance research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural, and overall health of the communities it serves. Students will engage in different learning modalities, including practical exercises and guided research projects.

Learning outcomes

Complex adaptive systems science concepts and tools serve as a common language to promote interdisciplinary collaborations needed to address 21st-century intellectual and societal challenges. This concentration helps students become fluent in the common language of complexity while also ensuring that they receive a solid foundation in the domain knowledge of existing academic disciplines. By embedding an understanding of CASS-relevant approaches into scientific research and discovery, this program seeks to transform science. It also promotes the development and testing of more robust theory and more sophisticated methods by applying CASS-enabled science in numerous research settings. The result is a deeper understanding of the nature and dynamics of CASS, grounded in concrete examples and applications rather than abstract theory.


A total of 30 credit hours are required to complete this program:

Courses and electives

The required foundational and core methods courses provide all students in the program with a common understanding of key theory and concepts of complex adaptive systems science (CASS) and expertise in the advanced methods needed to apply CASS approaches in diverse fields. 

Building on this fundamental base, students can then gain in-depth knowledge of how CASS approaches can be used in specific research and applied domains. Finally, students will have the opportunity to design and complete an applied project in a real-world context guided by a faculty mentor. 

Required foundation courses: must take all three (9 credit hours)

  • CAS 501 Fundamentals of Complex Systems Science: Evolution (3 credits)
  • CAS 502 Fundamentals of Complex Systems Science: Computation (3 credits)
  • CAS 503 Fundamentals of Complex Systems Science: Collectives  (3 credits)

Required core methods courses: choose at least two (6 credit hours)

  • CAS 520 Methods for Complex Systems Science: Agent Based Modeling (3 credits)
  • CAS 521 Methods for Complex Systems Science: Network Analysis (3 credits)
  • CAS 522 Methods for Complex Systems Science: Dynamical Systems (3 credits)
  • CAS 523 Methods for Complex Systems Science: Statistics and Dimensionality Reduction (3 credits)

Elective courses: choose three (9 credit hours)

  • CAS 540 Complex Socio-Ecological Systems (3 credits)
  • CAS 541 Complex Urban Systems (3 credits)
  • CAS 542 Sustainability as a Problem of Complexity (3 credits)
  • CAS 543 Complexity Economics (3 credits)
  • CAS 544 Innovation in Complex Systems (3 credits)
  • CAS 545 Disease as a Complex System (3 credits)
  • CAS 546 Bio-Inspired AI and Optimization (3 credits)
  • CAS 547 Sense-Making Complexity: Multimodaly Representing (3 credits)
  • Can include methods courses beyond the required two. 

Applied project (6 credit hours)

  • CAS 593 Applied Project (6 credits)

For specific course descriptions please use ASU Catalog Search: (You’ll first need to log on to My ASU.)

Have a question about the Master of Science in complex systems science?

Future Student

Future ASU Online Student