PhD Concentration CASS

The Complex Adaptive Systems Science concentration, offered on ASU’s Tempe campus, is integrated with diverse university-wide research and emphasizes the value of a complex adaptive systems perspective when seeking solutions to critical societal issues. Complex adaptive systems science is the study of interactive and dynamic systems that learn and change over time.

Complex system behaviors are often said to be emergent and subject to self-organization, which makes them more difficult to predict. Such examples can include studying the long-term changes in epidemics, land degradation, urban growth, natural disasters and their impact. The concentration is open to students who have been accepted to doctoral programs in the School of Sustainability, the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and the School of Life Sciences.

Students’ career opportunities will be enhanced by combining fluency in the common language of complexity with a solid foundation in the domain knowledge of existing academic disciplines. There is a growing need for scientists to be able to work and collaborate in an increasingly interdisciplinary context.

The Complex Adaptive Systems Science concentration is available in the following degree programs:

This interdisciplinary graduate program helps train the next generation of scientists in advanced concepts and methods needed for approaching diverse phenomena in the social and life sciences as complex adaptive systems. This educational program is tightly integrated with diverse, ongoing, university-wide research on CAS at Arizona State University and emphasizes the value of a CAS perspective to providing science with better insight and a more active role in seeking solutions to many critical issues facing our society today. 

Learning outcomes

Complex adaptive system 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 ensuring they receive a solid foundation in the domain knowledge of existing academic disciplines. The program embeds an understanding of CAS-relevant approaches in scientific research and discovery, not only to transform science, but to promote the development and testing of more robust theory and more sophisticated methods in a variety of research settings. The result is a deeper understanding of the nature and dynamics of CAS, grounded in concrete examples and applications rather than abstract theory.

Graduates can expect to be able to: 

  • Integrate complexity thinking into a sphere-specific opportunity, resulting in adaptive outcomes.
  • Facilitate the integration of dynamical systems into design within their realm of interests.
  • Work theoretically and practically with key concepts in collective behavior, including emergence, scaling laws, dynamical modes and coarse-graining.
  • Translate abstract research questions into a precise language using theoretical and computational approaches.
  • Effectively communicate, both verbally and visually, how complexity science can offer real-world applications.
  • Apply foundational principles of complexity in physical, biological and social systems.
  • Promote the interdisciplinary collaborations needed to address 21st-century intellectual and societal challenges.
  • Become fluent in the language of complexity while receiving a solid foundation in the domain knowledge of existing academic disciplines.
  • Incorporate complexity into education for the next generation of scientists.
  • Develop innovative and sustainable solutions to the most pressing global challenges.

Curriculum

A total of 15 credit hours are required to complete this program: 12 credit hours of coursework and three credit hours of dissertation.

Requirements and electivesCredits
Core course3
Mathematics complexity3
Methods complexity3
Methods application3
Dissertation or research3
Total credits required15

Curriculum

Required core course (three credit hours)

  • CAS 570 (also cross-listed as ASM/BIO/SOS 570) Fundamentals of Complex Adaptive Systems Science (fall)

Choose one from the following mathematics of complexity courses (three credit hours):

  • AML 591 Probability Theory 
  • AML 610 Topics in Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences
  • APM 598 Mathematical Methods for Complex Adaptive Systems (spring)
  • ASM 591 Dynamic Modeling in Social and Ecological Systems

Choose one from the following complexity methods courses (three credit hours):

  • ABS 560 Ecological Modeling (spring)
  • AML 520 Agent Based Modeling
  • AML 591 Modeling in Game Theory (spring)
  • AML 612 Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences Modeling Seminar (spring)
  • ASM 591 Dynamic Modeling in Social and Ecological Systems
  • CSE 561 Modeling and Simulation Theory and Application (spring)
  • GIS 598 Local Statistical Modeling (fall)
  • PAF 591 Introduction to Policy Informatics
  • PUP 598 Modeling and Simulating Urban Environments
  • SOS 591 Agent-Based Modeling for Sustainability (fall)
  • SOS 591/AML 591/BIO 591 Ecological Modeling
  • CDE 598 Special Topics: Social Network Analysis

Choose one course in applying CASS approaches (three credit hours):

  • ANB 602 Current Issues in Animal Behavior (spring)
  • ASM 591/BIO591 Readings in Complexity (spring)
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 545 Populations: Evolutionary Genetics
  • BIO 591 Topics in Mathematics for Life and Sustainability Science
  • GLG 495/598 Environmental Systems Biology (spring)
  • PAF 591 Complexity in Public Policy & Management (spring)
  • PAF 691 Social Dynamics and Policy Informatics (fall)
  • PSY 576 Dynamics in Psychology
  • PSY 598 Dynamics in Perception, Action and Cognition (spring)
  • SES 591 The Origins of Life (spring)
  • SES 598 Environmental Systems Biology
  • SES 598 Fundamentals of Complexity (spring)
  • SOS 591 Adaptation Resilience Transformation
  • SOS 591 Applied Robustness Analysis in Social-Ecological Systems
  • SOS 598 Social Network Analysis 

Choose dissertation or research with CASS graduate faculty member (three credit hours)

  • AML/ASB/BIO/ESS/SOS 792 Research
  • AML/ASB/BIO/ESS/SOS 799 Dissertation

PhD Supervisory Committee

  • Concentrations: The chair or co-chair of the supervisory committee must also be a member of the CASS graduate faculty.

For specific course descriptions, please visit ASU Catalog Search here: https://webapp4.asu.edu/catalog/courselist [First log on to My ASU]

Plan of study (iPOS)

The interactive plan of study (iPOS) is the student’s official contract with their faculty advisor(s), SCAS and the university. It lists all the classes the student plans to take to complete the degree and members of the student’s supervisory committee.  The academic unit’s graduate support staff should be the primary contact regarding iPOS and degree requirements. The plan must contain degree requirements, such as core and elective coursework, and culminating experience for approval. 

Example plan of study for a complexity PhD concentration

Complexity graduate students have varying interests, and each program is designed for their specific educational and professional goals. In the following example we will utilize a Sustainability PhD with complex adaptive systems science concentration. Blanket hours are a student’s completed master’s degree. 

Required core (six credit hours)

TermSessionCourseClassDescriptionHRGrade
2020 FallCSOS 51055555Perspectives on Sustainability3.00A
2020 FallCSOS 52055555Research Design3.00A

Foundation electives (15 credit hours)

TermSessionCourseClassDescriptionHRGrade
Blanket Hours6.00
2021 SpringCBIO 598 55555Biodiversity Management3.00A-
2021 SpringCESS 50255555Political Ecology3.00A
2021 SpringCHSD 51555555Sci, Tech & Affairs3.00A

Solutions workshop electives (six credit hours)

TermSessionCourseClassDescriptionHRGrade
Blanket Hours3.00
2021 FallCSOS 79055555Reading and Conference3.00A

Open electives (21 credit hours)

TermSessionCourseClassDescriptionHRGrade
Blanket Hours21.00

Concentration (12 credit hours)

TermSessionCourseClassDescriptionHRGrade
2020 FallCSOS 59155555Applied Robustness3.00A-
2021 SpringCHSD 59855555Policy Informatics3.00A
2021 FallCASM 57055555Fundamentals of CAS 3.00B+
2021 FallCSOS 59155555Modeling Game Theory3.00A

Research (12 credit hours)

TermSessionCourseClassDescriptionHRGrade
2022 SpringCSOS 79255555Research3.00Y
2022 SpringCSOS 79255555Research3.00Y
2022 FallCSOS 79255555Research3.00Y
2022 FallCSOS 79255555Research3.00Y

Culminating experience (12 credit hours)

TermSessionCourseClassDescriptionHRGrade
2023 SpringCSOS 79955555Dissertation6.00
2023 FallCSOS 79955555Dissertation6.00

Program requirement (84 credit hours) Total hours (84)