A Big Picture Approach at EPP

Winter 2007

As the newly appointed program chair for the systems engineering and technical management programs in the Whiting School’s Engineering Programs for Professionals (EPP), Kenneth Potocki sees the value of taking a big picture approach.

“Systems engineering has become a widely appreciated discipline with the recognition that we need to provide effective solutions to the entire problem and not to some subset of the problem,” says Potocki, who has served on the faculty of the Whiting School for more than 30 years. “A systems engineer looks at what the solution needs to be, as opposed to a narrower view of particular details within the system. This is especially important as engineering projects continue to increase in their complexity, combining a diverse number of engineering fields within one project.”

Potocki should know. Until September, he was the Applied Physics Laboratory’s (APL) programs manager for the multimillion-dollar Living With a Star (LWS) program. As part of the NASA project, APL is developing two satellites known as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, which will study how the sun interacts with Earth’s radiation belts.

Potocki believes that the cost-effectiveness of taking a systems-wide approach is one reason for the growing demand for systems engineers in both government and industry. It’s also why he’s such a proponent of the field.

EPP currently offers a master’s degree, graduate certificate, and advanced certificate for post-master’s study in systems engineering, with a total enrollment of 473 students. Since systems engineering is an experience-based subject, the program makes use of practicing professional systems engineers, primarily from APL, as instructors.

Looking toward the future, Potocki aims to increase course offerings, recruit students from other fields into the program, and extend the geographic reach of the program by offering courses online. “There are a lot of people who could benefit from the systems engineering discipline,” says Potocki, who will continue teaching at EPP. “The application of what we can do is unbounded.”