Health is a simple word to describe the functional state of the complex system that is a living organism. At the Center for Systems Science and Engineering we have created a nexus for the wide array of talents at Johns Hopkins University interested in understanding and advancing these complex systems. From optimizing and improving emergency health care delivery to developing a new artificial heart, Center for Systems Science and Engineering researchers and their collaborators bring a holistic approach to understanding the high-level context that is being addressed and an array of tools to explore and connect the components of the systems that interact with system health.

Systems thinking is foundational to understanding health and many aspects of health sciences. For instance, research on childhood obesity has shown that eating behaviors are influenced by interacting factors at the biological, community, and broader socio-economic levels. Systems science and engineering provide a suite of qualitative and quantitative methods that enables health science researchers to investigate such interactions with depth and rigor. In addition, systems models produce highly visual representations that can be effectively used to communicate complex ideas to policy makers and to guide the development of holistic, multi-level interventions.

During the past few years at Johns Hopkins, systems-inspired collaborative activities in health sciences have attracted new funding from NIH, CDC, NSF, and other foundations. Research projects range from streamlining clinical trials and community health care optimization to the design of citywide interventions for childhood obesity. Collaborations are both domestic and international, and aim to provide insights on health problems worldwide. Each application must be understood in its proper context but commonalities exist and systems tools often help researchers explore these connections as well. We invite you to learn more about our efforts and to join us in bringing systems solutions to our most important need: our health.


  • This project aims to model the number and time of patient discharges a hospital will have on a given day, thereby…

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  • The mission of the Clinical Trial Systems Project (CTSP) is to recommend and develop progressive strategies for the U.S. clinical trial system that would lead to rapid and cost-effective access of pharmaceuticals for patients. In our research work, we will explore alternative scenarios of stakeholder integration and collaboration, and we will place innovation at the center of new approaches to research and development.

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  • The Johns Hopkins Global Obesity Prevention Center is an example of the integration of research, education, and practice that the Systems Institute supports. The SI is leading the Education and Training Core of the Center, which will train cross-disciplinary research students in complex modeling of public health issues.

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  • Using techniques grounded in data mining and machine learning, we are developing frameworks for predicting the onset of chronic disorders using data from clinical and bimolecular screening tests.  Although applied here to autoimmune disorders, the approach is readily extendable to the predictive screening of other types of disorders. 

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Center for Systems Science and Engineering