Doctoral Track

Urban Science: Complexity, Informatics, & Sensing

A holistic approach to improving cities

NYU Center for Urban Science + Progress (CUSP) is introducing an interdisciplinary doctoral track in Urban Science: Complexity, Informatics, and Sensing. The new track offers a collaborative and inclusive environment to engage PhD students enrolled in a variety of doctoral programs at NYU Tandon with an interest in convergent research in urban science. The doctoral track will facilitate the creation of multidisciplinary, cross-departmental groups of researchers with different backgrounds and methodological interests, united by their interest in urban science and its applications.

Doctoral track students will engage with CUSP’s urban science faculty, experts in methodological aspects pertaining to complexity (dynamical systems, multi-agent systems, network science, and risk engineering), informatics (AI, machine learning, and robotics), and sensing (Internet of Things, smart infrastructure, wireless). 

Applications for the Spring 2023 cohort of the doctoral track are now closed. 

Connecting the Pieces

The field of urban science requires input from many different kinds of stakeholders. Reflective of that, this track welcomes students from all academic backgrounds to come together to pursue their passions for solving complex urban problems. Our goal is to transcend the modularity of different academic disciplines in order to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and create an additional mechanism for incubating new research.

Maurizio Porfiri, PhD
CUSP Director
Institute Professor

Who should apply?

The doctoral track is specifically designed for students who want to specialize in urban science through a cohesive array of in-class and experiential learning activities, while pursuing their PhD at NYU Tandon.

To participate in the track, students must be enrolled in one of the doctoral degree programs listed below:

Program Highlights

Academically Inclusive

A unique opportunity to expand beyond traditionally narrow academic pathways and develop a broad perspective at the intersections between disciplines.

Demonstrate Unique Skills

Track students exhibit a distinct understanding and ability to impact the health, wellness, and daily lives of urban populations by devoting a part of their dissertation towards research with an urban focus.

Engage with Industry Leaders

Through the Urban Science Colloquium, students will meet with guest speakers and industry professionals to gain practical knowledge about timely topics.


The doctoral track has the following requirements for completion:

  • Nine elective credits to be chosen from a list of urban science courses offered at CUSP
  • A mandatory 0-credit “Urban Science Colloquium” seminar course offered at CUSP
  • A significant component of the doctoral dissertation dedicated to urban science and related methodological aspects in complexity, informatics, and/or sensing (the equivalent of at least six credits)
  • Membership of a core or affiliate CUSP faculty member in the dissertation committee

Elective Courses at CUSP

By taking electives at CUSP, students in the track gain a nuanced academic perspective that applies a unique urban focus to their existing doctoral studies. Students must take at least nine of their elective credits at CUSP.

Electives are categorized into three speciality areas: Complexity, Informatics, and Sensing. Students must focus on at least two of the specialties, by taking at least three credits (one course) in each of the chosen areas. Upon consultation with the Departmental Research Advisor and the CUSP Director, students may be able to replace a CUSP elective with a relevant course in their home department.

The CUSP courses offered for each area of focus include:

Complexity Courses
  • Complex Urban Systems
  • Disaster Risk Analysis and Urban Systems Resilience
Informatics Courses
  • Urban Spatial Analytics
  • Applied Data Science 
  • Machine Learning for Cities
Sensing Courses
  • IoT Security & Privacy: A Data-Driven Perspective
  • Monitoring Cities
  • Urban Sensing

Urban Science Colloquium

The Urban Science Colloquium is a dynamic and interactive seminar course that promotes understanding of the problems that city stakeholders face and identification of innovative urban solutions. Students participating in the track are required to be enrolled in the Urban Science Colloquium for each semester of their PhD studies. 

Throughout the course, students will focus on topical themes for 4 weeks at a time. Themes may change each semester to reflect changing societal issues, such as Violence Reduction Initiatives in Cities, Climate Change Resilience & Environmental Justice in Cities, Healthcare Equity & Access in Cities, and Applied Technological Infrastructure for Smart Cities. 

In each 4-week block, students will: 

  • Discuss two seminal papers on the emerging field of Urban Science with faculty, covering different theoretical and methodological perspectives from different disciplines at CUSP. 
  • Attend one lecture or workshop with professionals from NYC government, the private sector, and academia. 
  • Attend a presentation from one of their colleagues on their urban science research, bouncing ideas and building collaboration within the cohort. 
  • Whenever possible, students will actively participate in lived-experience sessions, in which enrollees will be able to gain hands-on experience on the issues faced by stakeholders.  

Urban Science Dissertation Component

Students in the track are required to devote a part of their dissertation credits (at least six credits) to research on urban science and related methodological aspects in complexity, informatics, and/or sensing.

CUSP Faculty Inclusion on Dissertation Committees

Students will be encouraged to assemble interdisciplinary doctoral committees, compatible with their individual program requirements, to ensure the scope of their dissertation aligns with urban science. Specifically, each doctoral committee must include a member from the core or affiliate faculty at CUSP.

How to Apply

Students who have matriculated into participating PhD programs at NYU may choose to join the track. To apply, fill out the form below with information about your current studies. CUSP will then reach out to your advisor to coordinate permissions and guidance. Once admitted to the track, students may begin enrolling in CUSP elective courses and the Urban Science Colloquium. Applications for the Spring 2023 cohort are now closed. 

Questions? Feel free to reach out to for more information.