Future undergraduate students

students at Waterloo

The department administers two Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) degree programs - systems design engineering and biomedical engineering.

All engineering students participate in the co-operative study program, alternating between study and work terms and graduating with valuable, practical experience that complements their academic work.

Options available to systems design students

Note: options often require taking extra courses during an academic term. Students are allowed to take one extra course during an academic term and must have an average of greater than 70% in each of the previous two academic terms.

How to apply

Interested in applying? Find out more information about how to apply to the Systems Design Engineering program.

Design thinking

In first year, systems design students engage in design workshops that involve devising solutions to problems.

Comparing Systems Design

In the early semesters the focus is on building general engineering knowledge which is different from the other engineering programs at Waterloo.

Compatibility quiz

Interested in systems design but you're still unsure what program your interests align with, we've built a program compatibility tool for you to use.

Waterloo EngChat program

Register for an EngChat and you'll have the chance to talk to one of our current Engineering students about the Engineering program and more.

Tours and Events

Join us for online events to learn about our programs, our campus, and our community. Learn more about becoming a Waterloo Warrior.

Program description: Systems design engineering

Program description: Biomedical engineering


Systems Design Engineering (SYDE) is a unique program that originated at the University of Waterloo over 50 years ago, with the intention of teaching students methods for designing virtually anything.

A system is an interacting combination of people, materials, tools, machines, software, facilities, and procedures designed to work together for some common purpose. Our students learn to employ a systems approach to design, looking at a given system as a whole before attempting to solve the problem, and seeing how small changes can have much bigger impacts.

In our program, there is a core concentration on methods of modelling, analyzing, and designing systems of all sorts. As well, upper-year students often concentrate on one of four main areas of study:

  • Human Systems Engineering
  • Intelligent Systems Engineering
  • Societal and Environmental Systems
  • Systems Modelling and Analysis

Another unique aspect of our program is the exposure to hands-on design projects, which begins in the first term of study. The ability to work as an effective member of a design team is central to the systems approach. Through such experience, SYDE students simultaneously develop their collaborative and management skills along with problem-solving and engineering skills.


Do you prefer to think outside the box?​

If you know that you want to be an engineer due to your technical orientation but you want to keep your opportunities to specialize open and are looking for a challenging program, then Systems Design Engineering may be for you! However, if you’ve always known that you want to design bridges or build a mechanical arm for a machine, you may be happier in a more traditional engineering discipline such as civil or mechanical engineering.

Are you a flexible thinker?

Design is about finding workable solutions for open-ended problems. An open-ended problem consists of being given a situation of concerns, generating solutions, and then selecting and defending the solution that you believe is best for the issue at hand. Alternatively, many people prefer to focus on problems where there is a single “right” answer.

Systems design students are comfortable dealing with ambiguity and defendable decision-making, and enjoy coming up with a variety of solutions to a design problem.

Are you a risk-taker?

Design is about taking calculated risks…because most designs do not work well the first time. In systems design we provide students with a variety of approaches to tackling real-world problems, and then challenge them to see how well they can apply what they have learned. From the student’s perspective, this means being willing to try new things and new ways of thinking about problems. Often, it entails starting on a solution and then making revisions to the approach when it doesn’t turn out as expected. Fortunately, we teach some methods for dealing with that too!

Are you active outside of classes?

The creativity and broad application inherent to systems design is often appealing to students with many extra-curricular interests, whether they participate in music, sports, clubs and committees, community work, or part-time jobs—anything that enables them to see the world from different perspectives. In addition to offering a lot of flexibility in elective courses—more than any other Waterloo Engineering program—we encourage students to participate in competitions, student teams, and other problem-solving and design activities.

SYDE Graduating Class Census - Not your typical Exit Survey

Many universities ask their graduating students to answer a few questions about how they found their program and university experience. For the past several years, volunteers from the SYDE graduating class have created a slide-style report to give a candid insight into how their classmates spent their time at Waterloo and their post-graduation plans. 

Systems Design & Biomedical Engineering videos

Remote video URL

Learn more about the Systems Design Engineering undergraduate program from Professor Lisa Aultman-Hall, PhD.

Remote video URL

Learn more about the Biomedical Engineering undergraduate program from Professor Maud Gorbet, PhD.

Remote video URL

See some of the best Waterloo Engineering highlights in the campus tour video.