Principles of Modeling for Cyber-Physical Systems

University of Virginia
Essentially, all models are wrong but some are useful.[George E. Box]
This course is about building useful models.


This course is cross-listed with both Computer Science, and Systems & Information Engineering.
Course number: CS-6501-003 / SYS-6581-004

For Fall 2020 this course will be taught in an online asynchronmous manner.

About the course

Design of complex and reliable cyber-physical systems (CPS) requires the creation of mathematical models, both of the environment and of the system itself. Such models allow us to analyze, control, verify, and optimize a system’s performance. The modeling choice is largely dictated by the intended use of the model plus the intricacies of the underlying physical domain. This course will provide a solid foundation for understanding different modeling paradigms, and explore them through a deep dive and hands on implementation for three CPS domains: Energy, Medical, and Automotive cyber-physical systems. Students will come out of this course with advanced and transferrable knowledge of model-based design methods and tools, and will be ready for tackling multi-disciplinary systems projects. In addition, you will become domain experts in energy, medical, and automotive cyber-physical systems.


Ordinary differential equations. Prior experience working with MATLAB and Simulink. Some familiarity with Python. Mathematical maturity (e.g., you were comfortable in a Calculus, or Stat class or you didn’t panic in an Advanced Probability class)


This course does not have a midterm or a final exam. Spend your energy focusing on what you are learning, instead of worrying about your grade.

Although the material we cover is challenging, and the pace may seem overwhelming at times, we are confident that all students who put effort into this class and take good advantage of available help will do well. Students who do especially outstanding work in the course may be offered research positions in my group. The final grade is determined on the basis of completing module assignments.Each module is equally weighted.

The breakdown of module assignments is given below:

Module 1 - Energy CPS: Overall grade (1/3)

The grade breakdown within this module is as follows:

  • Assignment 1 (10%)

  • Assignment 2 (30%)

  • Assignment 3 (30%)

  • Assignment 4 (30%)

Module 2 - Medical CPS: Overall grade (1/3)

The grade breakdown within this module is as follows:

  • Assignment 5 (35%)

  • Assignment 6 (35%)

  • Assignment 7 (30%)

Module 3 - Automotive CPS: Overall grade (1/3)

The grade breakdown within this module is as follows:

  • Assignment 8 (30%)

  • Assignment 9 (35%)

  • Assignment 10 (35%)

That being said, if there is some combination of the above that demonstrates that you have gotten what we hope out of the class then you will receive a top grade.


I trust every student in this course to fully comply with all of the provisions of the University’s Honor Code. By enrolling in this course, you have agreed to abide by and uphold the Honor System of the University of Virginia, as well as the following policies specific to this course. All suspected violations will be forwarded to the Honor Committee, and you may, at my discretion, receive an immediate zero on that assignment regardless of any action taken by the Honor Committee. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the course Honor policy. If you believe you may have committed an Honor Offense, you may wish to file a Conscientious Retraction by calling the Honor Offices at (434) 924-7602. For your retraction to be considered valid, it must, among other things, be filed with the Honor Committee before you are aware that the act in question has come under suspicion by anyone. More information can be found at Your Honor representatives can be found at: Additionally, [Support Officer, if any enrolled], an Honor support officer enrolled in this class, is also available for questions.

Computer Failures

Computer failures (e.g. server failures, network failures, power outages, etc.) are a fact of life. Plan your project to be able to cope with this degree of uncertainty. Short failures will be considered to be part of the normal course of events. In the case of catastrophic failures (which last more than 12 hours), notify your teaching assistants.

Join Piazza

This term we will be using Piazza for class discussion. The system is highly catered to getting you help fast and efficiently from classmates, the TA, and myself. Rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza. If you have any problems or feedback for the developers, email
Find our class page at:

Students with disabilities or learning needs

It is my goal to create a learning experience that is as accessible as possible. If you anticipate any issues related to the format, materials, or requirements of this course, please meet with me outside of class so we can explore potential options. Students with disabilities may also wish to work with the Student Disability Access Center to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in this course, including official accommodations. Please visit their website for information on this process and to apply for services online: If you have already been approved for accommodations through SDAC, please send me your accommodation letter and meet with me so we can develop an implementation plan together.