Cliff Whitcomb

Clifford Whitcomb

Professor of Practice
Systems Engineering
632 Frank H.T. Rhodes Hall


Dr. Clifford Whitcomb is a Professor of Practice in the Systems Engineering Program at Cornell University. He was previously a Distinguished Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Dr. Whitcomb was the Chairman of the Systems Engineering department and Director of Wayne E. Meyer Institute of Systems Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School. Dr. Whitcomb has more than 35 years of experience in defense systems engineering and related fields with over 23 years of experience in academia. He has been a principal investigator for the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research, Office of the Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of the Navy and the Veteran’s Health Administration. He is a Fellow of two engineering professional societies, the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME). He has served on the INCOSE Board of Directors. He was previously a Professor and the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Endowed Chair in Shipbuilding and Engineering in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, as well as a Professor of Engineering Management, at the University of New Orleans, a senior lecturer and the Director of the Systems Engineering Certificate Program within the Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM) and System Design and Management (SDM) Programs at MIT, as well as an Associate Professor in the MIT Ocean Engineering Department. He is a co-author of “Effective Interpersonal and Team Communication Skills for Engineers” published as part of an IEEE Series by John Wiley and Sons. He is a retired naval officer, having served 23 years as a submarine warfare officer and Engineering Duty Officer.

Research Interests

Dr. Whitcomb’s research experience includes digital engineering, set-based design, design thinking, systems thinking, model-based systems engineering, naval construction and engineering, engineering competency development, and leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills development for engineers, multidisciplinary design optimization, multiple criteria decision making, naval construction and engineering, Six Sigma, Design for Six Sigma, naval surface combatant and submarine design and production, robust design and production, submarine propulsion systems, and electric power systems engineering.

Teaching Interests

Dr. Whitcomb’s teaching experience includes systems architecture, model-based systems engineering, digital engineering, fundamentals of systems engineering, fundamentals of engineering project management, systems suitability, systems analysis and assessment, systems verification and validation, systems integration, system-of-systems engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering, ship production, engineering teaming and communications, as well as curriculum development for several systems engineering programs.


Service Interests

  • Editor-in-Chief of the journal Systems Engineering
  • Member, Editorial Board of the journal Systems
  • Chair, Competency Working Group, International Council of Systems Engineers (INCOSE)
  • ABET Coordinator, Naval Postgraduate School

Selected Publications

  • Dullen, Shawn, Verma, Dinesh, Blackburn, Mark, Whitcomb, Clifford. Survey on set-based design (SBD) quantitative methods. 2021. Systems Engineering. Volume 24, Issue 5.
  • Parnell, Gregory, Kenley, C. Robert, Whitcomb, Clifford, Palanikumar, Karthikeyan. System design and engineering trade-off analytics: State of the published practice. 2021. Systems Engineering. Volume 24, Issue 3.
  • Wilhelm, Christopher, Erin Thompson, Kristen Giammarco, and Clifford Whitcomb. "System Architecture Practices to Facilitate Department of Defense Technology Transfer." 2019. The Journal of Technology Transfer 1: 1-13.
  • Whitcomb, C. A., Hernandez, A. D.S. Engineering Reasoning in Set-Based Design. 2019. Naval Engineers Journal, American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE). Vol. 131, No. 1.
  • Specking, E., Whitcomb, C. A., Parnell, G., Goerger, S., Pohl, E.. Literature Review: Exploring the Role of Set-Based Design in Trade-Off Analytics. 2018. American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE). Vol. 130, No. 2.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE)
  • Fellow of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME)
  • Distinguished Professor, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, 2018
  • Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Naval Postgraduate School, 2011
  • Wayne E. Meyer Award for Teaching Excellence, Naval Postgraduate School, 2017 and 2022


Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering), University of Maryland, College Park, 1998
Naval Engineer Degree and S.M. (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Massachgusetts Institute of Technology, 1992
B.S.E. (Nuclear Engineering), University of Washington, 1984