David J. Singer

Associate Professor, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering


216 NAME


(734) 764-4509


Additional Title(s)

  • Undergraduate Program Chair
  • ABET Coordinator

Dr. David Singer is an Associate Professor in the Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering department at University of Michigan College of Engineering.

He is the director of the Advanced Naval Concepts Research Laboratory, director of the NAVSEA Ship Production Science Program, and co-director of the Naval Engineering Education Center (NEEC). He conducts research in the areas of ship design theory, design optimization, and ship production. To date Dr. Singer:

  • Has been selected for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) award;
  • Working with Professor Steve Ceccio created and Co-Directing the $50 million Naval Engineering Education Center;
  • Received over $9 million of research funding;
  • Secured a $5 million sole-source level of effort contract with the U.S. Navy;
  • Graduated 11 PhD students since 2011; • Institutionalized SBD within the U.S. Navy; and
  • Was Editor of The Journal of Ship Production and Design.


Dr. Singer is the sole faculty within the department responsible for teaching the required ship production portion of naval architecture and marine engineering curriculum. He teaches both required undergraduate (NA 260) and graduate (NA 562) courses in ship production. In 2006 Dr. Singer completed a major revision of NA 562. NA 562 was transformed from a low-quality shipyard operations course to a true graduate course that goes through the systematic description of the underlying behavior of manufacturing systems put into the context of shipbuilding. The course addresses shipyard and boatyard business and product strategy definition, operations planning and scheduling, performance measurement, process control, and improvement strategies.

Research Interests

Dr. Singer’s new research direction in the area of Complexity Theory and Network Science within the Naval ship design context is on track. This new area of research has recently been awarded an ONR grant totaling 2.4 million dollars. Additionally, Dr. Singer is currently pursuing opportunities to expand the newly developed Spectral Markov Decision Process framework to include methods that will enable rapid military engagement modeling within the early stage design of naval combatant design. Lastly, Dr. Singer is pursuing opportunities to expand his research to the automotive and aerospace domains.

Set-Based Design in Naval Ship Design
Dr. Singer has expertise in Set-Based Design (SBD) as applied to ship design. As a critical member of the Navy’s Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) program during its preliminary design, he educated the design team on SBD theory and managed the SBD process within the overall design effort. This was the first time SBD was employed in a Navy design acquisition program and Dr. Singer has been involved with the introduction and use of SBD in the Navy’s Ohio replacement program, CGx program and DDG 51 Flight III programs. Since the successful implementation of SBD on SSC, Dr. Singer has significantly advanced SBD methods. Drawing off his previous work in applying fuzzy logic agents to SBD, he extended the method by introducing Type-2 Fuzzy Logic to add consideration for uncertainty in the evaluation of the set range. Most recently, Dr. Singer applied design space mapping methods and Markov Decision Process methods to SBD. The combination of these two approaches improves a designer’s ability to understand how a decision to narrow the design space impacts the relationships among design variables and performance metrics.

Ship Arrangements
The University of Michigan Intelligent Ship Arrangements (ISA) system has been delivered and will become part of the U.S. Navy’s Rapid Ship Design Environment which is the main ship design and analysis software used by the Navy. Dr. Singer’s current ship arrangement research has shifted away from the current trajectory toward higher-fidelity 3-D layout models and re-vector toward a perspective that focuses on understanding and inherently respects the fundamental underlying relationships among elements within those models. This is being achieved through the use of network science to re-envision the layout problem from a new perspective. In this view, design relationships are information inputs into layout-related analyses rather than only post-processors for evaluating layouts. This is consistent with existing design processes where human designers attempt to keep relevant relationships in the back of their minds at all times to inform decisions.

Design Decision Frameworks
As stated earlier, Dr. Singer’s research is focused on one primary goal; “how can the design of complex Naval combatants be improved?” This has been achieved by focusing on how complex design teams interact and evolve a design as well as developing methods that bring traditional late-stage design activities into early-stage design. These goals are being achieved through the development of early-stage design decision frameworks. The current novel design evaluation frameworks are:

  • Network Theoretic Approach Design Framework
  • Ship-Centric Markov Decision Process Framework
  • Utility-Based Real Option Framework
  • Multidisciplinary Decision-Making Heuristic Framework
  • Dynamic Control of Flexible Ship Production Framework

Research areas:


  • 2014 Fellow of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers
  • 2014 Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Distinguished Service Award
  • This award is given for “dedicated personal service and/or technical contributions to the Society.”
  • 2007, 2009, 2013 Outstanding Faculty Member in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Quarterdeck Society (Naval Architecture Student Honors Society)
  • 2012 American Society of Naval Engineers Solberg Award
  • The Solberg Award, presented annually since 1967, is given to an individual who has made a significant contribution to Naval Engineering through personal research during the past three years.
  • 2010 Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering Award for Outstanding Accomplishment
  • 2007 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Program Award (YIP)


  • Office of Naval Research, “Distributed System and General Arrangements Design Utilizing Complexity Theory for the Analysis of Architecture Implications,” $2,439,215, June 2016 – May 2020, PI: David Singer, Participating Investigator: Professor Hans Hopman (Delft University of Technology), Professor David Andrews (University College London), Dr. Rachel Pawling (University College London), Candidate’s share: $1,414,449, Support 2 GSRAs
  • Michigan Engineering Services (Phase-I NASA STTR), “Fusion of Modeling and Simulation Credibility in Multidisciplinary Design,” $37,500, May 2015 – June 2016, PI: David Singer, Candidate’s share: $37,500
  • Office of Naval Research, “A Contextual Multipartite Network Approach to Set-Based Space Formulation for Naval Combatants,” $1,018,723, May 2014 – August 2019, PI: David Singer, Candidate’s share: $1,018,723, Support 2 GSRAs
  • Office of Naval Research, “Preliminary Ship Design General Arrangements Naval International Cooperative Opportunities in Science & Technology Program (NICOP) Project,” $352,873, July 2011 – December 2016, PI: David Singer, Candidate’s share: $352,873, Support 1 GSRA
  • Michigan Engineering Services (Prime Sponsor ONR), “Physiology Driven Ship Design of Advanced Naval Vessels for Mitigation of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss,” $499,589, October 2011 – August 2016, PI: David Singer, Co-PI: Dr. Paul Kileny, Candidate’s share: $386,000, Support 1 GSRA
  • Michigan Engineering Services (Phase-II ONR STTR), “Support for STTR Topic N06-T016 Advanced System of Systems Design Capability,” $900,000, November 2007 -April 2018, PI: David Singer, Candidate share: $900,000, Support 2