Stochastic Processes - MA836

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 15 (7.5) PROF J Zhang







Introduction: Principles and examples of stochastic modelling, types of stochastic process, Markov property and Markov processes, short-term and long-run properties. Applications in various research areas.

Random walks: The simple random walk. Walk with two absorbing barriers. First–step decomposition technique. Probabilities of absorption. Duration of walk. Application of results to other simple random walks. General random walks. Applications.

Discrete time Markov chains: n–step transition probabilities. Chapman-Kolmogorov equations. Classification of states. Equilibrium and stationary distribution. Mean recurrence times. Simple estimation of transition probabilities. Time inhomogeneous chains. Elementary renewal theory. Simulations. Applications.

Continuous time Markov chains: Transition probability functions. Generator matrix. Kolmogorov forward and backward equations. Poisson process. Birth and death processes. Time inhomogeneous chains. Renewal processes. Applications.

Queues and branching processes: Properties of queues - arrivals, service time, length of the queue, waiting times, busy periods. The single-server queue and its stationary behaviour. Queues with several servers. Branching processes. Applications.

In addition, level 7 students will study more complex queuing systems and continuous-time branching processes.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

48 hours

Method of assessment

75% Examination, 25% Coursework

Indicative reading

Ross, S.M. (1996) Stochastic Processes. New York, Wiley.
Breuer, L. and Baum, D. (2005) An introduction to Queueing Theory and Matrix-Analytic Methods. Springer, Dordrecht.
Jones, P.W. and Smith, P. (2001) Stochastic Processes: An Introduction. London, Arnold.
Karlin, S., Taylor, H.M. (1998) A First Course in Stochastic Processes. 3rd Edition, Academic Press, London.
Ross, S.M. (1970) Applied Probability Models with Optimization Applications. Holden-Day, San Francisco.
Cox, D.R. and Miller, H.D. (1965) The Theory of Stochastic Processes. Chapman & Hall/CRC.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the level 7 module students will be able to:

1 demonstrate systematic understanding of the concepts involved in stochastic modelling;
2 demonstrate the capability to solve complex problems using a very good level of skill in calculation and manipulation of the material in the following areas: random walks, discrete and continuous time Markov chains, queues and branching processes;
3 apply a range of concepts and principles in stochastic modelling in loosely defined contexts, showing good judgement in the selection and application of tools and techniques.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the level 7 module students will be able to:

1 work competently and independently, be aware of their own strengths and understand when help is needed;
2 demonstrate a high level of capability in developing and evaluating logical arguments;
3 communicate arguments confidently with the effective and accurate conveyance of conclusions;
4 manage their time and use their organisational skills to plan and implement efficient and effective modes of working;
5 solve problems relating to qualitative and quantitative information;
6 make effective use of information technology skills such as online resources (Moodle);
7 communicate technical material effectively;
8 demonstrate an increased level of skill in numeracy and computation;
9 demonstrate the acquisition of the study skills needed for continuing professional development.

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