2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Energy Systems and Climate Change


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

EJ Zita physics, mathematics, astrophysics
Fields of Study
agriculture, environmental studies, physics and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
energy, physics, environment, climate, sustainability, teaching, farming, engineering and natural science.

How is energy created and harvested, stored and transformed, used or abused? This program is a two-quarter study of ways energy is produced and changed, by nature and humans. This is a good program for students interested in environmental science, physics and sustainability, both mathematical and applied. We start with skill building and background study, and finish with major research projects related to energy, climate and sustainability.

We will study issues of energy generation and use in society and in the natural world. One goal is for students to gain a deeper understanding of issues involved in achieving a sustainable energy society. A primary goal is illustrate the power and beauty of physics and mathematics. We will examine climate change and global warming; energy science, technology, and policy; farming, environmental studies, and sustainability; and related topics.

We will study alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels, as well as conventional sources of energy such as hydro, nuclear, gas and coal. Fundamentals of energy generation will focus on the underlying physics. In seminar, we further explore social, political and/or economic aspects of energy production and use, such as environmental and food production concerns and policies, effects of the Sun on the Earth, energy needs of developing countries, etc. We will have a strong emphasis on sustainability studies.

While calculus is not a prerequisite, students who already know calculus can deepen their math skills by applying them to coursework or research projects. Students who do high quality calculus-based work may earn upper-division credit.

Student research projects are a major part of this program. Students choose a research question that interests them, then design and carry out their research investigations, usually in small teams. Research projects involve quantitative analysis as well as hands-on investigations. For example, research might include field work, energy analysis of an existing system (natural or constructed), and/or design of a new small-scale energy system, possibly with community applications. Past projects have included solar systems, energy generation from waste products, water purification for boats or farm composters, efficiency of campus buildings, analysis of wind and water systems, and more. Students may apply for grants for practical projects on campus.

Students interested in continuing good research projects into spring should discuss options with the faculty.

Online Learning
Hybrid Online Learning 25 - 49% Delivered Online (F), Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online (W)
Greener Store
Special Expenses
Possible field trip fees.
Internship Possibilities
Students who do good work in fall and winter may be sponsored in spring internships, especially when related to their research projects.
Upper Division Science Credit
Students who have recently had at least a full year of calculus, and who do sufficient high quality calculus-based work in this program, may earn upper-division credit.
May be offered again in
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 16th, 2011 This program will accept new enrollment with signature.