Energy Systems and Climate Change

Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 quarters

Taught by

physics, math, astrophysics


Good reading skills, decent writing skills, and a willingness to work in teams and use computers for online assignments and information will be necessary. No math or science prerequisites for fall quarter; mastery of algebra is essential for success in winter quarter—we will not teach algebra, but will build on it. Students should have some college-level science (there is no physics prerequisite).

This interdisciplinary program will study how energy is harvested and transformed, used or abused by humans. We will explore interactions between natural systems and human systems to understand global changes currently affecting the Earth system. What is the evidence for, what are the consequences of, and what can be done about global warming? How can we find our personal roles in addressing the challenges facing Earth and its inhabitants?

We will study solutions ranging from renewable energy to sustainable farming and (insert your idea here). Our approach is based in natural science, with an emphasis on critical thinking. This challenging and rewarding two-quarter program will include lectures and workshops by faculty and guest lecturers; seminars on books and articles; inquiry-based writing and peer feedback; qualitative and quantitative reasoning and problem solving; and hands-on research projects in spring, to engage our inquiry and learning together.

In fall, our work will include research planning for students interested in more advanced studies in spring. Every student will write several short inquiry-based essays, and will respond to peers' writing, in addition to participating in face-to-face seminars. Small teams will meet at least twice weekly to discuss readings and prepare for class together. Students will make presentations in class on current topics of interest, and teams will facilitate discussions. No mathematical or technical design texts or prerequisites are required in winter quarter.

Our efforts in winter will include more challenging quantitative work, including research projects. Every student will write several short inquiry-based essays, and will respond to peers' writing, in addition to face-to-face seminars. Students will build on quantitative problem solving begun together in the classroom. Small teams of your choice will meet weekly to discuss readings and prepare for class together. Students will do research projects, make presentations in class and at regional meetings, and write research reports. Research projects typically range from greenhouse gas reduction projects to sustainable energy, agriculture, building, or urban planning.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

energy, physics, environment, climate, sustainability, teaching, farming, engineering, and natural science.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


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Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online (F), Hybrid Online Learning 25 - 49% Delivered Online (W)

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$100 in fall and $150 in winter for registration fees and overnight field trips.

Upper Division Science Credit

Upper division credit is available winter quarter for students completing all work on time with upper division quality.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10070

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Accepting New Students

Signature Required

New students must pass final exam from Winter Energy Systems and Climate Change by week 11 of winter quarter. Email Zita by week 10 for the exam.

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 20032

Go to to register for this program.

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