Ph.D. in Sustainability

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PROGRAM OVERVIEW

GIS's Ph.D. in Sustainability degree was established in September 2008. This broadly defined multidisciplinary program is designed for students who are driven to become sustainability change agents within organizations world wide, including industry (executive management, product development, manufacturing & remanufacturing, supply chain management, and service), executive and legislative branches of government, nongovernmental agencies, academic institutions, professional associations, financial and investment communities, the indemnification industry, and legal profession.

Graduates will have skills in such diverse areas as development of sustainable product and manufacturing systems, industrial ecology, economics of sustainability, risk analysis of sustainable systems, and multicritera decision making. They will study methodologies such as life cycle assessment, environmental risk and impact assessment, design for the environment, pollution prevention, closed loop supply chain management, and product life assessment, and apply these in their research. The development of the Ph.D. program was funded in part by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

For more information on the development of sustainable education, including a discussion of RIT's program, please read the following article which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Sustainable University (PDF)

Click here for slides from the Spring 2014 Information Session

DEGREE INFORMATION

Click here for a flier on the Ph.D. program.

The Ph.D. program focuses on sustainable production systems — systems that create goods and services using processes that are: non-polluting; conserving of energy and natural resources; economically viable; and safe and healthful for workers, communities, and consumers. Coursework and research takes a systems level and interdisciplinary approach to solving seemingly intractable sustainability problems, as opposed to single disciplinary and locally optimized approaches destined to yield marginal positive impacts.

Students will have the opportunity to work with multidisciplinary faculty and researchers in numerous research centers, including GIS' Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery (C3R), an internationally-recognized leader for applied research in remanufacturing, the Center for Sustainable Production (CSP) dedicated to enhancing the environmental and economic performance of products and processes, the Center for Sustainable Mobility (CSM) focused on the evaluation of environmental and economic impacts of alternative fuel and vehicle propulsion technologies and the development of technologies for optimal life-cycle design, management, and modernization of large equipment systems, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) focused on enhancing the development and implementation of pollution prevention techniques, and the NanoPower Research Labs (NPRL) dedicated to the creation and utilization of nano devices and materials for power generation and storage.

Summary of Degree Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 60 semester credit hours of combined coursework and research. This includes a minimum of 24 semester credit hours of coursework and 24 semester credit hours of research. The core course requirements are:

    ISUS-600 Graduate Seminar
    ISUS-702 Fundamentals of Sustainability Science
    ISUS-704 Industrial Ecology
    ISUS-805 Technology Policy and Sustainability or approved substitute
    ISUS-806 Risk Analysis
    ISUS-808 Multicriteria Sustainable Systems Analysis
    ECON-810 Economics of Sustainability

Elective courses are selected in consultation with the student's advisor from a wide variety of courses offered by GIS or one of RIT's eight colleges. Graduation requirements include the successful completion of the Qualifying Exam, Candidacy Exam, and Final Examination of the Dissertation. The program's teaching, publication, and residency requirements also must be met.

Summary of Admission Requirements and How To Apply

An earned baccalaureate degree including at least one year of college science, one year of college mathematics (including calculus and statistics) is required. Admission decisions will be based on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), official transcripts, grade point average (3.0 or greater is required), recommendation letters (minimum two), personal statement, research interests, and TOEFL score for applicants whose native language is not English, and interviews with members of the faculty.

For registration and enrollment information, or to apply online, press the button below. For preferred consideration, apply by January 15.

Apply Online

For more information about graduate studies at GIS, contact:
Lisa Dammeyer, Sr. Staff Assistant
admissions@sustainability.rit.edu
585-475-7363

COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

     

  • ISUS-600  Graduate Seminar
    This is a required course for students admitted to the Sustainability Ph.D. program. Students will learn about current research in sustainable production systems from faculty and guest speakers. Topics pertaining to the development of plans of study and research preposals, as well as teaching skills, will be covered. (Enrollment in the Sustainability Ph.D. or Sustainable Systems M.S. program) Class 1, Credit 1 (F,S)
  • ISUS-619  Tools for Graduate Research
    This class will introduce graduate students to tools and software that will be of use in conducting, analyzing, and presenting their research. An introduction, highlights of key features, and the basics of operation will be taught for software aimed at: bibliographic referencing (e.g., Endnote, Latex), statistical analysis (e.g., Excel, SPSS, SAS), analytical work (e.g., Matlab, Mathematic, Maple), advanced plotting (e.g., Deltagraph, Illustrator, Origin), equation editing (e.g., Mathtype), and search engines (e.g., setting up RSS feeds, material property databases). Assignments will be direct applications to thesis / dissertation research. (Enrollment in the Sustainability Ph.D or M.S. program or the permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)
  • ISUS-700  Special Topics
    A critical examination of issues in some area of sustainability not covered in other Golisano Institute for Sustainability courses. Topic depends on specific offering. (Enrollment in Sustainability Ph.D. or M.S. in Sustainable Systems program or permission of Instructor) Class 3, Credit 3 (offered occasionally)
  • ISUS-701  Independent Study
    An independent project in sustainability not covered in the available courses. This project can be experimental research, literature review, or other appropriate work. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor. (Enrollment restricted to students in the Sustainability Ph.D. or Sustainable Systems M.S. program). Class 1, Credit 1 (F,S,Su)

  • ISUS-702  Fundamentals of Sustainability Science
    This course prepares students to conduct original research related to sustainable production and consumption systems and apply the scientific method in an integrative, team-based approach to graduate research. This course introduces the fundamental concepts of industrial ecology, ecological economics, ecosystem 11 health and social ecology that are essential to understanding the interaction of industrial and ecological systems. Successful students will understand multiple perspectives on sustainability such as strong and weak formulations, the importance of sustainability as an ethical concept and a life-cycle approach to organizing research related to sustainability. It is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. program. (Research experience and graduate standing recommended; enrollment in Sustainability Ph.D. program or Sustainable Systems M.S.; exceptions are by permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)

  • ISUS-704  Industrial Ecology
    Industrial ecology is the study of the interaction between industrial and ecological systems. Students in this course learn to assess the impact and interrelations of production systems on the natural environment by mastering fundamental concepts of ecology as a metaphor for industrial systems and the resultant tools from industrial ecology, including life-cycle assessment, material flow analysis, and energy and greenhouse gas accounting. This is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. program. (Research experience and graduate standing recommended; enrollment in Sustainability Ph.D. or Sustainable Systems program; exceptions are by permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)

  • ISUS-705  Technology Policy and Sustainability
    Public policy is a multidisciplinary field aimed at understanding how policy and regulation can be used to achieve certain social goals. These goals may include the notion of sustainability, whereby society’s present needs are met without compromising the ability to meet society’s future needs. This course introduces students to public policy and its role in building a sustainable society. The course places particular emphasis on: the policy process; the relationship among technology, policy, and the environment; and policy mechanisms for addressing market and government failures that threaten sustainability. (Enrollment in the Sustainability Ph.D. or Sustainable Systems M.S. program or permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (F) 12

  • ISUS-710  Sustainable Product Design
    The application of sustainability and product design methods. Lectures and projects will incorporate strategies such as: effective sustainability methods and life-cycle assessment; enhancement of product value and prolonged use; and balance between recycling, reusing and repurposing. Sustainable Product Design enables an interdisciplinary collaboration between Sustainability and Industrial Design. Both areas will offer their unique approach while learning and integrating knowledge from each other. (GIS graduate student or by approval of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)

  • ISUS-712  Sustainable Product Realization Strategies
    This course draws on concepts and methods pertaining to risk, life-cycle assessment, innovation, and policy introduced in various core courses to make strategic product-system decisions during the earliest stages of product development. (Enrollment in the Sustainable Ph.D., Sustainable Systems M.S. program, or permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)

  • ISUS-718  Sustainable Energy Systems
    Energy will play an increasingly vital role in economic, environmental and political developments around the world. This course first investigates the current trends in energy production, distribution, and consumption associated with the primary incumbent energy system technologies: fossil fuel combustion and nuclear power. An understanding of the economic, environmental and social limitations of these technologies will lead to analysis of the potential benefits of three key renewable technologies: solar (including wind), biomass and hydrogen/fuel cells. Potential paths to market penetration for these technologies will be introduced, including geographical variations expected to occur globally and within the United States. (Graduate standing or permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)

  • ISUS-780  Capstone
    An independent project in sustainability serving as a capstone experience for students completing the non-thesis option. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor. (Enrollment restricted to students enrolled in the Sustainable Systems M.S. program and approval of the Academic Director.) Class 1, Credit 1 (F,S,Su)

  • ISUS-806  Risk Analysis
    This course examines risk identification, quantification, and management from the standpoint of the three key components of sustainability science (economics, environment, and society). Economic subjects include cost-benefit analysis, value of information, time value of money, basic decision analysis, value functions, monetizing challenges for ecosystem services, and sustainability risk management. Environmental subjects include toxicological perspectives such as fate and transport and dose-response relationships including an overview of EPA’s current practice. Policy and societal subjects include utility theory and lotteries, risk perception, ethical issues in risk quantification, and impact statements. It is a core course within the Sustainability Ph.D. and M.S. programs. (Enrollment in the Sustainability PhD or MS program or the permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)

  • ISUS-807  Research
    Research in fulfillment of Sustainability Ph.D. dissertation or M.S. capstone requirements. (Enrollment restricted to students in the Sustainability Ph.D. or Sustainable Systems M.S. program.) Credit variable (F,S,Su)

  • ISUS-808  Multicriteria Sustainable Systems Analysis
    This class will explore how decisions are made when confronted with multiple, often conflicting, criteria or constraints. The focus will be on the following analytical methods: linear and stochastic programming, optimization, and Monte Carlo simulation. Case studies will focus on sustainability multi-criteria problems such as energy planning, sustainable development, resource management, and recycling. Students will apply methods learned to a project involving their dissertation research. It is a core course within the Sustainability PhD and MS programs. (ISUS-806 Risk Analysis or the permission of the Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)

  • ISUS-810  Thermodynamics for Sustainability
    As energy plays a fundamental role in the system sustainability framework, it is essential that students and practitioners have an understanding of the laws of thermodynamics which govern the processes of energy usage and conversion. This course investigates the differences between energy and exergy analysis, where the latter includes not only the quantities of energy exchanged, but also the "quality" of the energy relative to some reference state. After establishing the fundamentals of exergy analysis, this concept is applied to practical sustainability problems associated with sustainable development, industrial systems and energy policy. Specific examples are also explored, including thermal storage and fuel cell systems, and life-cycle assessment. (Undergraduate thermodynamics course.) Class 3, Credit 3 (S) 14

  • ISUS-821  Applied Life Cycle Assessment
    Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool used in the field of industrial ecology to evaluate the environmental impacts of products or processes over their entire life cycle — from raw material extraction, manufacturing, use, and end-of-life management. This course will build on fundamental principles of LCA by allowing students to conduct project-based studies on the application of LCA to real-world sustainability issues. Students will apply process, economic input-output, and hybrid methodologies to evaluate technological systems for opportunities of environmental improvement. (Permission of Instructor). Class 3, Credit 3 (S)

  • ISUS-822  Material Cycling
    This class will explore the economic and environmental incentives for recycling and resource recovery. The focus will be on end-of-life fate of materials (including plastics, metals, glass, and e-waste) while setting these within the context of overall ecosystem flows (carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen cycles, waste water, etc.). Technologies for the upgrading of secondary material streams will be studied including: physical and physico-chemical (beneficiation, electrostatic and magnetic separation), hydrometallurgical (selective precipitation, leaching, ion exchange), biotechnological (biosorption, sulfate reduction), and pyrometallurgical (filtration and fluxing). Production issues (product quality, remelt thermodynamics, exergy accounting, etc.) within the secondary industry will be explored with an emphasis on removing barriers to increased usage of scrap. Efforts for enhanced collection efforts and motivation of consumer and firm participation will also be covered (municipal collection fees, corporate takeback initiatives, legislation such as the WEEE directive, state deposits, etc.) (Enrollment in the Sustainability Ph.D. or M.S. program or the permission of Instructor.) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)

  • ISUS-890  Dissertation Research
    Research fulfillment of Sustainability Ph.D. dissertation requirements. (Enrollment restricted to students in the Sustainability Ph.D. program who have successfully completed qualifying exam.) Credit variable (F,S,Su)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do I know this program is for me?

The multidisciplinary Sustainability Ph.D. program focuses on education and research that can lead to the reduction in environmental footprint in the industrial sector and the built environment. Students will work with their advisors to define and conduct leading edge research in areas such as sustainable manufacturing, sustainable energy systems, sustainable mobility, Eco-IT, and sustainable built environments. Consider applying if you meet the admission requirements and are highly motivated to make an impact on the ever-increasing sustainability challenges.

What are the admission requirements?

An earned baccalaureate degree including at least one year of college science, one year of college mathematics (including calculus and statistics) is required. Admission decisions will be based on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), official transcripts, grade point average (3.0 or greater is required), recommendation letters (minimum two), TOEFL (or IELTS) score for applicants whose native language is not English, and interviews with members of the faculty.

How do I apply?

You may apply online by visiting http://www.rit.edu/emcs/ptgrad/grad_admission.php

When are applications due?

For preferred consideration, apply by January 15.

If I am accepted, can I defer my acceptance to a future year?

RIT allows a one-year deferral. After that, a student must reapply.

What are the required courses?

The core course requirements are:

    ISUS-600 Graduate Seminar
    ISUS-702 Fundamentals of Sustainability Science
    ISUS-704 Industrial Ecology
    ISUS-805 Technology Policy and Sustainability or approved substitute
    ISUS-806 Risk Analysis
    ISUS-808 Multicriteria Sustainable Systems Analysis
    ECON-810 Economics of Sustainability

How much does the program cost?

The cost of full time study can be found at http://finweb.rit.edu/sfs/billing/tuitionandfees/1213/graduate/fulltime.html
The cost of part time study can be found at http://finweb.rit.edu/sfs/billing/tuitionandfees/1213/graduate/parttime.html

Is financial aid available?

Currently, students admitted to full time study are provided tuition remission and a graduate assistantship.

What are the graduation requirements?

A minimum of 60 credit hours are required of which at least 24 must be research credits. The core course requirements are:

    ISUS-600 Graduate Seminar
    ISUS-702 Fundamentals of Sustainability Science
    ISUS-704 Industrial Ecology
    ISUS-805 Technology Policy and Sustainability or approved substitute
    ISUS-806 Risk Analysis
    ISUS-808 Multicriteria Sustainable Systems Analysis
    ECON-810 Economics of Sustainability

Elective courses are selected in consultation with the student's advisor from a wide variety of courses offered by GIS or one of RIT's eight colleges. Graduation requirements include the successful completion of the Qualifying Exam, Candidacy Exam, and Final Examination of the Dissertation. The program's teaching, publication, and residency requirements also must be met.

What is the dissertation requirement?

Students select a research topic in collaboration with their advisor. A research topic must be proposed and approved, a minimum of 24 credit hours of related research must be completed, and the dissertation must be successfully defended.

How long does it take to complete the degree?

The time to completion is variable based on the student’s background and rate of progress in their research. Students entering the program with an M.S. that included a strong research experience will like take 3-4 years of full time study, otherwise 4-5 years. RIT policy requires students to complete the program within 7 years from the time the qualifying exam is passed.

Can I take courses in the summer?

GIS, and many other departments, does not normally offer courses in the summer. However, a student may still be able to arrange an independent study or work on their thesis/capstone during this period.

When can I start the program?

It is highly recommended that students begin the program in the Fall semester.

Can I complete the degree part time?

Currently, all students admitted to the Ph.D. program are full time.

Are courses offered on line?

Currently, core courses are only offered on campus. However, their may be online offerings in the future or elective courses offered in other programs.

What about student housing?

Housing information may be found at http://finweb.rit.edu/housing/.

Who can I talk to about the program?

Contact Dr. Thomas Trabold, Associate Professor, at tatasp@rit.edu.

CAREERS

There is a burgeoning need for sustainability professionals at all levels and in all sectors of industry, government, and nongovernmental agencies. This need is driven by the reality that a rapidly growing global population is demanding greater amounts of food, energy, and fresh water, and our industrial systems are depleting and polluting our natural resources.

The Global Footprint Network estimates that the current world population consumes 1.5 times capacity of the earth’s natural systems. If this is true, sustaining the earth’s population will eventually reach crisis proportions. The challenges to be addressed are complex and require problem solvers of all academic disciplines who can work together in teams.

The Sustainability Ph.D. at Golisano Institute for Sustainability is a multidisciplinary program designed to prepare experts who can take on tough sustainability problems in their chosen profession. Graduates can pursue careers in academia, industry, governmental agencies, and not for profit organizations.

It’s easy to find articles on sustainability careers and job postings. A few are listed below.

Articles:

Job Posting Resources: It doesn’t take many clicks to uncover job opportunities at the major job websites like Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, and Indeed.com. There are numerous sites that specialize in various aspects of sustainability, such as:

Examples of Recent Job Postings:
(mouse over for details)

Environmental Safety & Sustainability Coordinator

Strategy & Sustainability Planner

Junior CSR/Sustainability Consultant

Sustainable Development (SD) Associate

Director of Sustainability

Director Of Social Sustainability

Sustainability Specialist

Sustainable Design Manager

Sustainability Program Manager

Sustainability Manager

Program Director–Green Communities

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies

Director of Sustainability

Principal Planner, Sustainability

Sustainability Specialist

Sustainability Coordinator

 

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