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Turn your world-changing ideas into reality.

With the Ph.D. degree’s integrative curriculum, you’ll develop a deep foundation in sustainability science, sustainable systems, risk analysis, and more. You can also choose several electives from across colleges at RIT—from “Computational Modeling and Simulation” to “Principles of Statistical Data Mining”—to tailor your degree and create interdisciplinary relationships throughout the university.

Through your sponsored research project, you’ll receive a fully funded education and stipend to help with living expenses, your own office space, a dedicated faculty advisor, and the time to develop your technical expertise in sub-areas dependent on your research. Recent dissertation examples include:

See more student research ›

The Golisano Institute for Sustainability’s research facilities are second to none, including Sustainability Institute Hall, a 75,000 sq. ft. LEED Platinum certified research building, multiple state-of-the-art research centers and labs.

Many students also attract additional funded research opportunities, such as through the United Nations’International Resource Panel, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, and Staples Sustainable Innovation Lab, to name a few. There are also opportunities for Fellowships through different  government agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Curriculum

Sustainability, Ph.D. degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
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, and as well as teaching skills, will also be covered.
2
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 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.
3
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.
3
ISUS-706
Economics of Sustainable Systems
The goal of this course is to introduce students to economic concepts and analysis pertaining to sustainable systems. This course offers a nontechnical introduction, but based on rigorous economic reasoning. Additionally, a thorough treatment of models relevant to each topic is provided. The over-arching goal is for students to gain an appreciation for the logic of economic reasoning while teaching economics as it pertains to sustainable systems.
3
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.
3
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.
3
 
Elective
3
Second Year
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, and as well as teaching skills, will also be covered.
2
ISUS-705
Technology Policy and Sustainability or Approved Substitute
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.
3
 
Elective
3
Choose one of the following: 8
   ISUS-890
   Dissertation Research
 
   ISUS-807
   Research
 
 
   Electives
 
Third Year
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, and as well as teaching skills, will also be covered.
4
Choose one of the following: 8
   ISUS-890
   Dissertation Research
 
   ISUS-807
   Research
 
 
   Elective
 
Fourth Year
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, and as well as teaching skills, will also be covered.
2
ISUS-890
Dissertation Research
Research fulfillment of Sustainability Ph.D. dissertation requirements.
10
Total Semester Credit Hours 60
Fundamentals of Sustainability Science (ISUS-702)

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.

Industrial Ecology (ISUS-704)

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.

Risk Analysis (ISUS-806)

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 Master’s programs.

Sustainability Practice (ISUS-708)

This course covers theoretical and practical issues associated with analysis and progress towards sustainability. Methods and concepts covered include optimization, stochastic analysis, multicriteria decision-making and resource economics. Societal perception and response to sustainability is covered sector by sector (industry, government, academia and civil society) and through integrative case studies of particular sustainability issues (e.g., natural gas fracking). Emerging sustainability governance mechanisms are explored, in particular environmental certifications and standards (e.g., LEED, EnergyStar) and multilateral agreements.

Multicriteria Sustainable Systems Analysis (ISUS-808)

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.

Technology Policy and Sustainability (ISUS-705)

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.