Sustainable Systems Master of science degree

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Overview

Designed to help students from any academic background gain a comprehensive understanding of the many facets of sustainability. In as little as one year, you’ll learn to apply sustainability science principles to any field to help solve the world’s grand challenges—including pollution, food scarcity, public health crises, and more.


Sustainable systems accepts students from any academic background and encompasses a wide range of interdisciplinary studies in sustainability science. Here, you won’t be restricted to one sustainability topic or methodology. You will comprehensively learn and experience the methods that lead to environmental, social, technological, and business success, working one-on-one with a faculty advisor to tailor the degree to your sustainability interests.

In the sustainable systems MS, you will start with a broad foundation of knowledge in environmental life cycle assessment, sustainable decision making, economic and policy strategies, and more. Then, you will have the opportunity to customize your degree in areas that suit your interests and career goals—such as renewable energy or mobility—as well as get the hands-on experience that employers are seeking. In as little as one year of study, you will be prepared to make sustainability decisions that you can apply to any career.

Not only will you be able to focus on an area that interests you, but you will be able to get hands-on in your projects with the use of one of our many labs or through design modeling tools. This degree allows you the flexibility to adapt your career over time and in response to the ever-changing developments in sustainability. The Golisano Institute for Sustainability is dedicated to groundbreaking sustainability research and its business applications. Our research facilities are second to none, including Sustainability Institute Hall, a 75,000-sq.-foot, LEED Platinum certified research building and multiple state-of-the-art research centers.

You don’t need a background in sustainability to join this program; just a desire to create positive change in the world. We bring in students of all ages, from all backgrounds—from mechanical engineering to political science—and from all over the world so that your learning experience comes not just from the classroom, but from the different perspectives of fellow students.

Plan of study

Through a flexible and interdisciplinary curriculum, you’ll begin your degree with core courses in industrial ecology, risk assessment, the economics of sustainability, and more. Several electives from across the university will allow you to further tailor your degree to your talents and career goals, from sustainable craft brewing and distilling to corporate social responsibility.

Your degree culminates with a research thesis or a capstone project. Recent thesis examples include:

You must complete 24 credit hours of course work plus a 6 credit hour thesis or capstone project, which can be completed in as little as one year by full-time students.

Potential tracks

Sustainable Energy
  • Sustainable Energy Systems
  • Food-Energy-Water Nexus
  • Energy Policy

Example research project: Inspection of wind turbine blades with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

Circular Economy
  • Intro to Geographic Info Systems (GIS)
  • Data Analysis for Sustainability
  • Innovation Policy
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Example research project: Assessing a baseline case for reaching carbon neutrality in Monroe County by 2027

Sustainable Urban Systems
  • Sustainable Mobility Systems
  • Graduate Sustainable Communities
  • Sustainable Building Metrics

Example research project: Evaluating strategies for sustainable renovation of RIT campus buildings

Enhanced career opportunities

Our graduates have a 100 percent placement rate, in part because of RIT’s dedication to career counseling and ongoing relationships with employers. This means that all of our graduates gain employment or choose to further their education shortly after graduating. And If you’re interested in pursuing a career more focused in academia or research, the master’s degree is also an excellent stepping stone to a doctoral program, such as RIT’s Ph.D. in sustainability, if you take the route of completing a thesis while here.

Community involvement

Rochester, NY, is a hub for sustainability professionals and entrepreneurship. Students in the sustainable systems degree program are often regularly involved with local companies and organizations, from teaching about sustainability practices at inner-city high schools to completing a capstone project for companies including Rochester Regional Health or Wegman's Food Market's corporate headquarters.

Industries


  • Oil and Gas

  • Manufacturing

  • Utilities and Renewable Energy

  • Research

Featured Work

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Curriculum

Sustainable Systems (capstone option), MS degree, typical course sequence (semesters)

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
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-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.
6
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
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
PUBL-810
Technology, Policy and Sustainability (or approved substitute)
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
 
Electives
6
Total Semester Credit Hours
30

 

Sustainable Systems (thesis option), MS degree, typical course sequence (semesters)

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
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
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
 
Electives
3
Second Year
ISUS-790
Thesis
Independent research in sustainability leading to the completion of the MS thesis. This course requires a formal proposal and a faculty sponsor.
6
PUBL-810
Technology, Policy and Sustainability (or approved substitute)
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
Total Semester Credit Hours
30

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS program in sustainable systems, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college from an accredited institution.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent).
  • Have fulfilled the following curriculum requirements: one year of college science and one year of college mathematics (inclduing calculus and statistics). 
  • Submit scores from the GRE.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives.
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Participate in an interview with the academic department.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 100 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 7.0 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.

Learn about admissions and financial aid 

Additional Info

Non-matriculated students

An applicant with a bachelor’s degree from an approved undergraduate institution and the appropriate background is permitted to take graduate courses as a non-matriculated student. If the student is subsequently admitted to the graduate program, a limited number of credit hours from courses taken at RIT as a non-matriculated student can be transferred to the degree program. Any applicant who wishes to register for a graduate course as a non-matriculated student must obtain permission from the chair of the graduate program and the course instructor.