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Environmental Science and Engineering Courses
This course will provide students with an introduction to current topics in environmental science and engineering by providing: an overview of current environmental issues, critically evaluating their underlying science and knowledge limitations, and exploring the best-available engineering solutions to some of our most pressing environmental problems. The course will emphasize the interconnected biological, geological, and chemical cycles of the earth system (biogeochemical cycles) and how human activity affects these natural cycles within each of the major environmental compartments (atmospheric, aquatic, and terrestrial).
This course will take a hands-on approach to learning climate and atmospheric physics. Topics covered will include the Greenhouse effect, global scale atmospheric dynamics, synoptic meteorology and weather forecasting, and climate modeling. Each week will have one three-hour session to perform laboratory experiments, run models, analyze data, and create data visualizations. In this flipped-classroom environment, knowledge transfer will occur outside of class through readings and pre-class assignments in preparation for each session.
Observations and fundamentals of ocean dynamics, from the role of the oceans in global climate and climate change to beach waves. Topics include the greenhouse effect, oceans and global warming; El Nino events in the equatorial Pacific Ocean; currents: the wind driven ocean circulation and the Gulf stream; coastal upwelling and fisheries; temperature, salinity, the overturning circulation and its effect on global climate stability and variability; wave motions: surface ocean waves, internal waves, tsunamis and tides; ocean observations by ships, satellites, moorings, floats and more.
A field trip to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod will be held during the course, which will be an opportunity to learn about sea-going oceanography.
Software for scientific computation and graphics will be introduced (students may choose either Matlab or python), which will be used for some homework assignments.
Physical and chemical processes determining the composition of the atmosphere and its implications for climate, ecosystems, and human welfare. Construction of atmospheric composition models. Atmospheric transport. Nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon cycles. Climate forcing by greenhouse gases and aerosols. Stratospheric ozone. Oxidizing power of the atmosphere. Surface air pollution: aerosols and ozone. Deposition to ecosystems: acid rain, nitrogen, mercury.
An introduction to the physics that determine our planet’s climate motivated by concerns about human-driven climate change. From highly-simplified models of radiation and convection in a column to state-of-the art models of the general circulation, the course provides a hands-on introduction to modeling tools as a basis for understanding predictions of climate change and assessing their uncertainty. Solar geoengineering, the possibility of deliberate large-scale intervention in the climate, is covered as a potentially important new application of atmospheric science and as a tool to motivate analysis of aerosol radiative forcing, feedbacks, and uncertainty.
We will study the evidence in the climate record for dramatic changes in the climate system and delve into how these challenge our understanding of climate dynamics. Case studies will include the dim early sun paradox, the Snowball Earth, Equable Climates, Glacial/Interglacial and Stadial/Interstadial transitions and ENSO.
This course is an introduction to the challenges involved in designing spacecraft for observation of Earth and exploration of other planets. Topics covered include basic atmospheric and planetary science, key principles of remote sensing, telemetry, orbital transfer theory, propulsion and launch system design, and thermal and power management.
This course will examine the theory and practical application of environmental chemistry and toxicology for assessing the behavior, toxicity and human health risks of chemical contaminants in the environment. The goals of the course are to: (a) illustrate how various sub-disciplines in environmental toxicology are integrated to understand the behavior of pollutants; (b) demonstrate how scientific information is applied to inform environmental management decisions and public policy through several case studies; and (c) provide an introduction to the legislative framework in which environmental toxicology is conducted. This course will be directed toward undergraduate students with a basic understanding of chemistry and calculus and an interest in applied science and engineering to address environmental management problems.
This course is focused on aspects of environmental engineering related to the fate, transport, and control of pollution in surface water ecosystems. Course modules will cover ecological impacts of environmental contaminants; fundamental chemistry of natural waters; surface water aspects of engineering hydrology, including rainfall-runoff relationships; quantitative models of pollutant fate and transport in rivers, lakes, estuaries, and wetlands; best management practices for the prevention and control of aquatic pollution; and sustainable natural treatment systems for water quality improvement.
This course will showcase how novel technologies have allowed fascinating new insights into key aspects of our environment that are of high societal importance. Students will gain both an understanding of topics such as climate change and air pollution as well as detailed knowledge of the design and underlying principles of environmental instrumentation, especially via the hands-on laboratory sessions.
The development of novel instrumentation, driven by technological advances, is transforming observations and revolutionizing the environmental sciences. For example, they introduce new observables and extend the spatial and temporal coverage and resolution of (Earth) observations. This course will highlight how state-of-the-art instrument design has enabled these fascinating advances by focusing on the engineering as well as physics and chemistry principles that are central to this success. A central component of the course consists of laboratory sessions that provide hands-on experience on important aspects of analytical instrumentation, ranging from data acquisition, instrument control software, basic electronic filtering all the way to learning design concepts and operation of spectroscopic and mass-spectrometric instrumentation. There will also be a tour of some of the laboratories using state-of-the-art environmental instrumentation at Harvard. The course and especially the laboratory experiments contain aspects from various engineering disciplines including environmental, electronic and mechanical engineering.