By Luis Armando Sanchez Diaz, May 9 2022—
The Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary announced the introduction of a new degree in Sustainable Systems Engineering. It will equip future students with a multidisciplinary engineering approach to further sustainable practices.
“Sustainable systems engineering is a technical and transdisciplinary field focusing on how to design, integrate and manage complex systems over their life cycles, with a goal of environmental, economic and social sustainability. The program focuses on sustainably engineered systems and integrates material from a number of engineering disciplines,” reads the program’s overview.
Throughout the program, students will be able to gain and foster “critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and [will] provide opportunities to interact with local industry and researchers in many different fields of study.”
In a conversation with the Gauntlet, Dr. Marjan Eggermont, professor in the department of mechanical and manufacturing engineering, explained the overview and approach that the new program will bring to Schulich and the overall U of C community.
“It is called Sustainable Systems Engineering and the reason we have the word systems in there, is that in order to get to real sustainability, we have to look at the overall big picture — see where improvements can be made in the various cycles that engineering goes through,” she said.
Eggermont said that at the beginning of their degree, students will take core courses to set the foundation of engineering. By fourth-year, they will have the option of focusing on one of the four areas that the new program is centred on. These areas cover fields of focus such as sustainable systems for environment and food, agriculture and biomass, cities and communities and energy and resources.
“That is a very large picture, but we want students to be able to look at all systems that are out there,” she said in relation to the wide range of areas that the program covers.
In the future, students will be able to combine a set of two areas of focus once they have undergone an introduction to the four areas.
“We do an introductory year in third-year where we cover the core of those themes. We are, at the moment, thinking of a mix-and-match scenario, so students are not restricted to one scene. If for instance, they want to focus on the environment and in communities and cities, then that would be a possibility,” Eggermont said.
Eggermont mentioned that currently, the faculty is working on assembling up to 10 new courses for students to enroll in for upcoming years, such as Northern Sustainable Systems, Principles of Sustainability and Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Designs for Systems and Society.
The program will be available to students starting in the Fall 2022 term.
“The students that are coming to engineering this Fall 2022 will start first-year in their common year and they will be the first who can choose this degree for their second year when the different streams start,” mentioned Eggermont.
Graduate students will also receive an introduction to the new courses. Students will be able to join professors as teaching assistants if their area of study coincides with the offered courses.
Conversations are ongoing with other U of C faculties to team up to develop and offer courses with an interdisciplinary approach.
“We are hoping to infuse models or collaboration with other individuals from other faculties to strengthen the learning for students,” she said.
Eggermont thinks that the new program is a way for students to further integrate engineering mechanisms into sustainable practices and contribute to the creation of a more sustainable future.
“I think as a school, as a whole, everybody is aware that something has to shift — that there is a problem. We have to find new solutions and new ways of working and have new ways of designing and working towards a sustainable future. To make sure that there is an equitable and liveable planet for future generations,” she said.
To learn more about the new program, visit the Schulich School of Engineering website.