Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Focus

Use mathematical models to assess interactions between humans and the natural environment.

Desired Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to formulate and use mathematical models to:

  • Assess human impacts on the environment
  • Assess the economic value of natural resources

Beyond this course, you should be able to:

  • Expand your modeling abilities as you gain new understanding in science, engineering, economics, and other areas.
  • Apply what you have learned here in your career (not just to develop and use models yourself but also to critically assess model predictions generated by others).

Course Logistics

General Topics (Modeling Building Blocks)

  • Mass balance
  • Energy balance
  • Mass and energy transport
  • Resource economics and life cycle analysis

Class Format

Generally, the first half of each class will be a lecture on concepts and the second half will be a discussion of a related modeling application. All model codes presented in class will be made available.


Problem sets and research presentation (team-based), in-class quizzes, 2 exams, research paper (individual).

There will be no final exam.

Team Formation

You can form your own teams of 3 people or contact the TA for help in forming a team. Teams should be identified by the first recitation.


Modeling in this class relies largely on MATLAB. You should have access to MATLAB software (Basic MATLAB and the Optimization Toolbox). See the tools section for more information on MATLAB.


  • MATLAB tutorials
  • Communication tutorials
  • Help with problem sets
  • Exam reviews


Attendance is important and will be considered in grading.

In-class Quizzes

15 minute quizzes (one question each) will be given most weeks, usually on Wednesday during the middle of class.


No laptops open during lectures (OK during recitation).

Contact us if you need access to a laptop during recitation. Power outlets are limited so please make sure your battery is charged.

Comments and Feedback

Please provide comments and suggestions (anonymous or otherwise) as soon as an issue arises so we can make adjustments if necessary. We plan to set up a suggestion box for this purpose.


Problem sets 20%
Short quizzes 10%
Exam 1 25%
Exam 2 25%
Paper and presentation 20%