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Unit of study_

PHYS4801: Industrial Ecology

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Industrial Ecology is a cross-disciplinary research field. This unit will provide an introduction to the principles and applications of Industrial Ecology, with a focus on understanding the complexity and interconnectedness between economic and environmental systems. The unit will explore goals and methods of Industrial Ecology, with an emphasis on concrete applications, such as renewable energy systems, waste generation, recycling and industrial symbiosis, urban sustainability, and many more. Through these examples students will gain a thorough understanding of the usefulness of Industrial Ecology principles and approaches, for example in quantitative assessments of environmental impact and social risk, design of environmental economic policy and energy systems, and urban sustainability planning. Students will be introduced to the Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory technology newly developed at the School of Physics. Students will walk away from this unit equipped with all skills needed to undertake their own environmental, social and economic Industrial Ecology projects in the virtual laboratory.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PHYS4801
Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Arne Geschke,
Guest lecturer(s) Fabian Sack,
Michael Du Plessis,
Christopher Wilson,
Lecturer(s) Arne Geschke,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Tutorial quiz Quizzes
Multiple choice quizzes
20% Multiple weeks 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Assignment group assignment Assignment 1
Paper review and presentation
40% Week 05 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Assignment group assignment Assignment 2
Simulated consulting report
40% Week 13 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an exceptional standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


75 - 84

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a very high standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


65 - 74

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a good standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


50 - 64

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an acceptable standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Welcome and state of the union: a planet on its way to being ruined Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 The origins and evolution of Industrial Ecology and how it links to current problems Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 03 The Circular Economy I: Concepts, challenges, outlook Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 04 IE measures in water supply systems Guest lecturer: Dr Fabian Sack (Sustainably) Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 05 The Circular Economy II – (Assessment 1) Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 06 1. Introduction to environmental impact assessment I; 2. Multiple choice quiz 1 Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 07 Introduction to environmental impact assessment II: global and multi-regional impact assessment Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 08 Sustainable investments Guest lecturer: Dr Michael du Plessis (GreenIce) Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 09 Introduction to the Australian Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 10 Targeting value chains to align with climate change science; Guest lecturer: Chris Wilson, Pangolin & Associates Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 11 Workshop: using the AusIELab for assessment Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 12 IELab at the global policy level: The IPCC and IPBES; final AusIELab Q&A; and multiple-choice quiz 2 Lecture and tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

  • Ristinen and Kraushaar (1999 & 2006) “Energy and the Environment”, John Wiley and Sons, New York, offers a good background to the course. Some copies may be available from bookshops.
  • D.B. Botkin and E.A. Keller (2000), "Environmental Science: Earth as a living planet", various editions, John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  • E. Boeker and R. van Grondelle (1995) “Environmental Physics”, John Wiley & Sons. for a very basic (but still useful) general introduction to energy, see Millennium Science: a course of lectures given at the 30th Professor Harry Messel International Science School, University of Sydney,1999. Chapters 5 and 6.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. be familiar with the field of IE and its scope of application generally
  • LO2. be aware of the profound importance of thriving natural ecosystems for sustainable economies
  • LO3. understand fundamental data processing concepts and to analyse environmental-economic interdependencies
  • LO4. undertake basic calculations to identify such interdependencies
  • LO5. use the Australian Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory (IELab) environment to carry out calculations and analyses
  • LO6. demonstrate critical thinking in the seminars and in essays on topics relating different scientific aspects of industrial ecology
  • LO7. argue coherently for a particular point of view, both verbally and in a written form
  • LO8. do simple but comprehensive and complete analyses for problems arising within the industrial ecology context.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

no major changes compared to last year

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Site visit guidelines

A field trip is currently being planned. More information will be published on Canvas.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.


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