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Unit of study_

PHYS5032: Techniques for Sustainability Analysis

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit of study offers a practical introduction to quantitative analysis techniques including multiple regression, uncertainty analysis, integration, structural decomposition, and dynamic systems modelling, with a strong emphasis on demonstrating their usefulness for environmental problem-solving. This unit will show students how mathematics can be brought to life when utilised in powerful applications to deal with environmental and sustainability issues. Throughout the unit of study, example applications will be explained, including climate modelling, ecosystem trophic chain analysis, linking household consumption and environmental impact, identifying socio-demographic drivers of environmental change, and the uncovering the effect of land use patterns on threats to species.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PHYS5032
Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Arne Geschke,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Assignment 2
Submitted homework sheets
40% STUVAC See Canvas for more details
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Tutorial quiz Quiz 1
Multiple-choice quiz
5% Week 03 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Tutorial quiz Quiz 2
Multiple-choice quiz
5% Week 05 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Assignment Assignment 1
Submitted homework sheets
40% Week 06 See Canvas for more details
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Tutorial quiz Quiz 3
Multiple-choice quiz
5% Week 09 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2
Tutorial quiz Quiz 4
Multiple-choice quiz
5% Week 11 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2

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 The (absolute) basis of statistics Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1
Week 02 Hypothesis testing I Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 03 Hypothesis testing II/error propagation Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO3
Week 04 Decision making under uncertainty Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 05 Multivariate regression Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO2
Week 06 Applications/assignment 1 questions Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO4
Week 07 Integration/applications Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO5
Week 08 Structural decomposition analysis Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO6
Week 09 Applications Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO4 LO7
Week 10 Structural path analysis Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 11 Guest lecture: data analysis in a corporate setting Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO7
Week 12 Applications/assignment 2 questions Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO4 LO7

Attendance and class requirements

Given the special circumstances that we are facing due to Covid-19, this lecture is designed to be delivered fully online. If in-class teaching is offered by the university, this course will also feature an in-class session. You are free to choose whether you want to attend the in-class sessions or dial in live via zoom. There will be no disadvantage either way.

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.

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 aware of the importance of calculations and techniques for sustainability issues
  • LO2. understand the principles of common analytical techniques
  • LO3. apply the techniques to practical sustainability issues, particularly understanding large data sets
  • LO4. make connections between techniques, results, data, meanings and qualitative analysis
  • LO5. have developed a “tool box” of analytical skills for assessing sustainability issues
  • LO6. have demonstrated critical thinking and practical skills in the tutorials
  • LO7. argue coherently for a particular point of view, backed up by their analysis.

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 changes to the lecture structure compared to previous semesters.

Equity Access and Diversity Statement in Unit Outlines

The School of Physics recognises that biases and discrimination, including but not limited to those based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and age, continue to impact parts of our community disproportionately. Consequently, the School is strongly committed to taking effective steps to make our environment supportive and inclusive and one that provides equity of access and opportunity for everyone.

The School has three Equity Officers as a point of contact for students and staff who may have a query or concern about any issues relating to equity, access and diversity.  If you feel you have been treated unfairly, bullied, discriminated against or disadvantaged in any way, you are encouraged to talk to one of the Equity Officers or any member of the Physics staff.

More information can be found at

Any student who feels they may need a special accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact Disability Services: who can help arrange support.

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.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.