Academic year
2019/2020 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
PHD131 (AF:324636 AR:174820)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Corso di Dottorato (D.M.45)
Educational sector code
2nd Semester
Course year
The course is classified as one of the fundamental educational activities for the PhD in Environmental Sciences. It is aimed first of all at integrating the knowledge of the respective disciplines addressed by the first two Degrees in a holistic approach to the Science of Sustainability.
Main objective:
To introduce and illustrate the modern approaches based on Systems Thinking, applied to the study of complex systems. Any student will have the possibility to learn the setting up of a systemic diagram for the topic related to his/her PhD thesis.
1. Knowledge and understanding
1.1. To know and understand the main theories which the systemic approaches are based on.
1.2. To know and understand the application fields of different approaches.
1.3. To know the principles of operation and the setting up of some analytical tools of Systems Thinking.
2. Capability of applying knowledge and comprehension
2.1. To use the learned concepts in his/her own field of study.
3. Capability of judgement
3.1. To evaluate and choose critically the most suitable approaches, pointing out the possible need for complementary methodologies to guarantee the logical consistency and the reliability of the study.
3.2. To integrate the study based on Systems Thinking with the information obtainable by different approaches, or related to different theoretical frameworks.
3.3. To frame the application potential of the study within a general perspective of integrated sustainability.
4. Communication skills
4.1. To communicate both the knowledge and the effects of its application using the proper scientific language.
4.2. To interact with the teacher and with the other students in a constructive way, in particular during the experimental working groups activity.
5. Capability of learning
5.1. To take comprehensive and rigorous notes, even by the interaction with the other students.
5.2. To properly select the bibliographic references for the study, even by the interaction with the teacher, most of all for those contents that are not easily found in a single textbook.
Knowledge of basic Mathematics at the university level, and of the most common software tools.
Presentation of the course and its contextualization within the learning process. Peculiarities of the course.
1 Principles of Systems Thinking. The systems zoo.
2 Complex Systems. Non-linear systems. Cahos. Self-organization.
3 Embodied Energy. EMergy and sustainability.
4 Diagramming a system.
A wide bibliography is available on Systems Thinking and Complex Systems science, yet without a single textbook presenting all the course contents. The teacher will therefore address the source to use as reference for any single topic. Other reference books and material will be provided by the lecturer.
Exams will be based on exercises performed alone or by working groups during the lectures as well as on the preparation of a final systemic diagram.
The teaching activity is organized as follows:
a) lecture-style presentations at the blackboard, inegrated by 3 to 6 powerpoint presentations about examples or specific topics;
b) laboratory activity, where the students -in working groups of 2-3 people- acquire familiarity with the analytical aspects of the systemic approach. Furthermore, in the moodle platform of the University will be also provided the didactic material presented as powerpoint projections in the classroom, as well as specific notes prepared by the teacher concerning topics difficult to find.

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Circular economy, innovation, work" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 18/10/2019