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Sustainability in Education and Outreach

Caltech trains generations of sustainability-minded scientists, engineers, and leaders through innovative teaching and research experiences.

Caltech is advancing new approaches to sustainability in higher education, with courses in diverse areas of study across campus that teach sustainability concepts through relevant examples, problem-set questions, field trips, and exercises. For example, a course on Waste in the World examines past and present perspectives on waste, "nature," sustainability, and environmental justice. A quantitative ecology course that draws on geology, biology, computer science, social science, environmental science, and engineering explores methods to observe and model ecosystems and how these methods further human sustainability.

Students learn sustainability concepts through environmental science and engineering classes and the ESE option (major or minor) as well as the energy science and technology program and related courses. Complementing the sustainability curriculum, a scientific and engineering communication program provides crucial skills, as do classes in entrepreneurship and technology management.

Learning in the Laboratory

In the fall of 2024, students and researchers across Caltech will have a new place to investigate challenges in global sustainability: the Resnick Sustainability Center.

Graduate students and undergraduates conducting research will benefit from the building's four new, shared research centers focused on solar science and catalysis, ecology and biosphere engineering, remote sensing, and translational science.

All undergraduates, regardless of major, will take at least one chemistry course in the building's state-of-the-art teaching laboratories, gaining exposure to sustainability science. One laboratory will support interdisciplinary approaches, stocked with supplies for labs in chemistry, biology, geology, and applied engineering. For instance, a chemistry class using this space might collect soil samples outdoors and analyze them using microscopes common in biology and geology classes.

The new building will also include active-learning classrooms designed in consultation with experts from Caltech's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach.

The Resnick Sustainability Center will be a magnet for scientists and engineers—including students who will be the scientists and engineers of the future—who want to solve some of the planet's most pressing problems.

Caltech Provost David A. Tirrell
Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair and Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Educational Outreach

Caltech students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty who are interested in sharing their sustainability expertise make a difference in Pasadena and Los Angeles through educational outreach with the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach and individual programs such as the GO Outdoors program created by graduate students studying geological and planetary sciences.

Caltech scholars and alumni advise local, California, and U.S. government agencies, and share accessible, factual information through the Caltech Science Exchange sustainability section.

Image, top of page: Caltech graduate student Clare Singer presents research to other climate scientists.

A person smiles into a camera, head and upper chest visible against a blurred background of architectural columns.

John Dabiri (MS '03, PhD '05), the Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, serves the United States on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). When appointed to the council in 2021, Dabiri said he hoped to provide perspective on issues related to sustainability and ocean science, topics he described as "close to my heart," and to contribute to strategies that encourage bold, curiosity-driven basic research throughout the U.S. science and technology ecosystem.

A painterly illustration shows an earth with orange blobs on it emerging from a green field on which a person stands holding a chart. Floating around the earth are hurricane, a battery, part of a molecular model, a thermometer, and hexagonal panels that refract incoming wiggly orange lines as straight blue arrows.

Find clear explanations and fact-driven conversations about one of the most significant challenges of our times in the sustainability section of the Caltech Science Exchange.