Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA)
Needles Hall, second floor, room 2201
This interdisciplinary course provides a comprehensive overview of the wicked problem of climate change. Unlike ordinary problems, which are well-defined, self-contained, and come with a limited set of potential solutions, wicked problems resist definition, are mixed up with other problems, and cannot be solved in a way that is simple or final. As the pace of climate change accelerates and environmental and social impacts are increasingly being felt at the individual, community, and global level, there is a growing need for responses and solutions that crosscut disciplinary boundaries. This course approaches the wicked problem of climate change from diverse disciplinary perspectives (i.e., applied sciences, humanities, social sciences, and health sciences) to investigate the various dimensions of this global challenge. Topics addressed include the history of climate change and its scientific underpinnings, approaches to governance, climate change communication, and impacts on the natural environment, human health, society, culture, technology, and economies. The course prepares students to analyze the wicked problem of climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective, to evaluate and critique diverse perspectives on the issue, and to devise potential solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Open to all undergraduate students in level 3A or higher, the Wicked Problem of Climate Change course takes an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to investigate how climate change is impacting our way of life, combining both in-class and online learning.
The innovation lies in its team of instructors – six PhD candidates, who are deep into their own explorations of climate change, will enthusiastically lead this blended learning course to examine aspects of climate change and the wicked problems it presents to humanity. The interdisciplinarity is found in the instructors (one from each of Waterloo’s six faculties) and in the undergraduate students who register for the course from various disciplines.
The intention of the Wicked Problem course is as follows:
Read more about the course in the Waterloo News feature.
Are you interested in signing up and trying a truly innovative learning experience? The course selection period for winter enrolment opens on September 23rd. We will accept 10 students (3A to 4B) per faculty, for a total of 60 students. Please look for the following course subject codes/catalogue numbers to register for the course:
Below, the course instructors have outlined draft intended learning outcomes for the course. Please keep in mind the course is being designed throughout the Fall term and these learning outcomes are subject to change as the course is developed. Final intended learning outcomes will appear on the course syllabus in January 2023. By the end of the course, students should be able to:
Meet the Instructors
These PhD candidates are spending the fall 2022 term in the Beta Teaching Innovation Incubator, working together with Centre for Teaching Excellence education specialists to design and develop a course that will be a highlight in an undergraduate student’s degree.
Faculty of Mathematics:
Donovan Allum is a PhD student in the Department of Applied Mathematics. He completed an undergraduate degree in mathematical physics and a master's degree in materials science studying election behaviour in materials at Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario). Donovan shifted disciplines when he moved to the University of Waterloo to pursue research with applications more closely linked with climate change and the environment. He now studies computer simulations of lakes at near freezing temperatures subjected to solar radiation, a domain of the environment that is sensitive to increasing surface temperatures. Donovan is interested in teaching and designing a course because of his passion for teaching and helping his peers. He believes that super specialization is sometimes a problem in the modern discourse which we can help rectify with interdisciplinary studies.
Faculty of Science:
Débora Andrade-Pereira is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology (Cuddington Lab), where she researches impacts of neglected climate change phenomena to plant performance and invasion risks in North America. Her interests also include science education, and her master's was focused on making science more accessible to a culturally diversified undergraduate student population. Débora is passionate about collaborative manners of producing knowledge. Her academic journey includes both science and arts learning and teaching in Brazil and Canada. She is looking forward to sharing relevant ecological findings and to learning together about ways to tackle climate change biological impacts.
Faculty of Engineering:
Shehryar Khan is a research engineer and senior PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering who completed his Honors BASc in Mechanical Engineering with Distinction and a Minor in Economics. His research focus is on the advanced processing of different types of pure metals and metallic alloys, and his research expertise is in advanced materials characterization, advanced mechanical testing and failure analysis, with a strong foundation in materials processing (i.e., coating techniques, heat treatment, laser welding, laser cladding, arc and laser brazing, and laser-arc hybrid brazing). Shehryar is a recipient of the NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship and has won several other awards and scholarships during his time as a graduate student. As an engineer and a researcher, Shehryar’s work is geared towards the automotive industry, focusing on finding novel solutions to weld and join different types of advanced materials to produce vehicle bodies that are simultaneously lighter and stronger. The applications of his research work are deeply rooted in the combined global effort by the automotive industry to improve the efficiency of modern vehicles and minimize their impact on the ever-growing problem of climate change. Shehryar is extremely passionate about his research and teaching, and that is what drove him to want to participate in this project because it gave him the opportunity to actively work to develop content for a fantastic course that would give him the opportunity to teach undergraduate students about the current ongoing impact of climate change in the field of advanced manufacturing.
Faculty of Health:
Shahan Salim is a PhD candidate in the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo. His research interests focus on designing, developing, and implementing public health surveillance technologies. He is particularly interested in harnessing artificial intelligence (AI)-based ecosystems to generate novel (big) data streams for (digital) epidemiological purposes. Shahan’s PhD research involves using public health records and existing air-quality sensors and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to create visualization tools to inform decision-makers of early predictors of health impacts. Outside academia, he is a self-proclaimed sportsaholic and stresses over all things Toronto sports.
Faculty of Arts:
Jerika Sanderson is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature, and her background is in both English literature and biological sciences. Her research combines science communication, science fiction, and critical posthumanism to investigate biotechnologies that have been proposed as solutions to environmental issues, and how they are represented across genres. For example, her current project focuses on the concept of de-extinction, and how attempts to re-create extinct species are represented both in popular culture and scientific discourse. The goal in analyzing these representations is to develop a better understanding of the ethical concerns arising from the applications of new biotechnologies. Incorporating an interdisciplinary approach is essential to addressing environmental problems, so Jerika’s excited to participate in co-developing and co-instructing the Wicked Problem of Climate Change course!
Faculty of Environment:
Kayleigh Swanson is a PhD student in the School of Planning where her research considers how local governments might advance climate action planning that is both ambitious and equitable. Kayleigh holds degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies and Global Governance and has experience implementing poverty reduction and climate change adaptation strategies in South America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Kayleigh looks forward to exploring the Wicked Problem of Climate Change through a social science lens to address the human dimension of climate change and consider the lines of intersection between climate change and social equity.
Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA)
Needles Hall, second floor, room 2201
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Office of Indigenous Relations.