At Duke Kunshan University, each major consists of an interdisciplinary set of courses that integrate different forms of knowledge and a distinct set of disciplinary courses that provide expertise in specific areas.

Environmental Science/Chemistry
The Environmental Science/Chemistry major uniquely combines the natural and social sciences relevant to understanding the biosphere and its interaction with human society. In order to more deeply appreciate and explore how humans interact with – and have an impact on – their environment, students take courses that lay the scientific foundations for the physical world. They combine that education with coursework about the social, political, legal, and economic factors that both encourage and hinder environmental cooperation and competition around the world. The Chemistry track in Environmental Science is designed for students who are interested in a scientific perspective on environmental issues and who seek core training in the study of the structure, properties, and reactions of chemical elements and the compounds they form.

Required Courses

Divisional Foundation Courses

Mathematical Foundations 1

The fundamental concepts and tools of calculus, probability, and linear algebra are essential to modern sciences, from the theories of physics and chemistry that have long been tightly coupled to mathematical ideas, to the collection and analysis of data on complex biological systems. Given the emerging technologies for collecting and sharing large data sets, some familiarity with computational and statistical methods is now also essential for modeling biological and physical systems and interpreting experimental results. MF1 is an introduction to differential and integral calculus that focuses on the concepts necessary for understanding the meaning of differential equations and their solutions. It includes an introduction to a software package for numerical solution of ordinary differential equations.

Integrated Science 1

This course focuses on the concept of energy and its relevance for explaining the behavior of natural systems. The conservation of energy and the transformations of energy from one form to another are crucial to the function of all systems, including familiar mechanical devices, molecular structures and reactions, and living organisms and ecosystems. By integrating perspectives from physics, chemistry, and biology, this course helps students see both the elegant simplicity of universal laws governing all physical systems and the intricate mechanisms at play in the biosphere. Topics include kinetic energy, potential energy, quantization of energy, energy conservation, cosmological and ecological processes.

Mathematical Foundations 2

The fundamental concepts and tools of calculus, probability, and linear algebra are essential to modern sciences, from the theories of physics and chemistry that have long been tightly coupled to mathematical ideas, to the collection and analysis of data on complex biological systems. Given the emerging technologies for collecting and sharing large data sets, some familiarity with computational and statistical methods is now also essential for modeling biological and physical systems and interpreting experimental results. MF2 is an introduction to probability and statistics with an emphasis on concepts relevant for the analysis of complex data sets. It includes an introduction to the fundamental concepts of matrices, eigenvectors, and eigenvalues.

Integrated Science 2

This course focuses on the collective behavior of systems composed of many interacting components. The phenomena of interest range from the simple relaxation of a gas into an equilibrium state of well-defined pressure and temperature to the emergence of ever increasing complexity in living organisms and the biosphere. The course provides an overview of some fundamental differences between traditional disciplines as well as indications of how they complement each other some important contexts. Topics include thermodynamic (statistical mechanical) equilibrium, fundamental concepts of temperature, entropy, free energy, and chemical equilibrium, driven systems, fundamentals of biological and ecological systems.

Integrated Science 3

Integrated Science 3 emphasizes the physics and chemistry concepts of oscillating systems, waves, and fields, and includes applications to human perception. In addition to their fundamental importance to physics and chemistry proper, these ideas are essential for developing an awareness of the principles employed by engineers in the construction of the electrical and optical devices that are ubiquitous in modern civilization. Topics include harmonic oscillators, sound waves, light, and reaction-diffusion patterns.

Integrated Science 4

Integrated Science 4 has more of a chemistry/biology emphasis, with physics brought to bear as needed. It treats topics relevant to understanding organisms, biochemical engineering, and the environment. Topics include evolution, modern biology, ecosystems, hydrology, and climate.

Scientific Writing and Presentations

The course covers some of the areas of scientific communication that a scientist needs to know and to master in order to successfully promote his or her research and career. Students will learn to recognize and construct logical arguments and become familiar with the structure of common publication formats. It will help students to advance their skills in communicating findings in textual, visual and verbal formats for a variety of audiences.

Interdisciplinary Courses

Introduction to Environmental Sciences

An introduction to the study of environmental sciences and policy through exploration of basic environmental principles in the life, physical, and social sciences. Emphasis on understanding how the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere function, and how these spheres interact with human consumption, production, and technological patterns and processes. The course includes field trips to local sites as relevant.

Applied Environmental Science and Policy

An examination of the interactions between the natural and the social systems as they relate to the environment. Focuses on ecological and earth system cycles, processes, and fundamental relationships, the environmental impact of human-induced change at the local, regional, and global levels. The role of technology and the policy process in determining how environmental problems evolve are addressed. Students will make use of ethical analysis to evaluate environmental tradeoffs, use case studies to integrate multiple disciplinary perspectives on environmental problems and to address issues of environmental justice.

Prerequisite: Introduction to Environmental Sciences.

International Environmental Policy

This course examines the international community’s responses to various global environmental problems. Because many environmental problems cross national borders, solutions require some form of global governance such as state-led mechanisms in the form of international environmental regimes. The course will thus explore how and why states both succeed and fail to negotiate international governance mechanisms. The course will also examine why some international environmental regimes are more effective than others and why states choose to comply with environmental regimes.

Dynamic Earth and Oceans: Physical and Biological Sciences for the Environment

Introduction to the dynamic processes that shape the Earth, the oceans, and the environment and their impact upon society. Earth science topics include volcanoes, earthquakes, seafloor spreading, floods, landslides, groundwater, seashores and geohazards. Ocean sciences topics include seafloor evolution, marine hazards, ocean currents and climate, waves and beach erosion, tides, hurricanes/cyclones, marine life and ecosystems, and marine resources. Emphasis on the formulation and testing of hypotheses, quantitative assessment of data, and technological developments that lead to understanding of the biosphere dynamics and associated current and future societal issues.

And choose one course from the following three courses

Biodiversity and Conservation

An overview of biological diversity, its patterns, and the current extinction crisis. Historical and theoretical foundations of conservation, from human values and law to criteria and frameworks for setting conservation priorities; island biogeography theory, landscape ecology, and socioeconomic considerations in reserve design; management of endangered species in the wild and in captivity; managing protected areas for long term viability of populations; the role of the landscape matrix around protected areas; and techniques for conserving biological diversity in semi-wild productive ecosystems such as forests.

Environmental Economics

The role of the environment in the theory and practice of economics. Topics include ways in which markets fail to efficiently allocate resources in the presence of pollution, along with the array of policies regulators used to correct those failures; the empirical techniques used by economists to put values on environmental commodities; and an examination of questions related to everyday environmental issues, particularly those confronting China, and the developing world.

Environmental Justice

Minorities and low-income households bear a disproportionate burden from environmental pollution. The inequality may happen in many countries, cultures and contexts. This course examines ways in which environmental injustices in the USA, China and in the world may arise out of discriminatory behavior and/or market forces founded on individual, firm, and government incentives. The course also analyses policies that are aimed at providing fair treatment and equal protection from pollution regardless of race, color, or income. The course first sets the theoretical framework used to document and explain disproportionate exposures. Based on this foundation, students then review existing empirical evidence through case studies and evaluate competing explanations of sources of injustice. The objective of this course is to enable students to examine environmental justice issues using an economics framework, which provides a different perspective for evaluating policies to address environmental inequities observed in today’s world.

Disciplinary Courses

Organic Chemistry I

The structures and reactions of the compounds of carbon and the impact of selected organic compounds on society. Laboratory: techniques of separation, organic reactions and preparations, and systematic identification of compounds by their spectral and chemical properties. Prerequisite: Mathematical Foundations 1 & 2; Integrated Science 1 – 4.

Organic Chemistry II

Continuation of Organic Chemistry I.

Elements of Physical Chemistry

The course introduces students to core concepts in physical chemistry including quantum chemistry, molecular structure, molecular spectroscopy, thermodynamics, and kinetics. The course also includes laboratory experiments illustrative of these topics, as well as instruction and practice in writing the laboratory notebook and formal laboratory reports.

Analytical Chemistry

Fundamentals of qualitative and quantitative measurement with emphasis on chemometrics, quantitative spectrometry, electrochemical methods, and common separation techniques. The laboratory experiments designed to accompany the lecture.

Inorganic Chemistry

Bonding, structures, and reactions of inorganic compounds studied through physical chemical concepts.

Recommended Electives for the Major

Courses listed below are recommended electives for the major. Students can also select other courses in different divisions as electives.

Climate Change and Society in China

Analysis of Earth’s climate history and links between climate and society in China, as well as physical climatology and the future climate in China. Topics include: global climate system, climate feedbacks, energy balance, basic circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, hydrological cycle and carbon cycle, paleoclimate reconstruction, record of natural variations of past climate with emphasis on past changes of monsoon rainfall reconstructed from paleoclimate archives for the past, extrinsic forcing mechanisms of observed paleoclimatic variations. The impact of climate variability and change on Chinese society and history will be discussed.

The Theory and Practice of Sustainability

Theories and practices of sustainability explored with application to the campus and local community environment, including economic, social and environmental factors, and a local to global reach. The Duke and Duke Kunshan campuses are used as case studies to illustrate institutional practices including building design and operations, utility supply and consumption, carbon offsets design and calculation, transportation, water, sustainability education and communication, behavior change, waste production and recycling, and procurement. In a service-learning project, students will perform sustainability inventories and cost/benefit analyses, and gather behavior change data.

Advanced Topics in Physical Chemistry

Builds on and extends the core concepts introduced in Elements of Physical chemistry. Advanced topics and recent developments in physical chemistry.

Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology

An overview of the fate and effects of chemicals in the environment. Topics include chemical characterization of pollutants, chemistry of natural waters, soil sediment chemistry, atmospheric chemistry, transfers between and transformations within environmental compartments, toxicokinetics, cellular metabolism, biological levels of organization, and approaches for assessing chemical hazards. Incorporates case studies focused on human health and ecosystem protection.

Chemical Transformation of Environmental Contaminants

Mechanisms and principles underlying organic contaminant transformations in the ambient environment. Topics include hydrolysis, oxidation/reduction, direct and indirect photolysis, and reactions with disinfectant chemicals. Reactions will be considered in context of both natural (e.g. surface water and cloudwater) and engineered (e.g. drinking water, wastewater, and groundwater remediation) systems. Approaches will include both qualitative (reaction mechanism and product identification) as well as quantitative (reaction kinetics and stoichiometry) aspects of environmental reaction chemistry.

Career Path

Graduates will be prepared for careers with organizations including environmental protection agencies, research institutes, private companies, and consulting firms. Graduates will also be well positioned for graduate studies in environmental science, chemistry, public policy.