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Dr Rob Wallach

This course introduces some of the diverse topics around sustainability and the future of the environment. The aim is to raise awareness and discuss issues. The course does not attempt to prescribe solutions as action will have to be tackled by those taking the course (and discussion by participants is an integral feature), as well as many, many others, both now and in the future for decades to come.

The focus in the first half of the course is to identify and explore various global issues that currently need to be addressed to ensure sustainability and topics such as population, migration, health, cities, water, food and the digital age are included. Economic and biological aspects are not covered in any depth even though they too are complementary and equally essential in providing robust ways forward. The second half of the course focuses on the need to provide sustainable energy, and alternative energy sources are introduced since decisions currently are being, and will need to continue to be, taken to replace conventional fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint. A breakdown of the lectures will follow.

Intended Audience

Those concerned about the future of mankind and all life on earth – as well as their own future – and who wish to gain greater awareness of, and to discuss, topical issues and possible ways for improvements to be made. The approach is interactive so that participants can contribute by sharing their own particular interests or concerns. The material included provides information on matters that increasingly are raised in public debates or in the media (especially in news and current affairs programmes), although not always impartially nor with the necessary data or insights! Hence the principal aim of the course is to provide background and knowledge in some key crucial areas pertaining to global sustainability. The approach on alternative energy is not primarily scientific or engineering in content but necessarily does include relevant considerations.

Previous Knowledge

Previous knowledge of Sustainability is not required. An open mind is needed, plus a willingness to enjoy and be interested in exploring topical issues facing all of us and which are essential to address now.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills

Students will gain awareness of how to find and assess evidence, evaluate scientific hypotheses, and develop analytical skills that will be valuable in many walks of life.  You will develop a greater understanding of sustainability and of many of the current issues that are implicit in and/or which were discussed at COP24, the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.  

In addition to the overviews provided in the lectures, the course structure involves participants working both independently and in small groups (typically two or three individuals) to prepare topics that will be presented to and shared by the whole class in the tutorial sessions. This is not dissimilar to the approaches used in the independent supervision option in PKP. Hence individual interests can be explored, developed and shared.


Dr Rob Wallach

Rob Wallach is an Emeritus Senior Lecturer in the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy and former Vice-Provost of King’s College; his degrees are from Cambridge and also Queen’s University, Canada. His research has focused primarily on joining materials, both developing new approaches and addressing challenging applications (aircraft engine turbine blades, car bodies, electronic circuits). The aim is to tackle real problems and find solutions of a generic nature through modelling and experiments, thus optimising uses of new materials and their exploitation.

Rob also has been extensively involved in a wide range of University educational and welfare issues. Additionally, he runs outreach activities to broaden access for future students, and to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability and the role of materials science. He currently is the University’s Director of Postdoctoral Affairs, addressing the needs of the postdoctoral community (numbering ~4,000 across all disciplines) in the University.