P. Fieguth - SD332 Homepage
Paul Fieguth
Dept. of Systems Design Engineering
Faculty of Engineering
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario
Canada N2L 3G1
Tel: (519) 888-4567 x84970
FAX: (519) 746-4791

SD332 Homepage

The Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation has seminars, some of which may very much be of interest to students in SYDE 332. Take a look at their list of events.

Overview Material

The interaction of people with their physical environment is complex and multifaceted. Problems of global warming, water dead zones, soil desertification, and food production cannot be solved on the basis of examining single pieces of an interlocking puzzle. This course will examine the mathematics of complex and nonlinear systems, the science of the physical environment, and the tools of environmental inference and remote sensing.

2017 Course Syllabus

There are many courses at UW that are related to SYDE 332, and that might interest many of you. I have prepared a list of these courses for you.

This course covers a lot of ground, and there are many directions of interest which could be pursued. I have therefore prepared a list of reading and references for you.

There will be one project and four assignments, details at the bottom of this page, to be submitted online on the SYDE 332 Learn page. This term, for the first time, we will be using the textbook which I wrote for this course. I would greatly value your feedback / lists of typos or errors / inconsistent notation / confusing descriptions. I will be awarding up to 2% in bonus marks for feedback received by the final exam date.

Office Hours

   Mondays    4:00 - 5:00  Tutorial Time (E5-6006)
   Mondays    5:00 - 5:30  Post-tutorial discussion (E5-6006)
I will, of course, be scheduling additional office hours before the midterm and final exams.

Course Schedule

The following gives a very approximate sense of the topics to be covered, and may be subject to change:

WeekLecture TopicsCase StudyBook Chapters or Sections
1IntroductionGlobal WarmingChapters 1, 2
2Systems TheoryNutrient FlowsChapter 3
3Linear Dynamic SystemsChapters 4, 5
4Nonlinear SystemsBi-Stable Complex SystemsChapter 6
5Nonlinear SystemsClimate & BifurcationChapters 6, 7
6Bifurcations, Limit Cycles    Chapter 7
7Reading Week
8Spatial systemsOcean Circulation Chapter 8
9Power lawsChapter 9
10Complex SystemsChapter 10
11Remote SensingAtmospheric Temperature Inference    Chapter 11
12Inverse ProblemsChapters 11, 12
13Wrap-upApplication to Current EventsChapter 13

Tutorial Schedule

The tutorials are meant to cover areas of potential difficulty to students, and to allow a more informal time of question and answer. Tutorials will hopefully serve a couple of different purposes:
  1. Teaching tutorials, with about a third of the time to review classroom material, another third to solve a related problem, and the remaining time open for student questions.
  2. Assignment tutorials, which will focus on discussion relevant to an assignment. The tutorial will start with 10-20 minutes of clarifications and suggestions, with the rest of the time available for questions.
  3. Case-study tutorials, which will focus on some real-world phenomenon, and then interpret it in the context of the material taught in this course.
Comments and feedback on the tutorials is quite welcome.
WeekDate  Style  Content
Week 2Monday, January 9Teach/Case  Null Spaces, Global Warming
Week 3Monday, January 16Case Systems Theory and Nutrient Flows
Week 4Monday, January 23Teach Eigendecompositions and Decoupling
Week 5Monday, January 30Case Project Discussion
AssignAssignment 2
Week 6Monday, February 6Case Climate and Hysteresis
Week 7Monday, February 13--- Quiz review
Week 8Monday, February 20  --- (reading week)
Week 9Monday, February 27Teach Discrete-Time Systems
Week 10Monday, March 6Case Power Laws and Social Systems
Teach Cellular Automata
AssignAssignment 4
Week 11Monday, March 13Teach Global Circulation Models, Overview of Satellite Platforms
Week 12Monday, March 20Case Temperature Inference
Week 13Monday, March 27--- (holiday)
Week 14  Monday, April 3ReviewCourse Review

Assignments and Labs

There will be a total of four assignments this term, as outlined in
the syllabus.

Each assignment must be undertaken individually and submitted online (submit links listed below, with each assignment). The reports should be formal (with an introduction, properly written, neatly organized into sections etc.), but definitely not long. I will be expecting some sorts of conclusions for any open-ended discussion sort of problem (such as Problem 3.4 in Assignment 1). Diagrams can be hand-drawn and scanned if that saves you time. The submission must be a single PDF file.

Computational parts can be done in Matlab, although you are free to use any sort of programming environment which you prefer. Here are several demo files which will help you to get started:

A very simple demo page, with a simple Matlab script which calls a short function.

Simple Matlab Tutorial (PDF)

Second Matlab Tutorial for SD372


There will be a short in-class quiz on Thursday, February 16, worth 10% of the grade. The quiz will be only a half hour in length. All questions on the quiz will be taken directly from one or more textbook problems from the ends of Chapters 2 through 7 (problem parameters / values may be changed).


Please refer to the
one page project handout.

The project proposal is due on Feb. 10th.

The proposal should be no more than one page, and basically needs to have title / name(s) / background / project intent / references. The proposal is graded pass/fail, and it gives me an opportunity to give you a bit of feedback.

The actual project is due on Monday, April 3rd.

I have a grammar and style guide which students should take a look at, including a section on document layout and style. I also have a presentation on figure plotting that you might want to refer to.

Final Exam

Because SYDE 332 is fast-paced and covers a wide range of material, in past years some students have approached the final exam with some anxiety. However my expectations of students are not in any way that they master all of the material in the course, and final exam grades have generally been quite reasonable.

I try to make the exam a reasonable balance of qualitative and quantitative. Interested students can see the 2011 SYDE 332 final exam here.

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