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Department of Mathematics & Statistics

MATS204 Treasure or Trash: Sustainability of Materials

Summer School
18 points

Ever wondered what makes a material sustainable, how plastics end up in the ocean or why metals should be recycled? MATS 204 takes you on a journey through the lifecycle of everyday objects and the materials they are made of; from the impacts of extracting raw materials to what happens at the end of their life and all the bits in between. Learn what to treasure about materials and how not to trash them! Be proactive about sustainability and study over the summer without having to be on campus.

Listen to Sarah talk on the Susty Sussed podcast.

Feedback from previous years:

“It is nice to learn about something that is completely different to my degree.”

“So interesting and refreshingly different to the kind of learning I am used to at university!”

“It has definitely been my favourite paper that I have taken through my university studies.”

“Really enjoying the subject and classes … and have learnt so much.”

“I absolutely loved the course and how it made me think differently as a consumer.”

Paper Structure

This paper is structured around a lifecycle and will address the following issues:

1. National and international principles of sustainability: principles of sustainability, legislation, certification models and assessment tools

2. Resources (extraction and production): extraction of raw materials, waste, pollution, energy use

3. Strategies for design and manufacturing: materials and methods of manufacturing

4. Consumer role and ethical considerations: the role of the consumer in use of a product and ethical considerations for sustainability


54 points

Students who meet the prerequisite are welcome to enrol in this paper.

The paper is available as a distance paper through Summer School. This paper is relevant to students from a wide range of disciplines.

It is in both the Science and Commerce Schedule C.


Associate Professor Sarah Wakes (

Dr Linda Dunn

Guests on interesting sustainability topics

More Information

All seminar content (videos, presentation slides) and assignment information is provided online. The information is structured around the life cycle of materials with a roadmap provided to guide you. Students complete and submit all assignments online.

The teaching of this paper is supplemented with a number of guest speakers from within the University of Otago, other organisations, and from sustainable businesses.

Resource videos provide information on how to connect online, do assignments and generally manage the online learning process.

Teaching staff are available via email, phone and face-to-face meetings.


The paper has 100% internal assessment.

This includes:

Final mark

Your final mark F in the paper will be calculated according to this formula:

F = A


and all quantities are expressed as percentages.

Students must abide by the University’s Academic Integrity Policy

Academic integrity means being honest in your studying and assessments. It is the basis for ethical decision-making and behaviour in an academic context. Academic integrity is informed by the values of honesty, trust, responsibility, fairness, respect and courage.

Academic misconduct is seeking to gain for yourself, or assisting another person to gain, an academic advantage by deception or other unfair means. The most common form of academic misconduct is plagiarism.

Academic misconduct in relation to work submitted for assessment (including all course work, tests and examinations) is taken very seriously at the University of Otago.

All students have a responsibility to understand the requirements that apply to particular assessments and also to be aware of acceptable academic practice regarding the use of material prepared by others. Therefore it is important to be familiar with the rules surrounding academic misconduct at the University of Otago; they may be different from the rules in your previous place of study.

Any student involved in academic misconduct, whether intentional or arising through failure to take reasonable care, will be subject to the University’s Student Academic Misconduct Procedures which contain a range of penalties.

If you are ever in doubt concerning what may be acceptable academic practice in relation to assessment, you should clarify the situation with your lecturer before submitting the work or taking the test or examination involved.

Types of academic misconduct are as follows:


The University makes a distinction between unintentional plagiarism (Level One) and intentional plagiarism (Level Two).

  • Although not intended, unintentional plagiarism is covered by the Student Academic Misconduct Procedures. It is usually due to lack of care, naivety, and/or to a lack to understanding of acceptable academic behaviour. This kind of plagiarism can be easily avoided.
  • Intentional plagiarism is gaining academic advantage by copying or paraphrasing someone elses work and presenting it as your own, or helping someone else copy your work and present it as their own. It also includes self-plagiarism which is when you use your own work in a different paper or programme without indicating the source. Intentional plagiarism is treated very seriously by the University.

Unauthorised Collaboration

Unauthorised Collaboration occurs when you work with, or share work with, others on an assessment which is designed as a task for individuals and in which individual answers are required. This form does not include assessment tasks where students are required or permitted to present their results as collaborative work. Nor does it preclude collaborative effort in research or study for assignments, tests or examinations; but unless it is explicitly stated otherwise, each students answers should be in their own words. If you are not sure if collaboration is allowed, check with your lecturer..


Impersonation is getting someone else to participate in any assessment on your behalf, including having someone else sit any test or examination on your behalf.


Falsification is to falsify the results of your research; presenting as true or accurate material that you know to be false or inaccurate.

Use of Unauthorised Materials

Unless expressly permitted, notes, books, calculators, computers or any other material and equipment are not permitted into a test or examination. Make sure you read the examination rules carefully. If you are still not sure what you are allowed to take in, check with your lecturer.

Assisting Others to Commit Academic Misconduct

This includes impersonating another student in a test or examination; writing an assignment for another student; giving answers to another student in a test or examination by any direct or indirect means; and allowing another student to copy answers in a test, examination or any other assessment.

Further information

While we strive to keep details as accurate and up-to-date as possible, information given here should be regarded as provisional. Individual lecturers will confirm teaching and assessment methods.