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About the Princeton Environmental Institute

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach


Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) advances understanding of the Earth as a complex system influenced by human behavior, and it informs solutions to local and global challenges by conducting groundbreaking research across disciplines and by preparing future leaders in diverse fields to impact a world increasingly shaped by climate change.

Founded in 1994, PEI is the interdisciplinary center of environmental research, education and outreach at Princeton University. PEI draws its strength from more than 120 members of the Princeton faculty, representing 30 academic disciplines, whose research and teaching focuses on the scientific, technical, policy, and human dimensions of environmental issues. PEI functions as a central resource for faculty, postdocs, students, alumni and others with an interest in environmental topics.

Environmental Research

Research at PEI is distinguishable from other environmentally focused work at Princeton because faculty and research affiliates work across disciplinary lines. PEI's principal research centers address complex issues surrounding global change; energy and climate; biogeochemical cycles; molecular geochemistry; biodiversity; conservation; environmental science and policy; water, global health and infectious disease; and sustainable development in impoverished and resource-challenged regions of the world including urban settings.

Educational Programs

PEI offers educational programs for undergraduate and graduate students as interdisciplinary courses of study.


The Program in Environmental Studies is open to undergraduate students from all academic disciplines. Participation is well distributed with balance across the sciences, engineering, social sciences, and humanities. Students with interest in environmental topics benefit from a wide array of courses, internships, and research funding opportunities. Students who wish to demonstrate proficiency may pursue a Certificate in Environmental Studies.


The PEI-STEP Program is PEI's primary vehicle for graduate study. The program, operated as an adjunct to the Woodrow Wilson School's program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP), allows graduate students in science, engineering, and other academic disciplines to participate in the Woodrow Wilson School's STEP program while developing an environmental policy dimension of their doctoral thesis. PEI offers additional opportunities for graduate fellowship and support including the Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars (PECS) group and research funding for graduate students with specialized interests in environmental study.

Environmental Humanities

The Environmental Humanities Initiative within the Princeton Environmental Institute seeks to facilitate broad participation of faculty, research scholars, and students from the humanities disciplines in the study of environmental subjects. Resources and programming activities are diverse with opportunities for advancing research and teaching in the environmental humanities as well as support for fostering an inclusive dialogue that provides insights and new perspectives to the study of environmental topics.

Grand Challenges

The Grand Challenges Program was launched in 2007 to address the world’s most vexing environmental problems through an integrated research and teaching program. The program draws upon strengths in the scholarship of resident Princeton faculty while defining new directions in research and collaboration across disciplinary lines to seek solutions to focal problems of climate and energy; water; global health; sustainable development in Africa; and urban environments.

An essential element of the Grand Challenges Program is a commitment to create innovations in undergraduate teaching and learning by designing new courses, internships, and opportunities for undergraduate research in and around faculty research cooperatives. Post doctoral and graduate fellowships are essential elements of the integrated research and teaching model.

Outreach and Events

PEI offers an array of programs, seminars, events, lectures, and conferences for the benefit of faculty, students, members of the extended University community, and others with interest in environmental topics. Recent events and lecture series have included topics in climate; energy science; environmental justice; agriculture; biofuels; oil, energy and the Middle East; biodiversity; sustainability; environmental humanities; and environmental ethics.