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About Grand Challenges


PEI’s Grand Challenges Program addresses critical environmental problems of the 21st century through integrated research and teaching activities. The program fosters a novel approach to developing solutions and a new generation of global leaders.   

The program involves cutting-edge research conducted locally and around the world, and engages a broad cross section of the University’s research community. Since Grand Challenges was launched, 100 Princeton faculty members from 20 academic units have received support for projects focused on Urban Sustainability, Climate and Energy, Water and the Environment, Global Health and Infectious Disease, and Sustainable Development in Africa.

As a research enterprise, Grand Challenges serves as the framework for an extensive association of scholars and supports academic programming that involves students from across the University. The program’s academic mission is advanced through innovations in teaching and learning, including undergraduate courses, internships and opportunities for students to work with faculty on research projects. Forty new undergraduate courses have been introduced through Grand Challenges and the program has supported nearly 1,600 undergraduate research projects, including internships and independent fieldwork in 91 countries.


PEI administers campus-wide calls for proposals for Grand Challenges projects annually. At present, topics in Urban Sustainability, Water and the Environment and Climate and Energy are the program's focus. Faculty seeking to redirect their research and teaching activities to address issues related to these themes may apply for seed funding. The Grand Challenges research cooperatives of Global Health and Infectious Disease, and of Sustainable Development in Africa, have concluded. 


The Grand Challenges Program provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to develop their understanding of climate and energy, water, global health, development, and urban sustainability. A network of courses has been identified in each of these five focal areas, including offerings within the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities divisions. Course-related fieldwork, hands-on laboratory exercises, an extensive internship program, and support for independent field research are part of the Grand Challenges program's commitment to experiential learning and exposure to cutting-edge research.

For more information:

Grand Challenges Program
Princeton University
Guyot Hall, Room 129
Princeton, NJ 08544

Grand Challenges (2007-Present)

Campuswide Participation

100 Princeton faculty from 20 academic units
97 interdisciplinary research projects

Educational Innovations

40+ new courses
1,155 undergraduate internships in 91 countries
435 senior thesis research awards

Enhanced Graduate Education

101 graduate students on research projects
30 two-year fellowships for Ph.D. candidates
68 Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars


Margaret Martonosi

— Margaret Martonosi
Hugh Trumbull Adams ’35 Professor of Computer Science


Zoe Sims

— Zoe Sims ’17
Ecology and Evolutionary