Princeton Environmental Institute Announces a Call for Proposals for Innovative Research, Teaching, Mentorship, and Service Focused on Urban Sustainability: the Urban Grand Challenge


Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) is pleased to announce a call for proposals to the Urban Grand ChallengeThe goal is to encourage research, teaching, mentorship, and service activities related to environment and the urban setting. The deadline for written proposals is Friday, June 29, 2018.  A selection committee will review the proposals, and awards will be announced in September.

Two types of awards will be considered:

  • Small seed grants ($10,000 to $50,000 over 2 years) to support initial and exploratory projects that may be scaled up into larger and more comprehensive activities.
  • Larger grants (up to $150,000 over 2 years) to support new initiatives that require a significant early investment of resources. Proposals for large grants should cite the investigator(s)’ preliminary works that provide a basis for the intended activity.

The Urban Challenge is one of several long-term research and teaching cooperatives that comprise the Grand Challenges program – a campus-wide initiative that addresses complex global environmental challenges with scientific, technological, and policy dimensions.  A critical component of Grand Challenges is the integration of faculty scholarship with innovative undergraduate research supervision and college teaching, with outcomes including undergraduate research fellowships, mentoring of independent projects, and the introduction of new courses to the curriculum.

Research Priorities:

With the majority of the world’s population now living in urban areas, it is more urgent than ever to examine ways in which existing and future cities can present viable and sustainable models.  We seek to create an innovative program that combines the study of the urban, natural, and socio-economic systems with a goal of identifying solutions that are sensitive to environmental issues including global change, water resource management, energy efficiency, technological solutions to urban challenges, human and environmental health, as well as equity and fairness, poverty and jobs creation, race, ethnicity, and more intangible notions of belonging.

The Urban Challenge aims to bridge the environmental sciences, social sciences, engineering and technology, design, and the humanities to explore the complex and interrelated issues of the urban environment with an eye towards transformative growth, revival, resilience and sustainability. We seek to enrich and advance research into the forces shaping cities, past and present; how these forces are being transformed by the rapid pace of technological innovation; and how they can be guided to improve future cities.

Preference will be given to proposals that most effectively:

  • Allow faculty to move into a new area of research and/or to produce collaborations between two or more faculty from different academic disciplines;
  • Support tangible research outcomes including publications, reports, journal articles, presentations, exhibits, performances and the like;
  • Leverage seed money to attract larger grants;
  • Provide experiential immersion experiences for undergraduate students, including  opportunities for multi-year sequences of assignments beginning as early as the summer following the freshman year and culminating in robust senior independent work and publishable research;
  • Contribute to the development of new courses or the modification of existing courses to enhance the undergraduate curriculum;
  • Engage service immersion as an active component of an undergraduate course or summer field experience.
  • Support cooperative initiatives with community organizations, particularly in New Jersey and the Princeton-Trenton region.  These initiatives may include technical, scientific, policy, and cultural activities that promote sustainability, broadly defined, in the urban setting.

Proposals should be submitted using the online application formshould be no more than four pages in length, and should include the following:

  • A project abstract or summary statement (not to exceed 200 words);
  • A description of the research element including how the proposed venture relates to the urban sustainability theme and how advances realized by the research might contribute to possible solutions;
  • A narrative that describes the significance of the research in the context of competing research in relevant disciplines, research objectives, and milestones, and, where applicable, how the seed money will be leveraged to draw larger sponsored research grants;
  • A description of teaching, mentoring and/or service elements that the faculty member(s) will create, such as specific internships and/or opportunities for independent study and/or service immersion, and courses that will be developed or significantly modified;
  • A project budget.  Project budgets may include but are not limited to research materials,  supplies, and travel; workshops, symposia, and conferences; support for research assistants and visiting collaborators; and expenses related to course development  and course related field work;
  • A list of current and pending support for all PIs and/or senior research personnel that indicates how the proposed effort is distinct from earlier or ongoing funding to the investigators involved.

Questions about this call for proposals should be directed to .

The deadline for written proposals is Friday, June 29, 2018.  A selection committee will review the proposals, and awards will be announced in September.