Grand Challenges Scholars Program

Spend your time at USC Viterbi working towards solving the Grand Challenges!

In addition to the Renaissance Scholars, Global Scholars, and Discovery Scholars, undergraduate students at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have the unique opportunity to compete in another opportunity – the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP).  Grand Challenge Scholars drive their educational experiences towards discovering, exploring, and potentially solving one of the NAE Grand Challenges and earn recognition at graduation from USC and the National Academy of Engineering.

NAE Grand Challenges:

Sustainability

  • Making solar energy economical
  • Providing energy from fusion
  • Developing carbon sequestration methods
  • Managing the nitrogen cycle
  • Providing access to clean water

Security

  • Securing cyberspace
  • Preventing nuclear terror
  • Restoring and improving urban infrastructure

Health

  • Engineering Better Medicines
  • Advancing Health Informatics
  • Reverse engineering the brain

Enriching Life

  • Enhancing virtual reality
  • Advancing personalize learning
  • Engineering the tools of scientific discovery
Learn More About the NAE Grand Challenges

The Viterbi Grand Challenges Scholars Program

The Viterbi School encourages students to pursue their academic and co-curricular involvement keeping the Grand Challenges in mind.  The USC Viterbi Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) helps you to organize your time spent focused on exploring results that benefit society. Each year, the top 25 students who successfully complete the USC Viterbi GCSP areas will be named National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars, recognized both by USC at graduation and the National Academy of Engineering.

Students interested in being designated as Grand Challenge Scholars should demonstrate involvement related to a specific Grand Challenge topic in each of the five areas to the right.  Successful students must carry their involvement related to the challenge across 5 dimensions:

  1. Research/Creativity
  2. Multidisciplinarity
  3. Entrepreneurship
  4. Cultural Competence
  5. Social Consciousness

Program Requirements

Current Undergraduates should be following the program outlined below.  While our focus on your chosen Grand Challenge should be carried through across the 5 dimensions below,only one dimension requires in-depth focus. You will notice  the 5 dimensions of a successful Grand Challenges Scholar have flexibility built in.  While we list possible interpretations of the dimension, we encourage you to think of these areas broadly.

The GCSP Committee will only accept applications from graduating seniors.  Each application will be evaluated on the student’s focus on their chosen Grand Challenge and interpretation of their work and experiences across the 5 dimensions.  The Viterbi School will name up to a total of 25 NAE Grand Challenges Scholars each year.  Small cash prizes are awarded to Scholars and additional recognition is provided at graduation.

The 5 Dimensions of GCSP:

Upon applying as a graduating senior, your application must reflect your focus across all of the five dimensions listed below.  While we list some examples of how an undergraduate may complete each dimension, please understand these lists are not exhaustive.  We welcome your ideas and interpretations.

1. Research/Creativity

Mentored research or project experience related to a Grand Challenge: Participate in an approved team project, senior capstone project, design project or research project related to one of the Grand Challenge Topics.

Examples can include:

  • Working with faculty focused on one of the Grand Challenges
  • Developing your own independent research and enrolling in a Directed Research course
  • Focusing a senior capstone design project on one of the Grand Challenges
  • Presenting independent research on one of the Grand Challenges at USC Undergraduate Research Symposium or other such venue
  • Participate in team project with Grand Challenge focus, such as Solar Car Team, HackSC Hackathon; etc

 

2. Multidisciplinary

Understanding gained through multidisciplinarity: Enroll in courses outside the engineering curriculum that will complement the technical curriculum such as public policy, business, law, ethics, art, sociology, natural sciences,etc.

 

Examples can include:

  • Pursuing a Minor related to the Grand Challenges
  • Taking at least two courses in biotechnology; communication and the entertainment industry; ethics & moral philosophy; global health; human rights; applied computer security; social entrepreneurship; non-profits, philanthropy, & volunteerism; science visualization, or other potential courses that are connected to Grand Challenge themes

 

3. Entrepreneurship

Understanding gained through experience that viable business mode. Students should be prepared to translate invention and innovation and to develop market ventures that can scale to global solutions to the Grand Challenges.

Examples can include:

  • Pursue a minor or enroll in at least two courses in digital entrepreneurship; social entrepreneurship; etc.
  • Take on a leadership role in a student organizations related to entrepreneurship such as Spark SC; LavaLab; NOBE; etc.
  • Participate in the Viterbi Start-Up Garage or Maaseh Prize Competition by submitting a business plan related to the Grand Challenges.
  • Participate in VSi2 or other entrepreneurial program activities.

4. Cultural Competence

Understanding gained through global or different cultural experience: Participate in a curricular or co-curricular activity that develops the perspective necessary to understand global challenges or that lead to innovations in a global economy.

 

Examples can include:

  • Conduct research related to global health issues, non-profit marketing or low-cost manufacturing
  • Participate in an approved study abroad program
  • Participate in iPodia, the Viterbi Tsinghua Research program, Engineers Without Borders or other USC international program
  • Participate in an international internship or the USC Global Fellows program

5. Social Consciousness

Addressing societal problems through service learning, K-12 engagement, and/or social entrepreneurship: Participate in a curricular or co-curricular activity that deepens social awareness and develops the motivation to bring technical expertise to bear on societal problems.

Examples can include:

  • Participate in activities or conduct research in an area of focus on improving the human condition.
  • Participate in Viterbi Impact, Engineers Without Borders, JEP, Volunteer Center programs and projects
  • Participate in STEM related outreach activities.

 

 

How to Apply

The USC Viterbi GCSP is only open to current undergraduate students.  Students are eligible to apply in the year of their undergraduate commencement.  Applications typically become available in January, and are due in mid February.

Freshmen, Sophomores, & Juniors

  • Learn more about the Grand Challenges and determine which one you will choose for the focus of your work.
  • Take the time you have now to determine how you will interpret the 5 dimensions and your successful completion of each.
  • Consult with your academic advisor on your plan and solicit feedback as you build your GCSP Portfolio.
  • Submit your GCSP Portfolio to Dean Yates for feedback.
  • Look for GCSP Info Sessions to be held each spring semester.
  • To be included in our database of interested applicants, please complete the Road to Designation form online. Please note that the content submitted on the form is not considered a final application and avaliable to be edited and changed by the student as needed. You can also access a soft copy of this form and submit it to RTH 110 during normal busines hours, Monday- Friday, 8:30am-5pm.

Seniors

The 2016-2017 application is now live and due in early spring.

If you have questions or would like feedback on your proposed GCSP Portfolio, please contact Dean Yates.

Apply Now!