Grand Challenges – Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (GC-URSP)

The Grand Challenges Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (GC-URSP) is a year-long sequence of courses related to the “Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project,” in which students will experience hands-on research and be engaged in leadership development.

As a result, students will be able to:

  1. Conduct an independent research project with the mentoring of a Grand Challenge Project faculty member, as well as a group research project in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team
  2. Explain and describe the concept of sustainability, as well as how it relates to energy, water, and biodiversity
  3. Describe the genesis of Grand Challenges and evaluate the implications of approaching societal challenges in a holistic and innovative way
  4. Effectively disseminate and communicate their research results to a scientific and non-scientific audience
The Challenge: Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project is a multidisciplinary and ambitious research project at UCLA that was announced in November 2013. It is the first of the UCLA Grand Challenge Projects. The UCLA Grand Challenges initiative stems from the UCLA Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR). For the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project, the OVCR worked with departments across campus to organize dozens of environmental experts from UCLA to come together and define a Grand Challenge goal. Today over 130 faculty are committed to the project. What they came up with was both daunting and inspiring: to transform the Los Angeles region to be 100% sustainable in water and energy without harming biodiversity by the year 2050.

The Course: Be Part of UCLA's First Grand Challenges Course

GC-URSP (Environ 188B) is the first-ever UCLA Grand Challenges course. The program has two components:

  1. Placement in the research setting of a Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project faculty member, where students will perform research and learn from their faculty mentors
  2. A concurrent class once a week that will provide students with professional development, research prowess, and communication skills. This course will be taught by Dr. Rachel Kennison, Assistant Director of the Undergraduate Research Center–Sciences.

GC-URSP is a year-long course that requires its students to commit to learn, discover, and collaborate with one another. Fifty students will be chosen for the program.

Research Topics
Nearly 30 Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project faculty members have agreed to take 1-2 students in their research settings for GC-URSP. You will be able to choose your top 2 faculty preferences on your application. A list of these faculty and their research biographies will be available here. If you do not know with which faculty member you wish to work, you will be placed in a research setting based on your stated interests from your application.
To enroll in GC-URSP, you must meet the following requirements:
  • Be able to commit to a year-long class and research experience
  • Be a UCLA undergraduate (all majors are welcome)
  • Have a minimum 2.7 GPA

The spring application deadline for the 2016-2017 academic year has passed. Please check back in the spring for applications for the following year.

More Information and Questions
For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, please go to the GC-URSP website.

Please also see the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project and the Undergraduate Research Center-Sciences GC-URSP websites.

For additional questions, please e-mail