Grand Challenges Scholars Program

Young student explaining his project while pointing to his poster presentation

The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) at FAMU-FSU Engineering supports diverse undergraduate student leaders who are ready to engage with—and help solve—the global grand challenges engineers face today. 

While studying engineering as an undergraduate, why not tap into your passion for making the world a better place? Undergraduates can infuse their engineering coursework with social issues, environmental work and other pressing issues that make up the NAE Grand Challenges. What better way to build experience, camaraderie and a resume than working and learning alongside peers, mentors and faculty that have a shared vision for discovery.


GCSP Scholars tailor their undergraduate experience to:

  • Learn about, explore and make progress towards solving one of the 14 NAE-identified Grand Challenges
  • Focus on one of the four NAE GCSP research themes
  • Build their competencies through educational opportunities and experiences focused on engaging with research, interdisciplinary, entrepreneurship, global citizenship and service-learning.


The NAE Grand Challenges

In 2008, an international group of leading technological thinkers were asked to identify the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. These Grand Challenges fall into four cross-cutting themes: HEALTH, SUSTAINABILITY, SECURITY and JOY OF LIVING.



  • Provide access to clean water
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Advance health informatics



  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Make solar energy economical



  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace


Joy of Living

  • Advance personalized learning
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery


FAMU-FSU Engineering GCSP Elements

Completing the GCSP means meeting the expectations for each of the five program elements:

  • Research experience
  • Interdisciplinary coursework and/or experience
  • Entrepreneurship coursework and/or experience
  • Global dimensions coursework and/or experience
  • Service-learning experience

Each student focuses on an NAE Grand Challenge and Research Theme. Students may complete some program elements while studying abroad, during an internship or work experience or at a student's host university campus - either at FAMU or FSU. 


FAMU-FSU Engineering GCSP Scholar Selection and Tracking Process

The FAMU-FSU Engineering GCSP aims to involve a diverse cohort of undergraduate students from both FAMU and FSU. An undergraduate at any level may apply for the program. Scholar selection and performance decisions are made in spring semesters. Approving GCSP Final Portfolios for graduating seniors and rewarding and acknowledging the work being done by all Scholars also takes place in spring semesters. 


Applying to the Program

Applicants must be in good academic standing to apply. Applicants submit applications annually on February 15th and are notified of their acceptance by April 15th of the same calendar year. Each application must include: 

  • Academic information like intended major and (optional) demographic information
  • A one-page resume
  • An unofficial transcript
  • A 300-word or fewer essay describing the student’s motivations and interests in engineering and the GC they intend to focus on
  • A 700-word or fewer proposal for their tenure as GC Scholar (how and when the applicant plans to fulfill each of the five program elements: research, interdisciplinary, entrepreneurship, global dimensions and service-learning) 
  • An email from a FAMU-FSU Engineering, FAMU or FSU faculty member indicating their willingness to serve as the applicant’s mentor (this email does not need to be a formal letter of recommendation and can be brief). The potential mentor should indicate whether they have served as a GCSP Mentor previously. In the event that the applicant has not identified a faculty mentor, an email from a FAMU-FSU Engineering, FAMU or FSU faculty member (or equivalent) indicating their confidence in the ability of the applicant to succeed as a GCSP Scholar will suffice (this email does not need to be a full-length letter of recommendation).



Become a FAMU-FSU Engineering GCSP Faculty Mentor

Faculty mentors may be anyone from FAMU, FSU or FAMU-FSU Engineering, and can serve as a mentor for up to five GCSP Scholars at one time. Mentors are expected to meet with each of their Scholars at least twice annually, helping connect their mentees to existing opportunities and working with them on developing and completing a robust GCSP Scholar Program that balances all five of the GCSP Elements and focuses on a specific Grand Challenge and Theme. If you're interested in mentoring, email us.

Creating, developing, and sustaining a network of GCSP scholars and alumni

The FAMU-FSU Engineering GCSP intends to create a point of connection for graduates of the GCSP to stay connected with the college and the Grand Challenges that engineers face today. As the community of GCSP Scholar alumni grows at the FAMU-FSU COE, it will develop its own methods of involvement and sustained connection. Former GCSP Scholars (and others) may submit their own service-learning and entrepreneurship ideas to the program, connect and work with current, and former, GCSP Scholars. 


Kassie Ernst, Ph.D.

Kassie Ernst, Ph.D.
First-Year Engineering Faculty and
Grand Challenges Scholars Program Director
(850) 410-6279