Grand Challenge Scholars Program

In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) identified 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century:

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineering the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advanced personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

The profession of engineering has been, true to its latin root ingeniare, about invention. For the past one hundred years, about as long as most college of engineering programs have existed, the list of the most important engineering achievements has been dominated by devices: planes and spacecraft, cars and agricultural machines, lasers and PET scanners, to name a few from the NAE report of the last century. Almost a decade into the new century, another NAE committee has addressed the new engineering grand challenges and has come to a much deeper unfolding of invention: Their list includes making solar energy economical, preventing nuclear terror, advancing health informatics, clean water and reverse engineering the human brain. None of them are just devices. Nearly all address complex social issues that require innovative technology and a systems approach to solve but cannot be solved in a vacuum. They will also require engineers to shape public policy, transfer technical innovation to the market place, and to inform and be informed by social science and the humanities. These are challenges to “change the world,” and many of them are inherently global.

The University of Utah College of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) is a new education model to prepare our engineering students to be world changers. While participating in this program, students will build a portfolio throughout their undergraduate experience encompassing five components:

  • Research experience: Project or independent research related to a Grand Challenge.
  • Interdisciplinary curriculum: Preparing engineering students to work at the overlap with public policy, business, law, ethics, human behavior, risk as well as medicine and the sciences. Examples that span these disciplines with a coherent theme are Energy and the Environment, Sustainability, Uncertainty and Optimization, etc.
  • Entrepreneurship: Preparing students to translate invention to innovation; to develop market ventures that scale to global solutions in the public interest.
  • Global dimension: Developing the students’ global perspective necessary to address challenges that are inherently global as well as to lead innovation in a global economy.
  • Service learning: Developing and deepening students’ social consciousness and their motivation to bring their technical expertise to bear on societal problems.

The University of Utah College of Engineering’s GCSP is endorsed by the NAE, and students completing their portfolio and graduating from the program will be designated ‘Grand Challenge Scholars’ by the NAE.

Please explore this website to learn more about the program. If you are a student, I hope you will consider applying to the program through the “Application Information” tab. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or the faculty liaison for your department. The current faculty liaisons are:

  • Biomedical Engineering: TBD
  • Chemical Engineering: TBD
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering: TBD
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering: TBD
  • Materials Science and Engineering: TBD
  • Mechanical Engineering: TBD
  • School of Computing: TBD

Thank you for your interest!

Morgan Boyack
Academic Program Coordinator
Advisor, Grand Challenge Scholars Program
Office: 1813 WEB

Application Information

To apply to the GCSP, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page and provide the requested documents. Students should apply as early as possible during their undergraduate studies.

Once accepted into the program, students must:

  • Remain a student in good standing.
  • Submit to the GCSP director a proposed GCSP Plan, which encompasses how the student will fulfill the required five curricular components (this is due within one year of beginning the program).
  • Complete the proposed GCSP Portfolio including the five GCSP components at least two months prior to graduation.

If you run into problems submitting this form, please email Morgan Boyack.

Apply Below

What is your declared major? Or if you have not yet declared, what engineering discipline interests you most?
Will only be used for GCSP communications.
Please describe how each activity / course fulfills a curricular component(s).


Morgan Boyack
Academic Program Coordinator
Advisor, Grand Challenge Scholars Program
Office: 1813 WEB
Phone: 801-581-4528

Phone: 801-581-4528