NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program

The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) is a combined curricular, research, and extra-curricular program that is designed to prepare students to be the generation that solves the grand challenges facing society in this century.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is part of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and is the most prestigious body to which an engineer can be elected. The NAE operates under the same congressional act of incorporation that established the National Academy of Sciences, signed in 1863 by President Lincoln. Under this charter the NAE is directed "whenever called upon by any department or agency of the government, to investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art." The NAE has more than 2,000 peer-elected members and foreign members, senior professionals in business, academia, and government who are among the world's most accomplished engineers. Individuals cannot apply or self-nominate but are nominated, reference-supported, and elected by their peers.

In 2008, the NAE identified 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. The Grand Challenges are a call to action and serve as a focal point for society's attention to opportunities and challenges affecting our quality of life. These are very broad world-wide issues for engineers to address.

Drexel has been one of the early participants in the NAE GCSP. When a GCSP student completes the program requirements and graduates, they will receive a certificate of completion signed by both the NAE and an official certificate from the University Registrar. The certificate is a component of the student’s academic record and official transcript, similar to a minor.

Program Components

Project or Research Activity (About 50 Hours)

Each Scholar will engage in some research that can be identified with one of the very broadly identified NAE Grand Challenges. Some projects or research experiences that may, with approval, count towards this requirement are as follows:

  • Students Tackling Advanced Research (STAR)
  • Research Independent Study or Research Class (for example: MEM 395, MEM I399, CHE I399)
  • Participation in the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program
  • Research Position (Co-op, Work-Study)

Civic Engagement and Devlopment of Social Consciousness (About 50 Hours)

Each student will participate in a civic engagement project or engage meaningfully with the community outside of Drexel. This engagement should be able to be identified, as well, with one of the NAE Grand Challenges. Some projects or experiences that may, with approval, count towards this requirement are:

  • Alternative Spring Break
  • Engineering Leadership Scholars Capstone (EGMT 470)
  • Service work with your Engineering Student Organization. For example: Engineers Without Borders, Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Drexel Experiences In Materials Outreach (DEMO), Tech Serv, Theta Tau, etc

Coursework (19-22 Credits)

The Grand Challenge Scholar will be asked to take at least one course from each of the following four categories. We encourage students to think through what they’d hope to get out of each of the categories and select a class that meets their interest. The approved classes below will all count, but students should feel free to seek approval for other courses that may be of interest that fit into each category.

All approved classes count towards the College of Engineering’s approved General Education Electives. Each COE major has between 15-30 Free or General Education electives. As such, with careful planning, almost no additional courses would be required. With approval of the academic advisor, substitutions will be possible.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Experience (2 Classes)

  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship (MGMT 260)
  • Business Plan for Entrepreneurs (MGMT 365)
  • Leading Start-Ups (ENTP 210)
  • Launch It!: Early Stage (ENTP 440)

Global and Cross-cultural Perspectives (1 Class)

  • Global Entrepreneurship (ENTP 370)

International Business (1 Class)

  • International Business (INTB 200)
  • Criminal Law (BLAW 342)

Political Science/History (1 Class)

  • Intro to Comparative Political Analysis (PSCI 140)
  • Ethics and International Relations (PSCI 352)
  • The European Union in World Politics (PSCI 357)
  • Technology in Historical Perspective (HIST 285)

Culture and Communications

  • Culture and Values (GST 359)
  • International Communication (COM 360)
  • Women and Society in a Global Context (WGST 240)

To Apply to Drexel’s NAE GCSP

Eligible students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 and maintain a 3.0 throughout the course of the program. Interested students should contact the academic advisor for the program application which asks students to show how they plan to meet the research, civic engagement, and curricular components of the program. Though there are 14 Grand Challenges, a scholar can focus on more than one area so long as their focus is on one of the 4 grand challenge themes: sustainability, health, security, and joy of living.

Students from all university majors are free to apply to the program, though the most appropriate students are those in engineering and technology degree programs.

Admission is at the discretion of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs.


For help with academic planning or with questions about the program, please contact:

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs

Christopher Weyant
Office: Lebow Engineering Center 335A
Phone: 215.895.225

Academic Advisor

Emily Bogunovich
Office: University Crossings 155
Phone: 215.895.2211