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Senior Thesis Research

The Grand Challenges Program provides funding to support independent field research pursued as preparation for students’ senior theses in the areas of climate and energy, sustainable development in Africa, and global health and infectious disease. Applications for Grand Challenges Senior Thesis Research Support are coordinated through the funding portal located on the Dean of the College’s website. Grand Challenges senior thesis research awards are made during both spring and fall award cycles.

See former field research proposals.

Applying for Senior Thesis Research Funding

Applications for senior thesis research support are coordinated through the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE). Two application cycles are held each year. Students may apply for funds during the spring semester of their junior year for senior thesis research during the summer. Requests may also be made in the fall of the senior year. Students planning to apply for funds are encouraged to speak with their advisers as soon as possible.

Fall 2015 Thesis Funding

Fall senior thesis applications will be available through the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) beginning Monday. September 21, 2015. The final deadline to submit the application in SAFE in Monday, October 26, 2015, 11:59 p.m. EST.

As you prepare your materials for your thesis application, please keep in mind you will need to organize the following items:

  • Personal contact information.
  • General information, including your thesis topic, net-ID, thesis adviser name, and travel plans.
  • Funding sources; a list of all funding you have received to date for your thesis research (including current and past commitments).
  • Other potential funding sources; please include the total amount of research funds you are currently requesting from other sources.
  • Project statement; this document should reflect your proposed research, the research methods you intend to employ, and the work accomplished to date.
  • Project budget/itemized list of expenses; provide a clear working budget for all your anticipated expenses. Travel expenses should be clearly delineated. (See more detailed information below for what is an allowable expense).
  • Planned itinerary; please indicate where you are going, what you plan to do, and whom you will see at the research location. Indicate whether you have contacted the appropriate person at the research location for the necessary documents, lab access, or archives..
  • Qualifications; include language, quantitative skills, course work or other training or skills which have prepared you for this type of research.
  • Requirements for funding; confirm that you have read and understand the requirements for receiving the funding.

Preparing Your Project Budget

Students applying for senior thesis research funds are required to submit a detailed budget. The following are eligible expenses:

  • Travel to and from the research location, unless the site is in the student’s home town or country. Please note: All students are required to register with the University’s Travel & Expense website as a condition of receiving funds. (See restrictions under Senior Thesis Travel Information section below).
  • Travel related expenses, including food ($25 per day maximum), accommodations, and local transportation (off –campus only).
  • Required research supplies (including lab expenses).
  • Research facilities access fees.
  • Payments to Human Subjects: departmental and IRB approval required (limits will apply).
  • Research-related books.
  • Research-related photocopying.
  • Note: It is acceptable to include research supplies such as a digital voice recorder in the proposed budget; however, upon completion of the research, all reusable equipment must be returned to the Princeton Environmental Institute for use by future students and researchers. If the requested item is already in PEI’s inventory, it may be provided to the student on loan, and the budget will be reduced by the cost of the loaned item.

Senior Thesis Research expenses that are not covered include:

  • Personal travel not associated with research.
  • Entertainment expenses.
  • Dry cleaning and other personal costs not essential for research.
  • Supplies that are not necessary for research.
  • Toiletries.
  • Clothing.
  • Travel between Princeton and a research site that is in close proximity to the student's permanent home.*
  • Living expenses for students who will be doing research in their home cities.
  • Vaccines and immunizations.

*The policy on funding for students doing research in their home locations is as follows:

  • Travel between Princeton and a research site that is near the student's permanent home is not an eligible expense.
  • Living expenses are ineligible expenses for students doing research in their home cities.

Note: all Senior Thesis Research Funding grants are subject to tax and must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. If you are not a U.S. resident, taxes will automatically be deducted from your award if the funds will be used to cover non-instructional costs.

Senior Thesis Research Travel Information

University policies governing undergraduate travel are described on the University's Travel & Expense website. Students applying for senior thesis funds should familiarize themselves and are required to comply with travel requirements set by the University.

Travel Registration

All overnight University sponsored undergraduate travel must be registered on the University's Travel & Expense website. Registration includes completion of the Terms and Conditions Form and Travel Medical Profile and Consent for Care Form.

Travel to Countries on the U.S. State Department Warning List

Princeton undergraduates travelling to countries on the U.S. State Department Travel Warning List or to countries where the U.S. has issued travel restrictions will not be supported, unless the student has received a Travel Waiver from the Senior Associate Dean of the College, Nancy Kanach. Note: If a student intends to apply for a travel waiver in order to travel to destinations on the State Department’s travel warning list, he/she should first consult the University’s Travel website in order to be able to provide Dean Kanach with the information necessary to investigate the waiver request. The travel exemption waiver process is time-intensive. Affected students should allow a minimum of four weeks for the review process. Students should not assume that their requests for waiver will be granted and have an alternative plan in the event that travel is not approved.

Health Insurance

All students must carry health insurance that is valid overseas with coverage for hospitalization and physician care. Private insurance must meet or exceed the coverage provided by the Princeton University Student Health Plan.


While participating in funded senior thesis research in the U.S. and abroad, students remain enrolled as degree candidates at Princeton University and, as such, agree to adhere to the University’s standards of conduct as described in Rights, Rules and Responsibilities. Students must understand and agree to observe the laws of the country in which they are residing and all applicable academic and disciplinary regulations in effect on the program or at the host institution. If students do not abide by applicable regulations, they will be subject to disciplinary actions, including premature termination of assignment. In such cases, students will return to the U.S. at their own expense.

Senior Thesis Research Selection Process


Formal award letters are issued by the Grand Challenges Program including details pertaining to the funded award and the terms and conditions of using research funds. Students must accept or decline the offer within one week of award notification. It is imperative that students complete the acceptance form as quickly as possible to secure their funding and to expedite award processing. When Applicable, IRB, and IACUC approval(s) must be obtained prior to receiving funding.

2015 Senior Thesis Discovery Day

As part of a culminating experience to the senior thesis research, all funded students will be required to participate in the PEI Discovery Day Poster Session. The Discovery Day poster presentation allows students to share the outcomes of their thesis research with fellow students, faculty, and other interested parties. The event will take place at the Carl Fields Center, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015.

Francois Morel

"In addition to expanding our research, Grand Challenges funding has expanded opportunities for undergraduates, improved the quality of junior papers and senior theses, and offered new opportunities for mentoring."

Francois Morel
Professor, Geosciences

Clare Gallagher, 2014

"The funding I received allowed me to work in a location ideal for coral research. In addition to preforming my experiment, I got to interact with and learn from marine scientists from all over the world."

Clare Gallagher, 2014
EEB Major