Skip over navigation

Research & Education


Through sustainability courses, internships and independent study, Princeton aspires to connect the undergraduate academic experience to the inner-workings of the campus and to ongoing sustainability research. 

Figure 17: Home Departments of Environmental Studies Certificate Students

The number of students who have received the environmental studies certificate and their majors from 2002 to 2010.

Goals & Progress

  1. Goal: Broaden interdisciplinary participation in graduate and undergraduate education.

    • The number of students receiving environmental studies certificates has tripled since 2002 (see above).
    • More than 60 unique courses among four academic areas address sustainability by exploring some aspect of the intersection between the environment, economics and society (see chart in sidebar).
    • Since early 2009 the Environmental Affairs Forum has sponsored 16 dinner discussions between selected undergraduate students and leading scholars.
    • The Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars program was composed of eight prominent faculty members and 12 nominated Ph.D. candidates in 2009-10 who met twice per month for conversation on energy and climate issues.
    • The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI)-Science, Technology and Environmental Policy program provides two-year graduate fellowship support (half tuition and stipend) to link science and engineering with studies in environmental policy.
  2. Goal: Increase research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students on sustainability issues.

    Progress: Since 2008 and supported by the High Meadows Foundation sustainability fund, 11 often multiyear faculty research projects have been initiated investigating sustainability solutions using the campus as a laboratory. Each of these projects has engaged undergraduate and graduate student research teams.
  3. Goal: Instill awareness in students regarding their responsibilities as global citizens, through international study, research and service.

    • During the 2010 summer PEI/Grand Challenges season, 94 Princeton undergraduate students from 24 majors interned in 21 countries across the globe, researching and providing community service for a variety of environmental- and sustainability-related topics.
    • At the Energy Table at Mathey College, students meet for dinner weekly to discuss current issues in sustainable energy. The table will convene nine times over the course of the fall 2010 semester.
  4. Goal: Increase outreach efforts that provide public educational opportunities to the campus and surrounding communities.

    Progress: More than 50 sustainability-related public lectures and conferences were held during the 2009 and 2010 academic years.

What's Next

  • Work with faculty to define specifically what a sustainability-focused or -related course is.
  • Investigate metrics to track the broad influence of Princeton faculty research on societal-scale sustainability progress.
  • Define the role of sustainability in existing University curriculum, both graduate and undergraduate, and explore how to develop a more cohesive curriculum around environment and sustainability.
Julia Yang

For her senior thesis in psychology, Julia Yang '10 evaluated the effectiveness of behavioral messaging by conducting a flier campaign in four dorms that encouraged students to unplug their appliances before leaving for winter break. Yang conducted her experiment with help from adviser Elizabeth Levy Paluck (right), an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs, as well as student environmentalists, the Office of Sustainability and the Department of Undergraduate Housing. Yang's project will be used as a model for continuing sustainability awareness endeavors at the University.

Henry Barmeier

Henry Barmeier '10 graduated from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with a certificate in environmental studies from the Princeton Environmental Institute, and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford to pursue a master's degree in nature, society and environmental policy. Barmeier is continuing his study of issues related to sustainable, locally grown organic food, with the goal of devising ways to localize food policymaking and change incentives to encourage conservation of fossil fuel, water and other resources. His senior thesis abstract is available online.


Campus Environmental Awards

  • Peter W. Stroh '51 Environmental Thesis Prize
    Caitlin W. Alev, 2010, Architecture
  • Environmental Studies Thesis Prize
    Ruth N. Metzel, 2010, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    Martina Car, 2010, Anthropology
  • Becky Colvin '95 Memorial Award
    Hannah C. Barkley, 2011, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • T.A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize
    Henry R. Barmeier, 2010, Woodrow Wilson School

More details are available about 2010 environmental studies certificate graduates.


Figure 18: Distribution of Sustainability Courses

At Princeton, there are more than 60 courses, among four academic areas, with significant sustainability components.

Great Immensity

In a collaboration melding art with science, climate researchers and other members of the Princeton University community joined forces with The Civilians, an acclaimed investigative theater company, to help create a work-in-progress about global climate change that was unveiled on campus April 17, 2010. Titled "The Great Immensity," the interpretive theatrical piece with music was the result of a yearlong collaboration between the New York-based Civilians and faculty, researchers and students from the Princeton Environmental Institute, and the Princeton Atelier at the University's Lewis Center for the Arts.