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Prospective Student Inquiries

Who should apply to the Sustainable Systems Research Group?

The Sustainable Systems Research Group is a group in the University of Southern California’s Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. We recruit high-performing students that are passionate about energy, water, climate change, and environmental issues. Since these issues are multidimensional, students across a wide-range of disciplines such as Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Computer Science are encouraged to apply. In addition to rigorous engineering research, our group is driven to engage with the community about our results by publishing in peer-reviewed journals, presenting at conferences, addressing policymakers, and participating in community outreach projects. Thus, prospective students should be excited to communicate with the global community through written and spoken communication platforms.

Admission to the group each year is limited by available grant funding availability. Accordingly students that have their own research funding secured are much more likely to be granted admission to the group. Below are resources on internal and external funding sources. All interested students should investigate these potential fellowships and consider applying.

Interested students should fill out the Prospective Student Inquiry Form below

Please fill out this form to indicate interest in group involvement. 

  • Ph.D. Inquiries: The group will likely admit 2 PhD students for the Fall 2024 admission cycle, so admission for funded positions is very competitive. We typically wait to evaluate PhD inquiries submitted here in mid-October to get a better sense of available positions and the quality of the applicant pool for the upcoming admission cycle. We will schedule zoom sessions with outstanding applicants based on this form after that time. However, note that this form is not an application for admission, nor is it a requirement for admission. You have to submit a formal application for admission to USC here
  • Undergraduate and Directed Research Inquiries: Undergraduate and Directed Research students are urged to enroll in ENE215 or ENE505 prior to applying for research, unless you are proficient in coding or have some formal educational background or working experience in energy or climate topics. Email Dr. Sanders prior to the semester you’d like to begin research or to schedule a meeting. 
  • A note to prospective Master’s students: The Master’s program in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is course-based, rather than thesis-based.  Accordingly, Master’s students are generally not eligible for Research Assistantships.


Internal Research Funding Opportunties for Current USC students:

Internal Fellowships and External Fellowships for PhD applicants:

The Viterbi School of Engineering offers a number of fellowships to high-performing students. Click here for information regarding USC Viterbi School of Engineering Fellowships.

In addition to internal fellowships, there are external fellowships that students can apply for. Prospective students and current students are urged to submit applications to applicable external fellowships before or during the first semester of their graduate studies. These fellowships are prestigious additions to any resume or CV and offer successful awardees a great deal of flexibility in scoping their graduate studies. Many of these fellowships offer up to three years of tuition support and living expenses.

A few pertinent fellowships include:

Fellowships for non-US citizens include:

This list is not exhaustive so students should seek out other funding opportunities. Also check out