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Information for Prospective Students

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, 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, writing popular articles, 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.

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.

Funding your Doctoral degree

Ph.D. students pursuing a degree in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering often receive tuition and a stipend for their graduate studies. There are several ways that a Ph.D. student can receive funding. These funding methods are detailed below.

Graduate Research Assistantships

A limited number of Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) are available to students. GRAs are typically funded through grants, so their availability is dependent on the number of active grants that a supervising faculty member has. Students funded through GRAs typically do research related to the grant from which they are funded, so there is less flexibility in scoping a research project than students who come with their own funding. More information is available here.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching Assistantships (TAs) are available in limited cases to students that help a faculty member with the administrative duties of their class. The availablity of these funds are evaluated on a semester to semester basis.

Internal Fellowships and External Fellowships

The Viterbi School of Engineering offers a number of fellowships to high-performing students. Students with their own funding (i.e. an internal or external fellowship) have flexibility in the faculty and the research projects that they wish to work with. All interested graduate students should investigate these potential fellowships and consider applying.

Click here for information regarding USC Viterbi School of Engineering Fellowships and here for Viterbi School Scholarships. Information regarding other USC scholarships is available here.

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:

An excellent database of external fellowships compiled by Cornell is available here. Many of these fellowships are targeted for women and minority students. Another database from CU-Boulder is here.

Students interested in joining the Sustainable Systems Research Group and applying to external fellowships are welcome to contact Dr. Sanders for mentoring.