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Tackling the Grand Challenges of Engineering

Solving the World’s Toughest Problems

Focus on engineering a society that will last for many generations to come
Use engineering to solve some of the world’s most pressing health-related causes
Secure our livelihoods on the ground or virtually in cyberspace
Use technology to make everyday life better

NAE Grand Challenges of Engineering

Engineers make good things happen. You want to solve the pressing challenges facing society, today and in the future. Problems in health and medicine, security, environment, and many others are multidisciplinary areas where you could help.

With input from people around the world, an international group of leading technological thinkers identified the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. These 14 game-changing goals fall into four cross-cutting themes, all directed at improving life on our planet: Sustainability, Health, Security, and Joy of Living.

The Grand Challenges set a grander scope for our discipline by changing the conversation about engineering, by providing key aspirational goals and by inspiring the new generations about the importance of engineering as the enabling discipline of our times.

Dean Yannis YortsosUSC Viterbi School of Engineering


  • Make Solar Energy Economical
  • Provide Energy from Fusion
  • Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods
  • Manage the Nitrogen Cycle
  • Provide Access to Clean Water
  • Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure

Engineers Without Borders

Student Organization

EWB is a student-run group that chooses projects locally and in countries abroad that include building water treatment systems to increase access to clean water.

Air Quality Lab

Research Lab

The major objective of the USC Aerosol Lab is to investigate the underlying mechanisms that produce the health effects associated with exposure to air pollutants generated by a variety of sources

SC Solar Car Team

Student Design Team

Students are working to make solar energy more economical by designing, building, and testing their solar-powered car to race against other universities.

Childress Research Group

Environmental Engineering Research

Led by Dr. Amy Childress, this research team is focusing on innovating membrane solutions to assist in providing more access to clean water.


  • Engineer Better Medicines
  • Advance Health Informatics
  • Reverse-engineer the brain

USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience

Biomedical Research

This research center's goal is to address the most critical health issues of our time. Pictured above is Stacey Finley (left), who is using a $3.1 million grant to find new cancer treatments by modeling the growth of cancer cells.


Student Organization

This group provides students with hands-on medical device design experience by entering medical device design competitions, participating in make-a-thons, and taking on independent medical device projects.

ImmunoBioengineering & Bionanotech Lab

Research Lab

This lab’s overarching research theme is to develop design principles and create synthetic biology tools for modulating immune response and for targeted delivery of genes and drugs.

The BioRC Project

Research Group

This lab, led by Electrical Engineering Prof. Alice Parker, is working towards reverse-engineering the brain by employing analog computations to emulate neural structures.


  • Secure Cyberspace
  • Prevent Nuclear Terror


Student Organization

Cyber Security and Forensics at USC, also known as CybOrg, brings together students in the fields of cyber security, digital forensics, and incident response.

Center for Computer Systems Security

Research Center

USC's Center for Computer Systems Security (CCSS) conducts research and provides education in the crucial disciplines of computer, network and application security.

The Information Sciences Institute

Research Center

With roots in early Internet infrastructure research and development, ISI's Networking and Cybersecurity Division carries out a broad program of research spanning the areas of networking scientific investigations, Internet operations and governance, cybersecurity research topics, and a variety of infrastructure projects for experimentation and collaboration.

Minor in Applied Computer Security

Engineering Minor Program

This minor program teaches students the theoretical concepts and technical skills — including hacking, ethics, and forensics — to create and maintain secure computer systems and networks.

Joy of Living

  • Enhancing virtual reality
  • Advancing personalized learning
  • Engineering the tools of scientific discovery

USC Center for Artificial Intelligence

Research Center

This center conducts research in Artificial Intelligence to help solve the most difficult social problems facing our world.

Code the Change

Student Organization

Code the Change is a student organization at USC that drives social impact through software projects for non profit organizations

Center for Intelligent Environments

Research Center

This center supports ground-breaking research and brings together the world’s foremost leaders, scholars, innovators, and intellectuals to engage in dialogue and debate, as well as form partnerships that promote human-centered design and integration of intelligent technologies into built environments.

Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab

Research Lab

SAIL focuses on human-centered signal & information processing that address key societal needs. Bridging science and engineering, SAILers pioneer behavioral signal processing and behavioral machine intelligence, affective computing, multimodal signal processing, computational media intelligence and computational speech science.

Listen while you scroll!

The Literal Viterbi Voices

Listen to our podcast episode interviewing the Yannis Yortsos, Dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering and champion of the Grand Challenges! Dean Yortsos discusses his engineering background and how he got to where he is, the programs and initiatives he has spearheaded during his time as Dean, and his vision for the future of the Viterbi School and for the discipline of engineering as a whole.

Viterbi Voices: The Podcast is your chance to hear stories about research, classes, student life, and more directly from our faculty, students, and other members of our engineering community. Click the link below to see the rest of our episodes!

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