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Princeton University – Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Princeton University
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Princeton University
Program in Science, Technology,
and Environmental Policy
Woodrow Wilson School of Public
and International Affairs
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013

Chuck Crosby, Manager – STEP Program
Tel: (609) 258-0293

Michael Oppenheimer, Director
Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs

Program Link:



Princeton University’s Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) is based in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with strong ties to the Princeton Environmental Institute. The program offers a certificate for students enrolled in the Woodrow Wilson School’s M.P.A. or M.P.P programs and studies leading to a Ph.D. Many aspects of science and technology policy debates have been tackled with the tools of political and economic analysis that are the traditional strong suits of the Woodrow Wilson School. In addition to providing a systematic introduction to the field of policy analysis, the goal of the STEP program is to develop a deeper understanding of:

  • The nature of scientific, technological and environmental problems and opportunities;
  • The specialized methods used for analyzing scientific, technological and environmental issues;
  • The dynamics of science and technology in relation to national and international institutions and organizations.

Increasing numbers of students in the School generally, and in the STEP program in particular, have a primary interest in environmental science and technology policy, including global climate change, air pollution, negotiated environmental accords, biodiversity, environmental economics, environmental justice, and the connection between the environment and development. Research in these areas and others such as biotechnology and nuclear-weapons policy is facilitated by the Program’s ties with the Princeton Environmental Institute, the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Biology, and Geosciences, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, the Program on Science & Global Security, and the Office of Population Research.

Graduate Degrees Offered

Ph.D. Program

The Program offers a Ph.D. in Public and International Affairs with a focus in STEP. Doctoral students normally take a minimum of 8 courses, the majority of which are completed during the first year.

The M.P.A./M.P.P. Program

The STEP Program offers a degree in domestic, international, development, or economic policy with a Certificate in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. In addition to fulfilling the requirements for one of the fields of concentration (domestic, international, development, or economic policy), candidates for the STEP certificate must take at least three additional courses.

Admissions Requirements

Applicants to the M. P. A. program must have a demonstrated interest in policy, but no specific area of undergraduate training is required. Of the students currently pursuing the STEP Certificate, about half have scientific or technical bachelors degrees, two-fifths were undergraduates in the social sciences or humanities, and one-fifth are graduate students in other Princeton University departments or mid- career fellows of the Wilson School.

Specific admission requirements and information can be obtained directly from the Graduate Admission Office of the Woodrow Wilson School.

Degree Requirements

Doctoral students normally take a minimum of 8 courses, the majority of which are completed during the first year.

This cluster focuses on applications of natural and social science methodology to policy issues with a heavy scientific or technological component.

1) Courses. This requirement is satisfied by the successful completion (with an average grade of B+ or better), or exemption (by placement) based on comparable courses, preceptorial teaching, or offering suitable substitutes, of a minimum of 8 courses chosen from each of the five categories below. Doctoral students should prepare a detailed course of study with their faculty advisor so that the chosen courses can best be tailored to their expected research area. Students are expected to take the majority of their courses during their first year.
(i) Gateway course:
The Use of Science in Environmental Policy (WWS 584).
(ii) STEP and subject area courses:
WWS 304 Science, Technology and Public Policy, WWS 556c Topics in International Relations: Protection Against Weapons of Mass Destruction, WWS 582b Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, WWS 584 Methods in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, WWS 585a Topics in Science Technology and Environmental Policy: Population, Environment and Health, WWS 585b Conservation of Endangered Species and Ecosystems, WWS 586a Topics in Science Technology and Environmental Policy: Biotechnology Policy, WWS 586c Earth’s Atmosphere: Theory and Practice, WWS 586d Topics in Science Technology and Environmental Policy: Global Environmental Governance, WWS 586e Global Environmental Issues: Science and Policy, WWS 591b Workshop: Deploying Clean Energy in Rural China, WWS 585b: Topics in STEP:Living in a Greenhouse: Technology and Policy, WWS586e Topics in STEP: Risk Policy and Regulation (Please note that course offerings vary from year to year. Additional topics relating to biotechnology, hazardous materials, information and communications, energy industries, biodiversity, and R&D policy will be offered from time to time and will be acceptable choices.)
A minimum of 2 additional courses relevant to the student’s interests, either from within WWS or in another department, selected with approval of their primary advisor and the director of the STEP PhD program.
(iii) Quantitative analysis courses:

Introductory: WWS 508 (Econometrics and Public Policy) (c-track recommended) or approved substitute.
(iv) Economics (two courses required):

Microeconomic Theory – either WWS 511c or 511d (Microeconomic Analysis or Econ 501 and Econ 502 (two-course sequence).
Advanced Economic Analysis: choose one of the following or an equivalent, selected with approval of their primary advisor and the director of the STEP PhD program: WWS 523 (Legal and Regulatory Policy Toward Markets), WWS 524 (Advanced Macroeconomics: Domestic Policy Issues), WWS 525 (Microeconomics Analysis of Government Activity), WWS 542 (International Economics), WWS 543 (International Trade Policy), WWS 562c (Economic Analysis of Development (Advanced)), WWS 58x-series, including WWS 582b (Topics in Economics: Environmental and Natural Resource Economics).
(v) Politics:
Choose one of the following: WWS 521 (Domestic Politics), WWS 541 (International Politics), WWS 561 (The Comparative Political Economy of Development) or an approved equivalent.

(vi) An advanced policy paper :
To be written either in an independent reading course or as the term paper for a fourth course (beyond the three taken to fulfill the core and focus area requirements) related to the student’s interests. This paper should be of publishable quality.

2) Research Milestones. Early in the fall of their first year, students should meet with their provisional faculty advisors to discuss their research interests and to develop a directed reading list. During the summer following their first year, students will prepare a research prospectus, outlining a tentative thesis project. They are also expected to engage in actual research related to either their tentative thesis project or to a potential publishable paper during that summer. During their second year, students should complete the publishable paper requirement for the general exam. They should also refine and revise their research prospectus, such that it can be turned into a full thesis proposal shortly after the general examination.

3) Examinations. There are two topical examinations in areas selected by the student. The student prepares an examination proposal in consultation with a committee of at least two faculty advisors covering the two areas in which the student wants to declare expertise. The proposal should contain a brief explanation and definitive reading list. The examination committee will use this proposal for guidance in preparing questions for the written examinations. These will be of a form in which questions must be answered within a limited time period. The student’s responses to the written exams will form the point of departure for the oral examination administered thereafter by the examination committee, should the examination committee feel that an oral examination is necessary.
In addition, the student should submit the name of a primary advisor and one or more additional committee members to the STEP Program Chair by the end of April in their first year in the program. This is non-binding, but initiates the discussion process between the student and his or her advising and examination committees.

4) Prospectus of dissertation research. A written prospectus setting forth the research plan for the dissertation is required during the semester following completion of generals.
WWS candidates must complete four STEP-approved courses. All others must complete three STEP approved courses. it is expected that most of the courses will be taught by STEP core or associated faculty. Recent offerings include:

  •     WWS 528f Information Technology and Public Policy
  •     WWS 556e Topics in International Relations: Protection Against Weapons of Mass Destruction
  •     WWS 582b Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Courses numbered 585x and 586x Topics in STEP; including:

  •     Population, Environment and Health
  •     Living in a Greenhouse: Technology and Policy
  •     Conservation of Endangered Species and Ecosystems
  •     Biotechnology Policy
  •     Earth’s Atmosphere: Theory and Practice
  •     Global Environmental Governance
  •     Science and Policy
  •     Risk Policy and Regulation

(Questions concerning course approval should be directed to the STEP chair)

2. The Paper Requirement: All advanced policy papers submitted in fullfillment of the certificate requirements must be approved by the STEP chair.
For WWS MPA/MPP’s,it is expected that most MPA and MPP candidates will write the advanced policy paper in the context of one of their STEP approved courses. Only papers receiving a grade of B+ or above will be eligible to satisfy this requirement.
Non-WWS Masters and PhD students must meet the advanced policy paper requirement as well. For STEP-PEI fellows, the advanced policy paper must be deemed of publishable quality. Often times a policy chapter of the student’s disseration has meet this requirement.

3. Students are required to take WWS 584 Methods in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy as one of those courses if it offered during the full period of their tenure at WWS (Students may place out of WWS 584 with the approval of the STEP chair).

4. Students interested in obtaining the STEP certificate should notify the STEP faculty chair and the STEP adminstrator, Chuck Crosby, of their intensions, in addition to Ann Lengyel in the GPO.

Faculty Information

Associated faculty: Christopher Chyba (Astrophysics), Andrew Dobson (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology), Edward Felten (Computer Science), Denise Mauzerall, Michael Oppenheimer , Lee Silver, Burt Singer, Frank von Hippel, David Wilcove, Rob Socolow (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Robert Keohane (WWS/International Affairs), Michael Rothschild (WWS/Economics), Peter Singer (Philosiophy/Bioethics), Harold Shapiro (WWS/Ecomomics and Bioethics) .

Positions for Graduates

The STEP Program equips its graduates with skills that may be applied to public service, private sector, or academic careers. An average of 12% of WWS M. P. A. graduates took first jobs in technical agencies (e.g. NASA, NOAA, NAS), or in explicitly technical/policy parts of other agencies (e.g. EPA, HHS, DoD, DoA, state, local, and federal government, UN, World Bank), or technically or environmentally focused NGO’s or businesses. The versatility of the STEP training is demonstrated by the “crossover” in the graduates: some students taking positions at technical agencies did not have technical undergraduate training, and likewise not all students with undergraduate degrees in science or engineering took technical policy positions.

Financial Information

The 1998-1999 Graduate School tuition fees were $24,333.

More than three-quarters of M.P.A. students at the school receive financial aid based on need, which for many graduates amounts to tow year’s full tuition plus $15,000 or more for living expenses over the two years.

Students in the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program are eligible for the fellowships and assistantships that are available to all students in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Students also have the opportunity to work as research assistants on various research projects led by the faculty. A variety of part-time, internship, or “year out” opportunities also exist at professional, business, and federal organizations.

Other Information

The STEP Program holds both an informal weekly lunch seminar series that brings together students and faculty from across campus and an invited weekly colloquium.

The STEP Program maintains a research fund that can support student travel, conferences, training internships and other initiatives.

Related Scientific Disciplines