Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP) Certificate

Academic Year 2023 – 2024


The Graduate Certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP) is offered by the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). The program has strong ties with the Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment (C-PREE) and the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at SPIA.

Many aspects of science and technology policy debates have been tackled with the tools of political, economic, and behavioral analysis. In addition to providing a systematic introduction to the field of policy analysis, the goal of the STEP certificate is to help students develop a deeper understanding of current scientific, technological, and environmental issues and potential local, national and international policy responses. The program provides interdisciplinary training that facilitates communication between technical experts and policy makers. 

Increasing numbers of students have a primary interest in environmental science and technology policy, including global climate change, air pollution, negotiated environmental accords, biodiversity, environmental economics, environmental justice, cybersecurity, data privacy, the digital divide, machine learning, and online content moderation. Research in these areas and others such as vaccine policy and nuclear-weapons policy is facilitated by the program's ties with the High Meadows Environmental Institute; the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Geosciences, Architecture; and the Program on Science & Global Security.

Program Offerings

Program Offering: Certificate

This certificate does not appear on transcripts.

Program description

The program offers certificate options for SPIA Master's students and for enrolled students at the Ph.D. level from other degree-granting departments within the University. Students may not be admitted to the University only through the certificate program. The certificate does not currently appear on the official transcript, but there is a plan to seek approval for this to appear on the transcript for Ph.D. students from other departments.

SPIA Master’s students can enroll in the certificate program online at Ph.D. students from other departments can enroll in the certificate program online at The enrollment is non-binding. Ph.D. students should first discuss their plans to complete the certificate with their dissertation chairs.


To earn the certificate, MPA/MPP candidates from SPIA are required to complete four approved courses on science policy and/or technology policy related topics. A list of courses that fulfill the requirements is posted at the beginning of each year. Two half-term courses count as one course credit. Additionally, students may propose courses not on the preapproved list to the STEP certificate faculty advisor for consideration. Students must take at least two courses from the preapproved list as part of the four-course requirement.

MPA1’s with little or no background in natural science may take a science course as one of their four STEP approved courses (which may be chosen from among appropriate undergraduate or graduate offerings outside SPIA). A science course requires the prior permission of the STEP Certificate Faculty Advisor to receive credit. Students must also receive approval from the MPA Faculty Chair to count any undergraduate courses towards their degree.

Recent STEP-approved course offerings include:

  • SPI 548  Weapons of Mass Destruction and International Security
  • SPI 581c  Energy Economics
  • SPI 586d  Global Environmental Governance
  • SPI 586f   Technology Policy and Law
  • SPI 594r  Behavioral Science in Environmental Policy
  • SPI 594s  Climate Change: Science, Policy and Mitigation


PhD students from departments outside of SPIA who are pursuing the doctoral certificate in STEP are required to complete three graduate-level courses at SPIA including:

  1. One SPIA STEP-approved science and/or technology policy course
  2. One SPIA graduate course that is not a STEP-approved course, to encourage students to develop general knowledge in public policy topics
  3. An elective (any SPIA graduate-level course)

Two half-term courses count as one course credit. A list of STEP-approved courses is available prior to the start of each semester. Students should consult the Princeton Course Catalog for a full listing of all graduate-level courses at the School.

Additional requirements

The Paper Requirement

All policy papers submitted in fulfillment of the certificate requirements must be approved by the STEP Certificate Faculty Advisor.

For SPIA Master's students, it is expected that most MPA and MPP candidates will write the capstone 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.

Doctoral students pursuing the certificate must complete an advanced policy paper requirement. All students applying for a doctoral certificate must identify a STEP faculty member (who cannot be the student’s primary thesis adviser) to serve as their adviser for the program. Students should work with their STEP faculty advisor to ensure the paper satisfies the advanced policy paper requirements. This paper must represent original scholarly work, deemed of publishable quality (i.e. in a peer-reviewed or equivalent publication) and is often developed as a chapter of the student’s dissertation. Candidates must also fulfill the requirements of their home department.


  • Executive Committee

    • Christopher F. Chyba, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Alexander Glaser, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Andy Guess, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Denise L. Mauzerall, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Jonathan Mayer, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Michael Oppenheimer, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Wei Peng, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Eric Tate, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Elke U. Weber, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
  • Associated Faculty

    • Janet M. Currie, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Andy P. Dobson, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
    • Filiz Garip, Sociology
    • Bryan T. Grenfell, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Lars O. Hedin, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
    • Allan Hsiao, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Jesse D. Jenkins, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng
    • Aleksandra Korolova, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Melissa Lane, Politics
    • Simon A. Levin, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
    • Ning Lin, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • C. Jessica E. Metcalf, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Guy J.P. Nordenson, Architecture
    • Anu Ramaswami, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Peter A. Singer, Center for Human Values
    • Janet A. Vertesi, Sociology
    • Jerry C. Zee, Anthropology
  • Sits with Committee

    • Smita B. Brunnermeier
    • Amy B. Craft
    • Eric D. Larson
    • Timothy D. Searchinger

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.