Program Requirements and Opportunities

Each BU URBAN trainee is required to fulfill the program requirements during their enrollment in order to successfully complete the program. A summary of additional opportunities exclusively available to trainees in the program can also be found below.

Program Requirements

Training elements of the Boston University Graduate Program in Urban Biogeoscience and Environmental Health for all trainees include:


  • Colloquium (2 credits) and Applied Research Methods (2 credits, for students who entered the URBAN Program fall 2022 and before)
  • One course in Biogeoscience (4 credits)
  • One course in Environmental Health (4 credits)
  • One course in Statistics or Data Analytics (4 credits)

The courses are designed to provide trainees with a foundation in Biogeoscience, Environmental Health, and Statistics across topics that span air, water, and climate. The Colloquium, typically taught in the fall semester, includes presentations by participating faculty and speakers from outside Boston University followed by an intensive reading and discussion period. This course is a keystone in interdisciplinary training as it highlights the inter-departmental linkages and introduces new trainees to faculty research at Boston University and elsewhere. Applied Research Methods, typically taught in the spring semester, focuses on an in-depth analysis of an emerging urban challenge. This course teaches trainees how to disseminate and organize information from the primary literature, develop basic data synthesis techniques, and prepare a paper or report.


  • Introductory Workshop for new trainees
  • Urban Governance Series
  • Science Communication
  • Professional Development
  • Responsible Research Conduct


Each student is required to carry out an internship for a minimum of 80 hours with a city government office, NGOs, and/or the private sector. Trainees also enroll in a companion course (GRS BI/EE 795 or SPH EH 795). Trainees may use the internship experience to help formulate future scientific research activities to support these entities and to provide the foundation for some of the trainee’s dissertation research. The goals for trainees are to learn how policies are made and to develop collaborations with partner organizations that are focused on local, “real-world” environmental problems that have environmental policy implications.

Ph.D. Dissertation Research

Trainees fulfill dissertation research requirements of the department they are enrolled in and are required to form an interdisciplinary dissertation committee with at least one faculty member from Biogeoscience and Environmental Health. Students for whom this structure is not viable should submit a written petition to Pamela Templer (Program Director, explaining how they will fulfill the interdisciplinary objectives of an URBAN-affiliated dissertation in the absence of this faculty committee structure. Additional committee members may be chosen from other faculty at Boston University (including the Department of Mathematics & Statistics), faculty from other universities, representatives from the City of Boston or other cities, or representatives from the private sector. Discussions at committee meetings and with individual committee members help trainees develop a specific line of research.

NSF Acknowledgments and Reporting

All presentations and publications generated during your enrollment in this program must acknowledge funding support from NSF with the following statement: “This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) grant to Boston University (DGE 1735087).” In addition, trainees must complete a bi-annual self-report survey to aid in the documentation of NRT progress and outcomes.

Hear from trainee Beth Haley about how BU URBAN program elements support research at the nexus of community, environment, and health.

Program Opportunities

  • Scholarships and Stipends. As a Ph.D. student at Boston University you are guaranteed five (5) years of funding through various sources. There are also external financial sources you can apply for to support your work (e.g. NSF GRFP, Switzer Fellowship). As a BU URBAN Trainee, you are also eligible to apply for a stipend that covers basic BU health insurance, tuition and fees. For prospective trainees, applications for stipend support is due the same time as your application to the program, typically in early May annually. For current trainees, applications for stipend support are also due annually in early May.
  • Research and Travel Awards. There are competitive funds set aside for BU URBAN trainees to carry out individual interdisciplinary research projects or for conference travel. Calls for application to these competitive funds open are only open to BU URBAN trainees.
  • Broadening Participation Awards. These competitive funds seek to advance diversity and inclusion in STEM by supporting BU URBAN trainees to participate in 1) public engagement activities that specifically reach under-represented groups and/or 2) participation in educational activities (e.g., conferences, trainings, reading groups) that build capacity for scientific research and/or communication centered on inclusion, equity, and intersectionality (Canfield et al. 2020). Broadening Participation Awards are capped at $500 and proposals can be submitted at any time. Learn more here.

    For more information please review the trainee handbook.