USC Dornsife Research Themes

    Safeguarding the Planet for Future Generations

    Humanity stands at a crossroads: Perpetuate our current practices that warm the planet, displace people, and drive species toward extinction; or, build a future powered by renewable energy and new ways of protecting natural resources. At USC Dornsife, our scientists develop innovative ways to harness and store this energy. But the clock is ticking. So we also focus on overcoming obstacles preventing the adoption of the many effective solutions already in-hand.  By tapping our economists, political scientists, behavioral scientists, writers, and many others, we are finding ways to accelerate and scale sustainable actions while the window is still open.

    Fixing a Broken Political System

    The political divide is as stark as it’s been in modern memory. Inconvenient news is shouted down as “fake.” Facts are discounted. Rancor is at historic levels. Our nation is desperate for new tools to decontaminate the toxic political atmosphere.

    Never before have research universities been more critical to reshaping the conversation. And USC Dornsife is leading the way. Our experts develop strategies to help decontaminate the toxic political atmosphere, create an environment for civil debate, and provide fact-based insights that inform solution to pressing policy issues.

    Anticipating Impacts of Innovation

    With technology developing at an accelerating pace, the question becomes: Will new technologies be used for good or ill, to unite us or divide us? And how can we do a better job of anticipating and preparing for the profound social, economic and ethical implications of technological innovations?  Whether it’s developing a better grasp of targeted media to prevent election meddling or predicting how blockchain platforms will alter traditional institutions, USC Dornsife faculty shine a light into a future that will be profoundly changed by technological innovation.

    Exploring Identity and Culture In a Changing World

    From USC Dornsife’s location in the heart of L.A., our scholars study and understand how people of different backgrounds and beliefs unite or divide. How, for example, did Los Angeles, once known for its violence, corruption and racial animus, evolve into today’s far more tolerant and equitable metropolis? How will we continue to ensure that a certain group retains its identity while interacting productively and peacefully with those who look, speak or worship differently? As our faculty, students and community partners answer these kinds of questions, we are offering ways forward as similar challenges appear around the world.

    Confronting Global Challenges

    To solve 21st-century global challenges, we must understand their complex and compounding effects. How has climate change spurred migrations? How has social media led to new channels for human trafficking? These and other problems such as financial crises, pandemics, cybersecurity, and terrorism defy boundaries. We need to respond with an intrinsically global approach. USC Dornsife experts unravel the complexity of global challenges and provide insights that can help governments and the private sector better manage global issues of the future.

    Advancing the Art and Science of Human Wellbeing

    To develop a complete understanding of human health, we need more than breakthrough biomedicine. We also need to explore the environmental, cultural, and communication factors that contribute to our individual and collective wellbeing.  Bridging research and scholarship across disciplines — and collaborating with practitioners — USC Dornsife looks beyond the treatment of disease to better predict and prevent it, and to build environments that promote robust physical and mental health for all.

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    USC Dornsife Research Statistics


    Annual Research Expenditures


    Federal Awards


    Active Grants

    Undergraduate Research

    USC Dornsife undergraduate students recently engineered microbes to quickly remove medicinal drugs from the water supply. Their inventive method of ensuring sustainably clean water was showcased at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Grand Jamboree, a global synthetic biology competition.

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    Academy In the Public Square

    Public Exchange

    Public Exchange amplifies social impact by making academic expertise more easily accessible than ever before. The first-of-its-kind hub connects leaders in the public and private sectors with the right team of USC researchers and streamlines the collaborative process, providing project management from start to finish.

    Defining the Future

    USC Dornsife researchers work on the leading edge of emerging fields, where expertise is in extraordinary demand.  They are not just contributing new knowledge, but anticipating and shaping the future.

    Environmental Economics

    A team of USC Dornsife economists design and model which incentives are most effective in motivating the free market and governments to work together to improve our environmental quality of life. Whether they’re using “green data” to inform carbon tax proposals or exploring how to make global supply chains more efficient, environmental economists are helping us adapt and succeed on a warmer planet.

    Quantitative and Computational Biology

    Researchers at the Department of Quantitative and Computational Biology pioneer advanced computational and statistical techniques to understand how human genes express themselves in an individual. While interpreting this vast amount of data will have profound implications for the future of medicine, the department is also dedicated to expanding diversity among datasets to incorporate underrepresented groups and ensure that new discoveries benefit everyone.

    Visual Anthropology

    USC Dornsife experts in visual anthropology pursue an immersive understanding of human cultures through visual media like photography, film, and digital technologies. By capturing the nuances of social interactions and practices, visual anthropology fosters cross-cultural comparison and deepens our appreciation of human diversity.





    Senior Advisor to the Dean for Research Strategy and Development

    Stephen Bradforth

    (213) 740-0461

    Divisional Deans

    Rebecca Lemon

    Life Sciences
    Jan Amend

    Physical Sciences and Mathematics
    Moh El Naggar

    Social Sciences
    William Deverell

    Research Administration

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