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Center for the Study of Origins (CSO)


What is the study of origins?

In every department of every university the goal of research and teaching is understanding. We understand a thing when we can explain it. Explanations come in different kinds, however. The most familiar sorts of explanation are those that draw upon or attempt a universal theory couched in general principles, the paradigms of which are found in theoretical physics. In a great many cases, however, the understanding we seek cannot be framed as a universal theory but is instead fundamentally historical in nature. In these cases, we seek to explain not through general principles but through an understanding of origins.

Why CU-Boulder?

CSO is part of the campus-wide Grand Challenge Initiative (GCI). GCI includes projects in Earth and space science, which are two of CU’s areas of greatest strength, as well as the study of origins. The origins project is unique in its inclusiveness, however. While connecting with important issues in Earth and space science, such as historical explanations for changes in Earth’s climate over the past 500 years and the fate of the ancient Martian ocean, CSO brings together researchers from the social sciences and humanities, as well as the natural sciences, to investigate an underappreciated but important issue, namely, the diversity, nature and justification of hypotheses and theories about the past and how they inform our understanding of the present and the future.


The Center for the Study of Origins (CSO) fosters interdisciplinary investigations into specific topics on origins and transdisciplinary research into the general nature (structure, justification, and function) of theories of origins, including ways in which they are used to understand the present and envision the future.

CU Science Discovery


CU Science Discovery is a science education outreach program of the University of Colorado Boulder's Division of Continuing Education. Founded in 1983 to heighten young students' interest in science, CU Science Discovery coordinates an array of programs that connect K-12 students and teachers to current CU science. Each program utilizes CU scientific expertise, equipment, resources and graduate or undergraduate students in order to provide K-12 students and teachers with unique, experiential learning STEM experiences. All programs are designed to be highly interactive and relevant, in order to engage students in the scientific process while connecting them to the science and technology present in their everyday lives.

Through hands-on summer camps and after-school classes, homeschool classes, teacher workshops, school programs, and community outreach events, Science Discovery impacts approximately 30,000 students, teachers and community members throughout Colorado each year.


CU Science Discovery's mission is to heighten interest and increase literacy in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by providing hands-on experiences that connect students and teachers to current CU science. Science Discovery capitalizes on CU Boulder's scientific resources, facilities and expertise to excite students about STEM, expose them to a variety of STEM careers and professionals and inspire a future generation of scientists and engineers.

Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF)


The Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF) is a unique subnational collaboration between 35 states and provinces from Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, and the United States. The GCF seeks to advance jurisdictional programs designed to promote low emissions rural development and reduced emissions from deforestation and land use (REDD+) and link these activities with emerging greenhouse gas (GHG) compliance regimes and other pay-for-performance opportunities. More than 25% of the world’s tropical forests are in GCF states and provinces, including more than 75% of Brazil’s and more than half of Indonesia’s. The GCF includes states and provinces that are leading the way in building comprehensive, jurisdiction-wide approaches to low emissions development and REDD+ as well as the only jurisdiction in the world (California) that is considering provisions that would recognize offsets from REDD+ as part of its GHG compliance system.

The GCF focuses on all aspects of the effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and establish lasting frameworks for low emissions development. It facilitates the exchange of experiences and lessons learned across leading states and provinces; synchronizes efforts across these jurisdictions to develop policies and programs that provide realistic pathways to forest-maintaining rural development; supports processes for multi-stakeholder participation and engagement; and seeks financing for jurisdictional programs from a range of sources, including pay-for-performance public finance, emerging carbon markets, and ongoing efforts to de-carbonize agro-food supply chains.

The overarching rationale of the GCF is that any successful effort to address the complex relationship between forests, land use, and climate change requires multiple efforts at multiple levels of governance, and that state and provincial governments, together with their civil society partners, are among the most important actors in building viable programs for low emissions rural development. The GCF was therefore conceived as an effort to leverage the fact that certain states and provinces around the world are in a position to be early movers in the effort to build robust jurisdictional programs for REDD+ and low emissions development, thereby bolstering overall momentum for the issue and enhancing national and international efforts to demonstrate how this can work in practice.

Laboratory for Energy and Environmental Policy innovation (LEEP)


Our goal at LEEP is to develop and support real-time policy experiments, robust networks for learning and exchange, meaningful processes for stakeholder engagement, and durable policy outcomes.

We start from the premise that bottom-up approaches to climate, energy, and environmental problems must be the foundation for any lasting solutions. Much of the hard work and many of the most important policy experiments aimed at tackling these problems are taking place at subnational levels. The challenge is to connect, replicate, scale, and learn from these efforts.

Our theory of change starts from the premise that subnational governments (including states and provinces, counties and districts, cities and municipalities, and communities and villages) are critical actors in the effort to fight climate change, promote clean energy, and build durable frameworks for environmentally sustainable development. We believe that effective solutions to many of our energy and environmental problems must be public-private in character and that, in all cases, they must fit with and grow out of vernacular institutions. To that end, we focus on mobilizing and engaging political leaders, empowering civil servants, and connecting them with civil society partners in a manner that will advance integrated and equitable approaches to sustainable development.


We embrace a network approach to governance. We work to thicken the relationships between government, civil society, and the private sector in the regions where we work while also forging broader connections with ongoing policy initiatives and processes around the world. We work across scales, seeking to promote vertical and horizontal policy alignment. And we ground our work with ongoing policy experiments in a recursive approach to learning and knowledge management.

We believe that some of the most important policy experiments are happening in places far removed from national centers of business and government. We want to understand and support these experiments because we believe that they hold important lessons for other similarly situated places. One of our goals is to establish a distributed platform of satellite labs in places that are already innovating – and that are often far removed from the metropolitan centers of political and economic power – and to connect these efforts to other sources of support and financing to reduce the risks of policy experimentation.

We recognize that we live in a world of fast policy – one in which policy ideas are often quickly disembedded from their original contexts and diffused around the world without any critical assessment of their effectiveness. We believe that this can sometimes constrain bottom-up policy innovation by promoting a model of policy adoption and diffusion that does not fit with vernacular institutions. We want to understand better the dynamics of fast policy and we want to harness and tame it in ways that will promote better and more durable policy outcomes in real places.

Materials Science and Engineering Program (MSE)


The Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Program is an interdisciplinary Ph.D. and M.S. program aimed at providing a rigorous education in materials science and engineering and the fundamental physics, engineering, chemistry and biology that underlie this discipline. Educational goals are achieved through both coursework and training in cross-disciplinary research supervised by one or more science and engineering faculty members.


Serve as a campus-wide resource for materials research and education activities, bringing together faculty from across the UCB campus to leverage expertise and facilities, promoting impactful research in materials science and engineering and enhancing Departmental materials research efforts as well as materials-related efforts that are a part of current campus initiatives and programs such as space science/aerospace engineering, energy systems, renewable and sustainable energy, biotechnology, biomedicine and geosciences;

Create a vibrant materials science research and engineering program that is both highly visible within the UCB community and internationally recognized;

Recruit, train and graduate outstanding doctoral students with degrees in both MSE and the various disciplinary UCB Departments pursuing materials research;

Attract outstanding faculty to the MSE Program and its participating departments;

Support, organize and develop world-class major instrumentation, shared facilities and infrastructure that enables outstanding materials research; and

Catalyze the pursuit of block funding in the materials research arena through coordination of interdisciplinary materials research teams, and fostering of Centers and major collaborations.

Mortenson Center in Global Engineering


The Mortenson Center combines education, research, and partnerships to improve development tools and practice. We train engineers to recognize the issues at the core of development challenges, and collaborate with partners across the CU-Boulder campus and the world to create sustainable, scalable, evidence-based and multidisciplinary solutions to global development problems. Our program provides multiple pathways for engineers to enter the field of development engineering.


Among engineering professionals, create awareness of developing world issues and provide the knowledge and tools necessary to work in the fields of community recovery and development.

Promote research, design and development of holistic solutions for developing communities that account for technical and non-technical issues.

Build local community capacity through collaboration with organizations working in developing communities worldwide.