PKG Explore

PKG Explore

Deadline: Monday, Oct 16 at 12:00 noon

PKG Explore

A new program for engaged research

Do you care about an issue and wish you could spend more time exploring it outside of a class? Are you trying to figure out how to apply your skills and talents towards tackling global challenges, but not sure where to start? Do you have a deep curiosity or the kernel of an idea and you need a “fact-finding” mission to figure out what’s next?

The PKG Explore program allows students to “apprentice” with a problem before diving in with a solution. As you explore and investigate complex social and environmental challenges, we provide funding, workshops, and advice so that you develop the skill set needed for fieldwork with communities in context.

We help you embark on the early-stage fieldwork that can contribute towards applied research and projects, based on real community needs and resulting in meaningful impact. We are looking for students who are interested in learning and building solutions with, not for, communities.

PKG Explore supports students with the skills and training needed for this kind of hands-on, engaged learning. Creating positive, sustainable social and environmental change is complex, and requires rigorous preparation to undertake this work in an ethical, effective way.

Apply here

Program Benefits

  • Up to $2,500 stipend to cover immersive fieldwork experience over IAP (in the US or abroad).
    • Funding can be used towards living and travel-related expenses; and some types of research-related fees (survey incentive/compensation, translation services, data access fees, materials for human-centered design work/community workshops), excluding product-specific research expenses like Facebook advertising, payments to market research firms, etc.
    • Funding cannot be used for salaries or wages; prototyping or manufacturing expenses; or the usual list of unallowable – alcohol, weapons, etc.
  • Learning community of peers with similar interests
  • Project advisor (an expert you are already working with, or PKG Center staff can work with you)
  • Workshops to build the skills you’ll need to be effective in your social impact research
  • Share your research findings by blogging, writing a report, and/or participating in a showcase​


  • Must be a full-time MIT student (undergraduate, Masters, or PhD)
  • The research you are proposing to do must be geared towards making a positive social and/or environmental impact
  • Working in the United States or abroad in an MIT travel-approved location
  • Must be willing to spend time in the field meeting with community partners, organizations, and experts.
  • This program does NOT support:
    • lab research, prototyping, or manufacturing; or
    • market research on a solution you have already developed.

Program Requirements

Participants should plan to spend about 2.5 hours per week in the fall from November through December preparing for their fieldwork. This involves attending workshops and meeting with advisors. Over IAP, the expectation is that students are working on the project full-time, spending a minimum of 100 hours (25 hours a week for 4 weeks) on the project in January.
In addition, participants will:
  • Attend at least 2 workshops in November - December on topics offered by the PKG Center.
  • Participate in regular meetings and check-ins with your research advisor and PKG staff.
  • Sign a contract, liability waiver, and MIT travel forms. Minors will also need the signature of a parent or guardian.
  • Arrange for your travel, accommodations, and all necessary health, safety, and legal needs.
  • Submit a brief report or blog (with photos) describing your experiences in the field, an online evaluation of your fellowship experience.
  • Present the lessons from your experience to members of the MIT community.

Apply here


The deadline for submitting applications is Monday, October 16 at 12:00 noon, with interview invitations sent shortly after.

Have Questions? Need Help?

Students in need of assistance developing their proposals or who would like feedback on a draft should reach out to the PKG Center staff as early as possible. We’ve also provided some examples of projects that meet the spirit and criteria of PKG Explore below. We are happy to help!
Contact us at

Application Questions

  • What is the issue you are proposing to research? What do you know about it, and how do you know it? Why are you interested?
  • What are your current research questions?
  • What groups, communities, organizations, etc. are you proposing to work with or meet with to better understand the issue?
  • What do you hope to gain from undertaking this research? How will your findings be used?
  • Describe your research timeline, including information about when and for how long you plan to be ‘in the field’ (note: if you are doing local work in the Boston area, you should also tell us when you plan to spend time with community partners and/or doing fieldwork)
  • We take your safety very seriously, and so should you. Please describe any safety concerns raised by your proposal and how you plan to address them.
  • Provide a budget.
  • Provide a Letter of Recommendation from an MIT faculty member or instructor. 
Selection Criteria
  • Evidence of strong motivation to carry out the project
  • Willingness to dig in to understand a challenge/problem from multiple angles and learn
  • Compelling description of the challenge
  • Strong connection to social impact or service
  • Student’s potential to undertake thoughtful, engaged, and responsible research
  • An overall sense of project feasibility indicating that the project scope matches the student interest and qualifications, time frame, and community resources
  • Appropriate understanding of safety issues 
Examples of what we might fund:
  • An undergraduate takes a class on education & schools in developing countries wants to continue learning about the topic through fieldwork. She applies with a proposal to go to Kenya to better understand the school system there, the resources available to teachers, and students’ attitudes towards STEM and hands-on education.
  • A Masters student is starting thesis research on policies around land use in urban areas affected by climate change, and he wants to spend more time understanding community perspectives on all sides of the issue.
  • A Sloan student cares about poverty alleviation and making sure that youth have access to and are trained for jobs. She thinks there might be an opportunity to start a venture that focuses on this issue, but wants to learn more about what work is already happening in this area and what some of the current gaps are before trying to develop a solution.
  • A student club leader is working with homeless populations in the Boston area. He is thinking of working with students at another university in a different region to replicate their approach, but wants to explore the factors that contribute to homelessness in that location to see if they are similar to Boston before proposing the expansion.