Grand Challenges

Since 2012, hundreds of UCLA researchers have been collaborating to solve two of the world’s most critical issues through the UCLA Grand Challenges. These massive initiatives connect experts across professional disciplines from every corner of the world. Today, UCLA has made tremendous strides to accomplish both Grand Challenge goals by 2050—halving global depression and creating a blueprint for the world’s first sustainable megacity.

man lets in light through curtains


According to the World Health Organization, every year more than 800,000 people take their own lives. Depression is at the heart of these suicides. One in every ten people around the world suffers from the disease. These aren’t strangers: they’re your friends, your family. Sometimes this deep, internal pain is masked until it’s too late. Yet, depression has never received the level of research it warrants as the number one source of misery in the world.

Revolutionary advancements are readily sponsored for other conditions and diseases, but that same light hasn’t been cast on mental health. Nearly half of all sufferers don’t receive treatments and adolescent depression rates continue to rise each year. This problem is not getting better and for that reason, UCLA has taken a stand.

runner and cyclist exercise along L.A. River
smiling woman stands in front of crowd


The UCLA Depression Grand Challenge brings together neuroscientists, bioengineers, environmentalists, artists, students and other experts to view this disease from every possible angle. This one-of-a-kind initiative not only advances the research of depression, but the narrative.

The UCLA Health System is among the largest caregivers in the United States, and its hospitals and clinics offer countless patients the opportunity to join the Grand Challenge’s ambitious 100,000-person research study—the largest of its kind. This massive study will fully analyze the science behind anxiety, depression and mental disorders, crossing ages and backgrounds. The study is big enough to reveal micro and macro genetic markers which otherwise wouldn’t be discovered.

There are many ways that students may participate in the Depression Grand Challenge. Every student at UCLA is offered access to free mental health screenings. After an evaluation, symptoms are tracked, and the most critical sufferers receive in-person treatment and access to the UCLA Resilience Peer Network. Right now, over 4,000 Bruins have completed these screenings, with nearly 800 further pursuing therapy.

That’s relief in real-time that otherwise wouldn’t be provided. Motivated by the passion of dozens of UCLA doctors, patients and scholars and powered by cutting-edge science and technology, the Depression Grand Challenge is bringing hope—and treatment—to millions around the world.


Like the Depression Grand Challenge, UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge sets its sights on an audacious goal: a Los Angeles powered 100% by renewable energy, sourcing 100% local water and with a significantly enhanced ecosystem, all by 2050.

people interact in wastewater reclamation center greenspace


Unifying LA county’s 80+ cities to become sustainable is a difficult task, but it’s a task UCLA is actively advancing. Collecting and purifying runoff to avoid sourcing external water and cleaning up the five separate transit systems that shuttle Angelenos around LA are just a sample of the projects that have inspired the community to get innovative. And as sustainability is accomplished in Los Angeles, that eco-blueprint will be given to the world.


Since this challenge began, UCLA has raised millions to fund 45+ green projects creating sustainability solutions from Santa Monica to Los Feliz and beyond. As national politics have impacted state-wide conservative efforts, UCLA has mobilized more than researchers, sending advocates and counsel to the capital. UCLA has even further solidified the relationship between city and university by teaming UCLA Chancellor Gene Block with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to form the LA Sustainability Leadership Council. Also, the County Board of Supervisors recently selected UCLA and an engineering firm to develop Los Angeles County’s first-ever sustainability plan.


UCLA was the first university ever to issue Grand Challenges, taking on depression and building a sustainable future. When one takes a bold stand, others take notice. Countless other global universities have been inspired by UCLA, and with Bruins leading the way, we’re implementing true change in our world, all by 2050.



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