What are Mountaintop Projects?
Mountaintop projects are interdisciplinary deep dives where faculty, students, and external partners come together and take new intellectual, creative, and/or artistic pathways that lead to transformative new innovations, new expressions, and new questions. We expect students to take radical ownership in their projects, and envision faculty mentors as partners and co-creators striving to propel their projects forward on the journey towards tangible, sustainable impact: impact which builds the skillsets, mindsets, and portfolios of pioneers and change-makers in a rapidly changing world.
*Projects are listed in alphabetical order.
GSIF/LVSIF/CSIF projects can be found on their respective pages; these projects are part of one of the Impact Fellowship programs in addition to participating the mountaintop summer program. For more information see: go.lehigh.edu/gsif | go.lehigh.edu/lvsif | go.lehigh.edu/csif.
D4I projects can be found on the D4I page, although they also partcipate in the Mountaintop Summer Project. For more information see: go.lehigh.edu/d4i
Faculty Mentors: Sean Daley and Christine Daley (College of Health)
Description: The dream of this project is to eliminate American Indian health disparities and health inequities through community-based outreach, engagement, and participatory research programs. Students on this project will employ a community-based participatory research approach where American Indian community members are involved at all stages in addressing a myriad of health and education challenges, including tobacco use; COVID; tribal enrollment laws; and cultural and social issues on tribal lands.
Faculty Mentor: Rosa Zheng (Electrical & Computer Engineering)
Description: Underwater unmanned vehicles are currently used throughout the world for a myriad of research applications: environmental monitoring, biodiversity testing, infrastructure inspections, and more. These drones are typically tethered, but if tether-less operation could be achieved and underwater drones were free to move wherever without fear of obstacles or objects, the research possibilities would open up to an incredible degree. Students on this project will be able to leverage faculty from across multiple departments at Lehigh including those involved with the Autonomous and Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, as well as external partnerships, to test and implement autonomous driving solutions for underwater drones.
Faculty Mentor: Hyunok Choi (College of Health)
Description: Asthma represents a globally pressing chronic disease, which afflicts over 300 million people worldwide. Prior research conducted by the faculty mentor has revealed that early-life exposure to fossil fuel-emitted air pollution independently contributes to doctor-diagnosed asthma. The aims of this project are to build research infrastructure and propose regional and global remediation policies against fossil fuel burning to protect children worldwide. In the short term, we will focus on Pennsylvania-specific data and uncover the areas of greatest pollution burden across Pennsylvania counties and municipalities.
Faculty Mentor: Debbie Laible (Psychology)
Description: Despite the overwhelming evidence that most White children hold negative stereotypes about members of other races, we know nothing about how White parents teach their children about race. The very limited research so far suggests that they may actively avoid discussions about this sensitive and important issue. Students on this project will deeply examine the existing knowledge of the ways that White parents address race, and contribute new knowledge to the field that could have immense consequences for our understanding of how parenting influences children’s development of racial attitudes in the U.S. and, potentially, worldwide.
Faculty Mentor: Thomas McAndrew (College of Health)
Description: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the modeling and surveillance systems used to forecast and track the spread of a public health threat. What has become clear is that there is a need for a single-coordinated surveillance system that collects data and builds computational forecasts to monitor the trajectory of outbreaks at the state and county level. Students on this project will build an integrated surveillance and forecasting system to support public health decision making for the state of Pennsylvania, integrating a wide array of data from various models and sources. This system would have wide-ranging effects on public health decision making, and could reduce the incidence and impact of COVID-19, and other pandemics to come, on the state of Pennsylvania and hopefully, nation- and world-wide.
Faculty Mentor: Julie Miwa, Biological Sciences
Description: The dream of NeuroSalon is to build a bridge between brain sciences and the arts, and encourage stimulating, thought-provoking, and consistent dialogue between them. NeuroSalon engages cross-sectional nodes of inquiry for many different disciplines, including neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, drama, music, arts, etc. One focus of the summer will be to explore the relationship between creative thought and empathy, and the need to create open mental spaces for each of these cognitive domains. Students will workshop ideas for a set of NeuroSalon art (sculpture and murals), a website of ideas, and development of a multimedia performance art piece. We plan for the work to be performed in spring 2022, in conjunction with a panel discussion on creativity.
Faculty Mentor: Steven McIntosh (Chemical Engineering)
Description: Approximately 1.2 Million homes in Ghana lack access to electrical power, and as the country’s electricity infrastructure expands, fossil fuels are leading the way. Students on this project will investigate and begin to develop solutions around the feasibility of implementing renewable energy in Ghana, looking at cost, power requirements, potential impact on communities, possible sites and funding sources, etc. In the short term, the project team will work on designing and developing low-cost solar cells that could feasibly be used in a country with the socioeconomic structure of Ghana.
Faculty Mentor: Valerie Jones Taylor (Psychology)
Description: Can virtual reality (VR) be leveraged to “practice” positive interracial interactions? That is the question being answered by Rewriting the Script, a large-scale project that draws from fields as diverse as psychology, theatre, and computer science. Students on this project will script, design, and build VR simulations for moments where interracial contacts can go badly, allowing for “practicing” those moments from all perspectives in order to improve them when they occur in real life, thereby reducing subtle biases and increasing the comfort level felt by people of all races when moving through a multiracial society.
Faculty Mentor: Cristian Ioan Vasile (Mechanical Engineering)
Description: Building on previous work, students on this project team will be creating a hardware testbed to evaluate the safety of controllers for self-driving cars that takes traffic patterns into account. The testbed will construct a miniature urban environment and utilize robotics software to, ultimately, make recommendations about the use of self-driving cars on Lehigh’s campus and in other urban and campus environments. Students must be able to quickly find creative solutions to design and set up traffic experiments under multiple functional and aesthetic requirements, and will have the opportunity to work in areas like robotics, machine learning, architecture, project management, mechanical and electrical design, and more.
Faculty Mentors: David Casagrande (Earth & Environmental Sciences), Al Wurth (Political Science)
Description: Located next to the Lehigh University Eco-house on Summit Street, the Southside Permaculture Park has been in development since 2018 and is now ready to take a giant leap forward. Students will have the opportunity to contribute to the design and building of elements in the park, which utilizes a zero-waste philosophy that mimics ecological processes to provide food as well as ecological benefits like urban storm-water runoff reduction, carbon sequestration, and increased biodiversity. The SSPP team will expand community partnerships to make the park a site of education and improved community relations.
Faculty Mentor: Srinivas Rangarajan (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering)
Description: STEM education, particularly engineering education, will become increasingly personal and experiential. This project will design and create interactive visualizations as a means of conveying complex concepts in science and engineering, giving students new ways to understand how these concepts play out in active, real time. Ultimately, these visualizations will be incorporated into Lehigh courses with the possibility of implementation at other institutions as well.
Faculty Mentors: Sharon Friedman (Journalism & Communications), Amanda Greene (Humanities Lab)
Description: With COVID-19 dominating the media and the world’s consciousness over the past year, comparatively little attention has been paid to the other great looming public health crisis: antibiotic resistance. This project will investigate media coverage and mass communication tactics in order to find solutions to this gap in the public’s knowledge. Students will be able to conduct media analysis studies, network with distinguished media analysts and experts in public health, and data synthesis, and will participate in the development of new questions and solutions for this critically important problem.
Program Info / Proposal Format and Submission Process
The Mountaintop Summer Experience (MTSE) and Data for Impact Summer Institute (D4I) run for 10 weeks (2021 program dates are June 1st - August 6th). At this time, both programs are scheduled to operate fully virtually, though some in-person work may be able to happen in Building C or elsewhere on campus, safety considerations and protocols depending.
Most projects are part of Mountaintop, which is open to projects from all disciplines, fields, and areas of inquiry. Projects with a specific focus on, or need for, data science, analysis, visualization etc., can be considered as a special subcategory of Data for Impact. Creative Inquiry partners with the Martindale Center and the Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems, and Computation (I-DISC) to design the D4I program and select projects. The D4I program includes some data-focused workshops during the first weeks of the summer, in order to bring students up to speed with core concepts, methodologies, and praxis.
All summer program projects are expected to continue into the Fall 2021 semester (and, preferably, beyond), through the CINQ courses.
Students selected as “Fellows” in Mountaintop or Data for Impact projects are paid a stipend of $4,000 (for undergraduates), or $5,500 (for graduate students), for the summer, paid in five biweekly installments beginning mid-June. Projects typically have two, or at most three, Fellow opportunities. Fellows are expected to make a full-time commitment for the 10 weeks of the program, and are not allowed to take summer courses or have jobs/internships/vacations which would substantially take them away from their project work. Fellows are also expected to continue working on their projects through the Fall semester (and possibly beyond) by enrolling in the CINQ courses for credit.
“Associates” on Mountaintop or Data for Impact projects are not paid a stipend, and make a part-time commitment (approx. 10 hours/week) to their project work. Associates are invited and encouraged to attend all program presentations, workshops, and guest speakers. Associates are also strongly encouraged to continue working through the CINQ courses in the Fall semester and beyond. Students not receiving a stipend who have high financial need may inquire about financial assistance that may be available.
Lead faculty project mentors in both programs can utilize up to $500 in discretionary funds. These funds are not tracked by the Office of Creative Inquiry, and faculty may use them as they choose. However, the intention of these funds is to help disseminate the work of the project (through conference registration fees and the like) and/or to supplement (or in some cases support) project expense budgets. **NOTE: These funds are subject to adjustment or change if unexpected budgetary constraints arise**
Project expense budgets (for needed equipment, supplies, reagents, resources, etc.) will be considered as requested.
Applications are open from March 25th through April 5th for both Mountaintop and Data for Impact programs. The same application is used for both MTSE and D4I programs. The application form includes a list of available projects, and students will be asked to rank their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice of projects (one 3rd-choice option will be “any”). After applications close, faculty project mentors will be given a list of student applicants who indicated an interest in their project in the application process, and will contact those students for an interview. The Office of Creative Inquiry will not select students for specific projects; those decisions are entirely at the discretion of the faculty lead mentor(s). Faculty mentors should inform the Office of Creative Inquiry of their student selections no later than Friday, April 23rd and students should be informed by the end of April 2021 of their selection.
Faculty lead mentors are welcome and encouraged to recruit students for their own projects. Those students will need to fill out an application form to the program, but will be automatically accepted based on faculty recommendation / request.
Both MTSE and D4I will offer developmental, informational, and practical workshops and activities, as well as an array of guest “Innovators in Residence,” many of whom will offer guest lectures and/or meet with individual teams who could benefit from their expertise. Fellows are expected to attend these; Associates are strongly encouraged. Students in both programs will be asked to regularly present on their progress in formal and informal settings, to other program participants and external audiences (through a Summer Expo).
The expectations for faculty mentors: faculty are not expected to “teach” as part of these programs. Projects proposed should have direct relevance to the faculty mentor’s research agenda and/or impact agenda. The most successful MTSE and D4I students are those who demonstrate self-efficacy, an execution-focused mindset, strong teamwork skills, openness to learning new skill sets and mindsets, and a comfort level with open-ended questions and problems. The primary roles of the faculty mentor are to provide advice, resources, and guidance syncing up with the team on a regular basis (at least weekly) to monitor progress.