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.



2023 Mountaintop Summer Experience Students

2023 Mountaintop Summer Experience Projects

For Students

The Mountaintop Summer Experience (MTSE) runs for 10 weeks (2023 program dates are June 5-August 11). At this time, the program is in-person for all students – no virtual participation will be part of the program this summer. Some Associates may be able to work remotely with program leader and faculty project mentor approval. All project teams will have a “home” work space in Building C, although we understand that some teams will have to conduct some or most of their work at other locations (on campus or in the surrounding community).

Mountaintop Fellows are expected to continue working on their projects in the Fall 2023 semester through the CINQ 389 course. Enrollment information will be provided to these students at a later time. CINQ 389 is a variable-credit course, but we have a strong preference for 2 or 3 credits of enrollment.

Students selected as Mountaintop Fellows are paid a stipend of $5,000 for undergraduates, or $6,000 for graduate students, for the summer. These stipends are paid in five biweekly installments beginning mid-June and ending mid-August. Projects typically have two, or at most three, Fellows. Fellows make a full-time commitment to their projects for the 10 weeks of the program, and are not allowed to take summer courses or have jobs, internships, or vacations that would substantially take them away from their project work. Fellows are also expected to continue working on their projects through the Fall 2022 semester (and possibly beyond) by enrolling in the CINQ 389 course. Fellows receive lunch in Building C each weekday that Mountaintop is in operation, and are expected to be in attendance at all relevant presentations, workshops, meetings with Innovators in Residence, and other program opportunities, throughout the summer.

Mountaintop Associates are not paid a stipend, and make a part-time commitment (typically 10 hours per week) to their project. Associates receive lunch in Building C each weekly that Mountaintop is in operation, and are invited and strongly encouraged to attend all relevant presentations, workshops, meetings with Innovators in Residence, and other program opportunities, throughout the summer. Associates are strongly encouraged to continue working on their project through the CINQ 389 course in the Fall 2022 semester and beyond. Associates who have high financial need may inquire about financial assistance which may be available.

Lead faculty project mentors can utilize up to $500 in project expenses. These funds are not tracked by the Office of Creative Inquiry, and faculty may use them as they choose as long as they are relevant to the project. 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. If students incur project expenses during the summer, there is a system for providing reimbursement from project accounts, which will be handled by program leadership.  **NOTE:  These funds are subject to adjustment or change if unexpected budgetary constraints arise**

Additional project expense budgets beyond the allocated $500 (for needed equipment, supplies, reagents, resources, etc.) will be considered as requested.


Mountaintop 2023 applications will open in late February/early March and typically there is a 3-week open application period. The application link will be posted here (and on the top of the Mountaintop home page) once applications have “gone live.”

The application form will include a list of available projects, and students can “rank” their top three project choices. After the application period closes, faculty mentors will be given applications for those students who indicated an interest in their project and will typically contact those students for a brief interview. The Office of Creative Inquiry does not assign students to specific projects; those decisions are entirely at the discretion of the faculty lead mentor(s).

Demonstrating a high work ethic, dedication to and support for the goals of the project, and strong collaboration skills are usually more important selection criteria than specific technical knowledge or skill sets, although those can be noted on applications as well. Fellows usually require a broader set of skills and mindsets, whereas Associates may be assigned to specific parts of the project, so technical skills may become important in those cases.

Faculty mentors will inform the Office of Creative Inquiry of their selections within two weeks after applications close, and students will be informed in early April.

Faculty mentors are welcomed and encouraged to recruit students to their own projects. Those students will need to fill out an application form to the program, but can be automatically accepted based on faculty recommendation / request.


While the primary focus of the summer will be making progress on projects and taking a deep dive of exploration and achieving deliverables, MTSE offers ongoing developmental, informational, and practical opportunities to students. In addition, we will invite an array of subject matter experts, working professionals, and potential partners as “Innovators in Residence,” many of whom will offer broad-topic master classes, all of whom will meet with selected individual project teams who might benefit from their expertise. Fellows are required to attend sessions with Innovators in Residence if invited; Associates are expected to attend unless they have a compelling conflict.

At regular intervals, student teams will present their work to one another and/or to public audiences. Toward the end of the summer, we will likely be hosting a Summer Expo in Building C, where projects will be presented in poster format (unless other formats are negotiated) alongside projects from the STEM-SI summer program and various REUs.


The Mountaintop Summer Experience does not arrange student housing. Students are on their own to arrange their housing situation, whether on-campus or off-campus, for the summer.

Fellows who receive a stipend may request arrangement for on-campus housing fees to be deducted in equal amounts from each stipend "paycheck" throughout the summer, rather than having to pay housing costs up front as is usually the case. Fellows interested in this arrangement should contact program leadership as soon as they are accepted.
The program typically provides lunch in Building C for all participants every weekday during the program dates. All Mountaintop students (Fellows and Associates) are welcome and encouraged to join us for lunch. These are the only provided meals - all other meals are at the student's own arrangement - although there may be occasional social or program-related events at which food will be provided.


For Faculty

Proposals for 2023 Mountaintop Summer Experience projects must be submitted by the faculty member who will serve as lead mentor for the project. Staff members may submit proposals with approval from their department or stem leadership. Submit proposals in a PDF document, attached to an email sent to mountaintop@lehigh.edu, with the subject line "Summer 2023 Proposal: <Project Title>."

Deadline for proposal submission is 11:59pm EST on 26 February, 2023.

Proposals should not exceed two (2) pages in length and should include the following:


•       Project title (will be used in program communications and marketing materials)

•       Name of lead faculty mentor (also the primary faculty contact)

•       Names of partnering faculty/other mentors if applicable

•       Names of students already committed to the project, if any

•       Types of students who would be ideal for this project…majors, skill sets, competencies, interests, etc.

•       Ideal location for conducting your work…Building C, or another on-campus location?

•       Special equipment or setup you anticipate needing for your project



•       What is the dream?

•       How will you pursue this dream?

•       What is the topic/question/possibility/mode of inquiry you will employ?

•       What is the project’s potential for impact? What might your impact look like? What disciplines, fields, or spheres will your work influence?

•       How is this project collaborative, and what communities of practice would be involved in seeing it through, evaluating its progress, assessing its importance?



•       What are you inspired by, what are you building on, and how are you standing on the shoulders of giants?

•       What is the new intellectual/creative pathway you are taking?

•       Why is this a game-changer?

•       Who cares and why? What communities of practice are you contributing to, and calibrating against?

Faculty do not have to be physically present during the summer to mentor a Mountaintop project. We expect, however, that faculty mentors will be able to sync up (remotely or in person) with their students at least weekly.

Faculty project mentors at Mountaintop are not expected to “teach” in the normal sense. Students drive the work and can learn what they need in a just-in-time manner. Faculty mentors, along with program leadership, will help connect students with the resources that they need to get up to speed in order to make appropriate progress on their project. In Creative Inquiry, students take “radical ownership” of their projects and are expected to make substantive intellectual contributions that could lead to co-authorship on publishable research articles, presentations at professional conferences, patent applications, etc.

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. 

Each project is given a baseline budget of $500 for summer expenses. Expenditure of these funds should be done through program leadership. If additional project budget funding is needed, a request should be made to program leadership as soon as possible. Additional funds are not guaranteed.

Faculty members are welcome and encouraged to attend lunch in Building C Monday through Friday each week while the program is in session. Faculty are also welcome and encouraged to attend any presentations, public or internal, that may occur throughout the summer.

Accepted projects are given two Mountaintop Fellow spots (which are compensated at $5K for undergraduates and $6K for graduate students). Faculty can petition for additional Fellows, although they are not guaranteed and will be granted based on budgetary availability.

We encourage recruiting Mountaintop Associates to your project teams (Associates are not paid a stipend) but will cap the number of Associates at 5 per project. Again, faculty may petition to increase that number if necessary. Additional Associates will be granted based on their potential for contributing to project outcomes.

Faculty mentors select their own teams based on applications received. Students who apply are given the opportunity to indicate their top three (3) project choices, and faculty mentors will receive the applicants who indicated an interest in their projects specifically.

Student applications will open on March 1st and are typically open for a three-week time frame. Faculty will have about two weeks to interview and make your selections.
Faculty typically interview students who they are interested in selecting, particularly for Mountaintop Fellow positions which are much more selective and competitive. Please note: Mountaintop Fellows are not allowed to take summer courses nor have other summer employment or internships, and should not have any significant absences scheduled for the duration of the program. Student Associates make a part-time commitment to their projects (~10 hours per week) and are allowed to have other summer commitments. 
All students are expected to be in-person and on-campus this summer, although some exceptions for Associates can be made.


2022 Mountaintop Summer Projects

*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

1. Air Quality Initiatives in Almaty

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Dinissa Duvanova (International Relations)

2. Autonomous Driving for Underwater Drones

Faculty Mentor: Rosa Zheng (Electrical & Computer Engineering)

3. Beyond Bars

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Bill Whitney (Office of Creative Inquiry)

4. Creative Solutions to Improving Quality of Life through the Clean and Safe Neighborhoods Initiative

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Jennifer Swann (Biological Sciences)

5. Design of Lehigh-Based interface with Web3.0

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Patrick Zoro (Finance)

6. Diagnosing Autism in Sierra Leone

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Kristi Morin (Special Education)

7. Echo Hawks

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Nathan Urban (Academic Affairs); Prof. Khanjan Mehta (Creative Inquiry)

8. Environmental Pollution and Asthma Effects

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Hyunok Choi (College of Health)

9. Factor Models and Portfolio Management

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Patrick Zoro (Finance)

10. Financial Equation and Machine Learning

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Patrick Zoro (Finance)

11. Flying Swarms: Designing, Constructing, and Programming Autonomous Robotic Blimps

Faculty Mentor: Prof. David Saldaña (Computer Science and Engineering)

12. Food Carbon and Water Footprint

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Don Morris (Earth & Environmental Sciences)

13. Food Products to Fight Malnutrition and Stunting in Sierra Leone

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Lori Herz (Bioengineering)

14. Interpretability of a supervised learning-based trading strategy

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Patrick Zoro (Finance)

15. Lehigh Night Hawks

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Jennifer Swann (Biological Sciences); Chief Jason Schiffer (LUPD)

16. Lehigh RiVR Immersive Learning

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Al Bodzin, (College of Education); Prof. David Anastasio (Earth and Environmental Sciences); Prof. Tom Hammond, (College of Education)

17. Machine Learning for Advanced Micro-Fabrication and Cell Manipulation

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Yaling Liu (Bioengineering / Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics)

18. MindFull

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Khanjan Mehta (Creative Inquiry)

19. NeuroSalon

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Julie Miwa (Biological Sciences)

20. PA 100 Index of Companies

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Patrick Zoro (Finance)

21. Parent-Adolescent Discussions about Race and Racism

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Debbie Laible (Psychology)

22. Pennsylvania Asthma Syndromic Surveillance

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Hyunok Choi (College of Health)

23. PlasTech Campus – Decontaminating Lehigh’s Recycling stream

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Ganesh Balasubramanian (Mechanical Engineering); Brian Slocum (Wilbur Powerhouse Design Labs)

24. PlasTech Ventures – Empowering Women by Recycling Plastic to Produce High Value Products

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Ganesh Balasubramanian (Mechanical Engineering); Brian Slocum (Wilbur Powerhouse Design Labs)

25. Practical Training and Research in Computer-Aided Drug Discovery

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Wonpil Im (Bioengineering)

26. Regional LGBTQ Archives

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Mary Foltz (English)

27. Reinforcement Learning and Interpretability

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Patrick Zoro (Finance)

28. Replacing Independent Directors

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Jesus Salas (Finance)

29. Research Integrity in Kazakhstan

Faculty Mentors: Dr. Bill Gaudelli, Dean (College of Education); Prof. Dinissa Duvanova (International Relations); Prof. Khanjan Mehta (Creative Inquiry)

30. Save Tuba

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Khanjan Mehta (Creative Inquiry)

31. Self-Driving Cars in Urban Environments with Traffic

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Cristian Vasile (Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics)

32. SicklED – Sickle Cell Anemia Diagnostic Device

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Xuanhong Cheng (Bioengineering)

33. Southside Permaculture Park

Faculty Mentors: Prof. David Casagrande (Sociology & Anthropology / Environmental Initiative); Prof. Al Wurth (Political Science)

34. STEM Visualizations

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Srinivas Rangarajan (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)

35. Ukweli Test Strips

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Khanjan Mehta (Creative Inquiry)

36. Zero Hunger College

Faculty Mentors: Prof. Ganesh Balasubramanian (Mechanical Engineering); Dr. Elmer Soriano (Civika Asian Development Academy)

2021 Mountaintop Summer Projects

*Projects are listed in alphabetical order.

1. American Indian Community Health and Education Projects through the Institute for Indigenous Studies

Faculty Mentors: Sean Daley and Christine Daley (College of Health)

2. Autonomous Driving for Underwater Drones

Faculty Mentor: Rosa Zheng (Electrical & Computer Engineering)

3. Environmental Pollution and Asthma in Pennsylvania

Faculty Mentor: Hyunok Choi (College of Health)

4. How White Mothers Discuss Peer Victimization with Young Children

Faculty Mentor: Debbie Laible (Psychology)

5. Mathematical Modeling and Syndromic Surveillance of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania

Faculty Mentor: Thomas McAndrew (College of Health)

6. NeuroSalon

Faculty Mentor: Julie Miwa, Biological Sciences

7. Renewable Energy in Ghana

Faculty Mentor: Steven McIntosh (Chemical Engineering)

8. Rewriting the Script 3.0: Designing Virtual Racial Embodiment Interactions to Transform U.S. Race Relations

Faculty Mentor: Valerie Jones Taylor (Psychology)

9. Self-Driving Cars in Urban Environments with Traffic

Faculty Mentor: Cristian Ioan Vasile (Mechanical Engineering)

10. Southside Permaculture Park

Faculty Mentors: David Casagrande (Earth & Environmental Sciences), Al Wurth (Political Science)

11. STEM Visualizations

Faculty Mentor: Srinivas Rangarajan (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering)

12. Superbugs, COVID-19, and the Media

Faculty Mentors: Sharon Friedman (Journalism & Communications), Amanda Greene (Humanities Lab)