Mountaintop Summer Experience

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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.


2021 Mountaintop Summer Experience proposals now being accepted!
Faculty-submitted proposals are due March 14th

Program Info / Proposal Format and Submission Process

General Program Info

The Office of Creative Inquiry is seeking proposals from Lehigh faculty for these two signature summer programs, which provide resources and infrastructure for advancing interdisciplinary, innovative, faculty-guided, student-driven projects. The Mountaintop Summer Experience (MTSE) runs for 10 weeks (2021 program dates are June 1st - August 6th) and the Data for Impact Summer Institute (D4I) runs for 8 weeks (June 14th-August 6th). At this time, both programs are scheduled to operate fully virtually.


Projects can be proposed for either or both programs, at the proposer’s discretion. Most projects will be considered for 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 for D4I. 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 provides a week-long “bootcamp” of data-focused workshops during its first week 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), either through the CINQ courses or existing courses in the faculty member’s home department or program. Projects which intend to conclude at the end of the summer programs will be given lower priority for consideration (see “Proposal Format and Submission Process” below for more details).


For the Mountaintop program, projects selected are typically offered two funded student spots. A third funded student will be considered by request and if funds are available. Funded students (referred to as “Mountaintop Fellows”) receive stipends of $4,000 for undergraduates, or $5,500 for graduate students, for the summer, paid in five biweekly increments beginning mid-June. Projects may not request more than one funded graduate student. Faculty may also recruit or select as many unfunded students as they wish (referred to as “Mountaintop Associates”) for their project teams - see Student Selection below.


The D4I program does not fund students with stipends. However, some financial assistance will be available to students with demonstrated need who apply.


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. Faculty should include a preliminary expense budget in their initial proposal. Final expense budget requests from selected projects will be due by Friday, April 2nd.

Student Selection

Student applications for both programs in 2021 will open on March 22nd and close on April 11th. Selected projects will be determined, faculty informed, and will be made public no later than March 21st. Both MTSE and D4I will have separate (though similar) applications for students. These applications will include a list of available projects and a link to a brief description for each. Student applicants will 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 can then reach out to those students for a brief 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.


Faculty lead mentors are welcome, and in fact 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.


Student Mountaintop Fellows (funded through stipends) are required to participate full-time in the program during the 10-week duration. They may not have summer courses, jobs, internships, or other major obligations which conflict with this commitment. Mountaintop Associates (unfunded) are expected to commit a minimum of 10 hours per week to their projects, but otherwise are allowed to have other summer commitments, employment, etc. This expectation must be explicitly conveyed to any student being considered. D4I students are generally expected to make a full-time commitment, but may have one summer class or a part-time job as long as they demonstrate the motivation and willingness to engage with their project and program elements.

Program Resources

Both summer programs will offer a variety of 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. If the programs are held in-person in Building C, lunch is provided each weekday for participating students; faculty are welcome to partake as well. Students in both programs will have the opportunity to present their work in formal and informal settings, to other program participants and external audiences (through an end-of-summer Expo). 

Faculty Mentor Expectations

A final word on 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 advise and guide, provide resources when needed, and sync up with the team on a regular basis (at least weekly) to monitor progress. 

Proposal Format / What to Include

Proposals for 2021 Mountaintop and Data for Impact 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, with the subject line “Summer 2021 Proposal: <Project Title>.” 


Deadline for proposal submission is 11:59pm EST on Sunday, March 14th. Proposals should be ~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 are 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 (if some form of in-person work is  possible)...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?

The "Five C's"

All project proposals will be reviewed by at least 2 evaluators based on their adherence to the set  of equally-weighted criteria known as the “5 C’s”: 

1. Creative Inquiry - does the project propose to forge new ground, create new knowledge, or advance praxis in some field? 

2. Convergence - does the project allow for a plurality of disciplinary approaches, methodologies, cultural perspectives, ways of knowing, doing, being? 

3. Continuity - does the project have sufficient scope and intention to continue into the academic year and allow for multiple teams of students to participate over multiple semesters and years? 

4. Community - does the project offer to contribute to a broader community of innovation in Building C over the summer, and will its participants be active members of that community? 

5. Commitment to Impact - does the project propose to advance the world forward, solve a new question or problem, or otherwise create sustainable, lasting impact in some way? 

Project Selection Date

Submissions will be evaluated and funding decisions will be made no later than March 21st, 2021. 

Mountaintop Summer Experience 2020
Another successful Mountaintop Summer Experience is in the books. See below for the twenty-five projects with over 125 participating students this year. Nearly all of these projects will continue into the fall semester. Email us at for additional information. See you next year. Mountaintop Summer Experience applications will open up mid-March 2021.

2020 Mountaintop Summer Experience Projects~Click on the Image for Project Information

Integrating Molecular & Bioengineering to Address Microbial Pathogenesis
Studied strategies to reduce TB and listeriosis through identifying bacteriophage that may be effective in treatment and developed sensors to detect food-borne pathogens
Innovation in Ventilation
Used housing mock-ups, database, and literature research to explore the scope and social context of new ventilation strategies
Wislawa Szymborska Documentary
Produced a short 30-minute film on the life and work of Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska
Student Designed Supplements for ECO 001
Developed a portfolio of video and textual supplements to assist other students in mastering concepts and methods used in ECO 001, Principles of Economics
Nanoparticle Synthesis for Water Purification in the Developing World
Worked on methods involving nanoparticles and sunlight as practical and affordable means for removing pathogens from drinking water
Developed small-scale model of a combined agricultural-hydroponic system to assist PeaceCorps in creating workshops for intended areas of deployed of the system
Prosthetics Group
Designed a simple, low-cost, aesthetically pleasing hand prosthetic for Cambodia
Wind Turbine Design
Designed a low-cost device for pumping water from shallow wells, specifically in an East African context
Designed and constructed a small, transportable structure whose physical form changed in response to human presence
The Phone Home Project
Developed a charging stand that provides augmented functions such as a nighttime clock, weather information, and more
Early Head Start in the Lehigh Valley
Explored and addressed barriers to preventative care among under-served families and their young children in the Lehigh Valley
Assessing Vitamin A Deficiency
Developed a practical and economical device for measuring Vitamin A levels in preschool-aged children
The Mathete Project
Devised approaches to learning that aligned with how modern students live and learn by using digital devices while moving beyond traditional media
Designed and implemented a responsible system for food waste disposal at Lehigh University
Smart Spaces REU Site
Centered on the redesign and redevelopment of Lehigh University Mountaintop Campus into a "smartspace"
The Biobank Network
Biobanks—storage facilities for biomedical supplies—are currently independent operators without a connected network to share information and locations. This project aims to eliminate that hindrance by creating a new mechanism for biobanks and those in need of biological material to find one another and conduct needed exchanges. Lead Mentor: Ana Alexandrescu
Bone Growth v. Vascular Growth: Which Comes First?
The central question for this project is to define the relationship between bone growth and vascular patterning. For example, does increasing nutrient supply via blood vessels drive bone growth, or, do growing bones call on new blood vessels for support? Students involved in this project will address this question using the zebrafish regenerating fin. We have identified different strain backgrounds of zebrafish that exhibit differences in the length of bony fin ray segments and differences in the size and organization of blood vessels. Students can determine how best to manipulate these systems and begin to provide mechanistic insights into the drivers of tissue growth and size. Lead Mentors: M. Kathy Iovine, Linda Lowe-Krentz
Breaking the Buchanan Street Wall: Using History to Foster Engagement Between Lehigh Students and Nearby Small Business Owners
Near Lehigh University’s campus is the vibrant, ethnically diverse 4 Blocks International commercial district. But it is an area Lehigh students rarely frequent; an invisible wall seems to divide Lehigh folks from the neighborhood. Using techniques of creative placemaking (storygathering with local merchants, web-based storysharing, and tours for Lehigh students) our team will work to foster dialogue and connections between the Lehigh University community, and these diverse businesses and their proprietors, in efforts to break down that imaginary wall. Lead Mentor: Kim Carrell-Smith
Developing a Coding System to Assess Parent-Child Communication Quality in Diverse Contexts
Our project aims to develop a coding scheme that will capture the quality of parent-child communication in video during an 8-minute conversation between mother-child dyads who were part of the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project. The goal of this mountaintop project will be to operationalize differences in language use and non-verbal communication strategies across ethnically diverse high-risk mother-child dyads (who discussed areas of conflict in their relationship). Developing a tool to measure and evaluate these differences in a culturally diverse sample will allow us to identify how specific characteristics of parent-child communication relate to a range of family characteristics and child outcomes in diverse families. Our coding scheme will be made available to other researchers who do work on ethnically diverse families. Lead Mentor: Debbie Laible
Forging Ahead through Engineering Leadership
Erwin and Ludwig Loewy changed the world with their engineering innovations in metal forming. Their ideas, and even the machines they built, are still in use more than half a century later, their history is known only to limited audience. The goal is to develop an interactive exhibit to maximize understanding of the Loewy technical accomplishments. Resources include the Loewy archives at Lehigh, a potential visit to company where forging presses are still in operation, and opportunity for partnership with the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. Lead Mentor: Wojtek Misiolek | Mentors: Lois Fischer Black, Stephen Cutcliffe, Scott Garrigan
Gambling on Community: Ten Years of the Casino in Southside Bethlehem
When Bethlehem Steel closed its doors in 1995, the Lehigh Valley lost a corporate employer and indeed a corporate icon. When the Sands Casino opened its doors in May 2009, the Lehigh Valley gained a new corporate employer and icon. Our film project will research and document the impact of the Sands Casino on the Lehigh Valley community, and in particular, Southside Bethlehem. Students will engage in public research methods, including the study of government documents, employment records, and city council minutes. We will also conduct an abundance of interviews with community leaders who can address the impact of the casino. Lead Mentor: Michael Kramp
Human Interaction with Agile Autonomous Robots
Autonomous robots have been rapidly becoming an integral part of our daily life. Robots have great potentials to collaborate with humans in various applications such as search engines, self-driving cars, industrial robotics, medical surgeries, and surveillance. Fast real-time perception and control by a robot are the key factors for successful collaboration with humans. The objective of this project is to develop novel algorithms for perception and control in order to minimize risk of failures in human-robot interactions. Lead Mentor: Nader Motee
Lehigh and the Valley: A Symbiotic Future?
There seems to be a standing narrative at Lehigh University that low-income communities in the Lehigh Valley perceive our institution as detached from its socioeconomic environment and as an elitist place catered to the privileged classes. The objective of this project is to engage these communities through adequately designed survey methods to asses to what extend this narrative is supported by evidence. The analysis and results are vital to inform the strategy, to be designed, to achieve one of the University’s long-term goals of developing a sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship with low-income communities in the greater Lehigh Valley. Lead Mentor: Luis Brunstein
Lehigh Hyperloop: Exploring Campus Transportation
Given Lehigh University's expansion plans over the next few years, the Lehigh Hyperloop team is focusing on researching and developing a theoretical framework for safe and reliable autonomous transportation [on Lehigh's campus]. We will identify the areas with the greatest potential for impact, and develop solutions accordingly. At our project's completion, Lehigh will be better equipped to handle the future of campus transportation; ideally, our solution will also be scalable for industry use.
Negotiating Privacy Boundaries: the Social and Collective Aspects of Privacy Management
Privacy is a fundamental concerns in communication and information technology. The management of information privacy becomes increasingly challenging when 1) personal information posted online gets seen by people we do not expect; 2) friends share information concerning us without permission; and 3) private information is collected, stored, and used by devices and systems unbeknownst to us. We no longer can protect our privacy on our own, but need help from the people and systems who access our private information. This project aims at exploring new possibilities for collaborative privacy management, developing new understanding, making new discoveries, and creating new tools. Lead Mentor: Haiyan Jia | Mentors: Eric P.S. Baumer, Ting Wang
3D Concrete Printing
Developed new 3D printing technology and innovated on useable, printed concrete for future uses in construction
Student Motivation App
Created and designed an app to assess and monitor student motivations and progress in mathematics
Created Poly-Tics, a web platform that analyzed social media in order to help people recognize media bias and diversify their political media.
DataLight is an interactive media installation that provides people with an intuitive understanding of their own personal data
Fake News
Conducted research studies on the psychological factors that affect how people receive and are deceived by news sources
Greening the UN's Missions
Developed a tool to enable select UN Missions to align the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals in their facilities and operations
Street Medicine
Examined care delivery and impediments to healthcare access in vulnerable populations, specifically the homeless in the Lehigh Valley
Intentional Design
Explored the relationship between psychology and design and created objects to help cope with mental illness
Created a free, collaborative online space for users to compose loop-based music.
Recycled Drywall Gypsum
Discovered an efficient way to convert gypsum drywall into high value fertilizers, reducing construction waste
Designed and manufactured garments embedded with a wide-range of technology for practical uses.
Aging & Technology
Designed technologies for aging adults with consideration of social and medical concerns and factors
Asa Packer: An Extraordinary Man in Extraordinary Times
Studied the history of Asa Packer and attempted to tell his story despite the lack of previous public scholarship and archival sources
Actions to Deliver Racial & Ethnic Equity in Education
Advanced equitable educational outcomes for low-income and minority students in communities in the US and Czech Republic
Civic Hacking, Resource Mapping, & Using Community Data for Change
Explored issues of civic data, asset mapping, and community engagement to identify potential social issues and needs
"Weaving Our We" : Arts & Humanities for Civic Engagement
Designed a dedicated arts and humanities program that also engaged community partners for the public good
Atomic Layer Deposition Instrument
Built an Atomic Layer Deposition Instrument which deposits an extremely thin layer of material that adheres to the surface it is applied on
Passive Learning Techniques to Identify Pseudoscience
Designed a strategy game where players learned to differentiate between science and psuedoscience
Flow Networks for Pipeline Blockages & their Detection
Studied the complexities of locating and solving the problem of blockages in large pipeline networks
History of Africana Studies Film
Created a film that explored how the Africana Studies program at Lehigh University has addressed question of race within the campus environment
Technology & Child Development: Geometric & Spatial Learning
Built an app that promotes child development while utilizing the back-end analytics to further research in the field
Lehigh Valley Shares
Established a free website that allows people in the Lehigh Valley to trade resources, products, and other items in order to reduce waste
Orthopedic Shoes
Researched how niche markets affect product design and tested biomedical technology methods in the design process in orthopedic shoes
sDev Lab
Explores the role of policy think tanks, big data analysis, social entrepreneurship, consulting, and scholarship in sustainable development
Smart Schools
Developed technology that enables schools to collect, analyze, and utilize data in new and unexpected ways
Social Simulation Lab
Researched, designed, play-tested, and produced several social simulation board games
Sports & Evolution Lab
Created a new scholarly field of sports study through digital measurement and representation of physical capacity and performance
Sustainability in the Developing World
Identified and quantified aspects of the NGO/education system that may not be replicable, scalable, and/or self-sustaining
Refugee Transition through Empowerment & Education
Identified and considered ways educators can appropriately prepare and support refugee students as they transition into new communities
Urban Planning & Transportation at Lehigh University
Studied the potential environmental impacts of campus transportation to design a smarter system for Lehighs campus
Creative Writing & Social Justice
Explored how creative writing encourages alternate social, personal, and political lifestyles and studied writers' growth through community interaction
A New Portal: Connecting the World through an LCD Globe
Designed an LCD globe display to serve as a connection portal between people and places and to study the integration of art and technology
Low-Energy Sustainable Farming
Achieved a fully energy-independent food growing enterprise at Lehigh University Goodman Campus Community Garden
Integrated Activity Pods
Studied and optimized the design of standalone mobile structures that house research activities
3D Printed Exoskeletons
Designed exoskeleton appliances that aid in rehabilitation for patients with muscle disorders of the hand
Creative Learning Activity Portfolios
Built a portfolio of creative arts learning activities for public school students
Hip Hop and Entrepreneurship
Explored the market space at the intersection of hip hop and entrepreneurship and developed a viable app for that space
The 40+ Project
Interviewed Lehigh University faculty members of 40+ years to explore the growth and value of teaching over time
Bethlehem Unbound
Explored the role that storytelling plays in Bethlehems social and political life and created potential programs and products that could have sustainable community impact
The Lost Village of Christians Spring
Studied the now-lost Moravian community of Christians Spring through the use of archival sources
Extra-Terrestrial Greenhouses
Attempted to create an agricultural system that can be maintained in extreme conditions with few resources, as in outer space
Conservation of the Highly Endangered Desert Pupfish
Explored methods, in a lab setting, to conserve the highly endangered desert pupfish
Engineering Equality Documentary
Created a full documentary on the history of diversity at Lehigh University and completed an instructional guide for classroom use to accompany the film
Printing Technology & Tradition: Exploring Printing & Pattern in a Global Context
Explored the evolution of global textile patterns using a combination of traditional printmaking techniques and modern technology
Lehigh University in Senegal: Sustainable Building and Community Living
Attempted to develop innovative approaches to building components to improve environmental performance and occupant satisfaction in the West African context
Biomanufacturing: Functional Material Synthesis for Sustainable Energy
Harnessed biomanufacturing techniques to create a photovoltaic cell electrode
Founders Day Performance Experience
Created a new piece fro the presidential inauguration at Founders Day 2015 by using data to enhance digital delay on choral sound and create a visual display
Using National Datasets to Research Early Childhood Development
Established how to efficiently access and analyze large datasets from multi-organization/state databases
Geography of Bias
Took a deep exploration of the geography of bias - how it varies geographically and the underlying reason why
TopO House
Tested the applicability of topology optimization and additive manufacturing technology in fabricating 3D printed small inhabitable structures
Wave Energy Conversion
Developed small wave energy converter designs to explore various strategies for harvesting wave energy and to provide experiential learning opportunities for younger students
Development of Chemical Analysis Tool with 3D Printing
Utilized a 3D printer to conceptualize a prototype of a high spectral resolution infrared spectrometer with a small footprint