BLISS

The Harvard College BLISS program is a summer residential program for Harvard undergraduates designed to provide a formative and substantive social science research experience and to promote community, creativity, and academic excellence. During the ten-week program approximately 18 students work full time on social science research projects led by Harvard faculty. Students live in one of the Harvard Houses as part of the Harvard Summer Undergraduate Research Village, engaging with fellow undergraduates in an array of programs who are conducting research in fields ranging from art history to astrophysics, from data science to philosophy, from organizational behavior to public health. BLISS covers the housing costs and provides partial board, a stipend for expenses, and coverage of summer savings obligations for financial aid recipients; it also provides academic and professional development programming for the student fellows (including lectures and discussions with distinguished faculty and professionals in a wide variety of fields, practical seminars, and a chance to present their research publicly), as well as a host of social activities. Faculty project descriptions are posted on this website in January, and the student applications are due in mid-February.

BLISS 2023 Key Info

  • Faculty project descriptions due: January 19 (tho earlier is better, and late proposals will be allowed, but may not get as much student attention)
  • Student applications due: February 14 (11:59 pm)
  • Interview period: ~ March 1 - March 22 (faculty and students will be notified when interview round begins)
  • Final decisions: ~ March 24 - March 31 (decisions may be made on rolling basis)
  • Students move in: June 2 and 3
  • Start date & opening lunch (PIs invited): June 5
  • End date: August 10

General FAQs

Q: Who should I contact with questions?

A: Jennifer Shephard, BLISS program manager, 617.495.7906, jmsheph@fas.harvard.edu, or Greg Llacer, Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, 617.384.7995, gregory_llacer@harvard.edu.

Q: What are the dates of the program?

A: We traditionally start the Monday that is 11 days after Commencement and run for one day shy of ten weeks. The 2023 program starts on Monday, June 5th. The final day of the program is Thursday, August 10th. (The 2024 dates are expected to be 6/10 - 8/15.)

Q: Are the students expected to be on campus for the full ten weeks?

A: Generally, yes. They are required to live on campus, and are generally expected to be present on all weekdays. If a faculty PI has an exceptional opportunity (and funding) available for student travel related to the project, this may be permitted (seek approval from program director), provided that the student will miss a maximum of one week of the program (missing two weekends is okay). Student independent travel (to study, for vacation, etc.) is generally not permitted except for weekend days (missing a weekday or two for a special family event, like a wedding, may be permitted, provided that both faculty PI and program director are consulted in advance).

Q: What kinds of projects has BLISS included in the past?

A: Check out prior faculty project descriptions (meant to be illustrative, not limiting). Note that not all projects were filled; to learn more about those that were, check out the abstract books and fellow bios.

Q: What kinds of academic, professional development, and community programming does BLISS offer?

A: To get a sense of the community activities as a whole, visit some of the Harvard Undergraduate Research Village blogs.

Q: Who designed the BLISS logo?

A: Audrey Effenberger, Harvard College class of 2019.

Q: Did BLISS once stand for something other than "Build Learning through Inquiry in the Social Sciences"?

A: Originally the BLISS acronym derived from Behavioral Laboratory In the Social Sciences. A new backronym was developed in 2017 to better reflect program goals and diversity of research methodologies. BLISS might also be said to represent the amazing summer experience we hope participants will have!

FAQs about the "Independent Project" Option

Q: If I am applying for an independent research project, may I also list one or two faculty-led projects that I am interested in?

A: It may be difficult to make a compelling case as to why you would be equally interested in, and suited for, the independent project versus one or more of the faculty projects, but if you believe you can present a convincing argument, go for it. Please make sure your faculty mentor addresses this explicitly in the letter of recommendation.

Q: What if another person is better qualified to comment on my academic preparation than my proposed mentor? Can that person write a letter of recommendation instead (or in addition to)?

A: No. The committee wants evidence that your mentor is confident in your ability to carry out the proposed work, and is dedicated to providing the requisite mentorship. This generally will require that your mentor knows you fairly well. However, a case could be imagined where a mentor has agreed to work with you based on the strength of a recommendation from a colleague of theirs (another faculty member or a TF) who knows you better. In that case, your mentor may want to make reference to (or outright quote) this other person's recommendation in their own letter. But we do not accept multiple letters, and we do require a persuasive mentor endorsement for this category of project.