2019 Project Descriptions

More projects coming soon! (All projects will be posted by January 24th.)

Jocelyn Viterna (Sociology) | Women's Rights, Fetal Rights

Project Mentors: Jocelyn Viterna, Professor of Sociology

Once won, new legal rights are seldom lost again. This is a truism in social science research. And yet over the past two decades, a handful of the world's nations (including the United States) have begun to systematically reverse women's reproductive rights. Why have women's gains in reproductive rights been overturned in some countries but not others? And what are the consequences of these rights reversals for women's lives?

Between 1989 and 2009, six Latin American nations took legislative action to tighten their already-strict abortion laws. Previously, these nations allowed legal abortion only in limited circumstances--typically when the life of the mother was at risk, when the pregnancy was the result of rape, or when the fetus had deformities incompatible with life. With the passage of new legislation, however, these countries removed all abortion allowances. No abortions, no exceptions; not even when a woman's life is endangered by her pregnancy. This backslide in abortion policy has in turn had powerful consequences on women's lives. On one hand, women regularly die because the absolute abortion ban forces doctors in public hospitals to withhold a lifesaving abortion in situations where a pregnancy threatens a woman's life (for example, when a pregnancy puts too much strain on a woman's heart and causes heart failure). On the other hand, in at least two cases--El Salvador and Mexico--the absolute abortion ban has also been accompanied by a swift uptake in the prosecution and incarceration of women for abortion and the so-called "homicide" of fetuses. In El Salvador, for example, more than 30 women have received 12-40 year prison sentences for the "attempted homicide" or "homicide" of their fetuses. Most tragically, the legal, medical, and forensic records make clear that these women serving 30 year prison sentences suffered naturally occurring stillbirths; they did not take any action to abort their pregnancy. Perhaps not surprisingly, the women targeted by these extra-judicial prosecutions, and the women left to die in public hospitals, are overwhelmingly very poor, and very marginalized.

I have spent the last four years investigating these trends in Latin America, and most centrally, in El Salvador.

The student or students who work for me would help me in one of the following areas (students can choose):

  1.  Code 50 focus group interviews and 200 individual interviews about Salvadoran attitudes toward abortion, incarceration, and contraception; help draft a paper or papers using these already-collected-and-transcribed data. (Spanish required)
  2. Investigate the reversal of abortion rights in other countries around the world, and potential transnational connections between these movements, especially as it relates to the Vatican (No Spanish required).
  3. Help me develop training materials for programs about gender discrimination for judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in El Salvador and other Latin American nations (Spanish required).
  4. Interview Salvadoran doctors about their experiences treating obstetrical emergencies under the current legislative climate and, if permission comes through, help Salvadoran scholars code medical charts of women who have had obstetrical emergencies in El Salvador.

Students working with me will start each weekday in a team meeting to discuss what work was accomplished the prior day, and what work will need to unfold in the hours ahead. Students will gain specific research skills (creating an international data set, developing a coding system, analyzing archival evidence, using qualitative software like N-Vivo, writing clear and effective reports, analyzing legislation and court documents), and more generally, will learn how to investigate an academic puzzle through the development of potential hypotheses and the collection of data to test those hypotheses. Depending on where the research takes us, and depending on the students' interests, experience, and performance, the student(s) may also gain experience applying for approval from the institutional review board, and traveling to conduct interviews abroad. My style is perhaps best described as an apprenticeship; I like working side-by-side with students as we develop the initial steps collaboratively (e.g., let's read through these reports together and collaboratively develop a coding schema), until we arrive at the point where there are clear steps to be taken individually (e.g., let's each take and code three interviews, and then we'll re-group to discuss how the coding schema worked and what modifications should be made).

In addition to learning foundational research skills, students will be listed as co-authors on any data set they construct, and on any reports or papers they help write over the course of the summer.

Skills Needed: The ideal student will be a critical thinker, a careful reader, a clear writer, and will care about getting the details right. The ideal student will get excited about questions regarding gender, law, and/or reproductive health.  All other research tasks (creating coding systems, coding with N-Vivo, etc) will be learned on-the-job. Fluency in Spanish is a definite plus, but not required.

Susan Carey (Psychology) | Abstract Thought in Humans (and Other Animals)

Project Mentors: Susan Carey, Henry A. Morss, Jr. and Elisabeh W. Morss Professor of Psychology

We study the human capacity for abstract conceptual thought (a unique phenomenon on earth). We currently have two different research thrusts:

  • Q1. Is the capacity for abstract, language-like, combinatorial thought unique to humans (cross-species studies), and does it arise in human development only upon learning language (studies with human infants)?
  • Q2. What is the role of executive functions (cognitive control, inhibition, working memory—many frontal lobe functions) in the construction of theoretical knowledge?

BLISS fellows hear descriptions of 10 to 12 ongoing projects, and choose a particular project to collaborate on, under the joint mentorship of a graduate student or postdoc, and me (Professor Carey). They master the relevant background literature, participate in the design of the new study, learn all aspects of running the study, coding and analyzing the data, and bringing the data to bear on adjudicating between theoretically important hypotheses. They are part of a larger internship program in my lab, involving undergraduates and recent graduates from all over they world, and participate in reading groups and activities for the whole internship program, and present their findings in a poster session at the end of the internship program.

The ultimate goal of the internship is to engage students in bringing empirical data to bear on theoretically important issues, to see the process of making a scientific argument. This experience will inform students’ career choices (i.e., does he or she want to become a research scientist, and if so, are the questions within cognitive science of interest?). Whatever the outcome of these decisions (at this stage of life, it’s important to discover what one does not want to do as part of discovering what one does want to do), this experience make students more critical consumers of popular science reporting in the press, and of course work in the social sciences.

The proximate goal of the internship is to engage students in the fun of the collaborative activity that is science!

Skills Needed: An interest in cognitive science (some background in philosophy, computer science, experimental psychology, linguistics,or history of science).

Caroline Light (Women, Gender, & Sexuality) | Criminalized Survivors: Women’s Incarceration & the Limits of Self-Defense

Project Mentor: Caroline Light, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Women represent the fastest-growing incarcerated population nationwide, and recent research suggests that many justice-involved women are survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence. This project seeks to explore the phenomenon of criminalized survivors via multiple sources, asking how many justice-involved women have been punished for defending themselves and/or their children from violent (predominantly male) intimate partners or exes.

Given our nation’s growing support for civilian “gun rights” and increasing legal immunities for lethal self-defense (in 2005, Florida passed the first “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use lethal violence when they reasonably perceive a threat), it seems counter-intuitive to consider that women who defend themselves and their children from their largest statistical threat – their own abusive spouses, boyfriends, and exes – are often treated by the criminal justice system as criminals rather than “good citizens” exercising their rights. Currently, there is very little concrete data – beyond observations of high rates of incarceration among female survivors of domestic and/or intimate partner violence – so this project aims to help “close the data gap” between (1) growing rates of incarceration among women nationwide and (2) women’s frequent exclusion from the seemingly exonerating logic of Stand Your Ground laws and other legal immunities for “law-abiding citizens” who protect themselves when they reasonably perceive a threat.

The research for this project will be conducted using multiple different methods and through a number of different archives and data sets. We will begin by gathering/surveying existing data on gender, race and homicide, and we will address the reasons why some vital data sets are missing or difficult to access. We may start by reading some shared texts (and exploring existing data sets) on the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, and violence more generally.

We will explore several different evidentiary sources and data sets, including: legal documentation from Texas court cases collected by our community partners at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC); the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS); and the CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Researchers will gain familiarity working with different types of evidence, while bringing various sources into conversation with each other.

An average day may have the researcher reading through and coding court cases involving self-defensive homicide, or constructing surveys to code "big data" sets for insight into (for example) the circumstances under which women have used lethal violence in self-defense, and what percentage of those cases involve someone known to the suspect. Or the researcher might scan state legal codes to develop a map of differing "castle laws" (the laws that allow for violent self-defense, without retreat, in certain jurisdictions). Researchers may also investigate homicide proceedings to determine how the criminal justice system adjudicates different people's claims of self-defense.

We will start the summer with frequent meetings where we check in and plan each day's work. Depending on the researcher's level of familiarity, we might start with some shared readings to set the conceptual stage (e.g. Readings on "intersectional" violence, an introduction to the various databases and archives we'll be working with, some basic overviews of the kinds of questions we want to ask). My hope is that the researcher will gradually gain confidence in asking difficult questions of the existing literature, and that these questions may help direct our later research. Once we have gotten started and established our work expectations, we might meet weekly to check in.

Skills Needed: Ideally, the student researcher should be at least somewhat familiar with the basics of gender and ethnic studies, perhaps having taken one or two relevant courses in feminist/queer and Ethnic/EMR or African American Studies. Some experience in social scientific methods and analyzing quantitative data is preferred but not required. They should possess an open mind and an abundance of curiosity and independent thinking and questioning skills. Above all, the ideal researcher will possess an interest in looking beyond the surface rhetoric by which our culture (and our legal system) allows/justifies violence in particular circumstances, and why.

Horacio Larreguy (Government) | Assessing the Effects of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs on Political Behavior

Project Mentors: Horacio Larreguy, Associate Professor of Government

Conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs), which spread across Latin America in the late 1990s and early 2000s, specify that eligible poor voters can receive cash transfers in exchange for school attendance and regular medical checks. A growing literature emphasizes the electoral benefits to incumbents for program implementation. De la O (2015) and Díaz-Cayeros et al. (forthcoming) in Mexico, Manacorda, Miguel and Vigorito (2011) in Uruguay, and Zucco (2013) in Brazil all find that enrollment in CCTs significantly increases electoral support for the federal incumbent that implemented the policy. Following the retrospective voting literature (Ferejohn 1986, Rogoff 1990), Díaz-Cayeros et al. (forthcoming) and Manacorda, Miguel and Vigorito (2011) attribute these large effects to voters using prominent policies to update about their incumbent party's suitability for office.

However, no work has evaluated how, by redefining voters’ relationship with the state, CCTs could undermine the clientelistic equilibrium in which CCT beneficiaries were embedded. Larreguy, Marshall and Trucco (2018)’s indicate that increased electoral support for incumbents implementing CCTs could mask a breakdown of the clientelistic ties between the government and voters. In contrast with clientelistic relationships that voters were subject to, where discretionary transfers were targeted conditional on vote choices, voters are allocated CCTs on the basis of objective eligibility criteria. Many voters, who were used to clientelistic exchanges to access social programs, then learned for the first time that such was not the only way to access those programs. Moreover, by reducing voters’ dependence on the incumbent political parties controlling access to social programs, CCTs might have reduced the scope for politicians to force voters into clientelistic exchanges (Bobonis et. al 2018). Lastly, due to the conditionality of CCTs, many beneficiaries started to access public services such as health centers and schools, and thus might have started caring about the quality on the provision of those services.

This project then aims to assess the effect of CTTs on beneficiaries political behavior measured by various outcomes including interest in politics, knowledge about politics, acquisition of political information, political views and political preferences. To that end, a research assistant has put together a unified database of around 150 surveys conducted between the mid-1990s an the late 2000s in Mexico. Mexico saw the implementation of the pioneer CCT PROGRESA by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1997, which was renamed Oportunidades by the National Action Party (PAN) in 2000 and Prospera by the PRI in 2012. An important challenge in studying the effect of CTTs on beneficiaries’ political behavior is that eligibility to the program is confounded by many other drives of political behavior. For example, poor voters are more likely to be eligible to the program but also less informed about politics and more likely to be subject to clientelistic exchanges. To address this endogeneity issue, we intend to exploit sharp changes in the eligibility of localities to the program.

The project does not require the collection of new data, but simply the manipulation of data that has been previously collected. As mentioned above, a research assistant has put together a unified database of around 150 surveys conducted between the mid-1990s to the late 2000s in Mexico Moreover, I have also accessed data on eligibility criteria and beneficiaries by locality since the start of the program. The undergraduate student will then mostly perform econometric analysis of this data implementing difference-in-differences and regression-discontinuity analyses.

The undergraduate will learn creative ways to undertake these tasks since there is no standard way of doing this. Effectively, a day as part of the project entails doing significant coding in Stata, presenting results using LaTex, as well as a lot of discussion with me to figure out the logic behind such coding and result presentation.

My goal as a mentor in BLISS is for students to get an overall view of the research process. Beyond helping with the coding and developing coding skills, as well as gaining experience in presenting results, I try to ensure that students become familiar with how the project fits with the existing literature and understand the importance of the project analysis towards filling a specific gap in our knowledge. Moreover, I really try to structure things so that students can be part of each of the project steps. Sometimes we experience delays, and thus I am open to continuing the collaboration through the alternative ways that Harvard provides to engage undergraduates in research activities (e.g., Gov92r, IQSS URS). Implicitly but also explicitly, I try to attract talented students to research and academia. Moreover, I also put an important emphasis on the rationale behind their work. Once I get students to comprehend the type of analysis we aim to conduct, it is much simpler for them to understand the structure that the data should have, and thus the coding they need to do. Of course, this is not an easy process, and thus I often follow a very hands-on approach with weekly or bi-weekly meetings. In general, I hold an open-door policy with my both graduate and undergraduate students.

Skills needed: I expect to work with undergraduates with a strong quantitative focus that have ideally taken an intermediate statistics or econometrics course and have slightly-beyond-basic training in Stata or related software that entails coding (e.g., R, Python). A quantitative mindset and some basic training in a software structured around coding avoid spending a few weeks bringing students up to speed. Some knowledge of LaTex is also preferred. Regardless, the student working on the project will leave with a proficient knowledge of Stata and LaTex.

Jesse Snedeker (Psychology) | Language Acquisition

Project Mentors: Jesse Snedeker, Professor of Psychology

Language is not one representation but many. A spoken utterance can be characterized as a string of phonemes, a nested set of prosodic phrases, a series of lexical items, a hierarchically-organized syntactic tree, a configuration of semantic relations, or the impetus for inferences about the speaker's intentions. A fundamental challenge for the psychology of language is to understand the relations between these representations: the degree to which they are distinct, the ways in which they constrain one another, and the role that these connections play in language acquisition. My lab explores these questions with a primary focus on semantic representations and their relation to syntax and pragmatics. Semantic representations are central to cognitive science because they provide a window into our generative conceptual capacity. Language allows us to combine concepts from diverse cognitive domains. Understanding how meaning is encoded in language is central to understanding conceptual combination.

Our approach to these questions is experimental and developmental. The study of semantics has been based largely on the judgments of trained linguists. Where these judgments are unclear, controversial or uninformative, theories diverge. By using a broader range of methods with diverse populations, we can gain additional insight into the processes that give rise to meaning and the representations they create. Developmental work is critical for two reasons: 1) Adult language processing is complex and interactive, by observing language at an earlier state we may gain a deeper understanding of its architecture; 2) Developmental studies allow us to explore the relation between language and conceptual development. If the semantics of external languages build on a prior language of thought, then we would expect many aspects of semantic structure to develop early and constrain language acquisition. In contrast, if external language is the sole mechanism of domain-general conceptual combination, then we might expect conceptual and linguistic development to be closely yoked.

BLISS fellows will be given the opportunity to work on one of several projects investigating how children acquire and process language, ranging from how children learn the meanings of novel verbs to how children generalize grammatical and semantic representations across sentences to how children understand the referents of proper names. Fellows will be assigned a project based on their interests and will be involved in all major steps of its lifecycle: preparing study stimuli, conducting literature searches, recruiting participants, coding, entering, and transcribing data, and presenting their results. This will allow fellows to work closely with their mentors to make a contribution to the design of the study and the interpretation of its results.

The typical day in the life of a BLISS fellow in our lab varies depending on the specific project to which they are assigned and their progress over the summer. However, most fellows can anticipate spending 2-3 hours each day running participants, 2-3 hours recruiting participants, and the remaining time in the lab on tasks such as reading literature relevant to their project, attending research meetings with their mentor, or coding and entering data.

This project will be part of the summer internship program that our laboratory, together with others in the department, organizes every year. The BLISS Fellow(s) will be paired with a graduate researcher, and will be involved in all major steps of psycholinguistic research. They also participate in a weekly Reading Group to talk about 1-2 journal articles with other interns, while 1-2 research mentors moderate the discussion, in weekly Lab Meetings, and in weekly meetings with their graduate student mentor and Dr. Snedeker. In short, BLISS Fellow(s) get a chance to experience firsthand how scientific knowledge is actually produced, potentially helping them to decide whether to pursue graduate studies and a career in science, or not.

Skills Needed: An active interest in working with children, some background in linguistics and psychology, a high degree of independence, problem-solving skills and the ability and interest to quickly acquire new skills.

Jennifer Hochschild (Government) | Class-in-Group: Intra-racial Dynamics in Metropolitan Politics and Policy

Project Mentors: Jennifer Hochschild, H.L. Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies

How do the large "clunky" categories of black/white/Asian/Latino etc. get mobilized or modified in political and policy disputes in American metropolitan areas? In particular, do the interests and viewpoints associated with being well-off or poor affect intra-group dynamics, as well as relations across groups?  Do the policy arenas of policing, school reform, housing disputes, and city budget choices show the same racial and class dynamics across metro areas?

We have completed four site visits, involving a week-long trip to the site (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta), to interview experts about, respectively, the criminal justice system, public pension reform, school reform, and urban development. Interviews have been transcribed, along with initial coding. The BLISS intern will continue our research on the four policy issues through published documents, census and other reports, and perhaps further conversations with experts.  

We also have a completed survey and I hope that the BLISS intern can do some basic statistical analyses of the results. There is likely to be additional coding of the interviews, and coding of newspaper articles and other media, around the themes of intra-group consensus or disagreement, and initer-group coalition or tension.

The BLISS intern will work closely with me and other research collaborators. My BLISS student from summer of 2016 continues to work on the Class-in-Group research. We will have frequent conversations, ad hoc meetings, exchanges of notes and information, etc. I will also work out a more specific research plan for analysing the survey, so that those proceed along a clear and fairly fixed path. The BLISS intern will gain experience in researching particular policy arenas and locations, setting up and participating in interviews, analyzing survey data, and moving from evidence to the first stages of writing an article or book chapter.

Skills Needed: Ideally, the student will have data analytic skills so can work with the survey data--so some hands-on statistical training would be very helpful. That is not essential however. Facility with JSTOR, Lexis-Nexis, and other electronic tools would be great.

Peter Der Manuelian (Anthropology; NELC) | Preparing an Online Exhibit of Ancient Artifacts

Project Mentors: Peter Der Manuelian, Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology and Director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, Joseph Greene, Deputy Director and Curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum; Adam Aja, Assistant Curator of Collections

In the summer of 2018, the Harvard Semitic Museum BLISS intern successfully completed the 3D scanning of almost the entire Egyptian collection (350 objects over ten weeks), using our Artec Space Spider portable 3D scanner. We established best practices for using the scanner for producing 3D models of ancient artifacts.

For the summer of 2019 we would like to expand on the experience gained and turn to our world-famous collection of 5,000 inscribed cuneiform tablets excavated at ancient Nuzi in Iraq by a Museum-sponsored expedition in 1927-1931 and now held by the Museum. A selection of the most interesting and important inscriptions (economic texts, business transactions, legal inscriptions) will be made by the NELC Department’s Assyriologists and Harvard Semitic Museum curators, perhaps a few hundred tablets. The goal is to 3D-scan them, research and assemble the archaeological and textual museum data (provenance, publications, translations, etc.) and prepare the digital materials for an online exhibition on the Museum’s website (through Sketchfab, the online repository for 3D models).

The student will work primarily under the supervision of the Museum director, deputy director, and curator in the Harvard Semitic Museum storage collections, where other summer staff and volunteers will be on hand. We believe this project will provide valuable exposure to all aspects of museology, archaeology, and public presentation.

Skills Needed: We seek students interested in digital technology (3D scanning), museums and exhibits, archaeology, and artifact research. The chosen intern will have excellent digital and organizational skills and be able to work unsupervised for periods of time. Experience with graphics and online storage, along with Excel tracking lists is a plus.

 

Danielle Allen (Government) | The Democratic Knowledge Project

Project Mentors: Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, and the DKP team

  • How can curricular innovations be brought to the K-12 space to specifically develop skills, knowledge and motivations for civic life?
    • What compelling, well-researched narratives in the U.S. context can be utilized to create accessible 8th grade learning material in American political philosophy?
    • How can gaming be better leveraged by civic educators to foster learning both in and outside of the classroom?
  • How might new forms of K-12 assessments better capture and drive civic knowledge, skills and dispositions?
  • How can Professional Development programs be structured to equip teachers with the knowledge and pedagogical capacity to actualize civic learning in K-12 students?

Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics is currently seeking BLISS Fellows to support a major initiative to support the renewal of K-12 civic education. After decades of decline in the delivery of civic education in the U.S., we have reached a moment of widespread appetite to renew civic education in the nation’s schools. Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, through its Democratic Knowledge Project (DKP), seeks to contribute to that nation-wide process of reinvention through engagement with civic education reform at the level of individual states. In June 2018, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in the State of Massachusetts passed new state educational standards intended to extend and deepen the place of civic education in the curriculum. The standards now require a year-long 8th grade civics course. The DKP is working with Massachusetts school districts on the development of that course. We are supporting curricular and resource development, creating assessment instruments to support instructional practice, and developing professional development opportunities for civic educators.

We seek BLISS Fellows with knowledge of and interest in any of the following areas: U.S. history, especially the early Republic; democratic and constitutional theory; history of U.S. political thought; history of indigenous cultures, history of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality; social and cognitive psychology and/or assessment; curriculum development; case-writing. Hours and duties will vary with the background and the availability.

Most immediately, we are seeking: (1) a fellow to do historical research in support of a six-chapter adventure video game based on the Declaration of Independence, which we are co-developing with the educational game firm, Amplify; (2) a fellow to join our teams working directly with school districts on research in curriculum development; this will include doing research and contributing to the development, writing and production of curricular materials.

Successful completion of student projects will be fostered by the Center’s research staff through dedicated weekly meetings and other consultations as needed. The student(s) will be provided with office space at the Center, where they will have frequent interaction with fellow researchers and their mentors. Although the student(s) will be supervised, they will have considerable freedom to develop a research project in line with their own interests.

Melissa Dell (Economics)| The Vietnam War and Trust in Public Institutions

Project Mentors: Melissa Dell, Professor of Economics

The 1960s witnessed a dramatic decline in trust in public institutions in the United States. This plausibly had major implications for individuals’ political attitudes and support for social welfare programs and other government policies. This project examines how local media coverage about the Vietnam War influenced individuals’ attitudes towards the government, social welfare spending, redistribution, and a host of other social and cultural phenomena, using an instrumental variables strategy. We consider immediate impacts as well as trajectories during the following decades.

 

Depending on the skills and interests of the student, tasks may include data plotting and regression in R, data parsing using Python, natural language processing, management of large datasets, and qualitative search for data sources and related literature.

We will have in person meetings at least weekly to discuss progress, and more often as needed. The project will be managed using a Kanban board, which will facilitate efficient communication and project planning.

 

Skills Needed: Some experience with programming – in a language such as Python, R, or C – is required. Completion of an introductory statistics or econometrics course is preferred but not required.

 

 

(Pilot Program) BLISS Independent Research

In addition to the menu of BLISS projects on offer, this year we are inviting Harvard College undergraduates to propose their own campus-based social science research projects under supervision of a faculty mentor. (A maximum of two “independent research” students will be accepted to the program.)

This option may be most suitable for an existing student-faculty research collaboration that would benefit from the student’s ability to commit to fulltime work over an extended period.

To propose a BLISS independent research project, student applicants must a) identify a mentor, and b) describe the proposed research in detail, including:

  • the goals/expected outcomes for the 10-week summer research period, and an explanation of how this relates to your general short-term (undergraduate) and long-term academic and professional goals
  • a general plan for your daily/weekly research-related activities (“Fulltime” research is loosely defined as 35-40 hours per week.)
  • information about the resources and materials to be engaged on campus
  • a plan for communicating with the research mentor (How often will you meet? What will you do if you encounter problems or have questions between meetings?)

In the BLISS application, your independent project proposal will be included as your first and second essay responses. If you have already conducted research with your mentor, make sure to explain how this summer opportunity is significantly different from term-time research and particularly beneficial to your academic and career development. Please answer the third essay question as it is framed.

Research Mentor Confirmation Letter

Your letter of recommendation must be from your research mentor and should comment on your qualifications for the project as well as the mentor’s role over the summer. Please provide the following instructions to your mentor (which differ from the general instructions to recommenders).

Instructions for mentors

Please provide a letter of recommendation for the applicant, addressing the following information:

  1. In what capacity do you know the applicant? If the student is already conducting research with you, how will BLISS differ significantly from the applicant's term-time work?
  2. Is the applicant qualified to carry out the research as described? Are the goals feasible within the specified time period? Does the workplan seem reasonable?
  3. What is your mentoring plan? What will the student learn from you? How will you oversee their work? If you are traveling at any point during the summer, how will you stay in contact with the student?
  4. A critical component of the BLISS program is the student’s participation in the “summer undergraduate research village” community. How do you envision the applicant benefitting from, and contributing to, the community?