Spurring Undergraduate Research with the UPLIFT Scholars Program

With a focus on experiential learning and research, the College of Engineering at Northeastern is offering a new undergraduate research program—the Undergraduate Program for Leaders In Future Transformation (UPLIFT). The program is designed to nurture high-potential undergraduate talent through transformative experiential research and learning opportunities.

Beginning in their first year of study at Northeastern, UPLIFT Scholars are paired with a mentor, who is a member of the department’s faculty. Scholars work in their mentor’s lab starting their first semester, with further opportunities for research during their later years at Northeastern. Scholars also receive programming and community building opportunities through Northeastern’s Center for STEM Education.

Related story: Learn about UPLIFT Scholar Zachary Walker-Liang’s experience.

“The UPLIFT program helps students lay the groundwork to be competitive for opportunities which benefit from prior research,” explains Richard Harris, College of Engineering (COE) Assistant Dean for Academic Scholarship and Outreach, and Director of the NU Program in Multicultural Engineering.

Some of these include national scholarships such as the Goldwater Scholarship, which requires intentional and impactful research, at a minimum, on the part of the student applicant.

“The program provides a clear set of excellent research-oriented opportunities for our undergraduates in their first year, starting with student contact in the summer before their arrival,” added Harris.

Assistant Dean Rachelle Reisberg, College of Engineering Undergraduate Recruitment; Director Claire Duggan, Center for STEM Education and Assistant Dean Richard Harris, Academic Scholarship, Mentoring and Outreach, worked together to develop and implement this newly launched program. While they are currently focused on engineering faculty as mentors, there is the hope to develop interdisciplinary mentors as well, in an effort to expand the impact of the UPLIFT program for more students in the future.

By targeting research in the fall, a directed study (general elective) in the spring, a Research Experiences for Undergraduates in the summer, and additional experiences thereafter, Scholars become competitively positioned for graduate work, national scholarships, and other accolades they may wish to pursue.

Alyssa Santiago is an UPLIFT Scholar from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s inaugural class. “I am honored to have been one of the few students selected for the UPLIFT program,” she stated. Santiago was paired with Professor Yang Zhang, an international leader in air quality and an atmospheric systems modeling, and a founding member of the program who coined its acronym. “I am so excited to work with Dr. Zhang!” said Santiago. “She has given me a project measuring air quality using BenMAP which I am very excited about!”

How to Become an UPLIFT Scholar

Participants receive the title of UPLIFT Scholar and are considered for acceptance into the program after admittance to a Northeastern College of Engineering bachelor’s degree program. Students do not need to apply separately for the UPLIFT program. Scholars are selected from the pool of incoming first-year students by the Office of the Dean of the College of Engineering the summer before matriculation. Each of the five departments within the college maintain a limited number of places in each class for UPLIFT Scholars.

Related Faculty: Yang Zhang, Richard Harris, Claire Duggan

Related Departments:Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering