Honors Early Research Awards

Get a Head Start with Honors Funding for Research and Creative Endeavors!

To enable you to become quickly engaged in research and creative endeavors, the University Honors Program offers Honors Early Research Awards (HERAs) to first- and second-year Honors students. Funded projects can be initiated either by students or faculty.

Student-Initiated Projects

Students identify a project they wish to work on and pitch it to faculty member to ask if they are willing to mentor their project. If so, the student completes an application that describes the project and includes a budget request, not to exceed $1000. No more than 50% of the total budget can be allocated towards a student stipend (and must include fringe benefits). The faculty mentor provides a letter of support. Proposals are reviewed by the University Honors Program, who will notify the student and mentor of the funding decision.

Apply Here!

Faculty-Initiated Projects

Faculty members may submit a proposal to the University Honors Program that describes the project with which they would like to engage an Honors undergraduate student(s), the responsibilities that the student(s) will perform, and a budget request to cover expenses to support a student’s participation on the project, not to exceed $1,000. No more than 50% of the total budget can be allocated towards a student stipend (and must include fringe benefits). The project descriptions are then posted, and students may apply to work on a project. Applications are reviewed by the posting faculty member, who selects the students with whom they wish to work.

Opportunities for faculty-initiated Honors Early Research projects are listed below! You can apply for individual projects here and/or at the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships website. Look for opportunities labeled “Honors Only.”

Project Title: The Philanthropy Project

Faculty: Emily Clough

Number of Positions: 3

Project Description: The Philanthropy Project is an ongoing effort with a team of researchers to collect and code original data on how foundations and philanthropists think about the effectiveness and impact of their donations in changing the world. Research assistants will be trained to code text-based data on different kinds of grants that philanthropic foundations have made and the social change work they fund. RAs involved in the project get first-hand experience in how original academic research is produced and have the opportunity to work in a supportive, fun, team-oriented environment with very flexible hours. Work includes some or all of the following: web searching, data collection, summarizing texts according to a provided set of criteria, communicating with teammates to check data quality, and managing information on spreadsheets.

Skills & Responsibilities: Students will join an ongoing research team in a collaborative “lab” format to collect original data for the project described above. Requirements include strong computer, organizational, critical thinking, and communication skills. Also required is the ability to meet deadlines. The student must be detail oriented and able to handle any confidential information professionally. The student must be responsible, dependable, and motivated, and it will be important that the student is able to work both independently and with a team of students. Comfort with basic spreadsheet use is required.

Project Title: Improving Heliostat Design for Harnessing Solar Energy

Faculty: Dr. Hameed Metghalchi

Number of Positions: 1

Project Description: A heliostat is a device that continually tilts a mirror or multiple mirror facets to track the sun’s movement to reflect sunlight toward a predetermined target—such as a receiver sitting on top of a solar tower. Heliostats are a critical component of concentrating solar-thermal power tower technologies. A utility-scale heliostat field (100 MWe, for example) may include more than 10,000 heliostats. Heliostat costs represent 30-50% of the initial capital investment for solar power tower power plants depending on the energy policy and economic framework in the location country. It is of interest to design less expensive heliostats for large-scale manufacturing, so that solar tower power plants may produce electricity at costs more competitive to conventional coal or nuclear power plants costs. Nowadays, most heliostats are used for daylighting or for the production of concentrated solar power, usually to generate electricity. They are also sometimes used in solar cooking. A few are used experimentally to reflect motionless beams of sunlight into solar telescopes. Before the availability of lasers and other electric lights, heliostats were widely used to produce intense, stationary beams of light for scientific and other purposes.

Skills & Responsibilities: Students will be involved in the study and design of heliostats for the purpose of more effective implementation in manufacturing.

Successful candidates will have taken ME 2380 (Thermodynamics), thereby demonstrating a clear understanding of energy, thermodynamic systems, and power generation. They will also demonstrate an attention to detail and caution in the learning and use of complex and sensitive machinery.

Project Title: Nanoscale Mechanics of Anti-Ballistic Armors

Faculty: Dr. Steve Lustig

Number of Positions: 2

Project Description: This research program is a collaboration with the US Army Research Laboratory and the DuPont Kevlar(R) business that have provided armor packs of woven Kevlar(R) and Artec(R) aramid fibers. The packs have been subjected to controlled ballistic projectile events and environmental conditioning. Researchers in the Lustig Lab at Northeastern University are using detailed, nano-scale mechanics measurements using atomic force microscopy to characterize macromolecular impact deformation mechanics, energy dissipation, and structural resilience mechanisms to improve the performance of armor systems.

Skills & Responsibilities: Students will join the existing research efforts in the Lustig Lab to resect individual fiber samples from ballistic impacts, prepare fibers using FIB-notch milling, and run detailed multimode atomic force microscopy characterizations. Successful candidates will demonstrate familiarity with learning new laboratory methods/practices, a well-developed attention to detail, and clear communication skills.

Project Title: The Instrumentation and Orchestration of Chinese Traditional Instruments

Faculty: Professor Anthony De Ritis (CAMD)

Project Description: This project is seeking undergraduate researcher(s) to support the completion of the first-ever English language book on the instrumentation and orchestration of Chinese Traditional Instruments to be published by the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, which is considered by most to be China’s #1 conservatory of music.

What is a book on instrumentation/orchestration? These works help users to “understand the distinctive qualities — technical and artistic — of every instrument as well as its dynamics of ensemble and fundamentals of score preparation.”[1] This book will focus on:

Instrumental properties

  • The instrument’s particular timbre, or range of timbres
  • The range of pitches available on the instrument, as well as its dynamic range
  • The constraints of playing technique, such as length of breath, possible fingerings, or the average player’s stamina
  • The relative difficulty of particular music on that instrument
  • The availability of special effects or extended techniques, such as col legno playing, fluttertongue, or glissando
  • The notation conventions for the instrument

It will also include essential information about the musical instruments found in the Chinese orchestra. Example web-based multimedia content on these instruments can be found here!

Student Responsibilities & Qualifications: Ideal candidates will have experience in library research, proofreading, and team collaboration.  Additionally, Chinese (Mandarin) proficiency is desirable, but not essential for this role. Interest in music and/or multicultural forms of artistic expression welcome!

Compensation: Successful candidates may qualify for a $500 stipend, contingent upon hiring by Student Employment.

[1] Blatter, Alfred (1997). Instrumentation and Orchestration. New York: Schirmer Books.

Project Title: Sensorized Spoon to Optimize Infant Feeding

Faculty: Professor Emily Zimmerman (CSSH)

Number of Positions: 1 or 2

Project Description: Quantitative data about devices that are both user-friendly and infant-safe is relatively absent from the field of infant feeding. As a result, assessment surrounding infant feeding outcomes is fairly subjective, which limits our understanding about child health and development at this critical moment in their lives.

In an effort to address this gap, this research project seeks to create an infant feeding spoon possessing sensors (temperature, pressure, etc.) to help researchers in my lab learn more about how infants first learn to eat from spoons. Given the general absence of data, this is a high-impact study for child development, complemented by the possibility of commercialization for the finished product.

Student Responsibilities & Qualifications: Ideal candidates will have relevant engineering experience, particularly in the domains of mechanical and/or electrical engineering. Competency in project design, data collection and management, and cross-disciplinary collaboration is highly desired.

Project Title: How Firms in the Automobile Industry Manage the Transition to Electric Vehicles

Faculty: Professor Fernando F. Suarez (DMSB)

Project Description:

Our research team, led by Prof. Fernando F. Suarez (D’Amore-McKim School of Business), investigates how firms manage the transition from internal combustion to electric vehicles, and the role that hybrid vehicles play in this process. We are looking for an undergraduate researcher who can help us complete a a unique dataset on EV and Hybrid vehicles that is already in the process of being created. Specifically, we need to collect data on recent releases of EV cars with all related data, such as their respective prices, sales, reviews, specifications, and patents. Data will be gathered from several public sources on the Internet and also specialized databases such as the USPTO (Patent and Trademark Office).

Student Responsibilities & Qualifications:

Ideal candidates will have experience in data collection/cleaning, particularly experience in collecting information from different sources.  Proficiency in excel is required, basic knowledge of statistics and knowledge/passion for the automobile industry is desired. This is a paid opportunity with compensation following university standards.

Compensation: Successful candidates can qualify for a stipend, contingent upon hiring by Student Employment.

Project Title: Intuitive Eating Intervention On Campus

Faculty: Professor Rachel Rodgers and Dr. Christine Clark

Number of Positions: 1

Project Description:
In collaboration with Dr. Clark (University Health & Counseling Center), the Appear Lab is evaluating a six-week online intuitive eating program intended to help students become more comfortable with eating and their bodies. Student researchers will support the project leaders to assess the program’s effectiveness vis-à-vis improving participant’s perceptions of body image and eating concerns. The results of this trial will support the overall development of a sustainable program for supporting healthy mindsets and habits surrounding food and eating at Northeastern University.

Student Responsibilities & Qualifications:

Successful candidates will demonstrate both initiative and creativity in marketing/communications. They should also have a history of successfully navigating highly detail-oriented tasks, especially when it comes to accurately recording and managing participant flow and data.

Compensation: Successful candidates will qualify for a $500 stipend, contingent upon hiring by Student Employment.

Project Title: What Makes #Bopo Helpful?

Faculty Mentor: Rachel Rodgers (Bouvé, Applied Psychology)

Number of Positions: 2

Project Description:

#Bopo, or body positivity, is a contemporary phenomenon that seeks to promote positive body image through social media. This overarching project adopts mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) to examine which types of body positive social media content are helpful to people, and why. Students will be primarily involved in studying this phenomenon’s mechanisms, concentrating on analysis of open-ended responses from surveys and interviews from research participants, as well as additional data collection to illuminate findings.

Student Responsibilities & Qualifications:

Students will be involved in both the qualitative and quantitative facets of this mixed methods project. Students will be responsible for transcribing and coding qualitative data derived from participant interviews and written responses. Additional analysis for quantitative data deriving from survey questions and other sources may also be required.

Students possessing an interest in body positivity and experience in social media as a user and/or an area of scholarly interest are both important. Individuals selected for this position will be eligible for a $500 gross stipend.

Project Title: What Do Biology, Biochemistry, and Chemistry Seniors Know about Copyright?

Faculty: Patricia Mabrouk, Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology

Number of Positions: 1

Project Description:

Today, with open access to everything from clip art to research publications on the internet, the issue of making sure that authors receive credit for copyrightable materials such as clipart, lyrics, and text in printed form is critical. Little work has been done to probe the knowledge and awareness of student scientists (chemists, biochemists, and biologists) who are digital natives but may not be digitally literate in the norms of copyright rights and permissions. In this study we seek to find out whether senior student scientists learn about copyright anywhere in their curriculum, what they learn, and what their attitudes are toward rights and responsibilities associated with copyrightable materials.

Student Qualifications:

Prior knowledge or experience with SPSS is strongly encouraged. The student researcher must demonstrate a keen interest in learning about human subjects research, copyright, and statistical analysis. Given that this is a long-term project, there is a distinct interest in involving student researchers who are willing to continue their work beyond the spring 2021 semester.

Project Title: Misinformation and Conservatives as “Victims”

Faculty: Professor Ari Waldman, School of Law

Project Description:

The recent attempt by Republican partisans to overturn the results of the 2020 election was based in no small part on misinformation: conspiracy theories, “fake news”, and other forms of misinformation that targeted the mostly Black and brown communities that voted in overwhelming numbers to reject Republican leadership. The legal system mostly beat back their attempts to use the courts to validate their claims: without evidence, claims cannot proceed in court regardless of how many people belief a conspiracy to be true. But to hear the former president’s rhetoric that the election was “stolen from us” evokes a decades-long sociopolitical project to rebrand those with great privilege as victims. This misappropriation of the rhetoric of subordination and victimhood is central to right-wing identity creation. The “War on Christmas”, the notion that marriage equality for gay and lesbian couple turns conservatives into victims of government oppression, and even claims of reverse discrimination at universities with affirmative action programs, assuming the mantel of the “victim” despite access to privilege is a central part of the modern conservative narrative. This project is about the role misinformation/”fake news” has played in creating the conservative “victim” and the extent to which false narratives have already helped change nondiscrimination law to benefit the privileged and subordinate the marginalized.

Student Qualifications:

This project is looking for two students with distinct skill sets. The first role is for undergraduate students who have taken coursework and express an interest in social network theory and the sociology of networks. This student would be responsible for curating and summarizing existing research on how misinformation spreads through networks. Ultimately, this student should be able to develop theories as to why misinformation spreads faster and remains more important in social networks of conservative partisans.

The second role is for undergraduate students interested in media and communications. This student would be responsible for researching through right wing media–OAN, Newsmax, FoxNews, Breitbart, and the like–to identify ongoing storylines of the “conservative as victim”. Examples of this would be the “War on Christmas” or how conservatives can’t be against same-sex marriage without being called “bigots”, as evoked by Justice Alito in a recent caustic speech.

Students can expect to practice and develop essential research skills, such as navigating library databases, drafting literature reviews, as well as identifying and refining theoretical frameworks.

Students are eligible for a stipend of up to $500 through this position.

Project Title: Music Interventions for Healthy Aging

Faculty: Psyche Loui, Department of Music

Number of Positions: 2

Project Description:

The Music Imaging and Neural Dynamics Laboratory (MIND Lab) is seeking motivated undergraduate students to assist with a Phase I randomized controlled trial on the effects of multimodal musical stimulation on working memory in aging. Students can expect to be involved in the project’s daily operations, namely the collection and analysis of behavioral and brain data from older and younger adults in the first randomized controlled trial of music as a form of brain stimulation. The results will test the causal role of oscillatory mechanisms of the brain on cognition. If successful, this trial will lay the foundation for the first musical, neurophysiologically targeted, brain-stimulation device for reversing cognitive decline in aging.

Student Qualifications:

Successful candidates will demonstrate sufficient experience in organizational and time-management skills. Interpersonal skills are essential, complemented by a general familiarity and/or willingness to learn about human subjects research. Knowledge about statistics and/or programming is also welcome. A general interest in music is ideal, but not required.

The student researcher will be eligible for a stipend of up to $500.