Fellowships & Scholarships
PEAK Experience #3: The Ascent Award
  • Northeastern: 04/01/2024
  • Fellowship: 04/01/2024

If you meet the eligibility criteria and are interested in applying for this fellowship, please fill out a preliminary questionnaire. You may contact the office with any questions.

Award Details

This award is one of the Project-Based Exploration for the Advancement of Knowledge (PEAK) Experiences Awards. Please review the PEAK Experiences Awards overview page to see the entire list of experiences and determine which one is right for you; our list of Frequently Asked Questions about the PEAK Experiences Awards might also be helpful.

You already have your feet underneath you and are working your way up the hill! You have some experience making a project happen, either through preliminary coursework or previous projects. You have demonstrated a good grasp of the techniques and questions being asked in your project area (even if this area is outside your major), but you need to continue developing skills, sophistication, and independence. It’s your job to drive the idea of an Ascent project, but we expect that you’ll be working closely with a mentor to guide you up the slope.

Internal Award
Term Length: 10 weeks of semester
US Citizenship Not Required

This award is for full-time, currently enrolled Northeastern undergraduates who either

  • have a basic level of prior experience with research or creative endeavor, whether gained though a Base Camp Award or through another introductory-level research or creative experience; or
  • have learned about the relevant and applicable questions, methods, and techniques of research or creative endeavor (through coursework or other means) and are now ready to put these into practice.

Although students may meet these criteria and apply for this award at any stage of their Northeastern career, the Ascent Award would be an especially good fit for second- or third-year students who have had the chance to contribute in an introductory way to a research or creative project, or who are ready to apply their classroom learning at the next level.

Ascent Awards are generally made to students individually, but students may also apply as a group of up to four members. Group projects receive the same level of funding as individual projects (i.e., up to $1,500 for the entire project, not $1,500 per group member).

Ascent Awards cannot support projects undertaken while a student is on co-op, unless the project constitutes a part of the co-op experience. While in classes, students may not devote more than 20 hours per week to a research or creative project.

If your project involves human subject research:  you will need to clear your project with Northeastern’s Institutional Review Board. Review their website to understand that process.  Questions? Attend their office hours, or send an email.

Applications are evaluated for their overall quality, feasibility, and potential to contribute to a student’s intellectual, personal, and professional development. In keeping with the ethos of “Ascent,” we are especially interested in knowing how the proposed project will help the student rise to the next level of skill and sophistication as a researcher or creative practitioner, so applicants should be sure to explain their current level of preparation and how they expect the project will challenge them to expand their skillset, to frame and answer questions in the idiom and mindset of their field, and to work with greater independence and confidence.

The selection committee also considers factors such as the student’s academic record; stated reasons for wishing to become involved in research or creative endeavor; alignment of the project with larger intellectual, personal, and professional goals; the faculty mentor’s relevant expertise and depth of involvement; and the safety, practicability, and ethics of the project.

Awards are competitive and funding is not guaranteed.

The Ascent Award offers up to $1,500 that can be used for project supplies; student wages of $15 per hour (if a wage is to be paid, the faculty mentor will need to hire the student); and up to 50% of travel costs directly related to the research or creative endeavor. In rare instances, a project may qualify for a stipend, but there is an important legal difference between stipends and wages. Be sure to review our flowchart (pdf) and interactive decision tool to determine which of these might be appropriate for your project. PEAK Experiences Award funds cannot be applied to tuition.

Ascent Awardees will further develop essential skills for undertaking research and creative projects and will also foster meaningful relationships with their project’s faculty mentor. Ascent Awardees join the PEAK Experiences cohort and receive all of its benefits, including presenting works-in-progress to peers, engaging in guided reflection and goal-setting, and advising by the staff and Faculty Fellows of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Award funds are distributed to the university account of the project’s faculty mentor.

Award term is 10-weeks of the semester.

The application consists of eight components: an online form, a PDF of a narrative proposal (see elements below), a timetable, an annotated bibliography, a line-item budget, résumé(s), transcript(s), and a statement of support from the project’s faculty mentor.

Each of these components is described in detail below and will be completed separately. You will use Northeastern’s Internal Fellowships Portal to submit your proposal materials and to solicit the letter of support from your mentor.

The elements of the application are:

The Online Application Form
This collects your biographical and demographic information and the basic information about your project, such as its title and the total amount of funding you are requesting. Because we area already collecting this information, you do not need to include a cover sheet with your narrative proposal.

The Narrative Project Proposal (2 pages)
The proposal should be both concise and intelligible to readers outside your discipline—please write for an audience of educated non-specialists. As this is an award for those who are still gaining experience with research and creative endeavor, we have designed the application questions to take only two typed, single-spaced pages to answer. There’s no need to include a cover page. The proposal should contain the following elements, labeled and in order:

Purpose and Significance

  • Give a brief but specific statement of the original question, problem or artistic area that the project seeks to explore.
  • Clearly and concisely convey why the project is important, both within your field and more broadly.

Objectives and Methods

  • List the objectives for the proposed research or creative endeavor.
  • Provide a specific description of the research or creative methods being applied in the project—how are you going to attain the listed objectives, step-by-step?
  • Consider potential challenges that might arise in undertaking the project and how you might respond.
  • Describe the resources (such as facilities, equipment, supplies, expert advice, partnerships, funding) that will be necessary to complete the project and any plans you have in place to access these resources.
  • Tell us when and for how long the various stages of the project will take place. (While you will also provide a separate timetable, please be sure to explain the timing of your project narratively here.)
  • Human Subjects: If the project involves human subjects or personal data, there should be clear evidence of the Institutional Review Board’s approval, waiver or anticipated approval. (IRB approval must occur before project begins.)
  • Vertebrate Animals: If the project involves working with non-human vertebrates, there should be clear evidence of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee’s approval, waiver or anticipated approval. (IACUC approval must occur before project begins.)

Outcomes, Evaluation, and Dissemination

  • Explain the milestones, benchmarks, and criteria that you will use to assess and, if necessary, adjust your project as it progresses.
  • List the expected outcomes from the proposed research or creative endeavor.
  • Describe how you will evaluate the project’s outcomes.
  • How do you plan to share your work? Ascent Award applicants should plan to present their projects at RISE and should consider with their mentors whether an external conference or publication might be appropriate as well.

About the Learner

  • The Ascent Award is intended for advanced beginners seeking to broaden and deepen their competencies in research or creative endeavor. Explain how this is the right award for you.
    • Describe the experiences that sparked your curiosity and familiarized you with relevant questions, methods, and techniques up to this point.
    • Describe your current level of skill and confidence in your field at both the conceptual (i.e., recognizing questions/problems that are interesting and important) and practical (i.e., using field-specific techniques to investigate those questions) levels.
      • Review the PEAK Experiences Awards Overview and tell us how you decided you are at the “Ascent” level.
      • How do you plan to consult with and seek guidance from your faculty mentor throughout the project?
    • Tell us how working on this project will move you up the mountain. How do you expect to grow in independence, expertise, and confidence by working on this project?

Timetable (1 page)
Prepare a detailed, week-by-week timetable outlining the specific steps and duration of your proposed course of action for carrying the project to completion. Include how many hours you plan to dedicate to working on the project each week. Please also note when your project begins and ends. All projects must be carried out during the term for which the applicant is applying. While projects can continue beyond the award term, applicants should describe a completable portion of the project to be tackled during the award duration. (Recall that project timing should also be discussed in the project narrative.)

Annotated Bibliography of at Least Four Disciplinarily Relevant Peer-Reviewed Articles or Books (1 page)
Include any works cited in the proposal as well as other key sources. An annotated bibliography provides a brief synopsis of each listed work, also explaining its relevance and applicability to your project and clarifying the work’s positioning within your field of inquiry or creativity.

Budget (1 page)
Students must include a detailed, itemized budget of estimated project expenses and available resources, prepared using the Award Budget. Only budgets prepared using the template will be accepted.

  • The budget template (and the application form) divide your expenses into categories to enable the easy distribution of your award money to your mentor or, as necessary, you. Please follow the instructions on the template.
  • If your budget includes a wage, note carefully that PEAK Award wages are now standardized at $15 per hour. Ascent applicants can only work up to 10 hours/week for up to 10 weeks within the term of their PEAK award. You can only work as many hours in the term as can be funded by your requested wage amount at the rate of $15 per hour; you cannot volunteer and do waged work on the same PEAK project.
  • In rare instances, you may qualify to receive a stipend rather than a wage. There is an important legal difference between stipends and wages. Be sure to review our flowchart (pdf) and interactive decision tool to determine which of these might be appropriate for your project before you complete your budget.
  • This award covers up to 50% of travel costs directly related to data collection; therefore, the Award Budget Template automatically adjusts expenses entered in the “Travel” section to 50% of the amount entered.
  • These awards do not fund travel to present completed research at conferences. Instead, you can use the Shout-It-Out Award to assist with conference travel.
  • Awards are deposited into the overhead accounts of faculty mentors.
  • Please save the budget sheet as a PDF and make sure the PDF is legible! Print to PDF, landscape, scale-to-fit one page. We will not fund projects with illegible budgets.

Résumé (1 page)
Include a current résumé for the applicant, or for each group member (if applicable).

Include the most recent academic transcript of the applicant, or of each group member (if applicable). Unofficial transcripts are acceptable.

Faculty Mentorship
You should arrange to have a statement of support from your faculty mentor submitted by the proposal deadline, indicating the mentor’s thoughts on the merit, feasibility, and safety of the project, as well as their willingness to mentor and guide the student(s) during the duration of the project term.

The online application system will prompt you to enter your faculty mentor’s contact details and solicit a letter from them; be sure to do this sufficiently far in advance of the deadline to allow your mentor to submit the letter.

Interested? Have Questions?

If you meet the eligibility criteria and are interested in a fellowship or opportunity, please fill out a preliminary questionnaire. Contact the office with any questions: