Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research (LASER)

Your Research Matters.

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But why? And to whom? Publication counts and impact factors look impressive. But what will help you really make a difference in the world, be a force for good? And what kind of difference should you try to make?

If these questions speak to you, join us for an innovative new program on leadership and the social impact of research. The combination of two prior training programs, both funded by the National Science Foundation, the Social Responsibilities of Researchers program, and the Ethical Leaders in STEM program, LASER will develop your leadership skills and help you engage the real-world impact of your research.

LASER was created to help give you the skills and perspective to steer your work and your career in the right direction for you – and those who can benefit from it.

Learn more about the current cohort and their projects

The application window for the 2019-2020 LASER cohort is open until March 15.

For questions, register for an info session on Prof Dev or contact John Lubker.

Apply here.

Download the Application Information & Guidelines (DOCX)

What is LASER?

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Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research – LASER – is an experiential training program for Notre Dame PhD students in their 3rd or 4th year of study in academic year 2019-20. It is intended to develop leadership proficiencies and aptitude as well as to explore and build skills for socially engaged research. 

A laser achieves a brilliance and precision that ordinary light cannot.  This makes it vitally useful.  Whereas an ordinary light can illuminate a small space, a laser can do much more — it can detect and measure; read and write; cut through hard barriers or delicate materials.  A light can reveal a space.  A laser can help to change it.  A laser can do this because it has both coherence and direction—all the photons in its beam are in step with and aligned with one another. 


What would it mean to have coherence and direction in your work? It would mean not just researching a particular topic, but understanding the social and ethical ramifications of that work. It would mean having not just technical skills, but leadership and communication skills. Most of all, it would mean knowing what matters most — to you and to the stakeholders in your research — so that you always know what you are working for and why it matters. 


The LASER program is designed to help give you coherence and direction. LASER is a year-long experiential training program for Notre Dame PhD students in their 3rd or 4th year of study. It is intended to develop leadership proficiencies and aptitude as well as to explore and build skills for socially engaged research. 


If being a laser speaks to you, consider applying to join the next cohort! 


Benefits and Activities

Program participants will have the opportunity to develop strengths in leadership, consider the ethical implications of their research, and positively impact the communities in which they work. The yearlong program provides an opportunity to learn from faculty, peers, and current leaders through research, workshops, mentorship, and real-world problem solving.

Benefits include:

  • The development of leadership aptitude, including an appreciation of leadership strengths and potential and the creation of an individualized leadership development plan
  • An opportunity for structured reflection on the social and ethical implications of one’s research
  • Perspective gained on research and career through an exploration of their social and ethical context
  • Training and practice in research communication
  • Development of mentoring skills and ethical sensitivity
  • Positive and tangible impact on campus or in the broader community

Activities include:

  • Participation in a yearlong seminar series and workshops on leadership and social engagement conducted by knowledgeable practitioners, researchers, and presenters.
  • Training in how to communicate your research and enhance its relevance to the general public, stakeholders in your research, cross-disciplinary collaborators, and policy makers.
  • A sustained project in leadership or research impact with the support of mentors and peers.

Eligibility, Expectations, and Selection Process

All Ph.D. students entering their third or fourth year in the fall of 2019 who are in good academic standing are eligible to apply. There are no disciplinary restrictions for this program. However, Master’s students and earlier or later year Ph.D. students are not eligible. This program is a yearlong commitment (August 2019 to August 2020) and admission is competitive.

Attendance is mandatory for each program meeting. A tentative calendar of all 2019-2020 meeting dates and times is provided below. Consult your schedule and make sure your advisor is aware of these day and time commitments before submitting your application. Attendance at each meeting is mandatory. However, limited case by case exceptions for unavoidable absences at particular meetings will be granted. If you know of such conflicts with any of these dates when you apply, please note that in your application and this will not be counted against you.


2019-2020 LASER meeting dates

Date Time
Aug. 14, 2019 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Aug. 28, 2019 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Sep. 18, 2019 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 5, 2019 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Oct. 16, 2019 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Nov. 2, 2019 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Nov. 13, 2019 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 4, 2019 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 25, 2020 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Feb. 15, 2020 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Mar. 4, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Mar. 25, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Apr. 15, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
May 6, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
May 27, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Jun. 6, 2020 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Jun. 24, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Jul. 8, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Jul. 29, 2020 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 12, 2020 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.

The selection process is based on the following:

  • The participant’s interest in and aptitude for leadership development as demonstrated by their ability to articulate how program participation will assist their professional, research, and/or service interests
  • Identification of a practicum experience that will support the participant’s leadership development and/or the social impact of their research
  • The applicant’s interest in and aptitude for mentoring other students
  • The applicant’s demonstrated desire to support the University’s service, teaching, and research missions
  • Previous experience with leadership in a higher education, community, or professional setting is also taken into consideration, but not required


Supplementing the primary benefit of leadership training and an enhanced perspective, students participating in the program will receive:

  • 1 course credit per term of participation, including summer (3 course credits total)
  • Certificate of completion
  • $500 stipend

For more information, please visit the LASER FAQ