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, to be a force for good?

And what kind of difference should you try to make based on your skills, knowledge, and resources?

If these questions speak to you, apply to join the next cohort of our innovative training program — Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged 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 current and past cohorts and their projects:

What is LASER?

"LASER is a transformative experience — both professionally and personally — that opens your eyes to prevalent issues and uniquely prepares you to facilitate positive change.” Amanda Nowak, Psychology

Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research — LASER — is an experiential training program for Notre Dame Ph.D. students who have completed their required coursework by the start of academic year 2024-25. It is intended to develop leadership proficiencies and aptitude as well as to explore and build skills for socially engaged research. 

The LASER program is designed to provide you coherence and direction in your work.

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.

“LASER’s self-assessment exercises, peer support networks, and commitment to community engagement encouraged me to think about my personal values and ensure that my research makes a difference in the lives of others.” Stacy Sivinski, English

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

The application window for the 2024-2025 LASER cohort is March 1 to April 1, 2024.

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

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Laser Application Instructions 


Program 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
  • Being a member of a small, interdisciplinary cohort
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Click for printable version

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 who have completed their required coursework by the fall of 2024 and are in good academic standing are eligible to apply. There are no disciplinary restrictions for this program. This program is a yearlong commitment (August 2024 to August 2025) and admission is competitive.

Attendance is mandatory for each program meeting. A tentative calendar of all 2024-25 meeting dates and times is provided in the application packet. 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 negatively impact the consideration of your application.

The selection process is based on the following:

  • The applicant’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 leadership experiences are considered as part of the application but are not required for selection


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

  • $3,000 stipend
  • 1 course credit per term of participation, including summer (3 course credits total)
  • Certificate of completion

For more information, please visit the LASER FAQ


Past Videos

In the videos below, Dr. John Lubker, describes the LASER program (3min) and participants from the previous LASER cohorts talk about their experiences in the program at the LASER Leadership Symposium (60min). The symposium is the culminating event of the program and an opportunity for participants to talk about what was learned and how it will impact their careers.

Dr. John Lubker, describes the LASER program

2020 LASER Symposium