Lauren Fosbenner, '19, will spend the summer conducting research on problems Cambodian farmers face. She and her group are working to build a facility that farmers can grow mushrooms in. (Courtesy of Lauren Fosbenner)

Mountaintop projects further develop student interests


This upcoming summer, Lehigh’s graduate and undergraduate students will work alongside faculty on research projects on Mountaintop Campus.

Each summer, students take advantage of Lehigh’s research program, in which they receive a grant to research a previously approved project of their choice.

Matt Lubitz, ’16, ’17G, Lauren Fosbenner, ’19, and Emily Gallagher, ’14, ’20G, are three Lehigh students who will be conducting research on Mountaintop this summer.

Lubitz, a graduate student studying political science, is researching parklets. Parklets are small, temporary parks that take up parking spaces. They oftentimes contain different plants, tables and chairs and are used as a barrier between the road and sidewalk.

He originally became interested in parklets during a class field trip to Philadelphia — a city that has many parklets — led by professor of practice Karen Pooley. They especially captured his attention because of his interest in urban planning. 

Lubitz is also a community fellow, which allows him to intern with the City of Allentown Planning Bureau. After the research is finished, Lubitz and his team are planning to create 10 different parklets in South Bethlehem that will be monitored long-term.

“It’s cool that we’re going to create something that doesn’t really exist,” Lubitz said. “We have a pretty restrictive budget, which is going to force us to be creative in what kind of designs we want to do.”

Cambodian farmers can only harvest crops for eight months, so they face an economic problem in the remaining months. Fosbenner, an undergraduate student studying environmental science and psychology, is searching for a solution to this problem.

“We are working on a facility to grow mushrooms in because mushrooms are a high-value crop and a relatively easy crop to grow, so it produces income for (the farmers),” Fosbenner said.

Fosbenner and her team are currently taking Sustainable Development and Solutions with professor Mark Orrs, which led them to take on this project. After their research, they are going to Cambodia to continue working on the project and see their ideas go into action.

Gallagher is a doctoral student focusing in psychology and is planning on developing an app that tracks students’ motivation. For the past three years, Gallagher and Bridget Dever, an assistant professor of school psychology, have been tracking students’ behavior and motivation.

The app will focus on students from elementary through high school and will consist of about 20 questions relating to their motivation based on motivational theory. Suggestions to boost their motivation will be given to them daily or weekly based on their responses. They are planning to focus on math as a starting point.

Gallagher got the idea from working on a different research project last summer on Mountaintop. She worked with Robin Hojnoski, an associate professor of school psychology, to create an app to help young children with their math reasoning.

As a student in the College of Education, this project relates to Gallagher’s focus in her academics. She came up with her research idea because of the role that technology has taken in today’s society.

“When you give a student a 30-40 question paper and pencil questionnaire, it’s not the most exciting experience,” Gallagher said.

Overall, the students said they feel lucky to have the chance to research their own interests.

“The goal is not so much the end product but really the experience,” Gallagher said. “This is really about the exploration, which is something that I think we’re all really excited about because it’s definitely a really unique experience.”

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