When Svetlana Dotsenko was tasked with writing her thesis, the process of finding the professor at Harvard most aligned with her interests was a struggle. Although the College did its part to help, Dotsenko soon learned why students so easily sink or swim.
Upon graduating in 2011, Dotsenko approached her alma mater and asked, “Can we develop some kind of a system to make this easier?” Before long, she received the response, “Why not?” From that desire, the e-advising platform Project Lever was born.
After Dotsenko was given the go-ahead, she gathered together a group of coders from Harvard and MIT. The initial goal was to compile a database of advisors available and willing to help students working on research projects or finishing their thesis. Now, students can visit Project Lever and type in their area of interest—say, “entrepreneurship”—and find the professor who is, perhaps, a 90 percent match.
MIT was Project Lever’s first customer outside of Harvard, according to Dotsenko, who says they later expanded to Tufts, running a pilot program within the chemistry department this past spring.
By the end of the year, Project Lever’s goal is to sign up 20 to 50 schools. And the more institutions on the platform, the easier it will be for the team to reach their next goal: connecting students with professors outside of their university. Dotsenko notes that if a student is pre-med, but doesn’t have access to a med school, they will be able to contact an academic in their field of interest from a surrounding institution.
“We really want to become the brand that’s synonymous with student research,” Dotsenko says.
When it comes to research projects, however, not only is having an advisor important, but students need to find the necessary funding. Moving forward, Project Lever will make the various grants students can apply for available on the platform, as well as searchable access to other users who may be conducting research in the same field.
Currently based out of Boston’s newly-opened Exponential TechSpace, Project Lever is continuing their expansion efforts, all while planning a potential inter-collegiate research conference.
As Dotsenko says, “We really want to give students a resource to it all.”