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Summer Research College

The Department of Political Science is pleased to announce summer research positions for undergraduates. Participants will work directly with a faculty mentor for ten weeks and receive a $6,400 stipend. The program, which is part of the Summer Research College, is designed to foster close intellectual exchange by involving students in the ongoing research of Stanford professors. Applications are due February 4, 2015.


Participants must be current undergraduates at Stanford. Co-term students and seniors are eligible only if the bachelor’s degree will not be conferred before the end of the research appointment.


Students will be expected to work 40 hours per week during the program. The program will run from June 22 through August 28, 2015. Students and faculty will present their collaborative research in a departmental colloquium.


Each student will receive a stipend of $6,400 for ten weeks of full-time research work.


The department does not offer course credit for Summer Research College. You are only eligible to receive the full Summer stipend. Students planning to take Summer courses may not enroll in courses that exceed 5 credits and must get prior approval from the faculty member with whom they are working.


For students who want to apply for on-campus summer housing, room, board, house dues, and other academic expenses are paid by the student. Students are responsible for paying their university summer bill, which will include any other academic expenses incurred. Students may review the summer room and board rates on the Housing Assignment Services website.

How to Apply: 

Download the preference form and use it to express your preference regarding faculty mentors and research projects.  Please email the preference form, cover letters, resume, and unofficial transcript to Brenna Boerman.  If your application is approved, someone will contact you to set up an interview. The department is only accepting applications via email.

Click here for cover letter guidelines.   

Please submit applications via email to


Wednesday, February 4, 2015 (students are encouraged to apply early)

Questions? Contact Brenna Boerman, Political Science, Encina Hall West Room 100, phone 723-1806, email

2015 Summer Research Opportunities

Click each project title for more information.


Faculty Member Project Title
Lisa Blaydes Inside Iraqi Authoritarianism
Adam Bonica Financial and Professional Barriers to Candidate Entry
Martha Crenshaw Mapping Militant Organizations
James Fearon and David Laitin Does Contemporary Armed Conflict have ‘Deep Historical Roots’?
Justin Grimmer Studying Corruption Among American Political Elites
Stephen Haber Geography, Climate, and the Origin of Political and Economic Institutions
Karen Jusko Electoral Geography and Party Strategy
Jon Krosnick The Psychology of Americans' Political Decisions
Jens Hainmueller and David Laitin Immigration and Integration Policy Lab
Norman Naimark Stalin and Europe
Clayton Nall The Road to Division: Interstate Highways and the Politics of Place
Rob Rakove The Soviet Union and Afghanistan: Before the Invasion
Rob Reich 'Philanthropy in Democratic Societies' and 'On Homeschooling'
Scott Sagan Just War Doctrine in the Contemporary World
Kenneth Schultz The UN Security Council and the Use of Force
Michael Tomz and Jessica Weeks Elites, Masses, and Foreign Policy


Inside Iraqi Authoritarianism
Professor Lisa Blaydes

Relatively little scholarship has sought to explain the mechanics of authoritarian control in the world's most repressive regimes.  Determining the specificities of everyday political life in one of the 20th century's most notorious dictatorships – Iraq under Saddam Hussein – is possible as a result of the recent availability of internal security force and Ba`th party documents recovered upon the overthrow of the Iraqi regime in 2003.

This project will examine the institutions of coercion under Saddam Hussein. We will map the various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies organized for political control and consider the challenges faced by Iraqi citizens who were forced to live in the shadow of the state repressive apparatus.  The research assistant will compile databases from bureaucratic records and research incidents in recent Iraqi history.  I will also ask students to review various social science literatures and assist in compiling a bibliography and index for a book manuscript.  Arabic language skills and familiarity with ArcGIS are a plus but not required.


Financial and Professional Barriers to Candidate Entry
Professor Adam Bonica

Running for political office in the United States is nothing if not entrepreneurial. There are various barriers to running for office that severely limit the types of candidates we often see. This summer research project stems from my current research examining how lawyers have become such a dominant and entrenched force in American electoral politics. Currently, using a database of education and professional backgrounds of candidates for state and federal politics, I show that 1) lawyers are more likely to self-select into the candidate pool by running for elected office, and 2) conditional on entering a race, lawyers are twice as likely to win office as members of other comparable professions.

I am looking for summer research assistants to work with me on examining the role of fundraising networks more generally, including collecting more comprehensive data on the professional and educational backgrounds of congressional candidates in recent congressional elections. The work will be data intensive. The main tasks will be compiling a database of contributions made by candidates prior to running for office and linking candidates to a select group of professional networks. This database will help answer questions such as:

  • What are the characteristics that make certain candidates more successful fundraisers than others during the nascent stages of their campaigns?
  • Does access to professional fundraising networks aid in jump starting campaigns by providing crucial seed funding?
  • What share of donations during the first few months of a campaign is drawn from these networks?
  • Does access to the networks help candidates reach the 100,000 threshold and do so more quickly?
  • What is the expected increase in fundraising potential associated with various professional and alumni networks?


Mapping Militant Organizations
Professor Martha Crenshaw

The “Mapping Militant Organizations” project ( identifies and analyzes militant groups in specific conflict theaters and produces a public interactive website.  Students research and write profiles of the groups using a standard format that is entered on the website.  They also trace changes in relationships among the groups.  Students should have excellent writing and research skills and be attentive to detail and accuracy.  The ability to take the initiative is most welcome.  An interest in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and south and central Asia is also helpful, since keeping these “maps” up to date is an important part of what we do.


Does Contemporary Armed Conflict have ‘Deep Historical Roots’?
Professors James Fearon and David Laitin

Professors Fearon and Laitin seek undergraduate RAs to assist with research about the historical roots of armed conflict. This project entails an extension of the Fearon/Laitin statistical analysis of civil war onsets since 1945 published in the American Political Science Review in 2003. The research question is whether violent conflicts in years going back to the 15th century that were fought on a particular territory are associated with higher likelihood of civil war onsets in the post World War II era on that same territory. RA’s will read historical accounts of violent conflict to help extend an existing dataset allowing for tests of the persistence hypothesis. They will code each conflict from that dataset as to precisely where it was fought, both in terms of today’s country boundaries and geocoded to test for whether there is a geographic foundation for persistent warfare. RA’s will work 40 hours per week and meet regularly in a lab setting with the two professors and several graduate students. Preference will be given to students with experience in statistical coding, reading ability in foreign languages, and a keen interest in history.


Studying Corruption Among American Political Elites
Professor Justin Grimmer

This project will involve collecting and analyzing original data sets that may lead to insights into instances of corruption among American political elites.  Students will have the opportunity to work as part of a collaborative team and develop analytical skills.  Some prior work in statistics and/or programming is preferred.


Geography, Climate, and the Origin of Political and Economic Institutions
Professor Stephen Haber

This project examines how fundamental geographic variables have pushed some regions of the world toward good outcomes (high GDP, high human capital, stable democracy), while pushing others toward bad outcomes.

We will focus on four geographic characteristics: (1) Did a region produce a product that could be grown at a modest scale of production and that was highly storable, such that that product could serve as the basis for local trade? (2) Did a region have access to navigable rivers and lakes? (3) Was the region easy to traverse over land? (4) Was the region characterized by “aggregate weather shocks” - monsoon-like events that simultaneously wiped out all producers?

Students engaged in this project will work with me and a post-doctoral scholar who is an expert at GIS. Students will be involved in building datasets about river navigability using pre-steamship technology as well as helping to refine estimates of weather shocks using data from the NOAA. In order to do so, they will use historical sources as well as Google Maps.


Electoral Geography and Party Strategy
Professor Karen Jusko

How do party leaders think about the implications of electoral geography—the way in which different groups are distributed across electoral districts—for their party's success? This project builds on the idea of electoral power, or the number of seats a particular group can elect if its members act cohesively, to account for the electoral success of low-income peoples' (labor and agrarian) parties. For this project, a Summer Research College student will use archival materials to document explicit considerations of electoral geography in the formation of party strategy, especially in the US, but also in other contemporary democracies.

Interested applicants should demonstrate good organization and data management skills, and should have successfully completed coursework in the Department of Political Science, or in the International Relations program. Although not required, applicants with French, German, or Swedish language skills are especially encouraged to apply.


The Psychology of Americans' Political Decisions
Professor Jon Krosnick

Political psychology is an exciting interdisciplinary enterprise blending psychology with the study of politics.  The Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford is a large team of undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, visiting scholars, and staff exploring all these issues to generate academic publications and to write white papers to disseminate research findings to the non-academic community.  You would join this group and work closely with Professor Jon Krosnick (Professor of Communication, Political Science, and Psychology).

This summer, the team will be working on a variety of projects.  One will explore what the American public thinks about global warming and what they want the federal government to do on the issue.  We will also be conducting statistical analysis of survey data and experiments conducted in recent years exploring the forces guiding Americans' views on issues related to climate change.  In addition, we will be conducting more general investigations into the forces that inspire some people to vote in national elections while others decline to participate as well as the forces that shape voters' candidate choices.

No special background is necessary for an undergrad to join our team, although comfort with mathematical/statistical write-ups and some experience with statistics would help you to take on more challenging tasks.  This job is just right for students interested in close collaboration with a faculty member and a fun and challenging summer.  Students who have statistical skills may be able to conduct original analysis of existing data to write papers for publication.


Immigration and Integration Policy Lab
Professors David Laitin and Jens Hainmueller

Professors David Laitin and Jens Hainmueller are seeking two research assistants to assist in the Immigration and Integration Policy Lab’s research on the impact of integration policies in the United States and Europe. The Lab ( has a number of projects underway, including research on France and Switzerland’s use of integration contracts as well as each country’s asylum process. Also, the Lab is developing a large-scale randomized study to assess the impact of naturalization in the United States. The research assistants will be responsible for assisting in data collection, preparing literature reviews, updating an immigration blog and conducting descriptive analysis. Interest in immigration is a must, and a background in social science and statistics is preferred.


Stalin and Europe
Professor Norman Naimark

This project covers the early Cold War period, 1945-1953, and focuses on a series of case studies of the interaction between Soviet foreign policy aims and actions and the domestic political dynamics of European countries. The case studies include: Finland (1944-47), Denmark (the Bornholm crisis, 1945), Germany (Berlin Blockade), Italy (Elections of 1948), Austria (State Treaty), Albania (the Yugoslav split, 1944-48), and Poland (the Gomulka problem).

The idea of the project, which will result in a book, is to assess the relative flexibility of Soviet policy in face of the goals of European political parties and movements. Ideally research assistants will know one or more of the relevant languages (Russian, Polish, German, Italian, Finnish, Albanian, Serbian, and Danish) in order to work in primary sources. Translated sources are also a possibility.


The Road to Division: Interstate Highways and the Politics of Place
Professor Clayton Nall

I am seeking two students to contribute to an ongoing project that examines the distributive politics of transportation projects in the United States in both historical and contemporary perspective. 

Students will contribute to this project in two ways.  First, they will help me finish a geographic database of the construction and expansion of the US highway system from the 1920s to the present.  Students will become geographic information system (GIS) experts as they convert historical paper maps from Stanford’s map collection into usable geospatial data that will be used in several research projects.  The second component of the project will involve extensive primary-source research on congressional and state legislative debates over transportation policy and historical records and publications of interest groups concerned with the development of the American transportation system.

All students with an interest in the study of urban politics, transportation, geography, or American politics are encouraged to apply.  While previous experience with GIS and some coursework in math or statistics would be appreciated, students will receive training in ArcGIS, R, government documents research, and other project-specific skills.


The Soviet Union and Afghanistan: Before the Invasion
Professor Rob Rakove

Much is known of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979; relatively little is known about the longer history of Soviet-Afghan relations or the Cold War in Afghanistan. An undergraduate research assistant, fluent in Russian, with a deep interest in either Soviet history or contemporary Russian foreign policy, is sought for a summer research project. The research assistant will be asked to research, analyze, and translate Soviet records pertaining to Afghanistan. Our shared objective will be understanding  the roots of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan during the Cold War, charting Moscow’s changing goals in and perceptions of the country, and - ultimately - grasping the deeper history of the 1979 invasion.


'Philanthropy in Democratic Societies' and 'On Homeschooling'
Professor Rob Reich

I seek to hire one or two undergraduate research assistants. I work closely with students during SRC, meeting several times per week. Background necessary for the work includes: evidence of strong analytical and synthetic writing skills, previous coursework in political or moral philosophy (or SLE), capacity to work both independently and in a small team. Bonus qualifications: familiarity with WordPress,, PowerPoint. Students will work on the following projects:

Philanthropy in Democratic Societies

Students will assist in the final stages of production of two separate book manuscripts on the topic of philanthropy. What role does and should philanthropy play in democratic societies? What policies should structure and govern charitable giving? Work will involve fact checking, creating an index, bibliography, etc. This project will provide student RAs with knowledge about philanthropy as well as an understanding of the process of publishing a book.

On Homeschooling

Students will conduct research on homeschooling, producing research memos on, for example: the growth of homeschooling in the United States, data on who homeschools and the academic performance of homeschoolers, comparisons of laws that regulate homeschools across 50 states and internationally, the political influence of homeschoolers in state legislatures.


Just War Doctrine in the Contemporary World
Professor Scott Sagan

The summer research assistants will work as a team to help Professor Sagan with a project about just war doctrine in the contemporary world. Most work on ethics and war is purely normative in nature, identifying the appropriate roles of statesmen and soldiers in waging war and dictating morally proper conduct in war. This project seeks to deepen our understanding of the intersection between ethics and the use of force by studying empirically through survey experiments how ethical considerations influence behavior in war.

A first round of survey work on this topic conducted in 2014 considered whether the public’s views on the use of force in hypothetical crises in Afghanistan were consistent with just war doctrine’s principle of in bello proportionality, which requires that foreseeable collateral damage not outweigh an operation’s military advantage. Professor Sagan seeks research support for follow-on work investigating how the U.S. public views just war doctrine’s due care and distinction (or non-combatant immunity) principles. For example, to what degree does the public accept risks to U.S. soldiers in order to minimize collateral non-combatant deaths? How does the nationality of the non-combatants in question influence public willingness to risk soldiers’ lives? Finally, does the U.S. public support the deliberate targeting of civilians, and if so, under what conditions?

No prior social science research experience is required, but students should have experience conducting research using Stanford libraries, web-based resources, and e-journals and preparing footnotes and bibliographies. Preference will be given to students who have taken POLISCI 1/INTLREL 1: Introduction to International Relations, POLISCI 114: International Security in a Changing World, MS&E 193: Technology and National Security, and/or Thinking Matters 19: Rules of War.


Just War Doctrine in the Contemporary World
Professor Kenneth Schultz

This project explores several aspects of the United Nations Security Council’s efforts to regulate the use of military force between states. In particular, we seek to examine: (1) the record of compliance with Security Council demands to halt military action, (2) the sources of international law that the Security Council relies on to justify engagement in crises, and (3) the decision by states to invoke the self-defense clause of the UN Charter when using force. This project will rely on systematic collection and analysis of two types of texts: Security Council resolutions and Article 51 letters, which states use to invoke self-defense justifications.


Elites, Masses, and Foreign Policy
Professors Michael Tomz and Jessica Weeks

This project examines how leaders think about foreign policy, how their views compare with ordinary citizens, and how public opinion affects policy outcomes. Our research this summer will focus on two countries: the United States and Israel. Students will help (1) build databases of current and former policymakers; (2) design questionnaires that will be administered to policymakers and the mass public; (3) carry out surveys and analyze data; and (4) conduct historical research about the connection between public opinion and policy decisions. This project is just right for students who are interested in foreign policy and enjoy working in teams.