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Summer Research College

Davenport Teaching 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 $7,000 stipend. Summer Research College is designed to foster close intellectual exchange by involving students in the ongoing research of Stanford professors.


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 25 through August 31, 2018. Students and faculty will present their collaborative research in lunchtime seminars that will take place twice per week. You are expected to attend each seminar.


Each student will receive a stipend of $7,000 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 Becca Hall.  If your application is approved, someone will contact you to set up an interview. The department is only accepting applications via email.

Click for cover letter guidelines.   

Please submit applications via email (in PDF form) to


Wednesday, February 7, 2018. (students are encouraged to apply early)


2018 Summer Research Opportunities 

Click each project title for more information.

Avidit Acharya Governing Science
David Brady Leveraging National Surveys of Local and State Government
Martha Crenshaw Mapping Militant Organizations
Erica Gould The Promises and the Pitfalls of Multilateral Development Bank Accountability Mechanisms
Anna Grzymala-Busse How Religious Organizations Influence State Formation
Stephen Haber The Ecological Origins of Political and Economic Systems
Jens Hainmueller, David Laitin, and Jeremy Weinstein Immigration Policy Lab
Karen Jusko The Comparative Political Economics of Prison Reform
Jon Krosnick The Psychology of Americans' Political Decisions
Norman Naimark Soviet POWs in Nazi Camps: The Issue of Genocide
Robert Rakove The Soviet Union, Iran, and the Disintegration of Afghanistan
Scott Sagan Ethics, Nuclear Weapons, and Public Opinion
Amy Zegart The CIA Declassified


Governing Science Professor Avidit Acharya

In many fields of science, new discoveries involve the coordinated efforts of large numbers of researchers, and often multiple research teams across the world. For example, the recent discovery of gravitational waves, and ongoing efforts governed by LIGO to continue research in this area, have involved several dozen research teams around the world, each trying to be the first to make a new discovery. Other examples abound in physics, chemistry and medicine. With growth in the size of these efforts, natural questions of governance arise: How can we provide researchers with the incentives to coordinate their search for new discoveries that maximize our collective probability of making a scientific breakthrough? The research assistant will provide background research to the way that science research is currently governed in physics, chemistry, and medicine, identifying the nature of current institutions, possible incentive failures and governance challenges in these fields.


Leveraging National Surveys of Local and State Government Professor David Brady

There is widespread recognition that our ability to answer many of the core questions that we face in political science is limited by our access to information about the beliefs and preferences of government officials. With the increasing availability of online contact information in recent years, the capacity to solicit policymakers to take confidential online surveys has provided new opportunities for collecting systematic data about the attitudes of local and state government officials. In collaboration with Doug Rivers and Dave Brady, Nathan Lee has leveraged this opportunity to collect data on the policy preferences of local and state government officials across a range of policy issues, including campaign finance, gun control, housing and development, redistricting, immigration, and healthcare. This data will be matched up with YouGov and CCES data to ascertain the nature of representation across these issue areas.


Mapping Militant Organizations Professor Martha Crenshaw

The Mapping Militants Project traces the evolution of militant organizations and the interactions that develop between them over time. The project, which has been ongoing since 2009, is a renowned online resource for terrorism and insurgency experts. The project is cited in over 1,500 books and receives approximately 20,000 unique website visitors every month. The project seeks help from undergraduate research assistants to contribute to these maps and profiles. Research assistants are tasked with updating existing profiles, editing maps, and producing detailed militant profiles. Students will research and write individual profiles of the groups, using a standard format. They will 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 international security and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is also important.


The Promises and the Pitfalls of Multilateral Development Bank Accountability Mechanisms Professor Erica Gould

In response to calls for greater accountability at multilateral development banks (MDBs) like the World Bank, one of the most highly-touted reforms has been the creation of “accountability mechanisms.” Local communities can file complaints with these accountability mechanisms if MDB-financed development projects create harm and violate MDB rules. Nearly 800 complaints have been filed through mechanisms at nine different MDBs over the last twenty years. We know very little, however, about how these mechanisms work and what impact they have had. Who files complaints? What outcomes have they produced? Do they increase accountability, as they are purported to do? This summer, student researchers will work with a dataset of all complaints filed through 2015. Students will extend this dataset by researching individual complaints and coding their outcomes, as well as generate descriptive statistics, produce graphics and conduct preliminary data analysis. The ideal student will be detail-oriented, self-motivated and independent, as well as intrinsically interested in global development. Given the nature of the work, it would be useful for students to have either previous experience with statistical software (Stata or R) or a willingness to learn.


How Religious Organizations Influence State Formation Professor Anna Grzymala-Busse

How do churches shape the state? Much of the prevailing literature on state formation focuses on war and taxation as the key mechanisms of state formation. But nascent states faced a formidable challenge: wresting power over education, health care, poor relief, the census, and the administrative functions of the state from a major existing actor: Christian churches. Does such religious provision of administration, extraction, and welfare strengthen developing states, or does it smother them at birth? What are the conditions under which religious groups substitute for the state, and does their role help or hamper the growth of new states? The research assistant(s) will generate timelines and memos of church and state activity for several countries. We will begin to put together a data base of historical state institutions and roles. This will involve extensive consultation of library books and documents, and electronic data bases and publications. Prior experience with primary documents, and/ or linguistic abilities (any of the European languages) are welcome but not necessary.


The Ecological Origins of Political and Economic Systems Professor Stephen Haber

Why are some countries rich and democratic, while others are poor and autocratic? Why do the patterns of economic and political development cluster geographically?  Why did this pattern only emerge in the modern (post-1800) world? We offer a theory in answer to these puzzles that is based on first principles, as well as a series of empirical tests of that theory. We develop novel, geocoded datasets about what could be grown, how much of it could be grown, how far it could be traded, how long it could be stored, and how frequently it would be lost to widespread droughts during the period after the Columbian Exchange but before the onset of modernity. Our core finding is that these variables explain roughly one third to one half of economic growth from 1800 to 2000 and one third of the variance in democratization in the modern world. Importantly, those variables explain none of the variance in levels of economic development or democracy in 1800.


Immigration Policy Lab Professors Jens Hainmueller, David Laitin, and Jeremy Weinstein

Professors Jens Hainmueller, David Laitin, and Jeremy Weinstein are seeking four research assistants to assist in the Immigration Policy Lab’s research on the impact of immigration policies in the United States, Europe, Middle East and Africa. The Immigration Policy Lab has a number of projects underway, including a multi-method study to assess the impact of private co-sponsorship on refugee integration in the United States and multiple projects evaluating the impact of immigration policy on health and well-being of undocumented immigrants and their families. The research assistants will be responsible for data collection (quantitative and qualitative), data analysis, drafting literature reviews, as well as producing journal quality graphics and tables. Interest in immigration is a must, and a background in social science and statistics is preferred.


The Comparative Political Economics of Prison Reform Professor Karen Jusko

Who speaks for prison populations during processes of prison reform? This project considers the quality of democratic representation from the perspective of inmate populations—a group whose citizenship is challenged and, sometimes, actively curtailed. Although the larger project will address this question in a broadly comparative context, this summer we will focus on the politics of prison reform within the American states. Undergraduate research assistants will work closely with faculty to identify the scope and dimensions of reform in contemporary and historical prisons, paying particular attention to the location of prisons and the rules governing inmate labor, and to map these state prisons using GIS software. Interested applicants should have successfully completed coursework in the Department of Political Science. Although not required, applicants with good data management, library research, and/or ArcGIS software experience are especially encouraged to apply.


The Psychology of Americans' Political Decisions Professor Jon Krosnick

Political psychology is an interdisciplinary enterprise blending psychology with the study of politics. For this project, you will join the Political Psychology Research Group, a team of undergraduates, graduate students, and other researchers led by Professor Jon Krosnick. We 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 investigating the forces that inspire some people to vote in national elections while others decline to participate, and 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 take on more challenging tasks. Students who have statistical skills may be able to conduct original analyses of existing data to write papers for publication.


Soviet POWs in Nazi Camps: The Issue of Genocide Professor Norman Naimark

World War in Nazi hands, mostly by starvation and disease in German camps. The goal of this project is to examine the motivations and intentions of the Germans in dealing with Soviet POWs, examine the arguments within the German military and civilian hierarchy in dealing with the POWS, and look at judicial materials (Nuremberg Trials, Soviet Trials) that examine the level of culpability of various Nazi officials. The legal issues involved having to do with the 1929 Geneva Convention are also important. It would be useful if students could read either German or Russian. But there are important English language sources to examine, as well.


The Soviet Union, Iran, and the Disintegration of Afghanistan Professor Robert Rakove

Much is known of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979; relatively little is known about the longer history of the Cold War in Afghanistan. An undergraduate research assistant, fluent in Russian or Persian, with a deep interest in either Iranian or Russian history or politics, is sought for a summer research project. The research assistant will be asked to research, analyze, and translate Soviet or Iranian records pertaining to Afghanistan. Our shared objective will be understanding the roots of the disintegration of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, examining the respective roles of Iran, the Soviet Union, the United States and local Afghan actors.


Ethics, Nuclear Weapons, and Public Opinion Professor Scott Sagan

The summer research assistants will work as a team to help Professor Sagan with a project titled, “Ethics, Nuclear Weapons, and Public Opinion.” In support of Professor Sagan as he drafts a scholarly article based on experimental survey data collected in the spring of 2018, the research assistants will: a) review coding of survey responses and analyze previous poll data; b) conduct background research, identify and report on related literatures on ethics and the use of force in non-nuclear contexts; and c) analyze how the public might weigh and interpret ethical and other considerations in decisions to support or oppose nuclear attacks. 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 101: Introduction to International Relations, POLSCI 114: International Security in a Changing World, MS&E 193: Technology and National Security, and/or Thinking Matters 19: Rules of War.


The CIA Declassified Professor Amy Zegart

This project examines intelligence challenges in the 21st century. Designed to be an undergraduate textbook with appeal to interested citizens, The CIA Declassified equips readers with an overview of intelligence basics (what US intelligence agencies do and how they do it) and a balanced discussion of intelligence controversies such as interrogation techniques, surveillance, and analysis of Iraq WMD. The undergraduate research assistant would work in a team with Dr. Amy Zegart and 1-2 other research assistants full-time throughout the summer. The SRC research assistant would be responsible for conducting literature reviews for specific chapters; compiling information from publicly available sources; and helping to design, field, and analyze a national survey about public knowledge of intelligence and attitudes toward intelligence controversies. Strong candidates have outstanding academic research, writing, and organizational skills; a deep interest in American foreign policy; a willingness and ability to distill large amounts of information quickly; and exceptional initiative and flexibility. Some background knowledge of US intelligence is helpful but not required.