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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 26 through September 1 2017. 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 Maile Yee.  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


Friday, February 3, 2017. (students are encouraged to apply early)


2017 Summer Research Opportunities 

Click each project title for more information.

Lisa Blaydes Middle Eastern State Formation in Comparative Perspective
Adam Bonica Forecasting Candidate Entry and Congressional Election Outcomes Using Supervised Machine Learning
Erica Gould How Accountable Are International Organizations?
Anna Grzymala-Busse and Michael McFaul Global Populisms: Causes and Consequences
Jens Hainmueller and David Laitin Immigration Policy Lab
Jon Krosnick The Psychology of Americans' Political Decisions
Phillip Lipscy The Politics of Energy and Climate Change
Norman Naimark Stalin and Europe
Clayton Nall The Ideological Contradictions of NIMBYism: Explaining Local Opposition to Affordable Housing
Jonathan Rodden

Mapping the 2016 Election

Scott Sagan Just War Doctrine, Public Opinion, and Nuclear Weapons Use
Kenneth Schultz The Geography of Separatist Violence
Amy Zegart The CIA Declassified


Middle Eastern State Formation in Comparative Perspective Professor Lisa Blaydes

If political institutions are a key determinant of economic growth, can a better understanding of regional institutional history help to explain disparities in economic development across world regions? This project will explore political development of the Middle East from a long-term historical perspective. Students will also have the opportunity to examine related questions for other world regions. Student researchers will be responsible for reviewing literature in history and related fields, as well as creating and managing data sets based on historical records. Experience with data analysis and ArcGIS are helpful but not required. Careful bibliographic skills and an interest in the Middle East are required.


Forecasting Candidate Entry and Congressional Election Outcomes Using Supervised Machine Learning Professor Adam Bonica

The 2016 presidential election highlighted the limitations of election polls in predicting election outcomes. I am developing an alternative approach to election forecasting, based on administrative data. The research will take advantage of detailed data on campaign contributions, electoral geography, and the personal characteristics and political histories of candidates. We will use past election results to train a supervised machine learning model to predict the outcomes of congressional elections. We will also build models to predict which candidates from a district are most likely to run for office. The work will be data intensive. Students will extend the database, which currently covers the election cycles between 1990 and 2014, through the 2016 elections. Students will also link candidates to their personal contribution records. Experience with SQL is preferred but not required. Most importantly, students will have the opportunity to work with and train machine learning models.


How Accountable Are International Organizations? Professor Erica Gould

Critics have argued that international organizations suffer from a democratic deficit. They are not sufficiently accountable to states or domestic publics and, worse still, their activities may do more harm than good. In this project, I am examining how international organizations are controlled, including through formal decision-making rules, transparency and recent reforms designed to increase IO accountability. I am searching for two undergraduate research assistants who will assist with a combination of data collection/coding, qualitative research and quantitative data analysis. The ideal student will be detail-oriented, self-motivated and independent, as well as interested in international organizations. Given the variety of work, it would be useful for students to have either previous experience conducting research using Stanford libraries or coursework in statistics or both. 


Global Populisms: Causes and Consequences Professors Anna Grzymala-Busse and Michael McFaul

Populist parties and politicians have now gained support—and power—in many established democracies. The United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Hungary have all seen populist surges in the last few years—with the election of Donald Trump in the United States as perhaps the most striking of these gains. In this project, undergraduates will work with Professors McFaul and Grzymala-Busse to examine the factors contributing to the rise of populist movements, as well as their consequences and potential policy responses. A strong background in qualitative research and experience preparing bibliographies and citations is required. In addition, the ideal candidates will have the ability to manage databases, conduct basic quantitative analysis, and generate graphical representations of populist trends. Preference will be given to students familiar with Stata, R, and/or Python.


Immigration and Integration Policy Lab Professors Jens Hainmueller and David Laitin

Professors David Laitin and Jens Hainmueller are seeking research assistants to assist in the Immigration Policy Lab’s research on the impact of immigration policies in the United States. The Immigration Policy Lab has a number of projects underway, including a large-scale randomized study to assess the impact of naturalization in the United States and a multi-method study assessing the health impacts of deferred action for undocumented immigrants. The research assistants will be responsible for data collection (quantitative and qualitative), data analysis, and 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 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.


The Politics of Energy and Climate Change Professor Phillip Lipscy

The Research Assistant will assist Professor Phillip Lipscy on a book manuscript on the politics of energy and climate change. The primary tasks for the RA will be to research and summarize the background for specific legislation and international agreements related to energy policy and climate change and to collect and analyze data. Any of the following would be helpful but are not required: prior coursework in political science or economics, prior experience with data collection, and familiarity with spreadsheet or statistical programs.


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 (the 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 the face of 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 Ideological Contradictions of NIMBYism: Explaining Local Opposition to Affordable Housing Professor Clayton Nall

This project investigates how citizens respond to new housing proposals in their neighborhoods and communities. Students will contribute in three ways. First, they will assist with a literature review about American housing policy. Second, they will assist in the testing, deployment, administration, and analysis of a new geographically targeted survey examining how residents in the immediate vicinity of affordable housing projects respond to such projects as they are being proposed, and how they adapt after projects have been built and are no longer the subject of political controversy. This part of the project will entail work in GIS, R, Excel, and survey research. Finally, students will work with local government documents and open public records related to housing controversies. All students with an interest in urban politics, transportation and housing, geography, and/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.


Mapping the 2016 Election Professor Jonathan Rodden

County-level maps of the 2016 election are ubiquitous and fascinating. They can also be very misleading, since they mask considerable heterogeneity within counties. County-level data can easily lead us to the wrong conclusions. For instance, county-level data would lead us to miss the strong negative correlation between population density and turnout that is apparent in the precinct-level data. The research team will collect 2016 precinct-level data from county election administrators, merge it with past precinct results, and, most importantly, connect the precinct-level results with geo-spatial boundaries to allow for the creation of fine-grained electoral maps. We will focus in particular on Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. After the data are assembled, we will be in a position to explore various hypotheses about the evolving geography of turnout and support for the two major parties in the period from 2000 to the present.


Just War Doctrine, Public Opinion, and Nuclear Weapons Use Professor Scott Sagan

Professor Sagan seeks research assistants to help with a project on “Just War Doctrine, Public Opinion, and Nuclear Weapons Use.” Students will help analyze data from public opinion and elite surveys and survey experiments about potential nuclear use scenarios conducted in the U.S., Israel, and the United Kingdom. Background knowledge about nuclear weapons from Stanford courses such as Technology and National Security, International Relations, or the Rules of War will be a plus, though all interested and motivated students will be considered. Students must write clearly and quickly, work cooperatively with others on the research team to finish group projects promptly, and be interested in contemporary issues of war and peace.


The Geography of Separatist Violence Professor Kenneth Schultz

Research assistance is needed for a project on mapping separatist conflicts within states. The goal of the research is to understand the strategies employed by violent separatist groups by analyzing where and how they target their violence. To do this, we will develop maps of the contested regions and link them to data on the location of attacks. Research assistance is needed for a variety of tasks including (1) identifying and collecting maps and other documents that describe in detail separatist groups’ territorial claims, (2) using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to convert this information into digital maps, (3) collecting physical and demographic data about the disputed regions, and (4) identifying groups engaged in separatist violence. Training in the use of GIS software will be provided, but applicants should demonstrate a willingness and ability to master new computer programs. Strong library research skills and attentiveness to detail are a must. Foreign language skills would be useful but are not required.


The CIA Declassified Professor Amy Zegart

This project examines intelligence challenges in the 21st century. The undergraduate research assistant will work in a team with Dr. Amy Zegart and graduate students on a book entitled The CIA Declassified. The book will equip 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 Iraqi WMD. The undergraduate 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 will 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.