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 $7,500 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 22 through August 28, 2020. 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 $7,500 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 Paul Festa. 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 5, 2020. Students are encouraged to apply early.


2020 Summer Research Opportunities 

Click each project title for more information.

Faculty member Project title
Lisa Blaydes Economic Shocks and Political Change in Arab Gulf States
Anna Grzymala-Busse The Historical and Religious Roots of the European State
Martha Crenshaw Mapping Militant Organizations
Erica Gould What Happens When Multilateral Development Bank Loan Projects Cause Harm?
Jens Hainmueller, David Laitin, and Jeremy Weinstein Immigration Policy Lab
Daniel Ho The Future of Clean Water Act Enforcement
Shanto Iyengar Matching Divorce Records to the Voter File, 2014-2018
Jon Krosnick The Psychology of Americans' Political Decisions
Margaret Levi Creating the Framework for a New Moral Political Economy
Norman Naimark Why Genocide?
Soledad Prillaman Gendered Networks and the Nature of Political Organization in India
Robert Rakove The Soviet Union and the Disintegration of Afghanistan
Scott Sagan Atomic Experiments; Civil War Generals


Project Descriptions

Economic Shocks and Political Change in Arab Gulf States

Professor Lisa Blaydes

The Western, or liberal, international order which emerged after World War II reflects the culmination of a centuries-long process of European, and later American, economic and political development. But how can we undWhile the 20th century has brought tremendous opportunities for economic advancement, Arab Gulf states are now facing new political and economic struggles as countries of the region are facing the possibility of both dwindling fossil fuel reserves and a global trend toward the use of renewable energy resources. While some Gulf countries have already pivoted away from reliance on oil and natural gas revenue to finance economic development, others are poised for continued transformation as fossil fuel dependence declines over the next few decades. The research assistant for this project will be asked to collect and analyze data related to economic trends in the Arab Gulf states as well as to investigate the political implications of these changes. Arabic language skills are helpful but not required.

The Historical and Religious Roots of the European State

Professor Anna Grzymala-Busse

This project examines how war, church influence, and human capital shaped state formation in Europe. We will be examining the medieval and early-modern period (10-17th centuries). The research team will be collecting data on monasteries, cathedrals, and other religious institutions, coding papal documents for text analysis, and researching papal involvement in warfare (crusades, proxy wars, alliances) so we can add popes as combatants to existing databases of armed conflict.

What Happens When Multilateral Development Bank Loan Projects Cause Harm?

Professor Erica Gould

In response to calls for greater accountability at multilateral development banks (MDBs) like the World Bank, state members created “internal accountability mechanisms.” Local communities can file complaints with these accountability mechanisms if MDB-financed development projects create harm and violate MDB rules. Over 1000 complaints have been filed, but we know very little about how these mechanisms work and what impact they have had. Who files complaints? Do the mechanisms increase accountability, as they are purported to do? This summer, student researchers will work with a dataset of all complaints filed through 2019. Students will generate descriptive statistics in R or Stata, find and merge outside datasets, conduct preliminary data analysis, produce graphics, and research case studies. The ideal student will be detail-oriented, self-motivated and independent, as well as intrinsically interested in global development and international organizations. 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.

Immigration Policy Lab

Professors Jens Hainmueller, David Laitin, and Jeremy Weinstein

Professors David Laitin, Jens Hainmueller, and Jeremy Weinstein are seeking research assistants to assist in the Immigration Policy Lab’s research on the impact of immigration policies in the United States, Europe, Middle East, Latin America and Africa. The Immigration Policy Lab has a number of projects underway, including a multi-country study using a new measure of immigrant integration. 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 Future of Clean Water Act Enforcement

Professor Daniel Ho

The Regulation, Evaluation, and Governance Lab is working on an ambitious research project to envision the future of environmental enforcement based on machine learning and to understand the current constraints on bureaucratic capacity. The project includes developing computer vision models for Clean Water Act violations; evaluating the impact of intensive livestock farming on environmental and health outcomes; and implementing a field trial with EPA and partner states to use risk models in enforcement. We seek research assistants to help collect data, conduct literature reviews, develop a web app, and implement statistical analyses.

Matching Divorce Records to the Voter File, 2014-2018

Professor Shanto Iyengar

Professor Iyengar is looking for undergraduate RAs to work on an ongoing project that examines the ramifications of political polarization in the U.S. Specifically, the project considers the relationship between political party registration and divorce. The students will assist with the collection and analysis of divorce records from 5-6 counties across the U.S by cleaning the existing files and then matching the divorce records to the national voter file. The students should have, at minimum, prior experience with Microsoft Excel and a strong attention to detail.

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.

Creating the Framework for a New Moral Political Economy

Professor Margaret Levi

The failure of neoliberalism in promoting human wellbeing, controlling inequality, protecting the environment, and shielding citizens from the malicious use of technology demands action. This project aims to build a new moral political economic framework. Student responsibilities will include proofreading academic and non-academic writing, participating in meetings, locating relevant literature, and helping with proposal development. Additional tasks include helping with the analysis of syllabi; following and reporting on news related to social movements around the world; compiling a literature review on topics related to aspects of neoliberal policy in the 20th century; and helping to design a website. The position does not require special skills, although familiarity with textual analysis and web design software is a plus. The student must be able to work in a team, as the work will involve engaging directly with the CASBS director, the program director, and the members of our working groups, as well as other RAs.

Why Genocide?

Professor Norman Naimark

The goal of this research project to is delve into the question of why genocide occurs in human history. What is it about human beings and human societies and polities that make it possible to commit mass murder? Most of my work in this area has been empirically focused: that is, describing cases of genocide (and ethnic cleansing), comparing different cases over time, and asking whether these cases could be considered genocide given the definitions of international law. This work will focus primarily on theory and different disciplinary approaches to understanding genocide. Students will be asked to approach the “why” question from the perspective of disciplines of their choice: psychology, sociology, neuroscience, political science, and cultural studies are the most obvious.

Gendered Networks and the Nature of Political Organization in India

Professor Soledad Prillaman

When does women's political participation change politics and governance? Political reservations in India have been lauded for their ability to increase women’s representation in local office and bring about policy change in line with women’s preferences. As historic political outsiders, this influx of women into politics may resemble a one-off opportunity to stimulate new political relationships and better governance. Has this entry of women into political office changed the nature of politics for both men and women? Research assistants will help compile the data and support in analysis to document local political networks, identify connections between citizens and elected leaders, and evaluate how the structure of these political networks relates to policy demands. To do so, research assistants will work with both large-scale government administrative data and survey data from a census of six villages to understand how women's political behavior shapes the outcomes of politics. Core responsibilities will include cleaning large government data sets and census survey data, merging complex data sets using fuzzy matching, generating figures and graphics of statistical relationships, conducting preliminary statistical analyses, and conducting literature reviews. Experience working with data in Stata or R is preferable.

The Soviet Union and the Disintegration of Afghanistan

Professor Robert Rakove

An undergraduate research assistant, fluent in Russian, with a deep interest in Russian history or politics, 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 the disintegration of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, examining the respective roles of the Soviet Union, the United States and local Afghan actors.

Atomic Experiments; Civil War Generals

Professor Scott Sagan

Professor Sagan will be working on two main research projects. (1) The “Atomic Experiments” project will assess what kinds of explicit information or subtle cues change public attitudes about the use of nuclear weapons. Sagan and his co-author, Dartmouth Professor Benjamin Valentino, ran a series of original survey experiments through which they primed subjects to think about different effects of nuclear weapons use. Students will help code survey answers and write memos on other scholars’ relevant work. (2) The “Civil War Generals” project will analyze the “hidden history” of U.S. Civil War generals and their mixed-race Native American children. The project will examine the complex relationships between frontier U.S. army officers and Native American populations in the Northwest United States before the Civil War; and differences between Northern and Southern officers regarding their pre-war behavior or their post-war relations with their children. Background work through Political Science, International Relations, History, and Comparative Race and Ethnicity courses are all relevant to these projects.