2021-22 Undergraduate Fellowship Program Research Projects

Learn about our current 2021-2022 fellowship projects and requirements below.

Juan Campos: “Organized Crime, Anti-Police Violence, and the Provision of Public Security”

Details: Criminal organizations have historically operated in the shadows and avoided confrontations with the state; however, recent events in Latin America reveal that drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) and gangs are increasingly adopting visible anti-state tactics that are commonly seen in civil war settings—even if such organizations are more interested in generating profit than acquiring political control. Given this new reality, my goal in my dissertation is to explore how criminal organizations can affect public safety across Mexico through attacks on the police. Overall, I believe that the violent targeting of police personnel has an impact on public security, and to understand such impact, my dissertation will explore the causes and consequences of anti-police violence through a combination of observational and experimental methods.

Fellow Responsibilities: The fellow(s) will primarily help with the collection of data (quantitative and qualitative) for various aspects of this project. Some features of the data-collecting process are labor-intensive, and I will be setting weekly and bi-weekly goals/expectations for the various tasks assigned.

Required Skills: R, Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: Python, STATA, Web Scrapping, ArcGIS.

Tara Chandra: “Untangling Dynamics in Civil Conflict: Understanding Insurgent Behavior Towards Civilians”

Details: Why do rebel groups target women? My research examines both why groups target women, and also what forms that targeting will take, expanding the definition of targeting beyond sexual violence. I argue that targeting women is costly for insurgent groups, and assess the strategic conditions that most likely give rise to targeting women, and the group characteristics that are most closely associated with particular forms of targeting. I employ a multimethod research design consisting of interviews, case studies, and quantitative regression analysis to understand the strategic dynamics that lead insurgents to take the costly action of targeting women.

Fellow Responsibilities: Research fellows will be expected to conduct in-depth research using primary and secondary sources on insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the Middle East and Africa (though other cases around the world may also be included). Specifically, they will be expected to read and summarize academic and non-academic literature, as well as keep track of new literature and developments in these areas. Fellows will also have the opportunity to learn how to manage qualitative data and use qualitative data analysis methods (such as process tracing); I will be collecting qualitative data via interviews that I will be using for process tracing. Fellows will be expected to read and lightly edit interview transcripts. I may also be collecting quantitative data or merging data from several datasets, so familiarity with data analysis is highly prioritized.

Required Skills: Excel/Google Sheets, Some experience researching academic literature/ability to use Berkeley's library website and Google Scholar. Desired Skills: R, STATA, I am not particular about which.

Bradford DeLong: "Reassessing, Slouching Towards Utopia?"

Details: The fellow/s will read each chapter of the ms., together with three or so books for each chapter that have a different take on the subjects covered, and then write a reading guide to those who want to explore further, or who want reasons to disagree with me.

Fellow Responsibilities: Reading and writing—a little calculating.

Required Skills: Literacy.  Desired Skills: Python, Excel/Google Sheets

Dinara Ermakova: “Metrics for Toxic Waste Comparison”

Details: Radioactive waste management has the high degree of international harmonisation of standards arising from recommendations made by such bodies as the IAEA and the ICRP. On the contrary, the coal industry waste does not require geologic disposal or special treatment. However, the content of radioactive elements in coal ash is high enough to extract uranium for nuclear fuel production [1], and according to the EPA the coal ash is NORM and does not require any special treatment. “Some power plants may dispose of it in surface impoundments or in landfills. Others may discharge it into a nearby waterway under the plant's water discharge permit” [2]. At the same time, according to the EPA website, the coal ash contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic that are toxic metals and can pose a health risk to the general population. Without proper management, these contaminants can pollute waterways, ground water, drinking water, and the air. This type of controversy would not be allowed for nuclear waste, but is a common case for the coal, oil and gas industry and solar industry that has not yet provided any waste management plan for aging solar panels. 

Comparisons between toxic substances generated during the life cycle of different energy sources are not straightforward for the purpose of waste management as well as fair comparison of an environmental impact. The effect of radioactive dust or trace elements inhalation or ingestion would increase the probability of a cancer developing in several years' time, whilst most other strong toxins lead to more immediate death. Best comparisons indicate that, gram for gram, toxins such as, for example, ricin, some snake venoms, cyanide, and even caffeine are significantly more toxic than plutonium or uranium.

In this work we would like to explore the life cycle waste generation for different energy production cycles (from mining to the disposal of used components); provide a metric that would allow the comparison of wastes generated from nuclear industry and other toxic waste generated by energy industry; provide regulatory recommendations for waste management of toxic waste using the practices that are already in use in the nuclear energy industry. 

Fellow Responsibilities: Data collection, data analysis.

Required Skills: Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: Python

Ritika Goel: “Populism and Welfare”

Details: This project aims to compare the welfare policies and discourse of populist governments with their predecessors.

Fellow Responsibilities: The project will ideally have three fellows, one each working in the United States, India (Hindi language skills preferred) and Brazil (Fluency in Portuguese preferred). The work might evolve, but will involve a) compilation of newspaper articles, speeches, budgets and social media posts made by populist leaders and predecessors, and some subsequent analysis b) Literature reviews and memos on changes in welfare policies c) Legislative analysis of time spent in deliberation and committees for successive governments d) content of legislation passed and proposed (but unsuccessful).

Required Skills: R, Web Scrapping, Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: Hindi, Portuguese

Johnathan Guy: “The Climate Politics of Energy Planning in the Global South

Details: This project investigates what energy infrastructure state elites in the Global South decide to build (or permit) where and why, with an eye towards the implications for climate change mitigation efforts.

Fellow Responsibilities: Collect geospatial and text data from a variety of sources, data cleaning and management.

Required Skills: R, Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: Web Scrapping, ArcGIS.

Biz Herman: “Mental Health in Post-Conflict and Forced Migration Contexts”

Details: This project focuses on the impact of mental health in post-conflict and forced migration contexts. There are two primary research areas within the larger project: (1) producing a systematic review article on how living through and beyond trauma impact communities affected by conflict and forced migration, and (2) conducting an analysis of how policy and programming on mental health among international organizations has shifted in the past two decades.

Fellow Responsibilities: Fellows will be asked to assist in providing support for project research, writing and analysis, including: 1) completing reviews of the literature of academic sources on trauma, conflict, and forced labor; 2) assisting with quantitative data cleaning, analysis, and write up; 3) preparing tables, infographics, and slides for presentations and reports. Fellows will develop the following skills: conducting quantitative and qualitative data analysis; working with survey research design and analysis; completing basic programming in R and/or STATA.

Required Skills: Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: R, Web Scrapping

Otto Kienitz: "No Representation without Taxation": Subnational Revenues and Historical Comparative Democratization”

Details: Scholars of state capacity focus on central state revenues while ignoring two main components of state financing of public goods: sub-national taxation and categories of revenue structures. I argue that both local taxation and the breakdown between direct vs. indirect taxation can help us better understand the evolution of representative institutions in nineteenth century democracies and autocracies that leveraged local assemblies to participate in their own participatory budgeting and tax collection. Testing this claim requires constructing the first-ever cross-national panel of *sub-national* revenue structures in historical comparative perspective. This in turn requires innovative digital historical research including the scraping of online archives, working with text recognition software, and assembling panel data in Excel / Google Sheets (or R) and mapping these outcomes across space and time to test relevant hypotheses. This project is ideal for those interested in historical research in the social sciences, political economy, and democratization and state-building with hands-on data applications.

Fellow Responsibilities: The Fellow will assist in identifying and accessing new digital historical archives, assembling the cross-national panel data set of sub-national revenues already collected by the researcher, and learning and/or improving basic data manipulation, visualization, and analysis techniques in Excel / Google Sheets (or R). Only a willingness to learn quickly and comfort with Excel / Google Sheets is required; interest in history and/or historical democratization recommended; skills such as R, web scraping, and ArcGIS are a plus but can be grounds for teaching or training of the Fellow by the PhD researcher.

Required Skills: Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: R, Web Scrapping, ArcGIS.

Aila Matanock: “Post-Conflict Contexts”

Details: This research project examines civil conflict and related crime, as well as what effect peace agreements and interventions have on these phenomena. This research project examines when and why peace agreements and international interventions occur empirically and what effects they have. We will also be doing some focused work on cases such as an intervention by the U.N. in Guatemala (CICIG). Post-Conflict Contexts.

Fellow Responsibilities: Fellows will be asked to work on multiple aspects of this project, and should be self-motivated. Specific tasks may include: (1) compiling and cleaning data using simple rules, (2) doing data analysis tasks in Stata, (3) reading, translating, and summarizing notes, (4) gathering and processing information available on the internet or in government documents, (5) otherwise participating in these research projects such as gathering and checking citations.

Required Skills: Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: R, STATA, Spanish proficiency. 

Kasia Nalewajko: “How European Resistance Enabled Jews’ Survival in the Holocaust”

Details: The study examines the role the French WWII insurgents, La Résistance, played in Jews' strive for survival from the Holocaust. It draws from rich archival materials on, among others, Jews' survival rates, France's engagements in international conflicts, and French collaboration with the Nazi occupier. It also employs quantitative text analysis to study biographies of the rescuers of the Jews and the anti-Semitic sentiments in France before the war outbreak.

Fellow Responsibilities: Depending on the Fellow's interest, they could contribute to either (A) the quantitative text analysis of the biographies of Jews' rescuers; (B) webscraping and the quantitative text analysis of pre-WWI French newspapers and of the American Jewish Year Book archive; (C) OCRing and data cleaning of a list of French collaborators (on top of traditional data cleaning skills, they'd need to learn regex regular expression rules and geocoding), (D) gathering and cleaning of interwar French election records (on top of programming skills, this would require engagement with multiple sources and archival research in collaboration with an RA based in Paris).

Required Skills: R Desired Skills: Web Scrapping

Bhumi Purohit: “Political Reservations Database in India”

Details: The project seeks to create the first database of political reservations in India. Political reservations are frequently used by social scientists, public health scholars, and others to determine outcomes ranging from political representation to policy outcomes. Though they've been enacted since the early 1990s, data on reservations are spread out across political entities and researchers. This project is therefore aimed at consolidating data and creating a publicly available database on reservations that can be used by researchers for years to come. 

Fellow Responsibilities: Web Scraping, Reaching out to Indian governments and academics in various fields to create database, monitor accuracy of data.

Required Skills: Web Scrapping. Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: R

Julia Raven: “What Makes a Powerful Military?”

Details: What is an effective military? War scholars study many aspects of a military's strength, from the factors that make a military more successful (high morale, superior technology, etc.) to those that limit its function (poor internal communication, outdated doctrine, etc.). However, scholars cannot agree on one fundamental thing: what outcome defines an effective military? Is it the military that wins the most wars? The one that wins the most battles? The one that suffers the fewest losses or shortest retreats? The goal of this project is to analyze the existing field of military studies and determine which military outcomes really tell us whether or not a military is an "effective" one. 

Fellow Responsibilities: This project has two components, with the first one being the primary task I would like my fellow to undertake. 1) The primary task will be becoming familiar with the military strength/effectiveness literature broadly before reading weekly assigned articles and coding the articles based on the analyses they present (I will provide you with a codebook and walk you through some sample articles before you begin) 2) If we finish coding articles, I may also ask my fellow to assist in some rudimentary data analysis (that I am happy to guide them on) to analyze the different components of effectiveness that appear to be the most salient in analyzing war outcomes.

Required Skills: Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: R

Catlan Reardon: “The Ties that Bind or Break: The Influence of Local Leaders on Dispute Arbitration and Violence”

Details: In my project, I investigate the influence of local leaders on mitigating or exacerbating violence —¬ specifically, through examining their key roles as arbiters of local disputes. Existing research largely revolves around the importance of chiefs in navigating intra-community relations and electoral outcomes. My research shows that local leaders also play pivotal roles in regulating tensions and violence across communal lines and that different types of leaders — for example, village chiefs or youth leaders — face different incentives that can influence violence in distinct ways. I argue that the efficacy of local leaders — and citizen response — within dispute resolution is shaped by the strength of ties leaders possess within and across communities. I use experimental, qualitative, and observational data in my research.

Fellow Responsibilities: Primarily, I will need help with data cleaning and coding of qualitative survey responses. Some literature review work may also be helpful.

Required Skills: R, Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: Web Scrapping, ArcGIS

Oren Samet: “Challenging Autocrats Abroad: Opposition Parties on the International Stage”

Details: How do opposition parties and their allies challenge authoritarian governments and work to counter democratic backsliding? In this context, when and how do parties engage and request support from international actors, and what are the implications of doing so? In order to help answer these questions, this project will compile data on the activities of opposition parties both at home and abroad, including foreign appeals, lobbying efforts, and public appearances. The project will also examine associated phenomena, such as electoral competition, human rights advocacy by international NGOs, and economic sanctions.

Fellow Responsibilities: The specific responsibilities will depend on the interest and skill set of the fellow. Potential tasks include: 1) gathering online data on election results, government moves to dissolve and ban parties, and the international activities of opposition parties; 2) compiling literature reviews on related topics; 3) supporting with quantitative data analysis; and 4) translation assistance (where applicable). Applicants with an interest in democratization, human rights, authoritarianism and/or related topics are encouraged to apply. A portion of the project will focus on Southeast Asia (particularly Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia), so an interest in that region and relevant language skills (Khmer, Thai, Burmese, or Malay) would be a plus, but is not required (applicants without relevant language skills are still very much encouraged to apply).

Required Skills: Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: R, Web Scrapping, Proficiency in a Southeast Asian language (Khmer, Burmese, Thai, or Malay preferred) but not required.

Alex Stephenson: “Policing in Comparative Perspectives”

Details: This project examines trust in policing in different countries. Many policing practices intended to reduce crime have reduced public trust and cooperation with the police, especially among marginalized groups. Using text analysis of Twitter data and survey experiments, this project explores whether and how different groups come to different conclusions about the appropriateness of police behaviors and how the effect of these different perspectives impacts trust in police. 

Fellow Responsibilities: Assist with translation of documents, literature reviews, text analysis and survey designs. Other tasks may be available pending project needs and Fellow(s) skill sets.

Required Skills: Strong language proficiency in one of the following: French, Spanish, or German. Desired Skills: R, Qualtrics.

Soo Sun You: “Disconnecting Identity and Policy Preferences: Identity and Support for Immigration in South Africa

Details: Xenophobic violence incidents have resulted in hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of displacements in South Africa. What explains the rise in anti-immigrant attitudes in South Africa? In particular, how do they relate to one's ethnic and national identification? Previous research assumes that there is an essential link between group identity strength with a set of policies. For example, xenophobic violence and anti-immigrant attitudes are often linked to individuals’ national identification across the region. This research project questions the assumption that policy preferences necessarily follow one’s group identity. We plan to use the case of immigration in South Africa. This project aims to show 1) conceptually, identity is not essentially linked to policies and 2) strong group identifiers, who normally are the most opposed to immigration, could end up supporting immigration when they believe immigration is in their racial group’s best interest.

Fellow Responsibilities: Fellows will be asked to contribute to the project by collecting geospatial and text data regarding riots and xenophobic incidents in South Africa and 2) conducting literature review, and 3) assist in cleaning and analyzing data.

Required Skills:  Excel/Google Sheets. Desired Skills: R, Web Scrapping