Summer 2023 Student Research Projects

Andrew Rizko, Sophomore, Econ-Accounting/Government Dual

Faculty Advisor: Andrew Sinclair

Substitutability of Electoral Reforms

Evaluating the impact of election laws on outcomes for voters.

The most important skill I had to learn during the Summer Research Program was programming in Stata. Though the initial learning curve was difficult, the software provided huge value by simplifying the data collection process. I used Stata and Excel in tandem for the formulation of large datasets. The data collection process also deepened my perspective by materializing the issues I had only been conceptually exposed to in my coursework, such as incumbency advantage and the unchallenged reign of the two party system in America. Viewing the "real" effects of these problems on the electoral process encourages me to pursue further study and further investigation.

I enjoyed the close level of collaboration with my advisor.

Abhinav Ganesh, Sophomore, Philosophy and Public Policy

Faculty Advisor: Heather Ferguson

State Capture: Rethinking Identity and Community in the Nation-State

My research project is a paper that examines the relationship between the nation-state, subjecthood, and their resultant constructions of identity, as well as the ways in which they shape and limit modern conceptions of rights and equality.

This summer research project deepened my research skills and also challenged my ways of thinking about philosophical and political issues and pushed me in new directions. For one, the paper I wrote this summer was longer than anything I had ever written previously. Sustaining a multi-layered argument for approximately twenty thousand words was a major challenge, as it was sometimes easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. As a result, writing this paper trained me to be better at making connections between different theoretical concepts that may seem distant from one another in order to scaffold a larger argument. Furthermore, my perspectives on the issues I was writing about changed dramatically over the eight weeks of the program. As I wrote more of my paper, issues that I had not previously considered began to come to mind, prompting meetings with my advisor, new recommendations for books to read, and resulting shifts in my theoretical outlook. Through continued reading and discussion throughout the project, I began looking for ways to engage with the topics of nationalism and state power that I had spent so much time discussing and go beyond them, instead of limiting my research to those issues specifically.

I enjoyed the flexibility and independence that the program offered. It provided the opportunity to conduct beginner-level research into a topic I am interested in, but would never have had the means to explore in-depth on my own terms in a classroom setting.

Zaynamin Murtaza, Sophomore, Government

Faculty Advisor: Peter Uvin

Never Democracies

Our goal was to read different ideas on persistent authoritarianism and democratization to find common variables scholars use to analyze why a country stays authoritarian or democratizes.

This project helped me deepen my understanding of authoritarianism and how it works. I had a fairly shallow, one dimensional perspective before, but this project helped to expand my horizons. I also understand states and state power more. Elite theory has now become my primary lens for understanding state power and state success. Elite theory helps explain authoritarianism very well, but it also helps explain more broad questions on how states work.

I just liked how much autonomy students had in how they wanted to work, so long as they completed their work to the satisfaction of their supervisor. Work at home seems to be the future, so I'm glad I'm getting some experience on how this would work.

Jason Liang, Sophomore, Mathematical Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Andrew Sinclair

Policy Outcomes of Election Reform

I attempted to determine what combination of election laws would best create more competitive elections, and in turn lead to more preferable policy outcomes.

In terms of technical skills, this research experience was a great way for me to practice data manipulation skills in excel. I also gained a basic understanding of how to code using STATA. I went from having no prior coding experience to being able to do simple data wrangling in STATA. This experience gave me a new appreciation for coding as a form of problem solving. Having to teach myself the language, I often had to think critically about what exactly I was trying to accomplish with my code and how I could do it. This took a good amount of research and creativity.

More importantly, I recognized the immense complexity of this and every significant policy issue. I realized that it can be very difficult to analyze trends across all states because of subtle differences between each state. For example, two states with the same election laws might have very different levels of political competitiveness due to differences in culture, size, and voting behavior. I had heard many times before that the social sciences lacked concreteness, but this research experience allowed me to truly understand the implications of that statement. Before this experience, I naively thought that any policy issue has a correct and impartial solution, and that I could discover this solution through research. However, I now realize that there often is no one correct policy solution. It is usually even unclear what the best solution is. I now believe that the policy process depends not on discovering the best solution, but on accumulating support for your preferred policy solution. This recognition will help to guide my future interests and career pursuit.

I enjoyed the weekly presentations and forums by SRP professors. As a student-athlete who needed to run in the mornings, I also enjoyed the flexible work hours.

Catherine Ruan, Junior, Neuroscience

Faculty Advisor: Stacey Doan

Investigating the Moderating and Mediating Role of Father Involvement on Maternal Psychobiological Functioning and Parenting Competencies

We were interested in exploring and analyzing the relationships between the level of involvement from fathers and its impacts on the rest of the familial unit, such as the mother's depressive symptoms and her relationship with her child.

During the summer research program, I learned a lot more about R Studio and how to use it to run statistical models, while also gaining confidence in my ability to know and plan next steps even when I run into dead ends. Our project also helped me appreciate my father a lot more as I've been very lucky to have such an involved and present father, and sometimes I feel like I take it for granted. I am hoping to take the research knowledge and skills I've acquired to the next level in the school year!

I actually quite liked the presentations at the end! It was so fun and interesting to see what students from other majors/fields studied during their time, and it's exceptionally intriguing to see how different the research process is for others! I would've never known!

Anna Gersh, Sophomore, Philosophy and Public Affairs

Faculty Advisor: Adrienne Martin

A Conceptual Analysis of Familial Arrangements that Support a Good Childhood

I analyze which familial structures and conditions best protect children's rights and access to the intrinsic goods of childhood.

During the Summer Research Program, I was exposed to new feminist philosophers and the concept that the family is a social institution with both private and public characteristics. My perspective on the family as well as ethical views of children's rights and parental obligations deepened. I also developed a more thorough understanding of the vast number of family arrangements that have existed over the centuries.

In terms of skills, I improved at searching through databases and compiling my research notes into abstracts. I also became better at managing my time, as I rotated between writing, reading, and discussing my findings in group meetings with Professor Martin and my research partner. I also became better at connecting various arguments from a wide range of research papers.

I enjoyed the in-person meetings to discuss my research with my professor, Professor Martin, and my research partner. I also enjoyed the weekly SRP sessions in which professors from across various disciplines discussed research methods and their current research.

Queenie Ta, Junior, Science Management

Faculty Advisor: Stacey Doan

Investigating the Moderating and Mediating Role of Father Involvement on Maternal Psychobiological Functioning and Parenting Competencies

Our research project looked into the moderating and mediating role father involvement contributes in sleep quality for mothers as well as both parents' ability to parent.

Research is a complex, intricate process that goes beyond just reading and studying past research studies. It takes a lot of time and dedication, which I think is what makes the end goal and product worth it. Though it can be tedious, staying committed to your research and the story you want to create with it, is ultimately what makes research worthwhile and meaningful. Having this change in perspective was what helped me grow and gain many other skills along the way.

The overall format was simple and balanced with talks in between.

Jada Cook, Sophomore, Government

Faculty Advisor: Michael Fortner

How Crack Cocaine Was Framed in Congress

I investigated how race, region, and party impacted the framing of crack cocaine in the 99th Congress.

I gained more resources on how to research congressional policies. I learned how to use Congressional Record Databases efficiently and I learned how to manage large volumes of data. In my research paper my appendix is about 120 pages. I learned how to manage that and turn it into visual representations.

I loved the lunches! The presentations were always very interesting. I also loved how they provided us with lunch.

Rowan Gray, Sophomore, Undecided

Faculty Advisor: Peter Uvin

Never Democracy: Persistent Authoritarianism Across the World

Our project is to answer the question of why there are forty-two countries in the world that have never been democracies.

I learned more than I even thought was possible to learn about authoritarian governments and democratization. I gained a much better understanding of how these governments are structured, how they can survive, and the many variables that impact that process. Additionally, I got experience in working through many different types of research which helped me build critical thinking skills and broadened my perspective on what research in political science looks like.

In terms of practical skills, I learned a lot about how to create academic taxonomies, how to organize long-term research projects, how to establish a knowledge base, and how to conduct a thorough literature review.

My favorite part of the program is the small size of the research groups. It enabled me to really get to know my professor and learn a lot more from him than I would be able to in a larger setting. The smaller setting also made the project feel more like something we were all working on together, rather than some ethereal creation of the professor that we were supposed to work mindlessly on, which enabled us to have a lot more critical dialogue and thinking about the project itself.

Yuhan Kong, Senior, Psychology, Economics

Faculty Advisor: Stacey Doan

Investigating the Moderating and Mediating Role of Father Involvement on Maternal Psychobiological Functioning and Parenting Competencies

This project aims to advance our understanding of the impact of father involvement on a mothers’ biopsychobehavioral outcomes.

I acquired and sharpened my skills in research method and statistical analyses, as well as how to effectively communicate research findings.

Weekly research talks from faculties across disciplines were inspiring.

Elise Power, Junior, Psychology

Faculty Advisor: Stacey Doan

Investigating the Moderating and Mediating Role of Father Involvement on Maternal Psychobiological Functioning and Parenting Competencies

We were interested in exploring and analyzing the relationship between the level of father involvement and the impact on the rest of the familial unit such as maternal depressive symptoms and her relationship with her child.

I was introduced to R Studio this summer and after a lot of practice I was able use R to develop my skills in statistical analysis. In the lab we were able to study a variety of different biopyschological impacts on the different cohorts of mother-father-child triads. I was able to expand my critical thinking skills throughout the summer as I was challenged with different lab tasks and research assignments.

I really enjoyed getting to spend my summer being introduced to the world of research and loved seeing the presentations at the end of the summer.

Shengdi Ge, Sophomore, undecided

Faculty Advisor: Michael Fortner

War on Drugs: The Interdependence of Media Representation and Congressional Behaviors on Crack Cocaine Issues During the 1980s

This project aims to examine the reciprocal relationship between media representation of crack cocaine and congressional behaviors on crack cocaine along with how their combined effect influence the African American community.

Both my skills in terms of drafting research papers and my understanding in the area of drug, media and politics changed radically. This is the first piece of research paper I've done that involves huge amount of data collection. It was really hard at the beginning but I gradually got to know how to do it, and I'm pretty sure it will be a skill that can really help me a lot in the future.

All the faculty members and students have been really supportive!

Jaimie Almaraz, Senior, Enivronment, Economics, Politics

Faculty Advisor: Branwen Williams

Coralline Algae Used as a Climate Proxy

Using Coralline Algae as a Climate Proxy to see the effects of climate change.

I learned more about the anthropogenic effects that are causing our environment to change so rapidly. In addition, I have more skills using more lab equipment such as a Micormill and also lab techniques.

The flexibility of working with my professor.

Eva Pruitt, Junior, PPE with a sequence in Legal Studies

Faculty Advisor: Adrienne Martin

Children and the Gendered Division of Labor

I researched the Gendered Division of Labor from the perspective of harm to children, specifically focusing on the psychological process of parentification.

Besides the sheer amount of information and knowledge I gained as part of my readings and discussions, I learned quite a bit. I learned how to research in the Philosophy realm, which is quite different from other research I have done before. I also gained insight on my own passions and cares in the academic world, which is quite valuable.

I loved getting to work closely with my professor, meeting at least once a week to hear her thoughts. I also really enjoyed hearing the other presentations at the end.

Sadie Heckman, Senior, Biology

Faculty Advisor: Branwen Williams

Coralline Algae Used as a Climate Proxy

Over the course of the summer, I researched crustose coralline algae (CCA), specifically the species Clathromorphum compactum, and its role as a climate proxy, and began drilling samples we obtained from Labrador in preparation for schlerochronological analysis for Mg/Ca, carbon, and stable oxygen isotopes later in summer and into the fall.

I learned to adapt to solve problems in lab and data wrangling, especially using instruments that are not always reliable and require delicate care. I bettered my public speaking and talk arrangement strategies, developed strategies for researching and writing (and staying productive) over long periods of time.

Group engagement and flexibility.

William Thomas, Senior, Science Management

Faculty Advisor: Alison Harris & Catherine Reed

EEG Study on Biomotion

In a team, I conducted preliminary review and created a protocol for a motion capture experiment on biomotion to be conducted in the fall of 2023.

First and foremost, I learned about working together in a team and the responsibilities of working with autonomous people for research.  I gained invaluable interpersonal skills including cooperation, coordination, and kindness over the summer in the lab along with learning about the community from many different perspectives. Secondly, the Summer Research Program taught me countless field and technical skills that I have come to master. Despite being a neuroscience student, the experience of actually using neural imaging equipment and understanding the analyzation of the data seemed foreign to me when I first started in May. However, after many research talks and much hands-on experience, I feel so much more enabled as a student to continue my career and follow my passions with more knowledge than I ever knew I could acquire in a mere 8 weeks.

I think the best part of the program was the people and I met and the knowledge I learned along the way.

Natalie Chen, Sophomore, Philosophy and Public Affairs (PPA)

Faculty Advisor: Gaston Espinosa

Race, Religion & Black Civil Rights Struggles

Black civil rights leaders, the civil rights movment, and their interactions with religion and spirituality.

The most eye-opening insight I acquired over the Summer Research Program is the extent to which I have the potential to learn, grow, and acquire skills in a short amount of focused time. Over the 8 weeks with SRP, I acquired a fully comprehensive understanding of the civil rights movement in its objectives, narrative, leaders, and impact. I also learned how it is relevant today.

Furthermore, it taught me how to spend hours on end on a single topic: to ask questions about it, inquire, find information, and organize it in an essay and presentation which organizes the information in a manner that is comprehensive, understandable, and relevant.

I also learned how to fully internalize the information, so I could repeat it to a friend and know the details of my area of research by heart. It was cool to know my subject so well that the ideas integrated themselves into my worldview and were constantly being informed by my day-to-day interactions and encounters.

Finally, the Student Research Program (SRP) has profoundly enhanced my academic abilities, equipping me with valuable skills in time management, cultivating personal interests, nurturing critical thinking, developing original ideas, and delivering presentations in an engaging and impactful manner.

I am sincerely grateful for this wonderful opportunity to conduct research under the guidance of such a competent professor. Moreover, being compensated for my work and having the chance to interact with other knowledgeable professors and fellows through the program has been a valuable experience I will continue to benefit from.

The thing I liked best about the program was living on campus with friends while being able to independently work on this project. Having all that time to just work on this one area of research was amazing. The library and weekly SRP meet-ups were valuable resources that helped my work.

Kenneth Hou, Sophomore, Mathematics

Faculty Advisor: Chiu-Yen Kao

Solving differential equations involving surfaces

Investigated open questions involving minimal surfaces.

Through the Summer Research Program, I was afforded the opportunity to investigate a topic not often covered in undergraduate education. I gained expertise in utilizing MATLAB in order to manipulate various data structures in order to make sense of data. I also gained insight into the workings of surfaces in three dimensional space.