Faculty Projects

Prof. Rima Basu (Philosophy)

I will be working on a few projects this summer and would be happy to supervise any projects that fit into the following broad themes. The first project concerns the relationship between shame and internalized racism, but with particular attention to shame directed at one's parents for either fitting stereotypes or becoming smaller under the white gaze. The second project concerns so-called positive stereotypes, and attempting to identify the best explanations for why such stereotypes wrong in either the same or different ways from their more-studied counterparts, negative stereotypes. The third project concerns a critique of skeptical arguments that are motivated by evil demons manipulating us into holding false beliefs, clever bookies, evil scientists, and/or magic pills. I am interested in exploring how these canonical examples are dangerous in that they lead to an obfuscation of more-pressing versions of the skeptical threat posed by the actual world. I would also be willing to oversee any projects that more generally broach questions about the ethics of belief. Interested students should have some background in philosophy (minimally two courses) and will be expected to produce writing on a weekly basis (be it their own research or summaries of things they have read).


Prof. Stacey Doan (Psychological Sciences)
Applied Mind and Health Summer Research Opportunities

Directed by Dr. Stacey Doan, the Applied Mind and Health Laboratory, the research arm of the Berger Institute, is seeking research assistants to work on multiple research projects funded by the Ho Family Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Research projects in our lab take an interdisciplinary approach to examine how biological, psychological, and social factors interact to predict health and well-being. Some of the questions we hope to pursue this summer include:

  • How do social determinants of health (e.g. socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity) affect stress biology? What is the role of relationships? 
  • How does sleep affect college students' mental health and adjustment? 
  • Can a mindfulness-based intervention influence mental health and biomarkers of cellular aging?
  • What is the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and stress hormones in families of young children?
  • How do various coping strategies shape the way we deal with stress? What is most adaptive for what situations?

In addition to these questions, research assistants are encouraged to take a team-based approach to develop and pursue their own research interests with our data. Research assistants will be trained in all aspects of social-behavioral research methodology, including hypothesis generation, data collection, data analysis, and manuscript preparation. The position is a particularly good fit for those interested in graduate school in psychology, neuroscience, or medicine.  


Prof. Michael Fortner (Government)

This project studies the origins of the “war on drugs” in the 1980s. Specifically, it examines how the federal government and state and local governments framed “crack” and explores the programmatic consequences of these frames. Students will gather and analyze archival material, academic studies, government documents, oral histories, and media accounts.  Experience with quantitative research methods is preferred but not required. Students from any major or program of study at CMC are welcome to apply.


Profs. Alison Harris and Cathy Reed (Psychological Sciences)

Two positions are available for a joint research opportunity in the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (PI: Cathy Reed) and Decision Neuroscience Lab (PI: Alison Harris) to work on projects involving collection of human electroencephalography (EEG) data. Projects include recruiting and testing individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental condition associated with social perception impairments, and collecting motion capture and EEG data from neurotypical participants. Students can expect to contribute to the ongoing analysis of existing EEG data, recruitment of participants, creation of stimuli using motion capture hardware, and collection of new behavioral and EEG data. You should be detail-oriented, able to work together as part of a team, and comfortable with computers. Experience with Matlab and/or EEG data analysis preferred but not required.


Prof. Michael Izbicki (Mathematical Sciences)

I have two projects for students. For either project, students will need to have completed CSCI046 (or equivalent).

Project 1: Improve Korean language support on computers
Modern computers use a system called Unicode for representing non-English text on computers.  Unfortunately, Unicode currently only supports the Korean language as used in South Korea and has limited support for the North Korean dialect.  For example, there are certain characters used in North Korean documents that cannot currently be represented on Western computers.  This limitation makes it harder for North Koreans to connect to the internet, and harder for North Korean diplomats to exchange documents with foreign diplomats.  The purpose of this project is to add some of these missing features into the Unicode standard.  This will enable standard tools like Microsoft Office and Python to work with North Korean text.

Project 2: Archival of North Korean webpages
North Korea uses its webpages for communication with the outside world.  For example, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) is North Korea's primary venue for distributing official government policies, and they post these policies online at http://kcna.kp. Western political analysts rely on access to this website in order to understand North Korea's official policy positions.  Unfortunately, these webpages have technical problems that prevent Google from searching them or archiving them, and analysts therefore cannot easily research historic North Korean policy.  The purpose of this project is to develop custom tools that work around the problems in the North Korean webpages to allow archiving and search.


Prof. Adrienne Martin (Philosophy)

I invite applications from students wishing to work on projects falling under any of the following (or related) themes, which are related to my own current research: the ethics of the social regulation of emotions; the family conceived as a social/political institution; the ethics of the division of labor, especially caregiving, childrearing, and educational labor. Although my own expertise is in philosophical research and writing, I would be happy to learn alongside students wanting to take an inter- or cross-disciplinary approach. Students should have taken at least one class in philosophy. Students will meet with me on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and produce weekly pieces of written work (either their own, or annotated bibliographies of research they have completed). 


Prof. Andy Sinclair (Government)

I would be happy to include students in several ongoing projects related to American political reform.  My research focuses on changes to American political institutions intended to improve the public policy process.  During the SRP students will carry out a reading program to develop their knowledge of the subject, learn about methods for carrying out collaborative research, and collect and analyze a variety of types of interesting political science data.  The main requirement is intellectual curiosity; students from any major or program of study at CMC are welcome to apply.  Students interested in applying for the SRP are encouraged to contact me in advance to talk to me about their specific interests.     


Prof. Peter Uvin (Government)

Never democracies: persistent authoritarianism across the world: 
There are 40 countries (yes, that many!!!) that, according to all four the main databases on democracy, have never in their modern histories been democratic. This includes most of central Asia, some countries in East Asia, most of the Middle East and North Africa, good chunks of Africa (but by no means all of it), as well as one country in Europe, Belarus, and one in the Americas, Cuba. To the best of my knowledge, these countries have never been studied together. Regional specialists have analyzed what is called “persistent authoritarianism” foremost in the Middle East, and some studies exist on central Asia as well. But nobody has systematically and comparatively analyzed countries in different regions. By next academic year, I will identify, from this list of 40 countries, approximately eight countries that are representative of the various regions, and then compare them with a neighboring country that has the most similarity to them but does have a history of democracy. That would eventually entail 16 in-depth case studies, which I will do with CMC students in the years to come.
But first I need to develop an analytical grid for this project. I need to be able to tell the students who will work on these 16 countries exactly what they should be looking for. This analytical grid is what I wish to develop this summer.
Concretely, what is required is to read all the authoritative works both on democratization and on persistent authoritarianism, and identify as clearly as possible

  • the specific causal arguments (independent variables) the authors have identified to explain either democratization or, conversely, the persistence of authoritarianism;
  • the specific mechanisms through which these causal arguments work;
  • the specific indicators scholars have employed to measure these variables;
  • and, for completeness’ sake, the variables these authors tested that turned out to not be causal.

In other words, I want to create a full list of all the potential variables that may either explain the persistence of authoritarianism, or, in their absence, explain why democratization has not taken place. I want to make this list of factors--and I imagine it would be a very long list—as precise as possible, down to the exact measurements scholars have employed to operationalize these variables. I imagine it will take reading about 100 books and 400 articles to get this done. I myself have probably already read 30 of these books and 100 of these articles, and I will continue reading this summer. To speed up things, it will help me immensely to have two or three students doing the same job in parallel with me on other documents.

We will meet weekly to discuss our insights. In the beginning, we will first read three articles together and learn how to identify what is required and in what form to share it in a joint Google doc. During the first week, then, we will likely meet multiple times for some intense conversations. Once I feel comfortable that we are all on the same wavelength, we can start meeting weekly only to discuss the things we've been adding on the Google Doc. We will of course not just create an endless list of variables and indicators, but also organize the variables, creating a taxonomy that makes sense, exploring the interactions between them, etc. In other words, this will not just be reading a whole lot of good scholarship and pulling key variables and indicators out of it, but also an intellectual journey of synthesis and analysis.


Prof. Branwen Williams (Keck Science)

The project would investigate historical climate variability in the Gulf of Maine, as part of a larger multi-institution collaboration. We will use measurements of natural marine archives called crustose coralline algae that document changes in seawater conditions.  This would be interesting to students wanting to gain experiences with natural sciences in a topic that interfaces with policy and communication.


Prof. Chiu-Yen Kao (Mathematical Sciences)
Solving differential equations involving surfaces

Many real-world applications require solving equations involving surfaces. Applications include but not limited to surface diffusion, soap bubble deformation, image processing, shortest path computation and biological systems. In this project, we aim to develop several approaches to solving problems on surfaces. We will investigate parametric methods and embedding methods of surfaces and study different discretization techniques on surfaces. This project will enhance students’ understanding on both theoretical and numerical approaches to equations involving surfaces and surface motion.

Prerequisite: Calculus III, linear algebra, and ODEs