Summer 2022 Research Opportunities

There are three ways to seek faculty supervisors for SRP projects:

  1. Contact the CMC professors listed below regarding specific research projects they have identified for potential SRP students.
  2. Reach out to CMC professors who are not listed here to see if they have any summer research opportunities.
  3. Design a research project of your own and seek out a willing faculty supervisor.

Students may also work together on a team project supervised by a CMC professor, either one the students design, or one the professor designs.

All students are required to submit the SRP Faculty Approval Form as part of the SRP application. Please note that SRP opportunities are available to CMC students in the social and mathematical sciences and humanities. For summer research opportunities in the sciences, students apply through the Keck Science Department (contact Velda Yount,

Faculty Projects


Prof. William Lincoln (Economics)

I would be interested in overseeing a student who has at least some programming experience (in any language) to help me in a variety of tasks, including merging some data sets by firm name and address.  This would be useful for anyone who has interests in doing empirical research in the social sciences broadly (or data science) but would require only some very basic knowledge of programming.  I can teach them most of the skills that they will need for the project.  I would also be willing to oversee a range of projects in economics, especially with regard to business or international economics.  This could be with an individual student or a group depending on the project.

Prof. Phillip A. Luck (Economics)

I am interested in advising students on a project wherein they would conduct a variety of tasks, including but not limited to data collection, cleaning, merging by industry and geographic identifiers to conduct research on the labor market effects of trade, migration, technology and the COVID pandemic. Depending on the students’ skills, this work may also include some basic data analysis. This opportunity is best suited for students with an interest in conducting empirical research in the social or data science. While basic knowledge of coding is preferred, I intend to teach advisees coding in the program Stata and will teach them most of the skills required for the project.  I am open to this opportunity being filled by either an individual student or a group, depending on the students’ knowledge of coding and research interests.

Prof. Kaitlyn Woltz (Economics) 

Student-designed research projects on topics in the economics of crime and the economics of development, or projects using qualitative methods in economics research. 

Prof. William Ascher (Government) 

The willingness of low-income people to participate in poverty-alleviation programs is often limited by the reluctance of these people to suffer stigmas. “Self-stigma” (shame in being poor), or “social stigma” (other people thinking less of them), have discouraged applying to or remaining in a program. Therefore the “uptake” of poverty-alleviation benefits is disappointing in many developing countries. 

In many cases, the design of poverty-alleviation programs is critical to whether stigma is high or low. Some designs worsen stigma (e.g., requiring to submit to demeaning interrogation about the family income); other designs may reduce stigma (e.g., by labeling the benefits as rights rather than hand-outs). 

The research would involve understanding why self-stigma and social stigma arise in different contexts, and what governments and others could do to reduce the stigma, by exploring specific cases in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. This involves examination of: 

  • theories of causes of self-stigma and social stigma; 
  • specific poverty-alleviation programs and their impacts; 
  • possible application of relatively successful poverty-alleviation program designs to other countries; 
  • strategies to promote better poverty-alleviation programs. 

It would be feasible to have up to four CMC students conducting the research, in a combination of individual and team work. 

Prof. Michael Fortner (Government) 

This project will explore the social and political consequences of the so-called “crack epidemic” of the 1980s. It will examine how African Americans in urban communities framed and negotiated crack cocaine use and trafficking. It will also identify the various policy remedies they pursued and explore how the political system responded to their mobilization. Students will gather and analyze socioeconomic statistics, public opinion, oral histories, and government documents. Experience with quantitative research methods is preferred but not required. Students from any major or program of study at CMC are welcome to apply. 

Prof. Shanna Rose (Government) 

This project will explore the political history of U.S. minimum wage policy. We will examine the evolution of both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state and local minimum wage laws. Key themes include federalism, interest group politics, party politics, and race. The work will potentially include reviewing the literature on the minimum wage, gathering and synthesizing archival materials, conducting empirical analysis, creating tables and figures, and writing case studies. Completion of a college-level statistics course such as GOVT 55 or ECON 120/125 is helpful but not essential. 

Prof. Andrew Sinclair (Government) 

Project 1:  for a team of students to study the application of a particular kind of sports betting game (football “pick’em”) to predicting election and political outcomes.  The research questions include understanding what sorts of strategies players can employ in such games, what kind of information such games reveal, and how such games can be adapted to political events.  A successful project will complete the design of a preliminary election prediction game for the 2022 midterm elections.  This project will be a collaboration with Dr. Thomas Ruchti, Assistant Professor of Accounting, Carnegie Mellon University.  No prior experience with sports or elections required; students should have interest in quantitative methods for social science research, although students from any major or program of study at CMC are welcome to apply.  

Project 2:  for students interested in collaborating on research papers using survey data to study American politics.  We can discuss what project you would like to join and what data it will use.  A successful project will be ready to submit for an academic conference in the following year.  Students should have an interest in the use of quantitative methods for studying social science problems, although prior experience is not required and students from any major or program of study at CMC are welcome to apply. 

Prof. Aseema Sinha (Government) 

Title: Varieties of State Capacities: The Political and Institutional Origins of Health Resilience 

On January 20th 2020 the first case of COVID19 was confirmed in S. Korea, the same day US found its first positive case. Yet, the two countries’ ability to respond effectively to COVID-19 diverged dramatically. By October 23, 2021, South Korea’s cases per million people were 26.46 while United States had 219.16 per million people (Johns Hopkins University database). South Korea’s total confirmed deaths per million were 53.91, while the similar figure for US was 2210.17 per million by October 23, 2021. Behind these numbers lie policy responses and state capacities. What do these contrasting cases and other similar success in East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore) tell us about the institutional conditions needed to address the pandemic? How do countries develop state power and capacities faced with such complex, fast-moving public health crises with multiple dimensions (biological, social, and economic)? Echoing an insight by Atul Gawande (2010), who has argued that our medical system has paid less attention to “follow-through” innovation rather than “break-through” innovation, and building on state-centric literature in political science, this project seeks to assess and map the varieties of state capacities needed for addressing a multiplex and complex health crisis across carefully chosen cases such as South Korea, Taiwan, Kerala India, United Kingdom and China.  Professor Aseema Sinha will work 4-5 students to collect data and research material on state capacities to address the COVId-19 pandemic across Asia, Africa and Europe during Summer 2022. 

Prof. Jennifer Taw (International Relations) 

Work this summer in a small team with Professor Taw on the development of a new textbook, World Politics: Considering the Commons. Students will conduct research, provide feedback on articles, find illustrations, and, most importantly, meet weekly to discuss the book's substance, organization, structure, and tone.  

Prof. Mark Huber (Mathematical Sciences) 

Title:  Using Stitching for Monte Carlo Analyses 

Monte Carlo methods utilized intentionally introduced randomness in order to efficiently estimate properties of high dimensional distributions.  The relatively recent idea of *stitching* can be used to sample exactly from models that were previously inaccessible.  In this project, stitching will be used on models of spatial data such as the Strauss process and the Ising model to try to understand how spread in the radius of effect changes the average number of points in these models. 

Prof. Alison Harris (Psychological Science) 

Title: Individual differences in EEG correlates of body movement perception 

From jumping jacks to jumping for joy, the “body language” of human movement provides important information about the intentions and emotions of others. Growing evidence suggests that we understand others’ mental states by internally recreating, or simulating, their external actions. This process may be altered in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental condition associated with social perception impairments, as well as varying across the neurotypical population. This research project uses electroencephalography (EEG) to examine brain activity associated with action simulation during observation of emotional body movements. Students can expect to contribute to the analysis of existing EEG data, testing out motion capture hardware and protocols, and collecting new behavioral and EEG data (local regulations permitting). You should be detail-oriented, able to work independently, and comfortable with computers. Experience with Matlab and/or EEG data analysis preferred. 

Prof. Wei-Chin Hwang (Psychological Science) 

The Cultural Influences on Mental Health (CIMH) center conducts research on the intersect between culture and psychological well-being. We seek to answer two primary questions. How does culture affect mental health? And, how do we improve the treatment of mental illness for those from diverse backgrounds? We are currently initiating studies that examine cultural differences in the experience and usage of psychedelic medicines. We are looking for students who are responsible and hard-working to work collaboratively in teams and carry out projects this summer. Students should be detail oriented and have prior research experience collecting data, participating in research design, and have proficiency in data analysis. Priority will be given to students who have completed at least one semester of research at the CIMH center. 

Prof. Cathy Reed (Psychological Science)

Cathy Reed would like to offer two summer research opportunities in the CMC Cognitive Neuroscience Lab.  The project will involve working as a team to address questions of how electroencephalography (EEG) might be used to reveal differences in neural coherency in the brains of older adults compared to younger adults. We will collect and analyze EEG data from younger and older adults on four different experimental tasks that vary in cognitive load.  Applying students should have an interest in the use of quantitative methods for studying brain-behavior relationships.  Prior experience in cognition, human neuroscience, and EEG/ERP is not required, but it is important to have an interest in working with older adults as well as learning EEG lab skills and quantitative data analysis skills.

Prof. Sharda Umanath (Psychological Science) 

The Umanath Memory and Aging Laboratory will be working on a few different projects this summer, all related to the nature of knowledge and its influence on remembering. The projects this summer will have particular emphases on healthy aging and misinformation. One project will be focusing on understanding retrieval failures – when we try to remember something and we can’t bring it to mind – and investigating how we can characterize different types of such failures. This will involve working with older adult community members, recruitment of participants, and data collection. Another project will be focusing on how to reduce suggestibility to misinformation that contradicts what we already know to be true. This will primarily involve data collection and data analysis. Both projects will involve reading the relevant literature with opportunities to work on scientific writing for these projects and others as well. Preference will be given to students who have research experience, have taken Cognitive Psychology and/or Research Methods, and are interested in working with older adults. 

Prof. Gaston Espinosa (Religious Studies) 

Project Title: Race, Religion & Black, Latinx & Native American Civil Rights Struggles

Project Description: Although overlooked by most scholars today, religion and spirituality played a critical role in the Black, Mexican American, and Native American struggles for political justice and civil rights throughout the nation’s history.  Denied access to political, intellectual, economic, and social power due to slavery, segregation, and societal racism, racial-ethnic minorities often drew on their native spiritual intelligence and indigenous religious practices and communities in their struggles for justice because it was one of the few social spaces they created and controlled. This project seeks to uncover their stories by transcribing primary source materials (written & audio) that will be used in a documentary history.

The summer research project will be broken into three chronological components and I will hire ideally two students to work on each:

Section 1: Historical Struggles, Colonial period to the 1950s

Section 2: Modern Civil Rights Movements, 1950s-1970s

Section 3: Contemporary Civil Rights Struggles, 1980s-Present

Students will work in tandem with Dr. Espinosa to help identify, track down, and transcribe primary sources (e.g., letters, autobiographies, interviews), speeches, and untranscribed audio and video interviews with civil rights leaders like MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Dennis Banks, Leonard & Mary Crowdog, and many others.  They will also create an annotated bibliography (which I will explain how to do and provide an example of) that spotlights and summarizes additional readings, documentaries, and other resources. Finally, students will help track down and prepare photos and other visual aids for the book.