Carnegie Mellon University

Don't just learn from research,
learn to conduct it!

Research is an integral part of studying international relations, politics, and foreign affairs. In addition to research done in the regular course of study, the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Strategy & Technology (CMIST) offers additional opportunities to conduct and publish research. 


Undergraduate Research for Credit

Are you interested in doing research for credit in the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Strategy & Technology (CMIST) during the spring 2024 semester? Please find below a list of research topics with open positions. Research credit can range from 3-9 units. Please contact the CMIST professor directly to discuss the opportunity. Once you and the faculty member agree to work together, you will complete the research for credit formand the Deputy Director Academic Affairs will register you for the course.

Research for Credit Form

American and Latin American Presidents

This project will work to expand the Presidential Database of the Americas. The database includes biographical and psychometric information about the 342 presidents of the Western Hemisphere who governed for at least six months between 1945 and 2021. Assistance is welcome to examine and code biographical data about presidents who governed the United States and Latin American countries since independence (early nineteenth century in most cases).

Coup Plots, Coups D'etat, and US Military Exercises

Seeking research assistants for one or more political science research projects. One project involves investigating the sordid post-World War II history of coup plots (conspiracies to depose leaders that are not actually attempted, perhaps because the regime discovered and thwarted them). A second project involves research and writing historical narratives coup attempts before World War II. A third project involves coding data on U.S. Joint Military Exercises since the 1970s. Other projects related to self-coups, democratic backsliding, and/or civil resistance and nonviolent revolutions may be available upon inquiry.

Bureaucratic Recruitment in China

This project examines the recruitment of government bureaucrats in China via the National Civil Service Exam. On the supply side, we conduct an original survey that combines lab experiments and survey experiments to examine the motives of individuals to join the civil service, including pecuniary consideration, public service motive, and career aspiration. We also investigate how individuals’ inherent traits, such as talent, honesty, and altruism, may interact with their different motives to determine who wants to join the civil service. On the demand side, we assemble an original data set of listings of open positions in civil service over time and across provinces to examine why types of individuals the state seeks to recruit. The findings of this research would enhance our understanding on the bureaucratic capacity of the Chinese state and their implications for policymaking as well as implementation. A research assistant would be a valuable addition to this project. The research assistant would be involved directly in the implementation of the project, including conducting a large survey, gathering and cleaning original data (both from survey and online sources), and data analysis to answer research questions. In the process, the research assistant would develop a set of robust research skills and an in-depth understanding of empirical research in social science.


Rebel Organization Leaders (ROLE) database

The Rebel Organization Leaders (ROLE) database is an ongoing effort at multiple universities to document the attributes and experiences of rebel, insurgent, and terrorist leaders around the world. We have completed version 1.0 of the database, which contains detailed biographical data on approximately 500 rebel leaders and published multiple articles using these data. We are currently working to extend the core database in multiple new directions and need RAs to research leaders and collect information on them including in the following areas: (1) what happens to these individuals after they lead rebellions, and (2) instances of leadership removal (arrests, assassinations, etc.) by state actors in our dataset. There may also be opportunities for RAs interested in other areas such as (preliminary) data analysis and visualization.

Dovish Reputation Theory: When Backing Down Makes Sense 

A fierce debate in international relations concerns the impact that past actions have on a state's future reputation/credibility and its ability to deter adversaries. The conventional wisdom is that backing down is always harmful for a state's reputation and thus states should be willing to absorb significant costs to avoid doing so. For example, this was the primary logic justifying the Vietnam War. Professor Schwartz is working on a book project that challenges this common view. He argue that choosing to fight rather than back down can sometimes backfire by making adversaries believe that a war-weary country is less likely to stand firm in the future. A RA may assist by researching new case studies, writing a literature review on how a country's regime type could impact his theory, and/or coding the level of war-weariness of countries following conflict.

Out of the Loop: The Implications of Automating Nuclear Brinksmanship

Enabling computers rather than humans to make decisions related to the launch of nuclear weapons is a frequent Hollywood plot device in movies like The Terminator, Dr. Strangelove, and WarGames. However, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union created a real system called “dead hand” that partially automated the use of nuclear weapons. Given advances in technology, some foreign policy experts are calling for the U.S. to develop its own automated nuclear system today. But what are the implications of automating nuclear use? In particular, do these kinds of systems enable countries to make more credible nuclear threats? This project involves survey experiments conducted on UK Members of Parliament, as well as average citizens, to answer this question. RAs will analyze what political scientists and historians have written about this topic and write a literature review. They may also help analyze the data if they are interested. 

Additional Student Research Resources

Dietrich College Senior Honors Program

Through the Dietrich College Senior Honors Program students complete an honors thesis and graduate with College Honors. For more information contact Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, Joseph Devine.

Dietrich College Senior Honors Program

Through the Dietrich College Senior Honors Program students complete an honors thesis and graduate with College Honors. For more information contact Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, Joseph Devine.

Meeting of the Minds

An annual undergraduate research symposium organized by the Undergraduate Research Office each spring. All students engaged in undergraduate research are encouraged to apply. 

Research Training for Undergraduates

Through this academic course, qualified first- and second-year students have the opportunity to work directly with a Dietrich faculty member on an ongoing research project. For more information contact Deputy Director Emily Half.


The Summer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship (SURA) course awards tuition-free elective credit to first-year and sophomore undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon for existing faculty projects focused on undergraduate research or creative inquiry under the direction of a Carnegie Mellon faculty member.


Small Undergraduate Research Grants (SURG), Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF), and International Small Undergraduate Research Grants (ISURG) are ooffered by Carnegie Mellon University's Undergraduate Research Office, these grants and fellowships provide funding for undergraduate students to pursue research in any discipline.