Carnegie Mellon University


Are you interested in doing research for credit in the Institute for Politics and Strategy during the fall 2021 semester? Please find below a list of research topics with open positions. Research credit can range from three to nine units. Please contact the IPS professor directly to discuss the opportunity and register for the research section.

Violent and Non-Violent Resistance Leaders

Dan Silverman
Dr. Dan Silverman is seeking RAs to research and code the backgrounds, attributes, and experiences of major violent and non-violent resistance leaders around the globe from 1946-2011, from Osama Bin Laden to Yasser Arafat to Nelson Mandela (to many others). RAs will get to build their expertise in historical episodes of conflict and contentious politics – and the individuals that have led them – around the world while contributing to a key emerging database for conflict scholars (and learning how such databases are built). All RAs are welcome, but he is particularly interested in those who have area studies and/or language skills in developing country contexts.

Organizing for War; The Great Debate Over Entering World War II; Authorization of the Use of Military Force

Kiron Skinner

Dr. Kiron Skinner, the Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics, is seeking several motivated Research Associates (RAs) to work on one of her ongoing book projects for Fall 2021.

The first book project, Organizing for War (OFW), is concerned with documenting and explaining the evolution of U.S. grand strategy since World War II.

The second book project, The Great Debate Over Entering World War II, seeks to examine the diverse mosaic of ethnic, religious, grassroots, and ideological groups that made up the public and legislative effort to keep the United States out of World War II prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The third book project seeks to analyze the history and consequences of changes in the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) on the United States’ armed conflicts. 

Most RA positions require no special skills or prior experience, and may be asked to assist in data collection and coding and/or primary and secondary source research. At least one RA position will be reserved for a student with experience in data science, computational social science, data visualization, statistics, natural language processing, and/or text analysis. This latter RA should be fluent in Python and have familiarity with Jupyter Notebook, and be eager to manipulate and analyze quantitative datasets and text as data.  If interested, please send your resume to Research Coordinator Abby Schachter.

The Faces of Power; Identifying Experts in World Leaders

Ignacio Arana
Dr. Ignacio Arana is seeking assistance with two projects:
The Faces of Power: The Facial Width-to-Height Ratio (FWHR) has been associated with dominance, aggression, unethical behavior, trustworthiness, and cooperation. It has been used to study achievement drive among US presidents (Lewis, Lefevre, and Bates, 2012) and CEOs’ performance (Wong et al., 2011). Assistance is welcome to identify photographs of heads of government who governed from 1990-2020 and to calculate their FWHR using a software. The research purpose is to examine whether leaders with higher scores engage in activities such as repression, executive-legislative conflict, and other indicators of antidemocratic behavior. 

Identifying Experts in World Leaders: Assistance to identify experts on contemporary and historical heads of government. A coauthor and I are conducting a study about how the rules of selecting heads of government across democratic (e.g., parliamentary, semi-presidential, and presidential) and nondemocratic political systems (e.g, single-party dictatorships, monarchies, military dictatorships, personalist dictatorships) affect the quality of political leadership. The “quality” of political leadership will be measured by indicators such as political experience, educational attainment, and personality traits. To measure the latter, we will conduct a survey among experts on historical and contemporary heads of government.

Coups, Self-Coups, and Assassinations

John Chin

Dr. John Chin is seeking research assistants for one or more researchprojects related to political violence, political instability, and the breakdown of democracy. Depending on student background and interest, students may gain experience in qualitative or quantitative research. The first project involves assisting in historical research and writing historical narratives of self-coups and coding a new global cross-national dataset of self-coups (autogolpes) since World War II. When and how have presidents and prime ministers attempted to illegally concentrate power and extend their rule? The second project involves research and writing for an Historical Dictionary of Modern Assassinations cataloging all attempts to kill dictators and democratically-elected leaders since World War II. The third project involves assisting in refining and data visualization for ColpusCast, a new global statistical forecast model of different coup types.

Societal Support for Human Rights Prosecutions in Argentina

Pearce Edwards
Why are some new democracies able to prosecute former dictators and their associates for human rights violations? There are many obstacles to prosecutions: collecting evidence, defining legal standards under which violations may be tried, and persuading judges and prosecutors to pursue human rights cases. My ongoing research examines human rights trials in one newer democracy - Argentina - and the role of one institution - the Catholic Church - in overcoming obstacles to prosecution there. A student researcher with at least intermediate Spanish-language skills would assist as I analyze the proceedings of Argentine human rights trials to determine the contribution (or opposition) of the Catholic Church to such prosecutions.

The Political Economy of Banking Crises

Daniel Hansen

This project will methodically work through a list of developing country banking crises for which details regarding the circumstances and context of the crisis are little known. Using a variety of books and online sources, we will build a narrative for these crises with an emphasis on understanding the intersection of political and economic factors in the experience of each crisis, in addition to an emphasis on the long-run political aftershocks which come in their wake (such as coups, political violence, anti-system protests, etc). We will be seeking to spotlight differences between democracies and autocracies, political impediments to speedy crisis response, and contrasting approaches to managing common drivers such as lending booms.

Anti- and Pro-Vaccine Messages; Chinese and Russian State-Sponsored Meetings; Information Maneuvers

Kathleen Carley

Dr. Kathleen Carley has three projects open for research assistant support:

Project 1: Using pre-collected Twitter data - assess the roll of bots and news agencies in promoting anti-vaccine message and pro-vaccine messages. See how that has changed over the course of the pandemic.

Project 2: Collect and assess information from Chinese and Russian state sponsored meetings, and assessing who is promoting this information. Using the BEND framework, see which countries or actors are being targeted. Also determine whether the bots that promote these accounts promote all messages or just selected messages - e.g.,. are bots targeted at promoting anti-US rhetoric.

Project 3: Determine whether the information maneuvers measures designed for Twitter will work with news articles. Do this in the context of comparing articles and tweets from/about China's relation to the US.