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.


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 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

Professor John Chin is seeking research assistants for one or more research projects 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.

State-Sponsored Media Usage; Extremism in Social Media

Kathleen Carley

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

Project 1: Create a ranking of state-sponsored media and mfa for all countries by the extent to which bots are used to retreat their messages. Collect data from Twitter for these sites and the conversations around them. Assess these conversations for who is engaged, and what kinds of topics get the most traction. Using this a number of questions will be addressed such as: "Are totalitarian states more likely to use bots to spread their information?"

Project 2: Domestic terrorism is becoming an increasing security issue. This topic will explore how we can identify extremist-related discussion in social media for a particular region. The region of interest is southwestern Pennsylvania. It is thought that such discussion is also associated with disinformation, conspiracy stories, and online hate. Thus we will start with known low-credibility news sites and known disinformation vis-a-vis COVID and vaccinations to identify groups and topics of interests.