Research Assistantships (Fall 2012)

All research assistantships for the upcoming semester can be found on this page.  Please scroll through to find one that’s interesting to you.  If you find one, apply!

Students can find the application here.

Applications are due by August 17th, 2012 (UPDATE: application deadline extended to September 7th, 2012) for Fall 2012 research assistantship opportunities. For more information or questions about undergraduate research through the University Honors Program, please go here or contact Catherine Chandler at


Adelina Voutchkova

Our project aims to address the urgent need to develop environmentally benign synthetic methodologies for the fine chemicals industry. We  are exploring new classes of catalysts that improve atom/energy economy, allow the use of renewable feedstocks and minimize the toxic waste streams released into the environment. Currently, the group is developing a recyclable catalyst for alcohol amine coupling – a reaction that is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. We are examining the electronic effects of various metal oxides supports on homogeneous catalysts and nanoparticles in order to identify interactions that are particularly beneficial  to catalysis. We tailor such interactions to facilitate a variety of challenging synthetic and energy-related transformations, such as CO2 activation and utilization. Research tasks involve catalyst syntheses, characterizations and synthetic reactions that use the catalysts. Student researchers will get hands on experience with techniques like air-sensitive synthesis, electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, and several others.

This is a summer research opportunity that could extend into the fall semester, as well.


Caroline Smith

I am currently in the final stages of working on a book project entitled The Politics of the Kitchen: Postfeminism and Women’s Food Writing. In The Politics of the Kitchen: Postfeminism and Contemporary Women’s Food Writing, I examine contemporary food memoirs written by women in order to explore the way in which this genre complicates women’s relationships with the space of the kitchen. The texts I’m looking at are those that combine autobiographical narratives with recipes. I consider why, in this historical moment, women writers are returning to this space. In what ways are they re-writing that space? How are they renegotiating their relationships with food? In turn, I ask how this reinterpretation affects their roles within the private sphere of the home as well as the public sphere. By what means are these texts exploding the divide of public/masculine and private/feminine in both content and form? And, how does this emerging genre problematize the genres of recipe writing, diary writing, and memoir? Ultimately, in The Politics of the Kitchen, I consider the ways in which this writing complicates traditional perceptions of women, their relationships to food, and home cooking.

I am looking for assistance with fact checking those portions of the manuscript that are already completed. I am also looking for assistance with research on both food blogging and the role of the candidates’ wives in the 2012 presidential election. When the manuscript is completed, I would like this student to help with formatting, marking index terms, marking citations, and creating a bibliography.

The deadline for my project is January 1, 2013. I would like a student assistant for the remainder of the fall semester. This student should be able to work independently for approximately 2-5 hours a week. I would also like to meet with the student periodically.  NOTE:  It is too late to apply for credit for this position, but you’re still welcome to participate!

Gayle Wald

I will be spending 2012-13 on fellowship working on a book about Soul!, a variety show that brought a Black Power sensibility to  public television for five seasons, between 1968 and 1973. My book investigates the historical emergence of Soul!, the politics of public broadcasting in the Black Power era, and the ways the show nurtured and fostered a sense of “Black” identity through televised cultural performances. Hosted by Ellis Haizlip, a DC native and an out gay man, Soul! featured a range of incredible black performers in an era when most African American musicians, dancers, and writers had few national TV opportunities. Guest included Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Miriam Makeba, Muhammad Ali, Curtis Mayfield, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, and Toni Morrison. I would like a student to help me with general research and with specific accounting of the TV show. So, for example, I might want a student to find out about TV shows from 1955-1970 with black hosts and write up a brief summary of her findings. Or I might want a student to create “logs” of particular episodes of Soul! Or I might want someone to go to the Library of Congress to do fact-checking in their media reading room, or (for example) find out what albums of Miriam Makeba’s were available for sale in the U.S. in 1972.

Duties: meet with me once a week for 30-45 minutes; do between 1 and 5 hours of research a week. This assignment could last throughout the 2012-13 school year, or it could be for a single semester.  The ideal student researcher will be somewhat knowledgeable about African American culture, especially popular music, but interested students are welcome! The student must be enterprising, reliable, and motivated. S/he must be willing and able to do both general library research and more detail-oriented documentation of a television show.

Alexander Huang

Global Shakespeares is a digital performance video archive and research project that collects, annotates, and analyzes stage and screen performances of Shakespeare’s plays from around the world. We currently have over 300 performances from the U.S., U.K., Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, Brazil, India, and East Asia in different languages (with English subtitles). The project’s website is located at Global Shakespeares is co-founded by Professor Alexander Huang (GW) and Professor Peter Donaldson (MIT).

Interested applicants should: be interested in the arts and humanities; be punctual; responsive to emails; be able to follow instructions; be self-motivated and well-organized; knowledge of foreign languages (such as Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, Hindi, German, French, Italian, Arabic) a plus, but not required; some knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays (on-the-job training available).

Time commitment is flexible, typically 4-6 hours per week.  Duties include: data collection via web searches and library research; request interlibrary loan research materials (either in digital forms or requesting and picking up books from the library); annotate performance videos; translate the performances (if you know the language); meet with the professor once every other week; assistant with proofreading; help to prepare manuscripts before publication


Arthur Wilson

Prof. Wilson is studying the early history of futures trading.  Futures exchanges, with associated clearinghouses are one of the most important types of institutions in modern finance.  Yet, judging from the published literature, futures markets (as distinct from forward markets, which are ancient) are also surprisingly young – having apparently been invented in Osaka during the 18th century and then re-invented in Chicago in the 19th century.  Prof. Wilson is skeptical of this short history and seeks to flesh it out further in such likely locations as the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, France, Alexandria, China and Korea as well as in the US history in the 19th century.

Prof. Wilson seeks an undergraduate interested in history, with a social science background, and ideally with some second language capability to help document commodity trading institutions for some of these places and make history together!  The student should be adept at library and internet research with an adventurous spirit – and ideally an ability to read at least one of the other languages that might be useful here.  Prof. Wilson will train students to recognize a futures market from a forward market (and any other finance or economics related to this project).  Estimated 8-10 hours a week on this project, possibly for two students.

Global Health

Amira Roess
The the Relationship between Socioeconomic and Nutritional Status in Rural Haiti

The purpose of the research project is to analyze data collected by a partner NGO in Haiti in order to describe the relationship and socioeconomic profile of a community living in a rural area. The RA will learn how to successfully enter data, manage and clean it, and conduct a quantitative analysis to describe the nutritional profile of a community in rural Haiti. The student will have the opportunity to learn how to write an abstract for submission to a research conference and will have the opportunity to co-author a paper for a peer-reviewed journal.
o The RA will be expected to commit 10 hours per week over the semester to this project.
o The RA will have an opportunity to learn how to successfully complete the following tasks working closely with the supervisor:

  • Enter survey data using EpiData Software;
  • Manage and clean data (identify errors, inconsistencies or other problems);
  • Conduct secondary data analysis (frequencies, cross-tabs) using either PASW-SPSS or STATA;
  • Conduct library research (use SCOPUS, PubMed, Google Scholar) to learn about the relationship between socioeconomic status and nutrition in rural Haiti;
  • Based on the survey instrument and the library research articulate a research question;
  • Form and implement a data analysis plan to answer the research question;
  • Write an abstract summarizing the results of the work;
  • Submit the abstract to GW Research Day, Global Health Council conference, APHA conference, and/or other relevant Public Health conference;
  • Create and present a poster of the results of the research;
  • Contribute to the writing of a paper to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

International Relations

Nathan Brown

Prof. Brown is currently conducting research on the constitution writing process in Egypt and Tunisia in the wake of those countries’ 2011 revolutions. He has written a book on Arab constitutional development based primarily on historical analyses of 19th- and 20th-century processes; he now seeks to update that work by following the work of the constitutional assemblies in Egypt (which is slated to finish its constitution drafting process this year) and Tunisia (where the process will extend into next year. Prof. Brown seeks UHP students with Arabic-language proficiency at a level sufficient to read Egyptian and Tunisian newspapers, following press accounts of the process. Most of the relevant newspapers are available on line. The student would:

–spend about one hour per day reading Egyptian and Tunisian newspapers; and

–write weekly summaries of the process (approximate 2-3 pages on the major issues discussed and the actions taken by the assemblies and their committees).

Before beginning the press coverage, the student would read some short overviews of the process in the two countries. Toward the end of the semester, Prof. Brown would work with the student on a jointly-authored commentary, to be published either by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (a think tank with which he is affiliated) or the Middle East Channel (a blog that is influential in policy and journalist circles where he has posted some commentaries in the past).

Yvonne Captain

I am requesting two research students.  One student can begin as early as summer, 2012 and work throughout the academic year.  The second student can begin in the fall of 2012 and work throughout the academic year if so desired.  For both students, there is the ability to develop skills in inquiry and analysis as well as in teamwork.  I anticipate that, for the summer initiation, the student will work three (3) hours a week, and for the academic year the students will work six (6) hours each.  The project primarily consists of combing through obituaries in local newspapers, census records, and other non-traditional sources of migration patterns, in order to round out my research on Afro-Creoles in Southwest Louisiana (SWLA)[1].   Once this raw data is assembled, we will then tabulate the findings as part of a measurable process of migration.  The research is part of my book-length study that focuses on the history and cultural identity of Afro-Creoles in SWLA.  Increasingly the general public is aware of Creole cultures in the United States, particularly in New Orleans.  However, there are few academic studies of Afro-Creoles in Southwest Louisiana.  My study traces the history of the people who identify themselves as Afro-Creoles in the latter region.  Since at least 1776 some of these families can trace their presence to the SWLA area.  The portion of the book that I am mostly concerned about here is the gathering of raw research data related to migration of Afro-Creoles from Louisiana and Texas to California.  It is obvious to those who study migration or genealogy that the majority of people of African descent who have been in California since the 1940s are from Louisiana and Texas.  A good portion of those people are Afro-Creoles.  While I have managed to conduct some of the research for this major portion of the book, lamentably it is taking me too long to complete on my own.     By studying a core of interrelated families, I show the process of becoming and remaining Afro-Creole.  I have completed much of the review of the literature.  This includes academic treatises as well as family genealogy research that many families keep for purposes of in-group sharing.  However, for the portion of the book that deals with migration to California, it is still necessary for me to corroborate that written research with oral histories, more person-to-person contact, and the hard data that stems from government and local records.  This is mostly data that is not feasible through traditional academic research.  It is my hope to have a student research on board this in the summer of 2012 and for two students to work throughout the academic year.  I would prefer to have the students on campus.  While I am keen on conducting the research myself, especially the seemingly morbid review of obituaries, it is clear that the work is too much for me to complete in a reasonable time frame.  I hope to wrap up this portion of the book by the end of summer, 2013.

Harris Mylonas

The title of the project is “The Politics of Repatriation in Europe”. The project focuses on the policies that states develop either to attract and/or to incorporate people returning to their country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship. These policies have been called “repatriation” or “ethnic migration” or “ethnic return migration”. The main research question is: What accounts for variation in repatriation policies across developed democratic states? Prof. Mylonas is developing an argument that accounts for variation in the depth and generosity of repatriation policy across states highlighting the importance of elite perceptions on whether the return of the co-ethnics aligns with the national security and electoral interests of the ruling elite and test it against a legacies of past rule and salience of the politics of national identity arguments.

Prof. Mylonas seeks help in coding various countries in Europe. Library research may prove necessary although he will mostly provide the student with the reading materials and then s/he will summarize them using a coding sheet. Time commitment will depend on the student’s availability but 10 hours a week will suffice.

Bob Shepherd

In a global era, the topic of human rights receives widespread attention, particularly among the educated classes. Yet, while a great many people speak in support of abstract human rights, it is unclear to what extent they can speak about specifichuman rights. This project will seek to measure the ‘human rights knowledge’ of undergraduate students in the DC metro region. One or two research assistants are needed to help develop and administer a survey that will ask respondents about their specific knowledge of the foundational international human rights document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in December 1948. The goal of this project is to gauge undergraduate understanding of the economic, social, and cultural rights this document asserts on the behalf of individuals.


Lynn Westwater

I am conducting a research project that involves the circulation of prohibited ideas in Counter-Reformation Europe. I have gathered an enormous amount of primary source material and need research help to process and survey these materials, which will mostly be in a digital form and will be in French, Italian and Latin. This will involve reading primary source materials and scanning for specific information. I would be interested in finding two students for this position, who will work collaboratively with another honors student who has already been selected. I am looking for candidates with strong independent work habits; the ability to collaborate and communicate; and knowledge of French, Latin and/or Italian. Knowledge of Dutch could also be helpful.


  • 10 hours of independent work per week, with a flexible schedule
  • weekly group meeting on Monday or Tuesday

Media and Public Affairs

Nikki Usher

Are you interested in the future of news in the digital age? If so, you will be engaged in substantive work that will aid in the development of a book project on journalism, innovation and technology. This project looks at hacks (journalists) and hackers (technologists) to understand how news is being reimagined both in traditional places — in newsrooms — and in non-traditional sites, like hackerspaces and research and design labs at universities. You will also be introduced to qualitative research methods, such as qualitative content analysis and interviewing.

Among the tasks/topics you may be asked to research include:

  • the history of R&D in newsrooms
  • open source technology
  • coding videos, blogs, and other content from contests that “reimagine” the news
  • the development of programmer-journalists
  • arranging and conducting interviews with hacks and hackers
  • monitoring Twitter streams, email listservs and social media for buzzwords of interest

Other off topic, but related areas that you might be asked to investigate include social media and newsrooms, the history of business journalism, research on Pakistani journalists, and journalists working in diaspora communities (e.g. Nigerian journalists in exile in the U.S.). Some basic tasks that are unavoidable might include summarizing articles, maintaining an annotated bibliography, help with citations, and keeping track of excel spreadsheets charting the content analysis. Looking for anyone interested in journalism, news, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, and computer science. Anyone familiar with programming is especially welcome to apply, but this is not required. Any discipline welcome. You must have conducted a substantial research project before (preference given to juniors and seniors). 5-10 hours a week.


Robert Churchill

I will be completing work on a book titled Women in the Crossfire: Male Oppression, Gender violence and Human Rights.  In this work I analyze some of the most atrocious forms of gender violence, in particular, honor killings and political rape that, despite their atrocity, are defended as justified by many members of the cultures or social groups in which the violence occurs.  Such violent practices often are claimed to express the fundamental values of a group even when the practice (e.g. honor killing) is illegal within the larger state.  Indeed, because acts of gender violence express and reinforce the cultural identities and worldviews of peoples who sanction them, advocates for women’s human rights have encountered great resistance to reform.  Inevitably, direct challenges to the ways in which women are abused are seen in local cultures as imperialistic attacks upon the ethnicity or religion and identity of the group, even when human rights activists themselves share the same ethnicity and religion.It is my argument that a practice such as honor killing cannot be eradicated by isolating it as a cancer within a social body and surgically excising it.  On the contrary we must attempt to understand why these acts of extreme cruelty to women continue to persist within the cultures in which they are supported.  They came into being to address some need within the cultural groups in which they occur, although as attested by their atrocity, they are highly dysfunctional.  Such acts serve to reinforce the oppression and exploitation not just of women by men, but also lower status and less powerful men by men with higher status and greater power.  Indeed, conflicts for domination among men have led to perceptions of women as the property of men and, ironically, to male dependence on feminine “purity” to maintain their own self-respect and success.  The extremity of male violence is, in a sense, a register of male desperation.  Only when we understand the social mechanisms by which women become entrapped in social and political conflicts among men, can we begin to help men as well as women free themselves from the clutches of dysfunctional dynamics that, when better understood, they would choose to reject.

The RA will assist the PI by engaging in library and internet research on journal articles, UN, State Department, NGO, and commission reports, news articles, etc. on recent and contemporaneous issues relating to gender violence defended by local cultural values.  The RA should be able to categorize and possibly rank items retrieved and to write clear and perspicuous summaries of many items. The RA will also engage in contacting and interviewing government officials and women’s and human rights advocates in NGOs.  The RA may assist the PI by engaging in in-depth historical research on the formation of cultural practices detrimental for women, possibly writing brief reports or reviews. In addition, the RA may be asked to read and comment on draft chapters of the book.  The time commitment for these activities is approximately 15 hours a week for 12 weeks including a once a week meeting with the PI and possibly more frequent contact via email. As the data, reports, and resources to be collected and processed by the RA will be multi-disciplinary, the RA need not have a major in any particular discipline.  An interest in human rights and in women’s studies, or gender issues, is highly advisable, however.  In addition, the RA must be comfortable with meeting and interviewing people in the greater Washington, DC area.


Ted Robinson

Ted Robinson
Prof. Robinson will be working on the 3rd Edition of his book, Crime Scene Photography, Academic Press, 2010, requiring revisions, new text and new photos that would be required.  This text is used in FORS 6207, Photography in the Forensic Sciences each semester.

The student would be tasked with:

* Proofreading
* Assisting in creating new photos and videos for the text.  The current text has 600 photos in the body of the text and another 500 available online to owners of the book.  I would like to replace all these images so readers of the 3rd Edition feel they are getting their money’s worth if they buy the new 3rd Edition.  The text currently has no videos of photographic techniques, and I’d like to incorporate them into the new 3rd Edition.
* Assist in creating Instructor Manual materials, including PowerPoints of Key Terms, outlines of the chapters, and a compilation of new sample test questions.
* Research the relavent literature on the text’s subject matter, to provide a current list of suggested readings at the end of every chapter.
* Research court cases relevant to crime scene photography since the last Edition, to supplement the Chapter on Legal Issues Related to Photography and Court Cases.
The candidate must have a photographic background which is beyond normal pleasure photography.  Having worked as a photographer on a high school or university newspaper, or worked professionally in the field of photography are optimal.  Being able to document a serious photographic hobby is also good.  Currently majoring in photography is good.  This work would easily occupy a student for 4-8 hours per week, and would certainly be worthy of academic credit


Bethany Cobb, Honors

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the most powerful explosions in the universe, each one likely signaling the formation of a new black hole in a distant galaxy. Despite the wealth of GRB detections provided by the Swift and Fermi satellites (which are both orbiting telescopes dedicated to gamma-ray studies), the exact nature of GRB progenitors remains elusive. GRBs can be studied at many different wavelengths. Observations at the highest energies (gamma-ray and X-rays) are provided by Swift and Fermi. This light can be studied using frequency analysis techniques (e.g. Fourier analysis) to probe the physical processes occurring within the GRBs. Lower energy light also follows the initial gamma-ray/X-ray light. To capture this information, I use a suite of telescopes, including the SMARTS 1.3m and the Gemini North and South 8m telescopes, in a campaign dedicated to obtaining rapid, multi-wavelength observations in order to model GRB spectral and temporal behavior to shed light on GRB physical properties and GRB formation environments. In particular, I am interested in detecting and characterizing supernovae associated with GRBs in order to shed light on the formation mechanism for long-duration GRBs. Interested students can become involved in this research at a number of different levels and different time commitments. Students new to astronomy/physics may assist with literature research related to on-going projects. Students with a science or programming background may become involved in data processing and analysis. Flexible hours.

Political Science

Sarah Binder

The Federal Reserve was born out of financial crisis a century ago.  Constrained by American antipathy towards centralized control of its financial system and hostility towards Wall Street, Congress and the president created a unique monetary institution— a hybrid of a dozen regional Federal Reserve banks and a relatively weak board in Washington.  Although elements of the Federal Reserve’s structure have been stable since its creation in 1913, lawmakers have periodically moved to centralize and expand the powers and organization of the Fed.  Change typically occurs in the wake of financial and economic crises when congressional critics blame the Fed for a soured economy and adjust its powers in response.  Such attacks seem particularly acute today, with both liberals and conservatives attacking the Fed for its lack of transparency and for its unconventional policy choices before and during the latest financial crises.

In this project, I’m investigating the relationship of Congress and the Federal Reserve in the aftermath of crisis, focusing on politicians’ calls for institutional reform.  The project tackles two questions.  First, are today’s attacks unprecedented or just par for the course in the aftermath of a recession?  Second, I ask why some congressional reforms of the Fed succeed, while others fail?   To help answer these questions, I have been building several datasets on Congress’s relationship with the Federal Reserve.  The first measures congressional criticism of the Fed as reported in the New York Times between the early 1960s and the present.  The second compiles and codes bills introduced by members of Congress that would alter the powers or structure of the Fed over the same period.  The third constructs a time series of polling on public approval of Fed from the early 1970s to the present.

I am looking for an undergraduate student who has interests in American politics, American political history or political economy, and who is conscientious, meticulous, and self-reliant.  Depending on how much progress I make over the summer, I would envision the student helping me with the data collection and coding for one of the first two datasets mentioned above.   For the NY Times dataset, this would entail selection and coding of relevant articles to determine the identity of legislators paying attention to the Fed; for the congressional bills dataset, it requires some on-line work on the Library of Congress website (and potentially some microfiche work in the library) coding the content of bills addressing the powers of the Fed.  I am flexible on the time/credit hours requirements.

Fran Buntman

Prof. Buntman seeks an undergraduate honors research assistant to study the challenges to the contemporary realities of punishment in the criminal justice system.  Depending on the student’s strengths and interests, as well as the stage the interconnected research projects – all centered around this common theme – are ‘at’, will shape the precise duties of the student. Prof. Buntman would prefer to work with someone with strong qualitative research interests with a substantive concern with some of the actual issues at stake – criminal justice and especially sentencing reform; political and policy change; the interaction of civil society, social movement, and electoral political groupings.

The project examines what proposals are being made for criminal justice reform and how criminal justice reform is being made possible in terms of the dynamic interaction of the political parties, stakeholders, interest groups, federal and state budgeting and policy imperatives, media, public opinion, and electoral politics. The heart of the project in Fall 2012 would be a comparison of the politics of criminal justice reform in three states. Research tasks would likely include the following:
– identifying and summarizing relevant academic literatures,
– identifying and coding relevant newspaper/news/internet and similar sources of information,
– coding interviews
– creative internet searches of everything from activist organizations to how criminal justice is emerging in the 2012 elections.
Although the amount of time the student would spend would depend on the credit hours s/he wants to earn, a once a week work planning and assessment meeting (and possibly other students in the research team) followed by about four hours of largely independent research the student would be doing, based on the weekly meeting instructions, which would then be reported back, usually via e-mail.
Ingrid Creppell, Honors

I am working on a book about the phenomenon of “enmity” (tentatively titled: Varieties of enemy experience) as distinct from war and from propaganda.   Enmity is a type of relationship and a specific state of mind in which hostility, an expectation of harm/danger, and a disposition to act with potential violence characterize one’s perception of another group.  I want to study examples of this state of mind, in order to determine:

  • The emotions, beliefs and reasoning that characterize it – what does it look like from the outside and from the inside (objective and subjective perspectives)
  • How/when does it emerge?
  •  Background factors that set the stage and make it possible
  • Triggering factors
  • Who becomes an enemy?  Why do people move from a normal relationship or one of low-grade tension/competition into enmity? Was there a possible way out of transformation into this locked-in mindset?

These questions serve as the framework of the project.  However, the more immediate research project for which I request assistance will compare the enmity between colonists in 17th century America and their Indian neighbors to the enmity that develops between colonists and the British in the 18th century.  These developed as two different types of enemy experience.

Student assistance is required for:

  • Library research on the early modern relationship between colonists and natives in terms of general accommodation, interdependence, varieties of conflict.  I would like the student to help assemble the most up-to-date bibliography on the current state of debates and research on colonial-native interaction.  It was not “all genocide all the time.”
  • Data collection of specific texts, which will be the primary documents we use to interpret the psychological, moral and strategic aspects of the relationships.
  • Reading of secondary material to highlight language usage, moral arguments, etc.
  • Reading of original documents to begin to reconstruct emotional and moral perception and reasoning, which must include (a) background world-views, (b) practical expectations, (c) assumptions about other groups, grievances, fears, etc.

I am preparing a paper for submission to a volume on early modern forms of tolerance/intolerance in late summer.   I need a student to begin as soon as possible and to work through the summer whenever available.    Ideally, the student would work 6-8 hours per week, but of course this is negotiable.

John Sides

***UPDATE*** The research assistant working on this project may be compensated up to $1000.

The research project is a book on the 2012 presidential election.  This book has two motivations.  The first is to depict and explain the drama of the 2012 election.  At the moment, the odds of Obama’s reelection on the betting market Intrade are about 50-50.  The weak economy all but guarantees a tight race.  It will provide an engaging story regardless of the outcome.  If Obama wins, it will be a story of how his campaign somehow overcame the debacle of the 2010 election, intransigent congressional Republicans, economic headwinds, and the Republican nominee him or herself.  If Obama loses, it will be a story of how the Republicans won back the White House and why Obama’s star fell so quickly after the apparent promise of his victory and the general swing to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008.

The second motivation is to amplify the voice of political scientists amidst attempts to tell the story of 2012.  Journalists typically write the history of American presidential elections because they are on the campaign trail with the candidates, which gives them authenticity and lots of good stories.  The luxury of just telling their stories means they can publish their books very quickly once the election is over.  However, their anecdotal evidence is not robust or powerful in the statistical sense.  Their interpretations are sometimes considered implausible or just plain wrong by scholars of campaigns and elections.  Nevertheless, these books help to cement conventional wisdom about the election by offering explanations of how the campaign mattered and why the election turned out as it did.

The kinds of data used by political scientists may appear to have a lower fidelity to presidential campaigns than the first-hand observations of journalists, but these data are far more informative than reporters’ memories.  The problem is that political scientists typically present their data and, through it, their own narratives much too late to influence the wider discourse—usually at least a year after the election has concluded (and typically several years).

The goal is to produce a book that draws on political science theories, uses systematic data, is written accessibly, and is published in hard copy by the summer of 2013.  Because chapters of the book will be written as the campaign is underway, they will likely be revised and published in electronic format during that time—making the book partially serialized.  This helps create the need for ongoing research assistance.

The research assistant would need to devote about 5 hours per week to the project during the Fall semester 2012.  The RA would have three main duties.

1.       This person would need to assist in gathering publicly available survey data and other elections data and compiling that data into a spreadsheet.  This would not entail any detailed knowledge of statistics, merely the ability to use a program like Microsoft Excel.

2.       This person would assist in gathering media accounts relevant to the story of 2012.  For example, with the economy as weak as it is, one question is whether Obama erred by not asking for a larger stimulus.  The RA could compile media coverage of the stimulus debate to see whether that was a realistic possibility given the stated views of key Senators.  This would entail the ability to search and compile information from Lexis-Nexis or other archives of news content.

3.       This person would also assist in the ancillary tasks related to the preparation of chapter manuscripts, such as fact-checking, confirming sources, bibliographical work, and so forth.

Given these duties, the research assistant does not need any specialized knowledge or training.  However, a general interest in politics and the 2012 campaign is probably essential.  Basic familiarity with the software and databases noted above is also helpful.  Perhaps most important is self-motivation and diligence, so that the research assistant can accomplish these tasks without extraordinary supervision and can produce timely and accurate results.

Real Estate and Finance

Tom Guerts

Prof. Guerts is currently working on a textbook entitled “Global Real Estate Capital Markets: Analyzing Risk and Return” to be published by Oxford University Press. I am one of the main authors, but in addition will be editing several chapters written by other contributors. I have attached the original book proposal. He seeks one or two students to proofread chapters of the manuscript and help improve the quality of the writing. A working knowledge of economics/finance would be helpful, but is not required. The main issue at hand is to check the manuscript for typos, grammar, and to make suggestions on clarity and helping to ensure that the contributions of the different authors are somewhat similar in form and structure. Some library research might also be required. 7-10 hours/week.


Antwan Jones

Life course socioeconomic disadvantage and cardiovascular health among urban older adults in Latin America
Although socioeconomic status has been positively linked to health, little is known of how socioeconomic disadvantage experienced in both childhood and adulthood influence cardiovascular illness in lesser developed countries. With particular emphasis on the elderly, this paper uses Latin American data from the SABE project to test whether adult SES disadvantage, net of childhood SES disadvantage, is predictive of being diagnosed with hypertension and experiencing a heart attack. This paper also explores how location plays a role in the relationship between SES and health by providing country-specific analyses. Findings indicate that SES experienced in adulthood is positively associated heart heath, net of childhood SES. However, in the country-specific models, SES is negatively associated with health in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Interestingly, daily alcohol use was protective against cardiovascular illness in all countries. Results indicate that SES advantage does not uniformly translate to a definite heath advantage for elderly Latin Americans.

The student will also be expected to attend two 30-minute meetings to discuss the progress of the project as well as retrieve the assignment for the following week. The remaining time should be spent on assembling of articles relevant to the topic and assisting in the writing of the literature review. The literature review will contextualize the findings that were previously presented at a conference. It is expected that the entire literature review (i.e., past research and theory) should be around 20 double-spaced pages. While the nature of the research will be collaborative, the student must be highly motivated to continue and finish the project during the Spring semester. For those interested in health fields, social science research and/or graduate school, this opportunity will provide mentorship to the student. 7-8 hours per week


Maria de la Fuente

Recent attention to the role of the first language (L1) in second language (L2) learning has challenged long-held anti-L1 attitudes that have dominated foreign language pedagogy for several decades (Scott & de la Fuente, 2008). Similarly, a number of studies have shown that multilingual functioning is a normal process that involves a nearly subconscious interaction between or among a person’s different languages (Kroll & Sunderman, 2003). Most research on the role of the L1 in L2 learning has been conducted from an interactionist perspective (Centeno-Cortés & Jiménez, 2004). However, no study to date has considered the potential differential effects of the provision of explicit feedback in either computer-based or non-computer-based formats to learners in their L1, as opposed to the L2, during focus on form, grammar tasks. In particular, if and how explicit negative feedback provided in the L1 has a differential impact in attention to, and awareness of, specific L2 grammar forms, and if this, in turn, results in a better task performance, is an issue worth exploring. The present study investigates the effects of type of explicit feedback (L1 vs L2) when compared to a lack of explicit feedback on advanced language learners’ production of Spanish passive forms. A group of 42 college students enrolled in sixth semester Spanish will be exposed to two focus on form, input-based grammar tasks in one of four conditions: type of explicit feedback (L1 vs L2), and type of medium of delivery of explicit feedback (computer-based vs. non-computer-based). To establish attention and noticing participants will be asked to produce verbal reports as they carry out the tasks. To measure production of target forms a pre-test-post-test design will be used.

The student would need to help with all aspects of study: designing survey, finding participants within the language program at GW, setting up Bb tasks online for the study, recording and transcribing verbal reports (data collection), helping with administration of pre and post tests, tallying results of pre and post-tests, helping with administration of study’s tasks, descriptive statistics, running statistical analysis on data, writing results. End of September to beginning of December 2012, 3-5 hours per week, with some weeks requiring more than others depending on the phase of the study. Knowledge of statistics need, as well as intermediate/advanced Spanish strongly preferred

7 Responses to “Research Assistantships (Fall 2012)”

  1. student May 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    When did Susan Moller Okin change her name to Robert Churchill?

    • theuhp May 2, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Sounds like you’re already familiar with the work the Prof. is doing, I hope you’ll apply to the RA opportunity. Professors love to work with well informed research assistants!

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