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Undergraduate Research Opportunities

2019-20  Research Projects for Undergraduate Participation

(some ongoing projects)


Political Polarization and Social Change (Faculty Leader: Robb Willer)

In 2019-2020 Professor Willer will be conducting a series of experimental studies of where individuals' political attitudes and behaviors come from, and how they can lead to social change. Research will include topics such as polarization, persuasion, elitism, social activism, and racial resentment. A central idea of this project is that social and psychological factors powerfully influence political views, and research in this area can help to understand our often confusing political landscape. Additionally, understanding the causal architecture of political attitudes and behavior is essential for taking effective political action, especially in this time of deep and growing political divides. Prof. Willer will test theoretical claims about these concepts in a series of laboratory and field experiments.

Responsibilities: RAs will assist in the recruitment of participants for in-person social psychology studies, run experimental sessions, assist with scheduling and study programming, and will be involved in the design of experimental materials and procedures. The team will meet weekly to discuss research design and methods, and discuss projects with graduate students and other team members.

How Property Owners Shape Housing Market Dynamics in San Francisco (Faculty Leader: Jackelyn Hwang)

While gentrification and research on the topic has grown substantially in recent decades, there is limited understanding of the role of property owners, both owner-occupants and investors, in shaping housing market dynamics. This project will focus on creating and analyzing a database of ownership records and owner characteristics in San Francisco.

Responsibilities: The research assistant will assist with the following activities: (1) Create a dataset on property sales and ownership changes over time by merging multiple sources of property ownership records over time; (2) Code information on property owners and property locations for analysis;  (3) Conduct preliminary fieldwork with property owners to inform research design.

Gentrification and Displacement in the West (Faculty Leader: Jackelyn Hwang)

This project will examine the consequences of gentrification and declining housing affordability in the Bay Area and other regions in the West (in the U.S.) with a focus on residential displacement. The project will involve analyzing patterns of residential mobility in relation to neighborhood changes and housing and development policies, including examining anti-displacement policy efforts.    

Responsibilitiies: The research assistant will assist with the following activities: (1) map and compile results as table and figures; (2) assist in developing policy reports and academic publications; and (3) gather background information on specific policies, developments, and cities in the West. Proficiency in Excel and R preferred, and experience with ArcGIS or using spatial data in R is a plus.

The Impact of Urban Change on Health (Faculty Leader: Jackelyn Hwang)

This project will develop, validate, and test the reliability of automated methods (based on computer vision and deep machine learning) to develop measures of the physical conditions of neighborhoods and will use these measures to examine the impact of changes in the physical conditions of urban environments on individual- and neighborhood-level health.

Responsibilities: Research assistants will engage in the following activities: (1) develop and administer surveys of neighborhood blocks using Google Street View imagery; (2) assemble and clean longitudinal database of imagery; (3) clean and evaluate results from crowdsourced surveys, automated methods, and health data; and (4) assist in developing and testing algorithms for automated methods using deep learning and machine vision techniques. 

Relationship Dynamics, Relationship Commitment, and Dating Behavior (Faculty Leader: Michael Rosenfeld)

This project will examine how people meet romantic partners, and how they use online dating and phone apps, and how they find partners who are looking for the same commitment level as they are.

Responsibilities:The undergraduate RA will interview subjects, always together with Professor Rosenfeld. The undergraduate RA will be responsible for transcribing the interviews, and the undergraduate RA, together with professor Rosenfeld, will work on interpreting the interviews.

The Impact of Civilian Review Boards on Deadly Encounters with Local Police (Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

Recent efforts by the Black Lives Matter movement have prompted policymakers and scholars to consider whether patterns of police violence, crime, and poverty can be countered by establishing police-oversight boards called Civilian Review Boards (CRBs). This project explores the impact of movement activities from 1980 through the present on the establishment of CRBs to see if they affect the rate of civilian deaths in officer-involved shootings. 

Responsibilities: Students will develop detailed histories of each deadly encounter reported in newspapers (archived online by Newsbank, available from Stanford Library) to code all aspects of each event. Students will cross-check these data with the user-supplied archive Fatal Encounters. Students will also explore two other archives of officer-involved deaths, published beginning in 2015, by The Guardian (“The Counted”) and the Washington Post (“Fatal Force”) that each organization has verified. 

Violence Against Outgroups in the Urban U.S., 1995-present (Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

This project analyzes rates of violence directed against African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ community members, and other groups. Our key idea is that ethnic and racial conflict polarizes attitudes and prejudice that can encourage subsequent violence. We also examine protest against violence using and comprehensive media archive (gdelt) produced and updated in real time by Google.

Responsibilities: Students will be engaged in collecting and coding information on protest and attacks using established coding protocols from earlier studies of protest events. Previous students have used these data for senior theses, term papers, and presentations in department undergraduate research colloquia.

Immigration in History Textbooks (Faculty Leader: Tomás Jiménez)

This project will examine how US history high school textbooks from 1930 - 2008 have discussed immigration as part of the American national narrative. 

Responsibilities:An RA will locate, scan, and code relevant portions of text from high school US history textbooks and will also be involved in the preliminary analysis of these texts. Jimenez will meet with the RA bi-weekly to discuss progress on the project, and to map out the broad trends in portrayal of immigrants and immigration in the texts.

RV Living (Faculty leader: Tomás Jiménez)

We study the daily strategies and potential institutional support mechanisms that enable individuals and families to sustain living in campers/RVs/vehicles in the Bay Area. 

Responsibilities: RAs will assist in the recruitment of participants for in-person interviews, interview scheduling, conducting interviews, and reviewing and coding data files. RAs may also be asked to assist in conducting literature reviews and collecting additional materials related to the study. 

Who Takes Credit for Teamwork? (Faculty Leader: Shelley Correll)

This project uses an in-person experiment to examine how individuals working in teams give and take credit for collective work.While the presence of teams in the workplace is now routine across industries, there are conflicting findings regarding whether the use of teams helps or hurts women’s outcomes at work. When monetary benefits and leadership opportunities are a result of who gets credit for contributions at work, the question of who is allowed to take credit becomes important. 

Responsibilities: The student RA will assist with participant recruitment and running in-person experimental sessions. Running the study involves setting up, delivering instructions, de-briefing, and paying participants. Students will be part of a research team that includes graduate students and faculty. 

Men’s experiences with sexual harassment in technology work (Faculty Leader: Shelley Correll)

The #MeToo Movement has brought a great deal of attention to the commonplace nature of sexual harassment experienced by women in the workplace, but men’s experiences are less well-understood. Are there parallels between women’s and men’s experiences of sexual harassment? What other kinds of sexual interactions do men experience in the workplace? This project seeks to explore these questions by interviewing Bay Area men working in tech.

ResponsibilitiesThis project requires a student who can effectively interview men about their experience with sexual interactions in the workplace. The student RA will conduct semi-structured interviews with men using a pre-established interview protocol. The student RA will also assist with transcribing these interviews. Students will be part of a research team that includes graduate students and faculty.

The structure of social institutions and inequality of opportunity (Faculty Leader: Michelle Jackson)

Social functions that were once provided by the family and local community are increasingly provided by specialist social institutions such as schools, the medical system, and the state. This process, known as differentiation, is hard to measure, and we therefore know little about the current extent of differentiation. The project aims to measure trends in differentiation over the past half-century in the United States.

Responsibilities: Research assistants will collect information from government documents, websites, novels, and other written sources to track changes in differentiation over time. RAs will work closely with Michelle Jackson in identifying sources of data and conducting basic analyses.

Elite Mobility in the Chinese Bureaucracy (Faculty leader: Xueguang Zhou)

We will collect data on patterns of cadre mobility in selected Chinese regions and examine, through the flow of personnel, the interconnectedness of bureaucratic offices in the Chinese bureaucracy.

Responsibilities: The RA’s main responsibility is to collect data and conduct data analysis on this project. The student can learn real processes of conducting social science research, from data collection, data cleaning, to data analysis and report writing. I will have weekly meetings with the research team.

Deportable: Latin American Families Navigating Law and Life in Punishing Times (Faculty Leader: Asad L. Asad)

How do Latin American immigrants and their U.S.-citizen families navigate daily life under the threat of deportation? This book project draws on five years of in-depth interviews with Latin American families and multiple years of population-representative survey data to examine families’ diverse risk perceptions and responses to deportation.

Responsibilities: The student would be engaged in three primary tasks: 1) conducting targeted literature and news media reviews of key issues related to the overarching argument of the book, 2) combing interview data for information about the prevalence of certain themes or ideas across the multiple years of interviews, and 3) analyzing secondary survey data related to the threat of deportation. Experience in survey analysis is a plus.

Precarious Citizenship: Judicial Decisions in U.S. Denaturalization Cases (Faculty Leader: Asad L. Asad)

This project examines federal judges’ written decisions pertaining to denaturalization, or the process of removing an immigrant’s acquired citizenship. It will consider legal and policy efforts at denaturalization, as well as analyze patterns of denaturalization as they relate to an immigrant’s age, sex, and national origin.

Responsibilities: The student(s) would be engaged in three primary tasks: 1) conducting targeted literature and news media reviews related to denaturalization, 2) creating a database using judges’ written decisions to summarize denaturalization case characteristics, including the age, sex, and national origin of naturalized citizens as well as legally-relevant case characteristics, and 3) examining in greater depth the content of judges’ written decisions through close reading and coding of the written decisions. Creation of the database may require manual coding of these relevant characteristics, but students with experience using automated methods of text collection and analysis are highly encouraged to apply. 

Immigration Law and Health (Faculty Leader: Asad L. Asad)

What is the relationship, if any, between immigration law and health? This project considers this question in a series of studies examining this relationship in the United States at the national, state, and local level.

Project Responsibilities: The student(s) would be engaged in three primary tasks: 1) conducting targeted literature and news media reviews related to immigration law and health, 2) coding and analyzing in-depth interview data with Latin American families for health-related themes, and 3) coding and analyzing large-scale survey data on immigration law (at the state and national level) and health. Students experienced in qualitative coding and/or statistical analysis are highly encouraged to apply.

Inequality in Silicon Valley (Faculty Leader: Forrest Stuart)

Over the last two decades, Silicon Valley has witnessed one of the most dramatic growths in inequality found anywhere in the United States. This research project will produce a fine-grained demographic and spatial analysis of this development, which will allow for an up-close ethnographic examination of the causes, contours, and consequences of “tech-driven inequality.”

Responsibilities: To use GIS software and census data to analyze the cities, neighborhoods, and census tracts most affected. The research assistant will also conduct preliminary fieldwork alongside residents and organizations most impacted.

Becoming Lawyers in an Age of Crisis (Faculty leader: Matthew Clair)

American society is experiencing myriad crises--in democracy, policing and incarceration, sexual assault and gender-based violence, and environmental degradation. Legal change could either alleviate or worsen these problems. What motivates people to go to law school today? How does law school influence their ideas about law, social order, and social change? How might law school students influence law school curricula? This project will follow a diverse sample of people in the Bay Area over seven or more years as they apply to law school, attend law school, and decide what to do with their law degree.

Responsibilities: RAs will work with Professor Clair to recruit ~100 participants for the study. RAs will assist in conducting initial surveys and in-person interviews with the study participants. RAs may also conduct literature reviews and help to gather additional materials related to the study.

A Computational Atlas of Human Misery (Faculty Leader: Jeremy Freese)

The project involves working with large amounts of text data (think: Reddit).  Using natural language processing methods, we are working to identify passages in which individuals narrate personal problems they are having.  Our goal is to map the sorts of problems that co-occur with one another in these data, and the connections among problems that people draw when describing them.

Responsibilities: RA will assist in helping to wrangle the associated data and help create the methods that we use to benchmark the machine language classifiers.  More sophisticated spelunking into natural language processing techniques is also possible if the RA has or seeks to develop this skillset.

Competitive Innovation in Contemporary Sport (Faculty Leader: Jeremy Freese)

The unrelenting zero-sum nature of competitive sport inspires endless efforts at innovation by competitors seeking an edge. This project collects and elaborates examples of innovation in sport, especially how these innovations developed and how opponents responded. By doing so we hope to provide insight into strategy and innovation more generally.

Responsibilities: Working with Professor Freese, the RA will gather information about different innovations, interpret the information that they find, and systematically archive both the primary information and their interpretations of it.