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Research Assistantships

The Eads Family Undergraduate Research Endowment Fund provides funding to encourage undergraduate public policy majors to become involved in faculty research projects

Please apply directly to the person listed in the position description, providing a resume and explanation of your interest in the position.

Please note: to receive EADS funding over the summer, you must reside in NC. No exceptions can be made to this rule, as Duke policies dictate that EADS recipients live in NC.  Please see Student Summer Employment Questions here.

Juniors or sophomores might have an opportunity to build on the experience by choosing to write an honors thesis.

 2020 Fall Projects

Economic Sanctions and Other Issues in American Foreign Policy
Reports to: Bruce Jentleson
Apply to: bwj7@duke.edu

Assist with research on Professor Jentleson's new book on economic sanctions as well as articles and projects on other US foreign policy and international relations issues. Entails scholarly literature review, data gathering, and policy analysis.

Provide some clerical and administrative support including for Bridging the Gap Program, home page updating, conferences, correspondence, travel (professional), managing distribution lists, and related responsibilities.

Research Assistant: Energy Access Project
Reports to: Marc Jeuland
Apply to: marc.jeuland@duke.edu

This position will contribute to the Energy Access Project (EAP) at Duke. EAP is an interdisciplinary research and policy effort that aims to address the challenges around increasing access to modern energy solutions to underserved populations around the world. Our close partners include the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative (SETI), a global, interdisciplinary network of scholars (the administration of which is based at Duke) who conduct research on energy access and sustainable energy transitions in developing countries.
The RAs hired through this position will support  research and communication tasks that may include: (1) conducting statistical analysis of primary and secondary data sets relating to various aspects of energy access in developing countries; (2) conducting economic and statistical analysis to inform policy relating to energy access and energy transitions; (3) helping to develop surveys and coordinate with international partners to ensure successful fieldwork; (4) creating written documentation of methods, data sources, conclusions and policy implications; (5) writing policy-relevant blog posts and policy memos; (6) reviewing and synthesizing academic literature and practitioner ("grey") literature relevant to the theme; and (7) logistical support for workshops and/or conferences of practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers. 
Ideal candidates will have a strong interest in global energy access and sustainability, excellent attention to detail, analytical skills (quantitative, qualitative, or both), ability to conceptualize problems in tractable ways and proactively identify approaches to solving them, ability to prioritize multiple projects and deadlines, ability to work well in individual and group settings, and strong communication skills. Specific tasks can be geared, to some degree, toward the capabilities and interests of successful applicants. Previous international experience, including fieldwork, will be given special consideration. Successful assistantships have the option of being extended by a year and may lead to (a) international summer internships and (b) thesis projects.

How Can Public Policy Ensure Better Working Conditions for Low-Wage Workers?
Reports to: Matthew Johnson
Apply to: matthew.johnson@duke.edu

Creating and cleaning spreadsheets of data, background research on policies and institutions, reviewing economics academic papers. Experience with Stata is a plus.


On Guard for Peace and Socialism: The Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991
Reports to: Simon Miles
Apply to: simon.miles@duke.edu

I am seeking research assistants to help me prepare a book on the Warsaw Pact in Cold War history. I am chiefly hoping to work with students who have foreign-language skills that would lend themselves to this subject, e.g. Albanian, Bulgarian, Czech/Slovak, German, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, or Russian. Depending on students' interests and language abilities, work would focus on conducting research in archival and/or published materials.

Civic Tech: Social Innovation meets Democracy
Reports to: Eric Mlyn
Apply to: eric.mlyn@duke.edu

I am interested in the overall field of civic tech - how technology can help us be better citizens.  Can technology increase voter knowledge and participation.  With tools like Turbo Vote and Countable, to name just two, civic tech offers the promise that innovation can bolster democracy.  I would like to work with a student this semester to help me understand that already exists in this field and what the possibilities are.

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  • Camille Ampey, smiling

    Superstar Research Assistant

    Camille Ampey really knows what it's like to be an undergraduate research assistant. She spent the summer of 2019 conducting research for four different Sanford entities.


    She traveled to courthouses in the area to do public records research for professor Beth Gifford. She created an interactive map of historically black colleges for professor Deondra Rose. She also collected data for professor Sarah Komisarow, and worked on anti-bias research for Sanford's Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.


    Ampey says she especially liked being able to work closely with faculty members, building connections with them and finding out more about the wide variety of research that is happening at Sanford.

Impact of the Statewide NC Pre-K Program on North Carolina Elementary Schools
Reports to: Clara Muschkin
Apply to: muschkin@duke.edu

This study explores the impact of changes in the numbers of students served by high quality Pre-K programs in North Carolina on school quality, as well as teacher satisfaction and turnover. The RA will assist in compiling relevant data on schools, districts, and counties to get a sense of the context in which high quality Pre-K may influence school, student, and teacher outcomes.  The RA also will work with the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey to create files with the items that are most relevant to teacher satisfaction and that are available consistently across survey years.  This work requires familiarity with Excel, and enough familiarity with programs such as R or STATA to be able to produce frequency tables, cross-tabulations, and basic charts/graphs.  Familiarity with SAS is a plus.

Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator (DUIA) Research Support
Faculty: Matthew Nash
Reports to: Taylor Conger
Apply to: taylor.conger@duke.edu

The Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator (DUIA), housed at Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, accelerates social entrepreneurs solving the most pressing challenges facing children and youth worldwide (www.dukeunicef.org).  The RA working with DUIA during the Fall 2020 will help the team prepare for the next cohort of innovators by conducting and analyzing relevant research on global public health issues (likely menstrual health and/or hand hygiene), and related innovations globally. The RA may also assist with analytical support to current DUIA social entrepreneurs under the leadership of the DUIA team. 

Politics of Protected-Area Preservation in the US: an empirical analysis
Reports to: Alex Pfaff
Apply to: alex.pfaff@duke.edu

National parks and other protected areas (PAs) are the foundation of global efforts to conserve biological diversity while also generating other ecosystem services such as carbon storage and water quality and flow. Conservation policy and practice assume that PAs are permanent fixtures on the landscape. However, increasing evidence points to widespread but largely overlooked reduction in protection: downgrading (reduction in status); downsizing (reduction in size); and degazettement (complete erasure), together referred to as PADDD. Proximate causes of PADDD vary but center on access to and use of natural resources, including land for agriculture and water for hydropower, alongside the local political economy. PADDD has recently occurred +/or is under consideration in many countries around the globe. In this project, we aim to analyze the data on political representation and PADDD events over time in the US (working with a recent PhD now at Conservation International who has done analysis of PADDD in the US, including in Yosemite). Understanding which PAs are at risk and which reductions have impact informs policy. At this stage, following prior GIS and other work, the student will mostly be using Stata for some empirical work.


Development & Environment: the evolution of natural capital, tradeoffs, and the roles of trade
Reports to: Alex Pfaff
Apply to: alex.pfaff@duke.edu

Linked to my roles in IPBES (sister to IPCC) -- which emphasized that richer and poorer countries  have followed different paths not only economically but also in terms of natural resources and the environment -- with help from folks at the World Bank I am working with their Wealth Of Nations data at a country level. For decades, they have been working hard to generate the best tracking of how different stocks of capital (manmade, human, natural) have shifted over time, for each nation. We want to better understand the patterns. The student will organize, analyze, visualize, and further communicate trends.

Creating New 21st Century Colleges and Universities
Reports to: Noah PIckus
Apply to: pickus@duke.edu

Since 2000, a select group of new colleges and universities have been created de novo. These institutions have re-imagined what higher education in the 21st century should look like. From the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts to Ashoka University, they have pioneered new approaches to teaching, learning and global education. This project focuses on what we can learn from these new ventures about innovation in higher education in the 21st century and what these different models of education can learn from each other. Student researchers will gather and analyze materials on a set of institutions and support interviews with academic leaders.

Technology and Racial/Structural Inequalities
Reports to: Ken Rogerson
Apply to: rogerson@duke.edu

As part of Sanford's new Cyber Policy Lab, we will be starting a project on technology and racial/structural inequalities. Student RA will work on the Lab's web page and search for and organize resources (web sites, academic scholarship, news articles, simulations, etc.) about racial and structural inequalities in technology, information and data. Skills needed: some web design/maintenance experience.