Header Image for Basic Page

You are here

Research Assistantships

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

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

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

2018 Summer Projects


Accountability and Global Health Governance: Aligning International Organizations own conduct with Human Rights

Reports to: Catherine Admay, JD

Apply to: admay@duke.edu

Highlight for Basic Page

  • Two students smiling

    Bonding over Pub Pol

    Q: How did you get into public policy?

    Daniel: Well initially, when I took Public Policy 155 (Introduction to Public Policy), I was not very sure about my decision ... However now I see that there’s much more to public policy than the core courses. It’s a very interdisciplinary major which features research, business implementation, micro and macroeconomics, and even facets of cultural anthropology. So it’s just a very diverse major.

    Isabelle: I agree. I like having a diverse major because I’m actually a pre-med student but I’m also very interested in other things. So something I like about the public policy major is that you can take a global health ethics but you can also take a journalism class.

    Q: So you bonded over the major?

    Daniel: We knew each other beforehand; we were in the same residence hall in Gilbert-Addoms.

    Isabelle: Well when I walked into microeconomics I was like ‘Heyyy! Daniel!’

    Daniel: Yeah and I was like ‘Isabelle! You do this too!’ Yeah, we bonded after that! I think that’s another facet of public policy – bringing people with different backgrounds and different academic interests together. Isabelle, who is pre-med and still likes policy implementation, and me who is formally interested in West African development.

    -Isabelle Doan & Daniel Ntim (PPS’20)

    Explore more #HumansofDukeSanford stories.

As part of this project, we will consider a range of institutional accountability mechanisms that the World Health Organization might adopt to ensure that it’s medical guidance (protocols) are in keeping with its constitutional obligations and human rights responsibilities around non-discrimination and the right to the “highest attainable standard of health.” To envision new possibilities, we will explore the literature on UN accountability failures (especially around peace keeping missions) and suggested institutional reforms to be more pro-active about preventing these failures, and to provide an effective mechanism for redress for “affected people.” Research will be conducted on equality and non-discrimination law and how “cost effectiveness” and “low resource setting” constraints might feature within that law. I will also need help with ad hoc research projects connected to editorial work for the book I’m co-editing on Accountability and Global Health Governance and with basic organizing tasks.

If you are seeking to combine research with taking a course over the summer and are eligible for Work study support, please let me know this as part of your cover note.

English Learners in Elementary School: Website Design and Survey Support

Reports to: Leslie Babinski

Apply to: lb107@duke.edu

The summer RA will participate conducting literature reviews and designing a website for a teacher professional development program to support the language and literacy skills of young English Learners.  The tasks will include designing a website, conducting literature reviews, researching online course options, managing surveys in Qualtrics, and proof reading and editing proposals and reports. Organized, self-motivated student with web design and excellent writing skills preferred. $13/hour.


Join an exciting start-up environment at the World Food Policy Center to help launch initial projects and programs.

Reports to: Kelley Brownell/Sarah Zoubek

Apply to: sarah.zoubek@duke.edu

Assist World Food Policy Center faculty and staff on project work that may include primary/secondary research (both qualitative and quantitative), provide event planning and communications support, and grant writing support related to key projects of the center, including, but not limited to: -Working with the Mayor’s Office in Durham, NC to establish the city as a model food systems community, as well as with a rural counterpart in Edgecombe, NC. Topics include: early childhood development and nutrition, food and faith, food as an economic driver, and food and healthcare; -Creation of a sustainable seafood and nutrition program in partnership with the Nicholas Institute and Marine Lab; -Execution of a food waste project.


Candidate Training Programs: Do They Work?

Reports to: Nick Carnes

Apply to: nicholas.carnes@duke.edu

This project will study the organizations that train people to run for elected political office. The main questions will focus on what these organizations hope to accomplish and whether they actually achieve their objectives.


Adverse Childhood Experiences: Identifying policy, practice, and service intervention points

Report to: Beth Gifford

Apply to: beth.gifford@duke.edu

This student will be involved in conducting literature reviews that compare work being done in pediatric settings and social care settings regarding children who have experienced maltreatment and/or whose caregiver has experienced adverse childhood experiences. This work will contribute to ongoing work funded by the Bass Connections ABC Thrive program that aims to bring system-level change to better serve children and families in Durham and create generalizable knowledge for other communities.  The student may also help develop survey and interview questions for professionals and family members involved in this issue.


The Making of Global Governance Structures

Reports to: Tana Johnson

Apply to: tana.johnson@duke.edu

International organizations -- the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and many others -- deal with everything from peacekeeping to financial crises to environmental problems.  This project looks at who creates and shapes international organizations, and how those organizations operate individually and collectively.  I seek assistance with tasks such as library searches, database searches, data collection in Excel spreadsheets, and I wish to hire an undergraduate who is majoring in both Public Policy and Computer Science.  Work-study is preferred, but not required.


Research on the Changing Labor Market for Lower-Wage Workers, and on the Effectiveness of Environmental Regulations

Reports to: Matthew Johnson

Apply to: matthew.johnson@duke.edu

I am seeking a student to help me on research projects primarily focusing on two topics. The first project seeks to understand how changes in labor regulations, along with the vast increase in exposure to international trade, have affected the ability and interest among U.S. workers to form labor unions and negotiate for better pay. The second project will focus on whether firms are able to distort the effectiveness of environmental regulations through financial contributions to political campaigns.

The student's duties will primarily consist of conducting literature reviews, preparing large datasets for statistical analysis, and he/she may be asked to perform some statistical/econometric analysis depending on experience. Experience using R or Stata, and experience with quantitative analysis, is preferred but not required.


Catching up with social capital

Reports to: Anirudh Krishna

Apply to: ak30@duke.edu

The notion of social capital, that once provided powerful predictions of differences across societies in terms of economic growth and the depth of democracy, has come under fire more recently. An important reason for its devaluation as a social science construct and valuable explanatory variable arises from the stretching of the concept and the proliferation of definitions. Tracking the development of this concept between its halcyon years (of the late 1990s) through its subsequent diffusion and decline (circa 2015) will illuminate intellectual history: how does a concept gain wide popularity and then lose relevance?


If he can do it, I can do it, too: India's new role models

Reports to: Anirudh Krishna

Apply to: ak30@duke.edu

An earlier part of this project helped identify a group of individuals, all in the age-group 25-35, who have risen to positions far above those of their parents and those attained usually by the peers with whom they grew up. How were these individuals able to achieve their large ascents? What are some common (and uncommon) elements in their stories, that differentiate them from others, also capable, who fail to make the grade? Student/s engaged in this project will (a) undertake a short apprenticeship on interview techniques; (b) undertake interviews with a few high achievers with the intent of constructing an analytical narrative of the path that brought them to where they are now; and (c) compile and compare these experiences. They will be in regular discussion with the professor. (NOTE: preference for those who speak one or more Indian language)


Evaluation of the Book Babies Project

Reports to: Nicole Lawrence

Apply to: nicole.lawrence@duke.edu

Book Babies, a program developed by Book Harvest, provides Medicaid-eligible children and their families with age-appropriate books every six-months from birth until the start of kindergarten. The goal of the program is to provide books and guidance for parents so they can help develop their children’s pre-literacy and school-readiness skills in order to promote success in kindergarten and beyond.

The Center for Child and Family Policy is conducting a 6-year RCT study to assess the effectiveness of the Book Babies program. The study includes the collection of observational data, as well as the administration of child and parent assessments. Student involvement will include data collection in the field, data entry, and research coordination.


Debating Deterrence: Defining and Seeking Security within the Warsaw Pact

Reports to: Simon Miles

Apply to: simon.miles@duke.edu

I am beginning research on a second book, Debating Deterrence: Defining and Seeking Security within the Warsaw Pact, which will examine the ways in which the members of the Warsaw Pact conceived of and provided for their own security in the nuclear age based on international archival research.

RAs will be primarily responsible for research in primary sources (archival documents, memoirs, published document collections) and in secondary sources, both for historiographical as well as empirical ends. RAs with overlapping interests would be welcome to use these materials in their own research.

Students with relevant language skills are especially encouraged to apply! I am particularly seeking: Albanian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Russian.


The impact of North Carolina's state-wide early literacy interventions on student outcomes in Kindergarten through Grade 3

Reports to: Clara Muschkin

Apply to: muschkin@duke.edu

This project empirically evaluates the effectiveness of North Carolina's early literacy policy interventions for improving student outcomes in the early grades, with particular focus on children who may be at risk of poor academic performance.  The study uses quasi-experimental methods and large administrative data files to compare outcomes at different stages in the roll-out of these programs.  The student RA will be involved in multiple aspects of the study: research literature review, collection of program implementation data, management of data files, some statistical analysis, and manuscript preparation including references, tables, and graphs.


Higher Education Policy Projects, including a study of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Reports to: Deondra Rose

Apply to: deondra.rose@duke.edu


Since 1837, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have provided one of the most significant sources of higher educational opportunity in the United States, especially for African Americans.  Federal lawmakers have played a central role in the creation and development of black colleges.  Moreover, by providing access to knowledge and skills that are central to the capacity of citizens to engage in social, economic, and political life, HBCUs have played a central role in the redistribution of political power in the United States.  I seek to understand the political development of federal policies that contributed to the creation and development of HBCUs.  I also seek to investigate whether these policies have significant feedback effects on the political engagement of HBCU alumni. 

I would like to engage an undergraduate research assistant this academic year to help with this and perhaps other projects examining the feedback effects of education policy on (in)equality in the United States.  A central objective will be to work together on original data collection for my next book project. The student may also assist in other research tasks, including library searches, archival and database research (e.g., gathering historical poll data, archived newspaper articles), and figure/table preparation.


Childhood Risk Factors and Young Adult Competence; ("Parenting Across Cultures")

Reports to; Ann Skinner

Apply to: askinner@duke.edu

This project is a longitudinal study of parenting, child development and risk-taking involving more than 1400 families in 9 countries.  Summer research aides will assist with data entry, newsletter development, literature reviews, and have the opportunity to observe home interviews with families in the Durham area.


Evaluation of the East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI)

Reports to: Elizabeth Snyder-Fickler

Apply to: esnyder@duke.edu

The goal of EDCI is to create a continuum of supports and services that allow children ages 0-21 residing within a 120 block area of East Durham to become high academic achievers and successfully complete college or vocational training.

CCFP leads the evaluation effort which seeks to demonstrate EDCI’s impact on child, family, school, and community-level indicators over time.  Additional goals include understanding the relationship between particular interventions and outcomes, creating a system for shared accountability among community-based partnering agencies, and ensuring the use of real time data for continuous quality improvement.  Students could be involved in the evaluation in a number of ways including; data collection activities in the field, data entry, and the development of reports for various stakeholders.


Targeting Environmental Infrastructure in the Middle East

Reports to: Erika Weinthal

Apply to: weinthal@duke.edu

Research will entail building a database of environmental infrastructure targeted during recent wars in the Middle East, including water, sanitation, and energy infrastructure. Environmental infrastructures serve the bedrock of human security, particularly in urban areas, as well as the principal mechanisms that mediate human impacts on natural ecosystems. Students will work to take stock of the human and environmental costs of war through visualizing the destruction both spatially and temporally. The project will also examine the ways in which international factors have responded to environmental infrastructure destruction in the Middle East and the role of international environmental and humanitarian law.  Students will become familiar with working with visualization tools such as tableau.


International policies in low- and middle-income countries: Data-driven research storytelling

Reports to: Kate Whetten

Apply to: cgray@chpir.org

Under Kate Whetten, the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research (CHPIR) offers students an opportunity to engage an interdisciplinary research team to build skills in data management and communicating research findings. The student(s) would work with an epidemiologist and community psychologist (and humanitarian photographer!), using data from the largest multi-country cohort study of orphaned children ever conducted. The project, focused on Cambodia, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, has clearly defined end-products achievable during the summer. Students are encouraged to bring their own creativity and ideas, and are invited to attend CHPIR research meetings with Dr. Whetten and research staff.