UGRA-2021-22

Undergraduate Research Assistantships


Encouraging interdisciplinary research collaborations between academics and undergraduate students

In Michaelmas 2017, the Centre launched the US Centre Undergraduate Research Assistantship programme as a means of encouraging US-related interdisciplinary research collaborations between academics and undergraduate students at LSE. After resounding success and generous donations from alumni, the Centre is running the programme once again in 2022 for a sixth cohort of students.

I enjoyed meeting the other RAs at the mid-way session. This gave a sense of being part of a wider programme, as the research itself is independent.

Kasia Micklem, Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2021-22

The Research Assistantship program was one of the highlights of my LSE experience and has given me a myriad of personal, academic and professional skills.

Eileen Gbagbo, Undergraduate Research Assistant 2019-20

Collaborating over the course of an academic year, undergraduate students are paired with LSE academics who require assistance in collecting or processing new data, gathering archival resources, writing-up a blog article, or conducting library searches. 

To read about the successes of the 2021-22 programme, check out our donor report. For more information on the previous years' research projects, click here

 2022-23 Research Projects

1. Trade, Human Rights, and US-China Relations: 1979-2001

Faculty: Elizabeth InglesonDepartment of International History
Research Assistant: Mei Yuzuki, Department of International History

This project will explore the relationship between trade and human rights in US-China relations, starting with the US-China Trade Agreement (1979) and concluding with China’s entry into the WTO (2001), and stems from the book project, China and the United States Since 1949: An International History. The project’s focus will be on US Congressional debates that connected trade concessions with human rights, and will analyse the different ways that human rights have been defined and understood over this twenty-year period, paying particular attention to the distinctions between civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social, and cultural rights on the other hand.

The research assistant will conduct a literature review, identifying the core books and articles that address these topics, familiarise themselves with the research the faculty lead has already done into this topic and do further research to help create a primary source database of relevant documents, and work with the faculty lead onanalysing the primary sources; in particular identifying the key ways US congress members defined human rights (i.e. economic, social and cultural and/or civil and political) in different moments.

 

2. Occupational Paranoia: The Case of Chicago Policing, 1862-2022

Faculty: Johann KoehlerDepartment of Social Policy
Research Assistant: Vani Kant, Department of International Relations

This study theorizes how an organization manages and responds to institutional anxieties that arise from perceived threat, disruption, or sabotage —a phenomenon we call “occupational paranoia.” It draws on over a century and a half of annual reports from the Chicago Police Department (1862-2022).This study equips sociologists with a framework to study how paranoia affects the organizing structure of policing and analogous professions that understand themselves as providing a beleaguered service.

The research assistantwill assist in the creation of a codebookand thecoding and analysis of annual reports produced by the CPD from 1862-2022, which will help inform the findings for a research article. They will also write bi-weekly descriptive memos analysing the codes based on the rich qualitative and quantitative data contained in the annual reports. These tasks will require initiative and creativity in handling archival materials (all of which have been digitised and prepared for the RA’s use), an interest in criminal justice policy, and an excitement about American history. The work can be completed remotely, though the RA will be invited to biweekly zoom meetings to monitor progress, ask questions, and provide mentorship and training.This project will provide valuable experience in the design, preparation, and execution of an original research project. In particular, the student will be trained in qualitative coding, which can be applied to content analysis projects they might undertake in the future.

 

3. Passing the economic torch from the UK to the USA in the 20th Century

Faculty: James MorrisonDepartment of International Relations             
Research Assistant: Irmak Dyonmez, Department of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method

This project extends my broader research agenda, specifically on Anglo-American financial cooperation and the “passing of the torch” from the UK to the USA in the 20th Century. This project will first explore the tense dynamics between the UK and the USA in funding the Allied efforts during the two world wars. Second, it will explore the role of John Maynard Keynes in re-shaping the Anglo-American alliance across the first half of the 20th Century. Third, it will expand to some new territory specifically related to the creation of the post-World-War-II Anglo-American order.

These projects are rooted in the documents surrounding the political-economic collaboration between the US and UK across the first half of the 20th Century.The research assistant will help organise, review, and process documents including more than 5,000 pages of materials from Harry Dexter White, the key official in the US Treasury who, with JM Keynes, designed the Bretton Woods Institutions: the IMF, and the World Bank. They will read these documents for their content and organise them according to set rubrics. The research assistant will need to have a passion for reading and investigating digitised primary documents about the global economic order in this period, an eye for detail, and the ability to work in an organised, systematic fashion. The work can be done remotely.

 

4. Anglo-American Relations after the US Civil War

Faculty: Rohan MukherjeeDepartment of International Relations                      
Research Assistant: Maia Halle, Department of Government

This project will study Anglo-American relations in the second half of the 19th century, following the United States’ Civil War (1861-1865). The Treaty of Washington in 1871 is often cited as a pivotal moment when Britain and the US decided to resolve several outstanding disputes and lay the foundations of longer-term rapprochement and eventual alliance. This period is also studied as a rare case of peaceful transition in world politics between a dominant power (Britain) and a rising power (the US).

The research assistant will undertake a thorough review of the theoretical literature on peaceful transitions and the secondary empirical literature on Anglo-American relations between the end of the Civil War (1865) and the Treaty of Washington (1871) and beyond. The main deliverable will be an annotated bibliography of books, journal articles, and other materials relevant to this question and period. If time permits, the RA will also visit the British Library to help determine the relevant collections that contain evidence of British deliberations on relations with the US in this period. The RA will be expected to check in with their supervisor once every two weeks to discuss progress on the annotated bibliography and what they are learning in the process of putting it together. Working on this project will provide insight into the research process and help the RA develop the necessary skills to conduct high-quality research of their own in future.

5. Climate change and the US right

Faculty: Laura PulidoDepartment of Geography and Environment          
Research Assistant: Arjan Singh Gill, LSE Law School

This project examines the role of the right in preventing action on climate change in the US, also known as climate refusal. While it is well-known the extent to which the fossil fuel industry and utilities have sought to sow doubt, disinformation, and blocking meaningful action, less understood is the role and motivations of right-wing politicians. While there is widespread support for climate action across the U.S., including among Republican voters, GOP elected officials refuse to support climate action.

Climate refusal can be understood as a form of “collateral damage,” as white nationalism and anti-statism fuel support of the right. Because white nationalism cannot be contained or channelled, its surplus nature actively contributes to a variety of right-wing projects, including climate refusal. The research assistant will help to builda comprehensive list of climate refusal actions on the part of right wing legislators, officials and judges from the 1990s to the present. This work can be done remotely.

The RA should have a basic understanding of U.S. political systems and structures as well as climate change policies; excellent writing skills; be deeply curious; attentive to details; familiarity with Excel; and, most importantly, be fearless in tracking down information!

 

6. State supervision of poor families in Los Angeles

Faculty: Amanda Sheely, Department of Social Policy
Research Assistants: Bashirat Oladele, Department of Sociology, and Maria Constanza Novellino Ron, Department of Sociology

One of the primary goals of governance in the United States is the supervision and management of poor people. For poor mothers, this supervision is carried out by multiple systems, including the adult welfare, child welfare, and criminal justice systems. Research highlights that state supervisory systems are at the same time overlapping and contradictory.

This study will interrogate this contradiction by conducting a medium sized population study examining the historical development and current structure of state supervision of poor families in one local area – Los Angeles, California. It will seek articulation of the racialized and gendered dynamics of policies and practices with a view to highlighting where systemic harms can be mitigated or where care objectives can be realigned.

The student will create an annotated bibliography of historical research around state supervision by the criminal justice, welfare, and child welfare systems with an emphasis on poor mothers. To support them with this task, they will be provided with a training session with LSE library about how to find literature on a given topic, as well as using Zotero for reference management. The supervisor will also provide the student with detailed instructions on creating annotated bibliographies. The student will also organize and start the analysis of archival documents. This will include using Excel to create a master list of documents, creating a Zotero database for documents found, and preparing the documents for qualitative analysis. To support them, the supervisor will organise weekly project meetings with the student.

 

7. Investigating the role of nuclear weapons in US alliance politics

Faculty: Lauren Sukin, Department of International Relations
Research Assistants: Annabelle Gouttebroze, Department of Government, and Adrian Matak, Department of Government

This research project will explore how U.S. allies evaluate the credibility of the U.S. nuclear security guarantee, using archival research and survey experiments to analyse how states assess various U.S. signals of resolve.This project also assesses the conditions under which U.S. nuclear security guarantees may backfire, as strong signals of resolve can create fears of reliance on the nuclear capabilities of the United States, leading to support within U.S. allies for stronger and more independent military capabilities.

This project requires two research assistants toconduct library and archival research, assist with the design and analysis of survey experiments, and contribute to project management. Throughout this project, research assistants will develop their qualitative and/or quantitative research skills, project management experience, experience with research software, and substantive knowledge on international security, U.S. foreign policy, alliance dynamics, and nuclear politics. Research assistants will gain valuable insight into the process of conducting academic research. Research assistants can expect to conduct both remote and in-person work, including regular meetings with the project supervisor.

 

8. The Phelan US Centre Sustainability Syllabus Hub

Faculty: Peter Trubowitz, Department of International Relations, and Chris Gilson, Phelan United States Centre
Research Assistant: Tasnim Hasin, Department of Government

As part of a broader project focusing on climate change in the United States, the Phelan US Centre is building a syllabus hub for its website to collate reading lists from around the world which address climate change and sustainability as they relate to the US. The objective of this project is to create a free-to-access repository of syllabuses and reading lists that students, academics and other interested audiences can use to facilitate their research on climate change and the US. The research assistant will support the Phelan US Centre team in delivering this project by conducting a search for relevant syllabuses and reading lists, assisting in obtaining permission from their authors for the US Centre to host copies of them, and organising them thematically on a new page on our website. The student will gain an enhanced understanding of the current state of the literature on climate change and the US, as well as web-editing skills.

This project is funded by the LSE Sustainable Projects Fund. Find out more about the LSE Sustainability team here.

 

9. The State of the States

Faculty: Peter TrubowitzDepartment of International Relations, and Chris GilsonPhelan United States Centre
Research Assistant: Jimin Oh,
Department of Social Policy

In 2018 the Phelan US Centre launched The State of the States, a map-based interactive online resource bringing together US state-level information all in one place. This resource went on to win a Guardian Universities Award for Digital Innovation in April 2019. The State of the States is now being developed into a new subscriber-based online platform to help those working for US state and local government to make better decisions about policy and implementation through a database with important and useful state-level facts and figures, and a repository of best practice case studies on policy implementation and effectiveness.

The research assistant(s) will assist in the further development of The State of the States by providing support to source data and content, including researching and writing state policy case studies,and creatingliterature reviews on state policy learning and policy diffusion.

 

 

The programme has been generously funded by LSE Alumni. Read more about the programme at Supporting LSE.

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