Hiring for Open Undergraduate Research Assistant Positions!!
Student applications for Academic Year positions open on November 5, 2018. The deadline for applications will be November 19, 2018 at 11:59pm. Faculty members are expected to make decisions by December 1st, 2018, and students will need to turn in their payroll paperwork to the Office of Undergraduate Research before end of Fall quarter.
The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program pairs inexperienced students who do not have prior research experience with faculty who are in need of assistance on their own research projects. In doing so, students who do not have sufficient research experience to design and carry out their own URG project gain first-hand mentored knowledge of research practices in their discipline, while faculty who would not otherwise be able to hire Research Assistants (RAs) get help with their own projects.
All URAPs pay $15 per hour. Since the maximum award for Academic URAPs is $2000, this comes to ~133 hours, to be worked between the time the student is entered in the Kronos payroll system and May 31st, 2019. Some positions may split the hours between two students. If you are interested in more than one position, you may separately apply to each one, but it is expected that your cover letter will be tailored to each position.
Below, you will find:
- Application Instructions
- Expectations on Cover Letter and Resume Submission
- Link to Application Site
- List of Open Positions
- Detailed Descriptions of all Open Positions
- After finalizing your resume and tailored cover letter, save the documents as a PDF (see expectations below).
- Below, click on the green “Apply Here” button and login to the application system using your netID and password
- On the left hand panel, select “Apply for Open Applications”.
- Click on the “Office of Undergraduate Research” department to view active positions.
- Scroll down to find the position you are interested in. They are listed by the short title of the project, and underneath includes the faculty sponsor’s name.
- Click on the title of the project (in blue) to submit your application.
- Upload the PDF resume and cover letter. Hit submit.
- It will take you to a survey, which you HAVE TO COMPLETE OR SUBMISSION IS NOT FINALIZED.
- The system will automatically generate an email within 15 minutes indicating successful submission. The faculty will also receive an email notifying them of your application.
- Faculty members hiring will be in touch regarding next steps (interviews, etc) when the application window closes on 5/28/18.
You are applying for a position that is competitive – take the time to write a strong application. If you have not written a job application before we recommend you review the resources provided by Career Advancement before starting. The following tips should serve as a baseline; Students can receive additional advising on this process from Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA), and they can schedule an appointment through CareerCat. There are lots of helpful examples and resources on the NCA website, including a guide to creating a resume in 5 steps and information on cover letters.
- Please keep both documents to a maximum of 1 page
- Save documents as PDFs prior to submission
- Minimum 11 point font
- Refer to faculty using their correct titles: "Prof" or "Dr", not “Ms” or “Mr”. (And it should go without saying that you should never be using "Miss" or "Mrs" in a professional context unless the person you are addressing has specifically asked you to address them that way.)
- Introduce yourself so they know who is applying. In the first paragraph, it is a good idea to let the faculty mentor a) who you are, your year, and potential major or field of interest, and b) share how you found out about the job opening (ie did their colleague recommend it to you? Listserv? Course you are talking? Office of Undergraduate Research staff member? Additionally, if you have a residential college affiliation (ie Willard, Shepard, etc) please mention this as well.
- Tailor your application to the job you are applying for. A potential employer wants to know why you are interested in this specific position, and to get an idea of the skills, qualities, and experiences you would bring to it. They are less interested in generic discussion of your personal history, or experiences that have no bearing on the job they want done. So refer to specific reasons why you are interested in this position, and give reasons (supported with evidence – see below) for why you are the best candidate for this job. You will not likely be a competitive candidate if you cannot articulate why a specific job is a good match for you, and what you hope to get out of it.
- Provide evidence for your statements. It’s not enough to say “I am passionate about history/genetics/psychology/etc.” Why should the person reviewing your application take your word for it? And how does your claim to be passionate distinguish you from all the other applicants claiming exactly the same thing? Demonstrate your interest through concrete examples of things you have already done. E.g., what coursework have you taken? What independent study? What prior experiences show that you had some interest in this topic before you read the job ad?
- Your application must be professional. A potential employer is interested in your professional experiences and academic goals, not your hobbies and childhood memories. When you describe your background and interest in the field, remember that this is a job application and not a dating profile.
- Give your potential employer enough information to make a decision. If you only provide generic information and do not give much detail on yourself, how can a potential employer evaluate your interest in, and suitability for, the job?
- Copy edit your application before you send it. This should be obvious…you WILL be judged if there are typos or spelling errors. Don’t let silly mistakes hold back your application.
(scroll down for full descriptions or click on project title)
Project Short Title (click for description)
Spanish and Portuguese
Medical Social Sciences
Human Development and Social Policy
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Human Development & Social Policy
Chemical & Biological Engineering
Faculty name: Tanja Aitamurto
School and Department: Medill, Journalism
Faculty Bio: Tanja Aitamurto, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Medill School of Journalism. She examines new media technologies for informing, empowering, and connecting people, with a focus on digital journalism and democratic processes. Tanja operates in several empirical contexts, including augmented, virtual and mixed reality and crowdsourcing for journalism and democracy. Her work is designed to contribute to a more equal, informed, and inclusive society. Previously Tanja worked and studied at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and University of Tampere, Finland. Prior to returning to academia, Tanja worked as a journalist, reporting from such countries as Afghanistan and Angola. More about Tanja’s work at: www.tanjaaitamurto.com
Project synopsis: Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are increasingly deployed as novel storytelling media in journalism. With their immersive capacities, AR and VR hold the potential to support journalism's dual goals to inform and engage people. When deployed in journalism, AR and VR are hoped to provide more information to the viewer than more traditional visualizations. Moreover, AR and VR can engage the viewer with the story on a deeper level than traditional media. This hope is, in part, based on the sense of presence, the feeling of "being there", that the immersive media have the potential to prompt. In parallel with rapid advances in computational image processing, AR and VR is increasingly enhanced with photogrammetry and meshing computer-generated imagery with documentary capture. This results to mixed reality (MR), also called as cross reality (XR), in which the authentic capture may be indistinguishable from the enhanced visuals. Despite the rapid proliferation of immersive media, it remains understudied how AR and VR affect information relay and engagement in journalism. Important aspects of the user-experience, such as usability and narrative engagement, also remain understudied. Furthermore, it remains unknown how immersive media affect users’ perception about the core journalistic norms of accuracy, objectivity, transparency and authenticity. These questions are particularly important in MR and XR, which blends the boundaries between the authentic and enhanced content. To address these questions, this multidisciplinary project will examine sense of presence, learning, engagement, user- experience and perception of journalistic norms in AR, VR, and MR. The project builds on my existing work on AR and VR in journalism, digital storytelling, and art. The measures are derived from media psychology, journalism studies and human-computer interaction. The project includes two human-subject experiments with a pre-post experiment design, using VR and AR content as stimuli in the treatment condition. We will either produce the stimuli used in the experiments as a part of the project, using resources at Medill (e.g. the Knight Lab), or using existing stimuli from such news organizations' as the New York Times and the Guardian. The goal is to publish at least two research papers in top venues in media and communication studies and human-computer interaction.
Description of the RA position: 2 students may be hired, which means each position can earn a max of $1000. The student will participate in all parts of the research project: designing the study, reading background literature, assisting in human-subjects experiments, organizing and analyzing data, writing up the results and presenting the research paper in meetings and conferences. Based on her/his/their interest, the student can focus more on certain tasks. I will teach all skills in-person to the student and we will practice the skills together so that the student feels confident in performing the tasks. I will provide constructive feedback on the tasks, making sure that the student will have an opportunity to continuously improve her/his/their skills. The student will be a full team member in the research project, whose contributions and opinions are crucially important in the project’s success.
Position Expectations: The candidates interested in this project are expected to have a positive and open approach for learning new skills. There’s no prerequisites or expectations for existing skills. The candidates would need to be able to commit weekly hours to the project.
Time Requirements: We will continue our collaboration in weekly meetings. We will communicate frequently by email and phone as needed. The student will receive continuous guidance and feedback for her/his/their work in a supportive and safe working environment.
Applicant Prerequisites: Applications are welcome from students from all backgrounds and years. The work spans the whole arc of the research project, including participating in designing the study, reading background literature, assisting in human-subjects experiments, organizing and analyzing data and writing up results. There is no minimum required coursework or required existing skills. All skills will be taught during the project and practiced together before implementation. The most important is to have an interest in learning about the craft of research and the domain area. The work will be conducted both collaboratively in a small research team and individually.
Faculty name: Richard Ashley
School and Department: Bienen School of Music, Music Studies
Faculty Bio: Associate Professor of Music, Cognitive Science, and Cognitive Neuroscience at Northwestern University. My research interests are in cognitive aspects of musical structures expressive performance of music, and musical memory and emotion; my research has been published in Music Perception, Journal of Neuroscience, Computer Music Journal, Proceedings of the New York Academy of Sciences, and Journal of New Music Research, among others. I have served as President of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition and am a member of the editorial boards for the journals Music Perception and Psychology of Music. My work has been supported by numerous agencies, including two Fulbright grants to The Netherlands, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Dutch Science Foundation. I am trained as a composer and remain active as a performer on acoustic and electric bass.
Project synopsis: The question of music's meaning has engaged musicians, critics, philosophers and psychologists since ancient times. The proposed project will investigate musical meaning as having emotional/affective and associative/referential aspects. The former approaches meaning as having, at least in part, to do with the feelings and emotions listeners attribute to the music or feel internally while hearing it. The latter has to do with the sense that the music is "about" something, in this specific project handled by musical "concepts" such as heroism, nostalgia, conflict, which are called "topics" by music theorists. Here I will investigate music's affective and conceptual meanings by adapting a common psycholinguistic paradigm. This "visual world" paradigm has experimental participants hear stimuli while simultaneously viewing a computer display,recording their eye movements. For example, a person might hear the sentence "The child reached down and picked up the [..]" while seeing a screen with pictures of a doll, a ball, a bottle, and dog; typical results of such studies are that eye movements anticipate the sound of the most likely word, here, "ball." We will use this paradigm to study nonverbal, crossmodal associations contributing to musical meaning, using visual displays which are spatial (both static and moving), use color, or are related to musical "topics" (e.g. "heroic," "pastoral," and "nostalgic").
Description of the RA position: My research group meets weekly to discuss projects, both those underway and those contemplated or in development. A distinctive aspect of my group is the varied range of projects in play at any point in time: at this writing, we have projects in auditory imagery ("music in the head" and its use in musical activities), expressive performance and its development in the performance studio, groove in drum performance, cognition in music analysis, the understanding of music in film, and perception of and memory for musical form. The undergraduate on the URAP will be a regular part of this group, gaining a considerable breadth of exposure to the many concepts and methods used by me and my graduate students. I expect the proposed URAP student for this project to a) read articles and participate in discussions about these articles, b) discuss hands on lab management issues, and c) share in the process of feedback and critical colloquy on our research projects and their goals. For the experiments themselseves, the URAP student will meet with participants, explain experimental procedures, collect informed consent, collect data, perform such data transformations as are necessary for statistical analysis, and carry out statistical analyses. The student will learn how to use the experimental software/hardware systems we use, which runs on Windows-based machines. The experiment-management software we use is relatively standard (e-Prime) but using the eye tracker (SMI RED-n) as well as audio software and hardware will be an invigorating learning experience for almost any undergraduate. The statistical software I use is JMP, widely used on campus.
Position Expectations: The student will need to be CITI certified for IRB purposes. Familiarity with Windows is important, and knowing E-Prime or another software package for psychological experimentation would be helpful. We will be incrementally designing and changing the experiment over the months, so a willingness to learn some modest programming is also a plus.
Time Requirements: As described previously, the student will meet with me and my graduate students on a weekly basis, but in addition I meet with each student in a separate one on one, one hour meeting. This provides each student—the URAP student included—with both broader and more specific guidance and feedback. I will, as the year progresses, help the student learn how to write IRB materials and to design experiments, as well as write proposals and documents for conferences and publications.
Applicant Prerequisites: Specifically, I seek an undergraduate with the following preferred profile: a) Major in one of the cognitive sciences with a background in music, or in music with a background in the cognitive sciences. b) Familiarity with Windows; preference for familiarity with e-Prime and music/audio hardware and software. c) Completion of, or registration in, a basic statistics class (such as Psychology 201).
Faculty name: Adia Benton
School and Department: WCAS, Anthropology
Faculty Bio: I am a cultural anthropologist with interests in global health, biomedicine, development and humanitarianism. Broadly, I am interested in patterns of inequality in the distribution of and the politics of care in settings “socialized” for scarcity. This means understanding the political, economic and historical factors shaping how care is provided in complex humanitarian emergencies and in longer-term development projects – like those for health. These concerns arise from my previous career in the fields of public health and post-conflict development in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. My first book, HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone (University of Minnesota, 2015), explores the treatment of AIDS as an exceptional disease and the recognition and care that this takes away from other diseases and public health challenges in poor countries. It won the 2017 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S). I am currently writing my second book, The Fever Archive, which focuses on the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, and am seeking a research assistant who can help with the part of the book that addresses epidemic modeling.
Project synopsis: This research project focuses on ‘cultures’ of epidemic modeling, by focusing on the people and institutions that create the mathematical models that explain or predict the spread of deadly pathogens. I am also interested in the impact of their calculations on vulnerable populations where these pathogens have led to relatively large and deadly outbreaks. The project fits broadly into my research interests about global health as an industry, and the political, social and economic processes shaping and shaped by cross-national, interdisciplinary efforts to address health inequalities across the globe.
Description of the RA position: The student will be involved in recruiting research participants via email and phone, tracking communication with research participants, designing interview and observation instruments, transcribing interviews, and developing codes for analyzing interview and observation data. This will require learning how to use MaxQDA, a qualitative data management and analysis software package.
Position Expectations: Students will learn how to organize and coordinate research activities that lead to the production of scholarship – and specifically, peer-reviewed publications and scholarly presentations. More concretely, the student will receive oral and written feedback on their progress on a regular basis, and I expect – and create the environment for -- the student to be open and honest about their educational goals, personal or learning challenges, and their level of comfort performing assigned tasks. I expect to focus on two learning goals for the student. The student will be able to (a) identify and carry out steps in the research process (e.g. developing questions; choosing tools and methods to answer those questions; developing a sampling strategy); and (b) developing basic knowledge of the day-to-day management of research processes (e.g. scheduling interviews; managing recordings, photos, archival data, field notes and transcripts).
Time Requirements: Each month, the PI creates a writing and research plan related to her ongoing projects. On a weekly basis, the student will participate in an hour-long coordination meeting, held at a regularly scheduled time. Together, the PI and student will check progress toward the monthly goals, talk through the process for carrying out the tasks, establish deadlines and concrete deliverables.
Applicant Prerequisites: I am looking for one student with the following traits: excellent time management skills; interest in global health; knowledge of basic tools for tracking and managing processes (excel, calendars, note-taking software); good written and oral communication skills.
Faculty name: Jeremy Birnholtz
School and Department: School of Comm, Communication Studies
Faculty Bio: I am a behavioral scientist focused for the past several years on self-presentation on social media platforms. My work in that area has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Google and Facebook, and I have worked as a visiting professor at Facebook. In my past work, I also focused on the dynamics of routine behavior in organizations, especially as it plays out in seasonal organizations such as summer camps. This project focuses on one such organization over its entire history.
Project synopsis: I have been working toward constructing a participatory online digital archive (see, e.g., Reller, 2012 for examples of other participatory online archive projects) using materials given to me by Camp Maplehurst, a once-prominent Michigan summer camp that was operated by a single family from 1955-2011. I currently have approximately 3,000 photographic prints and slides (from 1957 - 1999), 500 digital images (from 2001 and 2011), 36 camp yearbooks (1969- 2005; these were not produced before or after that), 3 staff manuals from different eras and a variety of other documents including newsletters, brochures, letters to parents, forms, etc. I have also conducted interviews with people affiliated with the summer camp over its entire history. While these interviews will not all become part of the archive, they will serve as a valuable resource in telling the history of the organization. This participatory archive will: 1) serve as a resource for examination of Maplehurst’s history via content coding and analysis of submitted/stored materials, and 2) creating a rich and unique digital archive of one summer camp organization’s entire lifespan for others interested in this topic.
Description of the RA position: The long-term goal of this project is the development of a novel participatory online archive that can be used as a resource for future research (including my own) on institutional history, as well as a community resource for those affiliated with Camp Maplehurst. The student will play a fundamental role in organizing and executing this research. The project involves two data sources: 1) historical artifacts in the form of photographs and documents from Camp Maplehurst (of which there are several thousand) and 2) historical interviews with people involved with Camp Maplehurst over its 55-year history (of which there are currently about 40, with many more planned). Specific tasks to be performed by the student include: 1) assisting with the ongoing organization and development of an interactive database for storing and accessing the historical artifacts in digital form (60% of effort), 2) assisting with management and analysis of historical interviews, including note-taking, scheduling of new interviews, perhaps conducting interviews, and analyzing/consolidating the data from these interviews (40% of effort). The interactive database will then serve as the foundation for an archive to be used in this and subsequent research, and that can be accessed/contributed to by the community of alumni from the camp. This could also serve as the foundation for an interactive history that could, for example, run on mobile apps to allow for virtual historical tours of the facility. This work will be beneficial to my work in that it will allow me to gain substantial traction on this large project that is an important first step to reviving my work in this area. To date I have been working on this project only on my own, and it has suffered. It will also allow the student and I together to develop more formalized protocols and practices for the work, and also bring the student’s outsider (as I was personally involved with this organization) perspective to the project.
Position Expectations: I will teach the student the metadata structures, photo scanning/organization techniques, coding schemes and protocols that I have developed for the project in consultation with the Digital Humanities group at the Northwestern Library. As we make progress on the project, we will consult that team and other relevant experts as necessary. These data organization and database construction skills will be valuable to the student, as databases have become ubiquitous fixtures in virtually all aspects of our society. This project will also allow for the student to read and reflect critically on issues such as data access and privacy for the materials in the archive. Specific goals the student on this project will work on include professionalization (e.g., being prepared and on-time for check in meetings, time management in the face of multiple demands/priorities, the ability to give, receive and respond to constructive critique, etc.), and technical proficiency in applying a metadata scheme in constructing a database, gleaning relevant details in note-taking on historical interviews, construction of historical timelines and (if the student is interested) conducting historical interviews.
Time Requirements: I am committed to meeting with the student at least once per week.
Applicant Prerequisites: I would then aim to hire a candidate that shows strong interest in the project and appears to have the potential both to learn the necessary skills and gain intellectually from the project. I believe that students in Medill and School of Communication, primary constituents of CRC (if you are a CRC student or are affiliated with another residential college, please indicate this in your cover letter), would make excellent candidates but am open to students of all backgrounds.
Faculty name: Rifka Cook
School and Department: WCAS, Spanish and Portugese
Faculty Bio: I hold an ABD in Linguistics, and currently teach first and second year Spanish at Northwestern University of Chicago. My research interests include the Judeo-Español language,
Sephardi culture, teaching with technology and learning styles. The proposed URAP project focuses on one aspect of Sephardic culture.
Project synopsis: The Sephardim (plural of Sephardi) are a Jewish group that descended from Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497. Despite the expulsion, there were Jews who decided to stay in Spain. In order to avoid persecution and escape the Inquisition, they had to “convert” to Christianity. However, this conversion was largely a facade, and many of these Sephardi Jews secretly maintained their Sephardic traditions. This branch of the Sephardic group is known as “Crypto-Jews”. My research question seeks to trace the history of the Crypto-Jews who arrived in the New World through the voyages of Columbus, and came to the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, among other destinations. In that location, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, there are many current descendants who still follow Jewish traditions, such as cooking dishes with kosher practices, and use idioms from their Sephardic tradition, yet these descendants identify as Catholic. Reflecting on this idea, my main research question is as following: how do specific rituals, especially traditional Jewish food practices, reveal the unbroken continuity of the Crypto-Jewish community spanning centuries, even in the face of persecution and exile? The aim of this study is, using their culinary traditions, to trace, tacitly, the history of specific rituals relating to celebrations and traditional foods. I aim to uncover the history of a precious community fragmented by persecution and "pseudo" conversion to Christianity.
Description of the RA position: First, the student will be introduced to the historical background of the Sephardim and Crypto Jews. Together, we will go to the library. By bringing the student to the Library, I want the student to meet with the Librarian, who will lead him/her to learn research methods and learn, for example, “how to collect data”, “how to discover new literature from databases, archives, and other resources". I will then guide him/her how to read scholarly literature understand the topic we will be working on. Once the student has a solid background, I will introduce him/her to learn how to evaluate different aspects of a culinary dish, such as: how to procure the ingredients, what kind of ingredients are used in the dish, what expressions are used while preparing the dish, and so on. The URA work will be focused on three main dishes: 1] Leek and Potato Quajado (a Passover dish prepared by the Sephardi back in the 1400s in the Iberian Peninsula). 2] The preparation of lamb or beef, with the uses of specific ingredients such Olive Oil (instead of pork fat, the usage of which is forbidden to Jews), chickpeas, and coriander. 3] Bread (its uses in daily meals, accompanying dishes). By tracing these practices, I hope to reveal a thread of connection from contemporary practices to those, which the Sephardi peoples implemented in their medieval Spanish homeland.
A. The Student Researcher will demonstrate several particular traits while working with me: critical and open-minded thinking, think open-mindedly, along with the ability to analyze impartially the Crypto-Jew family, a branch of the Sephardim’ family tree (Jews expelled from Spain in 1492). The student should also display an ability to differentiate carefully between facts and opinions. It is my desire that he/she will grow, personally, and be conscious of cultural and global issues, while contributing to the research.
B. I am looking for a student also able to use different sources to collect data: A) from the internet, B) from archives housed in the NU Library, or any other library that has information about the Crypto Jews, and C) from interviews with Jewish people and Non-Jewish people to learn about their culinary traditions related to some religious holidays, such as Passover and Easter.
C. I also hope that the chosen student shall benefit from the experience by learning and receiving something substantive for his/her own journey into this specific aspect of the Sephardic culture. Moreover, the student involved in this research should feel free to express his or her ideas or arguments, and to follow projects through to completion, working independently and responsibly with appointed deadlines.
D. The student also will be working alone (by him/herself) two hours or more, doing "homework" related to the topic of research for that week. The following week we will exchange ideas, based on what we will have studied, whereupon he/she will receive feedback from me.
E. Finally, it will be important that the student will be serious about keeping the schedule I will provide, in order to accomplish our goals.
Time Requirements: I plan to meet with the student once a week for two hours at least. Additionally, he/she will need to work few hours doing “homework” related to the research by him/herself
Applicant Prerequisites: It is my intent to employ a Freshman who is eager to become engaged in digging deep into Sephardi culture --which may, in fact, be an entirely new field for him/her. Ideally, this student will be a member of one of the Residential Colleges. Please indicate your residential college affiliation in your cover letter. There is no need for the Student Research Assistant to have prior knowledge of Spanish. Nevertheless, if he/she happens to have familiarity with Spanish, it would be an asset for us both. Moreover, he/she does not necessarily need to be Jewish. Rather, he/she needs to be a person enthusiastic about learning something which might be unfamiliar to him/her. One of the most important aspects of working together is the sincerity of feeling comfortable with each other. I want the student to feel open about expressing his/her concerns. If some uncomfortable situation arises, we should be able to speak openly about the situation speak and explain what might be bothering us as a concern. Only by expressing our feelings and communicating openly can we avoid any potential conflict and sustain the integrity of our task.
Faculty name: Jordan Gans-Morse
School and Department: WCAS, Political Science
Faculty Bio: I conduct research on corruption, the rule of law, property rights, and political and economic transitions, with a primary focus on the former Soviet Union. My first book, "Property Rights in Post-Soviet Russia: Violence, Corruption, and Demand for Law," explored the declining role of violence and the rising role of law in post-Soviet business conflicts. I am currently working on a new book manuscript, tentatively titled "To Steal or to Serve? Motivations for Public Service in Corrupt States." Drawing on evidence from Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia, the study examines the roots of systemic corruption and investigates strategies for curtailing the predatory states that plague citizens throughout much of the world. My research often involves the interplay of Russian/Eurasian Studies and Political Science, which is at the heart of the project for which I am applying to an URAP grant.
Project synopsis: Two and a half decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, to what extent has Russian Studies been integrated into the broader field of Comparative Politics? On the one hand, the Soviet collapse opened numerous possibilities for analyzing Russia in comparative perspective, both because Russia’s post-Soviet regimes have been less clearly sui generis than communist totalitarianism and because contemporary Russia has remained sufficiently open for scholars to obtain data in numerous and novel forms. On the other hand, Russia’s geopolitical stature, expansive geography, and legacy as the former heart of a communist empire continue to present challenges for scholars seeking to apply lessons gleaned from Russia to other contexts, and vice versa. The current project addresses the question of the extent to which Russian Studies has ben integrated into Comparative Politics, drawing on content analysis of Political Science journals, investigation of hiring trends in Political Science departments, and a literature review of debates over critical topics such as democratization, authoritarian institutions, clientelism, and the politics of economic reform and development.
Description of the RA position: Two students will be hired (each position can earn a max of $1000) and the students will initially conduct two tasks. The first will be content analysis of articles from political science and comparative politics journals. We will be creating a data set for the years 1990-2017 based on eight journals and coding articles by their geographic and thematic focus. Each student will do the coding independently and then the results will be checked for intercoder reliability. The second task will be to create a dataset about the geographic expertise of political scientists at universities throughout the United States. This will require analyzing data from scholars' websites and, potentially, conducting a survey of political science PhD candidates. This work will not require intercoder reliability and so will be split among the two students. The final task will be to conduct basic analyses using descriptive statistics and help make tables for a conference paper that will, hopefully, eventually be a journal article. Participation in the URAP program will allow me to collect data that simply would not be feasible to collect on my own due to time constraints.
Position Expectations: To encourage independence as researchers, students will be given general research goals and asked to contribute suggestions as to how these goals can be achieved. If students struggle to meet expectations, I will in early stages of the project devote more time to working hand-in-hand on the tasks so as to personally demonstrate how I expect the work to be completed. To help develop a positive environment, I will at the outset of the project meet individually with each student to learn more about their backgrounds, academic and career goals, and expectations from participation in the URAP program. We will talk explicitly about the ways in which the project can be tailored to support their individual goals.
Time Requirements: 5-10 hours per week. I will meet with the students on a weekly basis. The day before each meeting each student will submit an update by email detailing progress that has been made in their data collection efforts. I will review this and provide feedback at each meeting.
Applicant Prerequisites: Applicants will be expected to have taken Introduction to Comparative Politics (or a course that covers similar material). Knowledge of the former Soviet Union is a plus but is not required. The ideal candidate will be highly attentive to detail and capable of reading and analyzing large amounts of material very rapidly.
Faculty name: Andrea Graham
School and Department: Feinberg, Medical Social Sciences
Faculty Bio: I am a clinical psychologist and health services researcher, and my program of research focuses on using digital technologies for screening, prevention, and treatment of eating disorders and obesity, and on evaluating the implementation of behavioral interventions. I also am interested in understanding issues such as the costs of treatment that impact adoption of interventions in practice, and in training providers to deliver evidence-based interventions for mental and behavioral health problems.
Project synopsis: The overall project will design and test a mobile intervention that addresses obesity and binge eating. For this academic year, the focus is on applying user-centered design to design the intervention (e.g., how it will be used, the content and features of the intervention) and conducting usability testing with adults with obesity and binge eating. The goal of the usability testing is to ensure the technology is easy to use, perceived to be useful by potential users, and to inform any intervention refinements prior to testing in a pilot trial. This project fits into my overall research interests by making interventions more accessible (e.g., via mobile tools) to people in need.
Description of the RA position: This student will be helping with research to design a mobile app for individuals with obesity and binge eating, which is part of a NIH-funded training grant. The overarching opportunity for this student will be learning about how to initiate and conduct a research project, as this project is in the very beginning stage. Tasks could include recruiting participants, conducting telephone screens and assessments with participants (e.g., semi-structured interviews, administering questionnaires, taking height and weight measurements), helping conduct usability testing with participants, preparing a database for data collection, entering data, assisting with IRB-related tasks, and conducting literature reviews. In addition to working on my research project, my research is housed within the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITs), which has several projects focused on digital mental health more broadly. As such, this student will be invited to join graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff in bimonthly lab meetings and a weekly T32 training seminar focused on bridging psychology and human computer interaction.
Position Expectations: I will work to create a positive mentoring environment by establishing an open communication policy and having regular meetings with the student to discuss the project tasks and their progress with research. At the start of the funded period, I will present a document that outlines my expectations for the position, and I will invite the student to share their expectations/impressions as well, so we can establish mutual goals. I will work hard to be accessible to the student, knowing that it can be difficult or intimidating to ask questions, particularly early on. As the URA program aims to engage students more in science, I also will talk with the student about their career goals, my career trajectory, and details about research products I am working on like manuscripts so they can learn more about the activities of a faculty member at a university/in a medical school. I also will introduce the student to other faculty, staff, and trainees in CBITs, so they have more opportunities for networking, guidance, and visibility into research.
Time Requirements: I will train and provide regular oversight to the student. We will have weekly meetings to check in on their progress, along with regular email and telephone communication as needed. I will provide hands-on guidance for all of the research tasks, and for the participant-facing activities, I will provide training and conduct mock interviews to ensure this individual is trained to fidelity. Of note, I have trained several bachelors-level students to conduct the eating disorder interview assessment I am using in my study. This student also will be expected to complete human subjects training prior to initiating any research tasks. In the event that I am not in the office for a day while the student is there, I will ensure that the student is informed on how to contact me or another CBITs faculty member for help should any questions arise while I am away.
Applicant Prerequisites: Students who express interest in working with me will be asked to provide a resume and cover letter through the application site, and I will conduct a Skype/phone or in-person interview with the top candidates. The ideal candidate will have an interest in psychology, eating disorders or obesity research, and/or using technology for behavior change.
Faculty name: Claudia Haase
School and Department: SESP, Human Development and Social Policy
Faculty Bio: I am a life-span developmental psychologist at Northwestern University where I direct the Life-Span Developmental Laboratory. My research program examines age-related changes, sources, and consequences of individual differences in emotion and motivation across the life span in individuals and couples. My work uses multiple methods (i.e., rating dials, behavioral observations, autonomic physiology, genotyping, structural neuroimaging, questionnaires), diverse study designs (e.g., experimental and longitudinal), and single-subjects as well as dyadic approaches. Much of my research has been devoted to understanding how basic paradigms and insights from affective, relationship, and motivation science can be used to understand adaptive development across the life span. More recently, I have started to apply this knowledge to examine psycho- and neuropathology across the life span, including psychopathology in adolescence and young adulthood (i.e., youth at ultra-high risk for the development of psychosis) and neurodegenerative disease in late life (i.e., Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia).
Project synopsis: The main focus of our research centers around emotion in relationships. We are currently running two studies (i.e., one on emotions in married couples; one on emotions in parents and adolescents). We are studying emotion in relationships using a laboratory-based approach (e.g., by having married couples and parent-adolescent dyads engage in discussions of areas of pleasure and disagreement) and taking into account multiple emotion response systems (subjective emotional experience, emotional behavior [face, body, voice], physiological arousal).
Description of the RA position: The research assistant (RA) will actively engage in a range of research learning experiences including reviewing academic literature, participant recruitment, data collection, observational coding of emotional behavior, psychophysiological assessment, and data analysis. Specifically, the RA will be working with other undergraduate and graduate students on the Emotions in Couples study, along with learning about other ongoing studies in the lab. Specifically, RAs will review relevant academic literature on emotion, relationships, psychophysiology, cognition, and well-being. They have a significant role in the data collection of this study—they help recruit and schedule married couples to come into the lab, learn how to attach sensors that measure physiological activity, monitor the physiological signals during the study, and are responsible for giving instructions to participants during the session. RAs also learn how to prepare this data for analysis. For instance, they get trained by graduate students in observational coding systems to code emotional behavior of the videotaped conversations the couples are having. They also get exposure processing the physiological data. Finally, they participate in weekly lab meetings and regular meetings with me.
Position Expectations: Across our mentorship networks, students receive continue feedback on their work through both verbal and written feedback. For instance, students meet with me to discuss research projects, ideas and goals and check in regularly to discuss their progress. Students who are working to apply for more competitive grants or are writing paper will receive written comments in addition to verbal feedback. With open lines of communication, we are able to quickly address miscommunications that happen. Moreover, a fundamental aspect of research is learning that mistakes happen. As such, we encourage students to both trouble shoot problems that arise as well as feeling comfortable with asking peers, graduate students, or myself when mistakes and problems occur. Overall, our lab provides a nurturing and challenging environment that cultivates student engagement and exploration in undergraduate research.
Time Requirements: Students are expected to commit 5 hours a week in lab with an additional hour for our lab meeting. Students are occasionally asked to help with data collection on a weekend day or weekday evening. We typically seek students who are interested in working with us for at least 3 quarters.
Applicant Prerequisites: I review each application with my graduate students. We are particularly interested in freshman and sophomores who are bright, dedicated, reliable, and interested in the study of emotion, psychophysiology, relationships, and developmental psychology. We encourage all applicants to review our website.
Faculty name: Katherine Hoffman
School and Department: WCAS, Anthropology
Faculty Bio: Katherine E. Hoffman is a linguistic, legal, and sociocultural anthropologist who conducts qualitative research (participant observation, interviews, legal research, and discourse analysis) as well as historical archival analysis. An Associate Professor of Anthropology, she specializes in the relationship between ethnicity, law, history, political economy, and expressive culture. Her research explores this nexus primarily in North Africa and France from the late 19th c. to the present, particularly as it has been shaped by the processes of French colonialism, anti‐ imperialism, nationalism, and postnationalism. She has published two books, the ethnography We Share Walls: Language, Land and Gender in Berber in the Maghrib (Indiana 2010) and is drafting another, Mirror of the Soul: Language, Islam, and Law in French Native Policy of Morocco (1912 ‐ 1956), in addition to scholarly articles and research reports on customary, state and Islamic law in Morocco, and on song and talk among Moroccan Imazighen. Hoffman’s last fieldwork project in North Africa, Revolution’s Refugees, examined the co-existence of two groups of Imazighen (Berbers) during the uprisings around the so-called Arab Spring and the Libyan Civil War of 2011-2012: Libyan refugees from the Nalut region and their rural Tunisian hosts in the Tataouine and Djerba island areas. Regimes of Care is Dr. Hoffman’s first research project based in France and the U.S., grounded primarily in interviews with adoptive parents and discourse analysis of legal, administrative, and political texts concerning transnational families created through fostering and adoption.
Project synopsis: The research project Regimes of Care examines the challenges involved in transposing an institution inspired by Islamic law from the North African states where it originates into European and North American states. Specifically, the project examines Islamic guardianship (Arabic kafala) of parentless or abandoned children born in Algeria and Morocco and raised by European or North American citizens (often of Maghrebi descent). It considers the controversial processes through which many kafil parents adopt their children born under personal status laws that prohibit adoption (Ar. tabani); that is, the kafala guardianship is not supposed to be converted into an adoption, but there are moral, sentimental, and practical reasons that most kafil parents pursue adoption. Kafala entails the judicial transfer of parental authority, and the kafil guardian-parent undertakes to ensure the protection, education, and upbringing of the abandoned child until adulthood, with no right for the child to claim filiation or inheritance. This system contrasts with the forms of adoption available in many Western countries: plenary or full adoption (Fr. adoption plenière) which entails a judicial establishment of descent from adoptive (non ‐ biological) parent(s), breaking the child’s filiation with biological parents, if known (the form of adoption required in the United States and available in France and elsewhere, for instance), and simple adoption (Fr. adoption simple), permitted in some countries (including France and Belgium), which adds a tie between child and adoptive parent(s) without severing the child’s link to biological parents. Adoption and guardianship arrangements permitted by law vary even within Western legal systems, and more specifically to my project, within the European Union, despite Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) that ensures respect for family life and privacy for all European families, a concept its case law is gradually defining. The project is increasingly focusing on single adoptive mothers as well as some couples.
Description of the RA position: 2 students may be hired, which means each position can earn a max of $1000.The student will contribute to a research project on transnational families formed through kafala (Islamic guardianship) and living in Europe or North America, especially France and the United States but possibly also Canada. The student researcher should be interested in – but not necessarily have research experience in -- some combination of the following: human rights law, child law, adoption law, Islamic law, North Africa, Europe, or kinship. There will likely be research on birth certificates as well, so students may be interested in the documentation of personal identity and tracking genealogies as permitted or required by states of N Africa, Europe, and N America. The student will be responsible for procuring materials from the library or interlibrary loan, making photocopies when necessary, and posting research findings to a shared Google drive. Depending on the student researcher‘s interests and language skills, there are several ways to contribute to this project. The research will be mostly conducted individually and is largely qualitative, although there are some components for which familiarity with statistics would be helpful.
- If the student has French reading skills, s/he will assist in researching legal decisions concerning kafala (Islamic guardianship) in France and Belgium over the last twenty years. A significant change to the French civil code in 2001 prohibited the adoption of children from countries whose personal status laws prohibit it, which includes Morocco and Algeria, the two countries most concerned. However, there were still parents who adopted their makful wards, or tried to, and a review of court records will track this. The student will work with online databases of French legal decisions at the local, appeals, and cassation levels, as well as the databases of the European Court of Human Rights. If there are gaps in the records available online, the student may need to email or phone for information. In addition, with French reading skills, the student will be able to regularly check the kafala online support boards associated with the two main associations for kafil parents in France to monitor concerns and developments. The student will also transcribe interviews conducted in French.
- If the student has advanced Arabic reading skills, s/he may conduct research on legal provisions around filiation in Morocco and Algeria, again primarily internet based.
- If the student instead has primarily English skills and a strong interest in human rights, child law, international courts, law, kinship documentation, etc., the student can help develop a component of the project that is currently least developed. This concerns the social and legal lives of kafala families in North America, both the United States and Canada. For this, the student will familiarize him/herself with the one Muslim adoption agency operating in the US, New Star Kafala, and most importantly the agency’s explanations as to why adoption is permissible for Muslim children when it is widely prohibited in Muslim-majority countries. A council of Islamic and Muslim legal scholars in the US has produced a report advocating for the adoption of Muslim children, and providing support for this position from the original religious sources (Quran and hadith, but also analogy based on basic principles of Islam including compassion and mercy). To research this part of the project, the student will transcribe available video lectures which will be most comprehensive if the student knows some Arabic and/or has familiarity with Islamic sources. If s/he does not, we will work through them together and seek outside training through the reference librarians and secondary source materials as necessary. The student will also transcribe interviews conducted in English.
Position Expectations: Bi-weekly meetings, tight organization of tasks, and solid time management skills will be part of the mentoring. I assign materials to RAs that I've authored to help them understand the research and together identify gaps or areas where additional data is needed. I alone will oversee the student(s).
Time Requirements: Regardless of the skills profile of the student Regimes of Care researcher, there will be an evolution of tasks through the course of the year dependent on research findings that will call for further analysis or alternative approaches. Bi-weekly meetings between mentor and student researcher will allow for guided training, discussion of findings, and steps forward.
Applicant Prerequisites: Interviews with select candidates emphasize interpersonal skills, demonstrated ability to work independently, sincere interest in research topics, very good time management skills, demonstrated reliability, and documented initiative to locate resources and work with research librarians. Preference for at least sophomore status and proven ability to work independently and efficiently. Preference for reading knowledge in French and/or Arabic, possibly Spanish, but this is not required. Interest in human rights law, international law, comparative law, international adoption, and/or international migration, North Africa, contemporary Europe.
Faculty name: Morgan Kaplan
School and Department: WCAS, Buffett Institute for Global Studies & PoliSci
Faculty Bio: Morgan Kaplan is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University, and was previously a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and a Predoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Kaplan’s research examines the international politics of rebellion with a focus on how opposition groups use diplomacy to solicit third-party support. His work also examines intra-insurgent politics, international security, and state formation. The empirical focus of his work is on the Middle East, with a specialization in Kurdish and Palestinian politics. Kaplan has conducted field work in Iraqi Kurdistan, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, and the United Kingdom. Kaplan holds a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago.
Project synopsis: My research investigates the international politics of civil wars with a specialization in how insurgent movements strategically solicit and manipulate foreign support for local advantages. While many scholars have written about how and why states intervene in intra-state conflicts, few have examined the strategies by which local actors invite various forms of international assistance. This research thus brings to light an understudied, yet important area of security politics: insurgent foreign policies and the demand-side politics of third-party intervention. To address these topics, I use field research and archival work to produce empirically rich and historically informed case studies from the Middle East. I employ a variety of methods and data sources – e.g. interviews, primary-source documents, survey data, large-n datasets, and geocoded data – to probe core questions in comparative and international politics from the perspective of rebel actors.
Description of the RA position: 2 students may be hired, which means each position can earn a max of $1000. Student researchers will become integral to the preparation of my book manuscript and other articles for publication by assisting me in the construction of new case studies that apply my theory of insurgent diplomatic strategy to conflicts around the world. My book manuscript includes qualitative research on insurgency in Iraqi Kurdistan and Palestine, however, the book manuscript will include a new, additional chapter to test my theoretical argument against three cases outside of the Middle East, or within the Middle East but prior to World War II. The primary role of student researchers is to help in the construction of this new chapter. The student will select a conflict of their choosing - to ensure they receive maximum educational benefit and enjoyment from the research - and then do as much reading on that case as possible in order to produce a report that I can use to begin the process of constructing a case study based on their preliminary work. As such, students are responsible for tracking down important readings and documents, and providing real analysis that will help me complete this additional chapter more quickly. Additional tasks may include transcribing interviews that I have conducted for my book and translating new documents if they have requisite research skills. If students have quantitative skills and experience with datasets, I may also employ them to work with datasets. Students will be integrated into the project by meeting with me frequently, and since I will likely to be doing similar tasks at the same time, we will be working together as a team. Furthermore, I will completely familiarize the student with my project as a whole and explain precisely why additional case studies are important - methodologically - for the book and how their assistance will be a huge benefit to the project. I will explain to each student what I hope they will accomplish and how it will benefit the book project. Most importantly, I want to make sure that students are working in a way that benefits their own research and personal goals and we will work together to ensure this is the case.
Position Expectations: By the end of the research assistantship, students should feel confident in their ability to conduct their own qualitative case study on another case of their choosing, or to continue that case study for their own research purposes. I will also inform students that my goals are to help them grow as independent researchers, and as young scholars mistakes are expected to be made. As such, they should always feel comfortable to approach me with issues and be open about errors and uncertainty in their work, and my job will be to help them work through these issues so they will feel more confident in their research abilities in the future. If students find some aspects of the work too challenging - even after seeking my help - students will be encouraged to speak up and let me know if they require a new task they are more comfortable with. I will then do my best to assign a new task that is educational and appropriately challenging, while still being beneficial to my research.
Time Requirements: The student and I will meet in person for 1-2 hours as a first training meeting and then meet for 30 to 60 minutes each week throughout the data project to make sure training is ongoing and to allow students to reflect on the various skills they've learned, as well as to reflect on the various issues and difficulties they are running into. I will also provide readings for the student that will touch on research methods and best research practices.
Applicant Prerequisites: Students may come from any major, although ideally students will have an interest in pursuing a major in, or already be majoring in the social sciences and humanities, in particular the departments of political science, sociology, history, anthropology, and the general behavioral sciences. Students with foreign language skills or experience working with datasets, Excell, SPSS, STATA, or R, are also STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to apply and should make a note of that in their cover letter. Students will primarily be evaluated by their interest in conducting new research, eagerness to learn about rebellion and civil wars, and willingness to hone new research skills. The other criteria is that students will have limited or no prior research experience to ensure they gain maximum benefit from this position. Students should be at least in their sophomore year.
Faculty name: Ayala Levin
School and Department: WCAS, Art History
Faculty Bio: My research is concerned with north-south and south-south architectural knowledge exchange, with a focus on building and urban planning projects in post-independence African states. I am currently completing a monograph on the export of Israeli architectural and planning models to Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and the Ivory Coast in the 1960s-1970s. For this specific research, I would like to explore newspaper archives in the Ivory Coast that relate to two projects in Abidjan, the country’s former capital: the Hotel Ivoire designed by an Israeli architect, and the African Riviera project planned by an American-Israeli architectural team.
Project synopsis: The book project explores Israeli architectural and construction aid in the 1960s, when the majority of sub-Saharan African states gained independence from colonial rule. In the Cold War competition over development, Israel distinguished its aid by alleging a postcolonial status, similar geography, and a shared history of racial oppression to alleviate fears of neocolonial infiltration. I critically examine how Israel presented itself as a model for rapid development more applicable to African states than the West, and how the architects negotiated their professional practice in relation to the Israeli Foreign Ministry agendas, the African commissioners' expectations, and the international disciplinary discourse on modern architecture. I argue that while architectural modernism was promoted in the West as the International Style, Israeli architects translated it to the African context by imbuing it with nation-building qualities such as national cohesion, labor mobilization, skill acquisition and population dispersal. Based on their labor-Zionism settler-colonial experience, as well as criticisms of the mass construction undertaken in Israel in its first decade, the architects diverged from technocratic "high modernism" to accommodate the needs of African weak governments. Focusing on prestigious governmental and educational buildings such as the Sierra Leone parliament, Ife University in Nigeria, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia, as well as urban and national planning schemes such as the African Riviera in the Ivory Coast, this study brings to the fore the performative capacities of these projects in relation to the national and international audiences they addressed as vehicles of governance and markers of a desired modernity. In other words, this study examines the role these projects played in the mobilization of workers, funds, lands, infrastructure and policy making. Cutting across North- South and East-West dichotomies, the study of this modality of transnational exchange sheds new light on processes of modernization and globalization and exposes their diverse cultural and political underpinnings.
Description of the RA position: The student will contribute to the research for my sixth chapter in my book manuscript tentatively titled Architectures of Development: Israel-African Technical Cooperation, 1958-1973. The sixth chapter, titled “Designing African Luxury in Abidjan, Ivory Coast,” focuses on the African Riviera, an ambitious metropolitan plan encompassing touristic resorts and housing for the coast of Abidjan (1970), then the capital of Ivory Coast. Following the American private developer model, while backed by the Israeli government, the Israeli entrepreneurs the Mayer brothers drew international investors and commissioned the Los Angeles architect William Pereira and the Israeli Thomas Leitersdorf for the project. Approaching the Riviera as a “theme-park,” the two built on the spectacular design for the Hôtel Ivoire by Heinz Penchel, who had worked as an art director at the Ufa studios in Germany before immigrating to Israel. This chapter traces the Mayers’ entry into the continent in the early 1960s via hotel projects in Liberia and Ivory Coast, and the development of the African Riviera in conjunction with their import of American urban development models to Israel. The chapter concludes with the translation of Leitersdorf’s experience in Ivory Coast in his national plan for tourism in Israel and his urban planning projects in the West Bank. The student will be in charge of reviewing Ivory Coast newspapers dating back to 1965-1975 (more specific dates will be provided) in search for how the authorities promoted the construction of the Hotel Ivoire and the planning of the African Riviera to the public, and how various local agents responded to these initiatives.
Position Expectations: The student will submit weekly reports on their research activity and meet every other week to discuss it. We will go over the findings and discuss them. I will encourage the student to identify new keywords for research as s/he progresses, and possibly extend the research to other themes that s/he could develop on her own, and that may be developed later into an independent study. We will discuss interesting articles s/he encountered but have not included in her/his findings, discuss why s/he left them out, and the potential relevance they could have, if at all, to this research.
Time Requirements: 6-8 hours a week, in the Winter and Spring quarters. The student will submit a weekly report on their research activity and meet every other week to discuss it.
Applicant Prerequisites: A successful candidate will be fluent in French. Interest in post-independence African history, history of architecture and town planning, or in historical research methods in general, will be a plus. The position consists of working with microfilm.
Faculty name: Matthew Major
School and Department: Feinberg, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Faculty Bio: I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and a member of the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center. My research focuses on exploring the mechanisms underlying postural control and locomotor performance of individuals with neuromuscular and musculoskeletal pathology and use assistive devices such as prostheses and orthoses. My background is in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, and so I regularly make use of engineering analytical techniques to study aspects of motor control and biomechanics of human movement. My passion for rehabilitation research stems from a desire and ability to directly observe the positive effects of my work on the quality of life of individuals with impairments. The goal of this research project is to understand how the muscle activation patterns of lower limb prosthesis users during walking differ from non-impaired individuals. This work will help us develop insight into the motor control strategies of persons with lower limb loss and design rehabilitation interventions to improve their balance and safety.
Project synopsis: Just over half of people with lower limb loss fall every year and our previous research has identified that the majority of these falls occur during walking. Through integrating the study of motor control we are now beginning to better understand the sensorimotor mechanisms that underlie locomotor stability in persons with lower limb loss. In particular, characterizing the muscle activation patterns and synergies during walking can help explore the motor control strategies used to regulate postural control. Characterizing this phenomenon in lower limb prosthesis users can serve as a platform to inform therapeutic and prosthetic interventions aimed at enhancing locomotor stability and minimizing the risk of falls and fall-related injury. To quantify the motor control used for maintaining stable walking we have collected electromyography data from 10 individuals with below-knee amputation and 10 healthy control participants while walking. The purpose of this study is to quantify the muscle activation patterns and synergies of persons with unilateral below-knee amputation and non-impaired individuals during steady-state walking. Due to the loss of an active ankle joint and critical forms of proprioceptive feedback, we hypothesize that compared to intact controls, persons with below-knee amputation will demonstrate altered motor control strategies during phases of gait to regulate forward walking and postural control. Identifying the motor control strategies that this patient group during walking is necessary for designing evidence based intervention to decrease falls and fall-related injuries.
Description of the RA position: The assistant will be expected to dedicate an average of 8 hours per week over the academic year at 9 weeks per quarter. They will have dedicated space and computing resources at the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (Chicago Campus). The research assistant will contribute to the processing, analysis, and interpretation of biomechanical data collected previously on 20 research participants (10 with lower limb loss and 10 non-impaired individuals). These activities will be completed using custom code in MATLAB software and the assistant should have some experience with this software through prerequisite coursework. Working closely with me, the assistant will be instrumental in helping understand these data and preparing them for both scientific/clinical conference presentations and manuscripts. Ultimately, this analysis will provide strong preliminary data for future grant proposals to continue this line of work and generate more opportunities for future student research assistants. To enrich the learning experience, the assistant will participate in weekly laboratory meetings and either present updates on their work to the research group or discuss a journal paper relevant to their research project. Sharing ideas within my group is an essential part of developing my research initiatives. The assistant will also have the option of attending relevant bimonthly seminars hosted by the Departments of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago).
Position Expectations: Training will involve guided readings on relevant literature in Rehabilitation/Biomedical Engineering to provide background for the project and context for the analysis and results interpretation. I will encourage the assistant to present a component of the research to the medical and/or engineering communities at a regional meeting to expose them to this important experience and build their scientific presentation skills.
Time Requirements: The assistant is expected to meet with me at least once per week (more if desired) to review their progress, discuss goals, and receive feedback.
Applicant Prerequisites: Priority will be given to students without previous research experience, but have some experience with software coding used for this study and have an interest in rehabilitation engineering.
Faculty name: Kalonji Nzinga
School and Department: SESP
Faculty Bio: Kalonji Nzinga is a cultural psychologist studying how millennials and post-millennials develop cultural values over the course of their lived experiences. I am also interested in youth educational interventions that use hip-hop pedagogy as a culturally-relevant resource to encourage philosophical thinking, civic engagement and community healing.
Project synopsis: As an educational researcher I investigate the role that hip-hop music and culture plays in the identity and socioemotional development of marginalized youth. This research is done in conjunction with various community Chicago-area youth organizations that use hip-hop therapy or hip-hop pedagogy within their organizational practice to serve youth. This research includes ethnographic observation of these learning environments, one-on-one clinical interviews with youth participants, discourse analysis of interviews, archival research of hip-hop music and lyrics. My project is investigating two major research questions.
1.) How are youth spontaneously appropriating cultural values, narratives and lessons from hip-hop into their discourse and their everyday practices? What are the features of hip-hop culture that are meaningful (even sacred) to youth and how are those aspects of hip-hop culture modeling healthy social relationships?
2.) What are the design principles of creating a learning environment where hip-hop can be used as a resource for therapeutic conversations about socioemotional growth? What are the components of a curriculum based around interpretive discussions of hip-hop lyrics?
The ultimate goal of this project is to develop curricula and theory around ways to use hip-hop in culturally relevant therapy and pedagogy towards interrupting cycles of violence or encouraging civic engagement.
Description of the RA position: As part of this research project, undergraduate RA’s will visit local community partners to build relationships with organization leaders and youth. Our methodology is based on community based participatory research, where our relationship with community partners is the key ingredient for us to carry out research goals. Research goals, objectives and even methodologies emerge from community interests. Therefore one of the primary roles of the student researcher is to maintain healthy relationships with the organization, creating and maintaining lines of communication, and gaining an understanding of the research and curricular needs of the partner. Also the student will help to plan and carry out 3-4 educational interventions throughout the course of the year. This will include assisting with curriculum design, and planning logistical aspects of the lesson (I.e. booking a room). The student will also learn to collect video data of educational interventions for research purposes. Researching tasks also involve conducting interviews with youth participants. RA’s will be trained in the clinical interview protocol. The student will also learn to analyze these interviews and video data using qualitative analysis software. This includes processes of open and closed coding, as well as the writing of analytic memos.
Position Expectations: See Description.
Time Requirements: The student and I will have meetings twice per week in which we openly discuss growth, challenges and objectives. As an educator (and educational researcher) the student’s growth is of primary importance to our interaction, and my belief is that if I create an open and healthy learning environment for the mentee then they will grow into their proper place in the project. In the past, I have learned that creating a strict defined role for the student can often restrict their growth. However, when you allow them to have agency over a part of the project that they are most passionate about, they will push the project in ways that even you could not have predicted. My style of supervision is based on direct communication, warm relationships, and allowing students the space to lead. I am also very hands on with training.
Applicant Prerequisites: No prerequisites are required. However applicants with experience conducting social science research, serving/connecting with low-income communities, and/or studying hip-hop culture will be highly considered.
Faculty name: Eric Patrick
School and Department: School of Comm, RTVF
Faculty Bio: I am an animator that works in a fine arts tradition with the medium. I also work with educational and non-fiction animation, animated infographics, and write about independent animation. The Education of Hamid Naficy is a short animated film that explores the history of cultural theory over the last half century through the lens of the Iranian film scholar Hamid Naficy. While there are films that explore individual movements in cultural theory, I haven't found one that traces their history cumulatively. I have three independent animators working on the project with me, and need an undergraduate assistant to assist me with creating backgrounds, compositing animation, timing and editing.
Project synopsis: Hamid Naficy has been studying cinema of exile, the diaspora, and global cinema for 50 years. In this account, he traces the history of cinema and cultural theory from the early 70s, which is illustrated through animated characters and landscapes that embody these discursive eras. This embarks on new forms for animation, but also working with animation on non-fiction content and visualizing complex information through graphic means.
Description of the RA position: 2 students may be hired, which means each position can earn a max of $1000. Student(s) will be responsible for helping me find a background design approach that will help to synthesize animation from different animators. We will then create backgrounds for each individual shot, composite them with the original animation, adjust timing of animation, and perform any necessary ink and paint or cleanup on the animation. Though I have a basic edit of the project, we may also have to adjust the final edit before passing the project off to the sound designers. There are three animators working on the project, and the RA will need to communicate with them over email and phone.
Position Expectations: Since there are three animators currently working on this project, the position will expect clear and concise communication with all of the crew. We will also be working to blend several individual drawing styles through background design and ink and paint processes, so the candidate will need to be open to experiment with several different mediums and styles of visual design (both on paper and digitally). It’s important that the candidate understand that this is an iterative process, and therefore we may do run through several very good visual ideas which still must be discarded to unify the film. It’s critical that the candidate be able to take direction, and not take notes, corrections or course changes personally.
Time Requirements: This will be a one on one relationship where the student and I meet once or twice weekly to evaluate their progress.
Applicant Prerequisites: The ideal candidate for this position will have some sort of visual background, either in creating art or animation. Adobe skills are preferred, but we are more interested in a candidate that knows how to draw and create graphics. Much of this work will be done individually, so the position requires the ability to meet deadlines and communicate openly. Drawing and painting on paper, collage art, and digital graphics will be our main approaches, though we will also may experiment with other media. This position is ideally suited for someone with a background in visual arts.
Faculty name: David Rapp
School and Department: SESP, Learning Science and Pyschology
Faculty Bio: David N. Rapp is Professor in the Department of Psychology and in the School of Education and Social Policy, and a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, at Northwestern University. His research examines the ways in which prior knowledge, text and visual presentations, and learning goals influence the cognitive processes and products of our discourse experiences. His current projects investigate people's processing of inaccurate information, which connects directly to concerns and discussions about fake news in the real world.
Project synopsis: This project will examine what happens when people are presented with inaccurate information. For over 10 years my lab has studied this issue, which now is quite popular given concerns about fake news. We are designing new studies that emulate social media presentations (e.g., twitter) to see what influences not only people's taking up of accurate and inaccurate information, but also what influences their propensity to share such information. This falls in line with my general research interests and program.
Description of the RA position: The student will act as a research assistant, helping to collect data, program experiments, analyze data, promote projects, and participate in lab meetings. The student will work with a team, including myself, of researchers (graduate and undergraduate students) working on projects under the same theme.
Position Expectations: Students will receive at least weekly (if not more often) progress on their participation since they will be working closely with other graduate and undergraduate students, including folks who have been in the lab for over a year or more. Each project involves multiple people with different roles which helps people build ownership and shared goals for projects.
Time Requirements: To create a positive mentoring environment, I routinely meet with everyone during formal meetings and also informally (my office is right across the hall from my lab).
Applicant Prerequisites: I would meet with to interview candidates, evaluating them based on connections in their interests in the project topic, and their backgrounds using Word, Excel, and social media platforms. We can train with the more specialized programs in the lab.
Faculty name: Ozge Samanci
School and Department: RTVF
Faculty Bio: Özge Samanci, a media artist and graphic novelist, is an associate professor in Northwestern University’s School of Communication. Her interactive installations have been exhibited internationally, including Siggraph Art Gallery, FILE festival, Currents New Media, The Tech Museum of Innovation, WRO Media Art Biennial, Athens International Festival of Digital Arts and New Media, ISEA among others. Her graphic novel Dare to Disappoint has been translated into five languages. In 2017, she received the Berlin Prize and she was the Holtzbrinck Visual Arts Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.
Project synopsis: Based on the technical skills of the chosen research assistant I will pursue one of the following interactive art installations.
VR Interactive Art Piece: This will be a short Virtual Reality Game-Art Project commenting on global warming. The player will find herself in a polar landscape. Player will radiate heat and with her presence and with her gaze she will melt the ice. The ice landscape will eventually turn into a rising ocean destroying the player. Wearable Interactive Art Piece: The system that we will create is going to listen to the conversation of two people. Their respective talk times will be visualized on a piece of garment such a hat, necklace, scarf, t-shirt, or eyeglasses. For example, A and B are talking. B is dominating the conversation. A’s eye glasses will turn to black indicating that A is losing interest. We can do this via electrochromic glass. Another example as follows: the LED bars on B’s t-shirt will visualize their respective talking times. The implemented art piece will be exhibited in international new media art exhibitions and we will write at least one scholarly short design paper about it. You will coauthor the paper. Paper will be published in a peer reviewed journal in ACM or IEEE library. You will also gain skills in communicating with scholars and artists from the fields of arts and humanities. Overall, participating in this research will expand your CV beyond science-engineering venues and show your versatility.
Description of the RA position: 2 students may be hired, which means each position can earn a max of $1000. Student and I will hold meetings to decide best strategy to implement the piece. I will divide the project into small sections. I will give the student technical challenges to work on. Student will show me their solution or inform me about the obstacle that they are encountering. I will offer resources for solving the problem. Once the student completes this tech assignment we will discuss and move to a new problem. If necessary, we will revise and reform the technical challenge.
Position Expectations: Student will make prototypes and I will give feedback. Student will improve the prototypes based on my feedback. We will discuss and find the most feasible solution for the implementation process.
Time Requirements: I will meet with the student on a regular basis weekly or biweekly, see the progress and give feedback. Some these meetings may be on Skype.
Faculty name: Lilah Shapiro
School and Department: SESP, Human Development and Social Policy
Faculty Bio: I am an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the School of Education and Social Policy and a qualitative sociologist. My areas of interest and expertise are race/ethnicity, religion, social class/social location and identity in the American context, with a particular focus on how these categories are interrelated and co-constructed. My work explores how each of these constructs affect individual and group identity and experience more broadly (e.g. gender roles, family dynamics, cultural and educational investment, etc.) both at individual stages of development and across the life course. I am interested in the ways in which group identity, social structures, and social processes are modified and reworked over time as a result of changing context and circumstances. A primary lens through which I analyze these phenomena is narrative and life story. My work asks how group or master narratives shape individual life stories and who has the power to determine the course and content of a group/master narrative.
Project synopsis: This proposal is to help support the final year of a 4-year longitudinal ethnographic study of race and racial identity among undergraduate university students. We seek to develop a deep understanding of how the university context, including formal and informal policies/programming, affects student racial identity and produces race-based scripts and schemas. Events on college campuses across the country over the last several years have called into question the integrity and stability of elements of current university models and campus life. Of particular note are rhetoric from student groups and faculty/administrators on a range of campuses calling for an increase in minority student “safe spaces,” (including a number of pieces penned by Northwestern University’s (NU) president emphasizing the importance of these designated spaces for the success of minority student populations on campuses). These “spaces” can take multiple forms including; literal, group-specific designated geographies within campus, figurative, such as ethno-racial and/or multicultural student clubs and organizations, and even atmospheric/ecological, as in cultivated learning and discursive social environments in which topics and rhetoric are framed (or avoided) in particular ways. However, there is scant research that looks deeply at how these spaces and groups affect student experience and student identity development, across a spectrum of outcomes, in meaningful ways. Further, there is little research that deeply examines the question of the broader socio-cultural impact of the these designated, group-specific spaces. This raises the question: Are the underlying assumptions regarding the value of “safe spaces” and ethno-racial group-specific organizations correct? The current study situates these questions in a broader set of issues: How does the university environment shape student racial identity, group membership, on-campus experiences and outcomes, and larger worldview relative to diversity and understandings about “otherness?” The project also explores sub-questions including: How are students socialized into the racial landscape of the university? How do students learn and operationalize frameworks for racial identity and inter/intra- group interaction? What role do ethno-racial/multicultural student groups play in shaping student experience? What are the socio-cultural and political consequences of the group (and thought) sequestering that may take place as a result of the myriad group-specific spaces? Finally, how do experiences relative to these questions vary across different ethno-racial groups? As schools think through how/if policies or practices should be implemented in response to their existing or projected student body, it is important to construct a more substantive, evidence-based understanding of the practical implications and probable outcomes associated with the various models, policies, and practices in question. Developing a deep and nuanced picture of how college students self-define and locate themselves and others relative to race and other self-identified important identities, and how various aspects of the college environment writ large shape these over time, are important elements in maximizing opportunities, identifying and reducing inequities, and yielding positive experiences for students of all backgrounds, as well as for understanding the (re)production of the schemas that contribute to shaping the racial fabric of contemporary American society. This longitudinal research uses an in-depth, open-ended interview approach. A cohort of freshmen students were interviewed during the winter quarter of their freshman year. A group of older students was interviewed during this same time frame, so as to provide a point of reference and context to the experiences of the freshman cohort. The “freshman” cohort was interviewed again approximately 1 year after their initial interviews (during the 2016-2017 school year). During the current phase of the project this cohort will be interviewed a final time so as to provide insight into their perspectives regarding/experiences at Northwestern over time, as well as to learn how/if their understanding of their racial identities and the role of race on campus has changed since matriculation.
Description of the RA position: This position is shared with another student; each position can earn a max of $1000. The students will be integral parts of the research process. Their primary task will be conducting qualitative interviews. Using a baseline protocol that will act as a guide, the student researchers will interview participants, engaging in careful listening so as to ask probing, follow-up questions. Upon completion of each interview, RAs will be asked to “debrief” themselves in writing, so as to create substantive and nuanced records of each interview subject and to track and account for their own roles in the research process. This debriefing will compromise one component of the analytic memos that the Ras will be required to complete following each interview. In addition to the elements already identified, the memos will provide space for the students to identify and explore themes from within the given interview and across interviews, as well as to develop preliminary analytic ideas. Finally, students will be encouraged to journal so as to provide space for themselves to reflect on their own learning and the effect that participating in this project (which, given the subject matter and the students’ insider status relative to the research population) might have on their own identities and perceptions of student life at Northwestern. This journaling will not be required of students, but it will be strongly suggested. In addition to engaging in data collection, students will be expected to attend weekly or every-other-weekly meetings throughout the year (which will include myself and the two research assistants), during which I will have the opportunity to engage with the students regarding their experiences interviewing, thought processes, and emerging ideas. In their memos and during the meetings, the students will participate in critical dialogues about the data and project and contribute their own analytic ideas. The grounded theory approach utilized in this project allows for the pursuit and “testing” of developing hypotheses. I will encourage students, as appropriate to develop strategies to follow-up and delve deeper into their ideas and to think through what sorts of further data might be necessary in order to learn how their ideas may be “right” or “wrong.” They will also be guided in thinking through how their ideas may fit into the research questions and project writ large.
Position Expectations: Upon hiring I will meet with students to review interviewing skills and work them on a few practice interviews so as to provided them with the practice to feel confident and comfortable with their skills and also to give them feedback on their interviewing. While eligible students will have had past classroom-based experience with the methods that will be used in this study, it is expected that the work on this project will be their first opportunity to put these skills in action in a real-world research context. I will be reviewing all transcribed interviews – which will give me on-going insight into how the students are managing their interviewing and will provide additional guidance and feedback to students, as needed. At the start of the project I will also provide students with guidelines and expectations regarding the analytic memoing they will be asked to do in conjunction with their interviews (this is also a skill that was introduced in the aforementioned methods course). They will be provided with examples of memos on which they can model their work. I will regularly be reading the students’ memos and providing critical feedback, as appropriate, so as to support the students in strengthening their skills and ensuring that the products the produce have the maximum utility to the project overall.
Time Requirements: Students will be expected to work approximately 3-5 hours/week on this project throughout Winter and Spring Quarters. They will be required to conduct 1-2 interviews per week. Each interview will last approximately 1 hour and can be scheduled a times of mutual convenience to the RA and the interview subject. Following completion of each interview, the student will be required to complete an analytic memo. In addition to conducting the interviews, the RAs and I will meet on a weekly or every-other-weekly basis and they will be provided with clear objectives and work goals throughout the course of the school year. To ensure that working as a research assistant is a positive and beneficial educational experience for the students, in addition to engaging in substantive analytic discussions regarding findings from their work, the students will be provided with regular feedback on their interviewing skills and written work (analytic memos that the students will be asked to compose to accompany their interviewing) to assist in their skill development. The students will also be encouraged to journal or blog throughout the process so as to help them to identify and engage with their own learning.
Applicant Prerequisites: Strong hiring preference will be given to students who have completed the SESP qualitative methods course, which is required of all SESP undergraduates. I am also open to hiring a student who has completed the SESP methods course with another instructor, a comparable qualitative methods course (such as the Global Health qualitative methods course, or has some baseline past experience in open-ended qualitative interviewing through other means. While demonstrated aptitude for the open-ended interviewing will be central to identifying potential student researchers, I will also prioritize providing an opportunity to students who have not had previous research experience (outside of the classroom setting) and those who hope to go on to complete independent research projects.
Faculty name: Michelle Shumate
School and Department: School of Comm, Communication Studies
Faculty Bio: Michelle Shumate (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is the founding director of the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact. In addition, she is a Professor in Communication Studies and Associate Faculty at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. Professor Shumate introduced theory and research inaugurating the bonafide network perspective, a public communication-centered model of corporation-nonprofit relationships, and a typology of communication networks. Her current work centers on the question: how can nonprofit networks be rewired for maximum social impact? This research is part of a new line of research for me, examining how organizations and their networks interact in a modern media environment with the public. It follows the publication of a theoretical article in International Journal of Strategic Communication and a current research project with the Dutch Ministry of Health (RIVM) that take up these topics.
Project synopsis: This project proposes a new conceptual model of strategic communication as a strategy process that crosses organizational boundaries and integrates stakeholders within a complex multi-level process of networked communication. This multi-level process communicates organizational identity, values, priorities, and capacity to strategic publics and organizational stakeholders. Strategic communication properly understood is an integrated process of internal and external communication that ties tightly into the core strategy and operational processes of an organization. Using data from Hurricanes Sandy, Harvey, Maria, Florence, and Michael between 2012 to 2018, this study analyzes the public relations challenges faced by the American Red Cross in communicating their interorganizational strategies for working with community partners after 5 different hurricanes over the last decade. It proposes a model of strategic communication that accounts for the ability of an organizations to organize capacity and strategy to act in concert with the organization’s identity, values, and operational capacities. This project fits into the overall research agenda of NNSI and moves a segment of our research from a focus on community partnerships and multi-level networks to a consideration of the relationships between nonprofits and its strategic publics in a disrupted environment. This research project extends our current work on nonprofits to a consideration of nonprofit capacity and the impact of capacity constraints on nonprofit organizational reputation.
Description of the RA position: 2 students may be hired, which means each position can earn a max of $1000. This research position will be hosted in the NNSI lab at the School of Communication, a team which includes undergraduates, graduate students, postdoc research fellows, and faculty. Starting in September 2012, NNSI uniquely focuses on research that emphasizes collaborative efforts and network structures that include nonprofit organizations and their various partner organizations. The selected research assistant for the URAP program will be working closely with me and one NNSI postdoc research associate Dr. Jack Harris. Jack will be meeting with the student on a regular basis both during training and during data collection throughout the academic year. The student will be engaged in archival, online, and media research and responsible for collecting publically available corporate documents, press releases, government reports, and media accounts of a large national disaster relief organization across four different hurricanes that have occurred since 2012. Once data collection is complete, the student will engage in coding and managing the research corpus. In addition to this work, the student will participate in the regular NNSI lab meetings where we will read and discuss articles on nonprofit management and inter-organizational collaboration. After the student completes the RA assignment for the summer, we hope to continue the mentoring by involving the student in the process of conducting data analysis and writing reports and academic papers.
Position Expectations: Over the course of the academic year the student will gain skills in corporate and media research, qualitative research, document analysis, and project management. The student will also work on developing an understanding of how to contribute to and develop a literature review. The student may also develop skills in qualitative inquiry packages such as NVIVO. In addition, depending on interest, the student may work collaboratively on a conference publication or journal submission.
Time Requirements: The student will have weekly meetings with the post-doc running the project. The student will have a feedback meeting quarterly with the postdoc, assessing his/her/their overall performance and identifying goals for the next quarter.
Applicant Prerequisites: Students will be evaluated on the following criteria
1.) A willingness to engage with NNSI over a multi-year period. We will give preference to students who are freshman or sophomores 2.) Students who are interested in media, organizational strategy, or reputation 3.) Students interested in nonprofits and/or community engagement 4.) Strong organizational skills 5.) Has evidence of independence and initiative
Faculty name: Ines Sommer
School and Department: School of Comm, RTVF
Faculty Bio: I am a documentary filmmaker and serve as a lecturer and Assoc. Director of the MFA in Documentary Media Program in the Radio/TV/Film department. I have worked in film/video production for over two decades and my documentaries have aired on TV and screened in festivals, theaters, universities, community venues, and even on Capitol Hill. My current projects deal with environmental issues, a topic that I'm very passionate about. My goal with these documentaries is to translate large, overwhelming issues into character-driven stories that engage the viewer and challenge assumptions.
Project synopsis: I bring a lifelong interest in environmental issues and a love for observational, intimate storytelling to my current documentary projects, which are both set in the Midwest, but are in different phases of production. “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” (2018, 84 min) is about to enter the distribution/exhibition phase. The documentary follows organic farmer Henry Brockman, who has banked on biodiversity to make his idyllic Midwestern farm a success, but now climate change has arrived on his doorstep, and he has no choice but adapt to ever more erratic weather. While starting up distribution of “Seasons of Change…”, I have also begun development and early production work on a new project: “Untitled Southeast Chicago Documentary” (work-in-progress). The documentary deals with the impact of Chicago’s industrial past on an entire neighborhood. Earlier this year, high concentrations of the neurotoxin manganese (a side product of steel production) were found in backyards and homes on the Southeast Side, prompting environmentalists and community members to rally and demand that open air storage facilities, elected officials, and regulatory agencies to do the right thing.
Description of the RA position: The RA position would allow a student to work on both my documentary projects. For “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm,” the RA would do research on potential screening venues and community screening partners across the country. This is a crucial part of the distribution phase. I would teach the student how to find and pursue these potential venues, organize a database, and craft the messaging. My new, work-in-progress documentary is set on the Southeast Side of Chicago and will require a different skill set: the student would be tasked with performing simple editing of video material; researching local environmental groups, localized issues, and the history of the area; and potentially even going on video shoots (if interested). By combining work on both of these projects, the student will gain excellent insights into the post-production and distribution phases of documentary films. The student would primarily meet with and report to me.
Position Expectations: Research and editing would be performed by the student on their own computer. Editing could possibly be done in RTVF’s computer lab, should access to the software be an issue. I would provide the student with a hard drive with the footage.
Time Requirements: I would set up weekly meetings for the student to check in with me and report on their findings or show me what they had edited.
Applicant Prerequisites: I am interested in recruiting a student who has an interest in documentary production, post-production or distribution. They wouldn’t need to be deeply versed in documentary practice, but an interest in the form and basic knowledge of Premiere editing software would be required. Students in the RTVF department and at Medill would most likely be qualified for and interested in this position. I would evaluate them on skills related to performing research, simple editing, and writing skills. An interest in environmental issues and audience engagement/impact production around these issues are a plus.
Faculty name: Stacia Spencer
School and Department: Bienen, Music
Faculty Bio: I am a senior lecturer at Bienen and teach violin/viola pedagogy. I am also director of string pedagogy of the Northwestern Music Academy. This project is a continuation and development of a previous URAP-supported project. I need assistance with completing the online video library as well as assistance compiling the online sheet music library and organizing the photo album.
Project synopsis: My overall project is both a local and global instruction for students and teachers of violin/viola pedagogy to be able to teach these difficult string instruments according to a successful method that I have deployed for decades. The local contribution of my project is to provide access to students and teachers to both videos/music/photos in order to gain visual and auditory feedback concerning all the different aspects of string playing that are necessary for formation as a player, for example fingerings/bowings/set up/interpretation/tempos. Students need to see how others execute the pieces in order that they can improve their performances and how they teach others to perform. This project also builds on a successful MOOC that I launched with Northwestern support called "Teaching Violin and Viola: Creating a Healthy Foundation." This MOOC has been used all around the world to teach violinists/violists how to teach students. The project support from URAP for which I am currently applying would contribute to this global reach of the methods, visual aids, music edits for fingerings/bowings, and performances so that teachers of string instruments can have access to these materials. I have often been asked to provide these materials on a case-by-case basis. However, a databank of all the materials that I have collected in my capacity as strings director of Northwestern Music Academy would contribute to the global education in classical music. Hence this project would be connected to the MOOC as well.
Description of the RA position: I started the successful online video library for the strings academy of Northwestern 2 years ago with support from URAP. My aim for this upcoming year is to finish the project of organizing the video library of concerts, master classes, and solo performances of students and uploading them in a coherent order to a website and YouTube channel. I also aim to add to this library by organizing and re-issuing all the sheet music used in the violin/viola program. Finally I intend to organize the photo album of students performing in order to provide feedback regarding posture, set-up, and performance style. The student would assist be in all aspects of choosing and organizing material, as well as compiling the sheet music. This latter consists of re-issuing the music with the appropriate fingerings and bowings, which are indispensable to teaching the violin/viola. The student would add the details of running a violin/viola program in addition to gaining competence in the actual teaching of the instrument to a diverse population. It is important that the person in the position be a music student. It is also preferable that they live in one of the residential colleges since I am a Willard faculty fellow.
Position Expectations: The RA should work closely with me and plan on meeting once per week.
Knowledge of music, computer skills, social media skills are needed. I am very open to the assistant’s creative skills and ideas!
Time Requirements: The full $2000 award comes down to 133 hours of work. The work will begin and go through the Winter and Spring Quarters which is 22 weeks. 5-10 hours per week.
Applicant Prerequisites: I will evaluate candidates on the basis of their enthusiasm for learning violin/viola repertoire in a pedagogically coherent sequence; their competence in organizational skills; their attention to detail as well as their creativity. I have a preference for a student in a residential college; please indicate an affiliation in your cover letter.
Faculty name: Caroline Szczepanski
School and Department: McCormick, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Faculty Bio: I am an Assistant Research Professor in the Chemical & Biological Engineering department of McCormick. My lab work is done in the laboratory of Prof. John Torkelson (also in Chemical & Biological Engineering), and therefore I interact very closely with him and his graduate students and lab affiliates. My research is focused on the design of polymeric materials for applications ranging from biological materials such as dental restoratives to coatings that can be employed for water harvesting applications. I have been at Northwestern since September 2017 and am while here I have explored unique methods and techniques to engineer polymeric materials. My research is motivated by questions such as: How do we design increasingly complex materials while employing strategies that are energy efficient? And, how do we create materials without long term environmental or health concerns? I also take inspiration from natural surfaces and interfaces like rose petals and geckos feet to engineer new materials for large-scale applications that mimic their behaviors. The project that I propose for this student will focus on methods to modify biomimetic coatings (coatings with similar surface properties as those observed on natural surfaces such as leaves in nature).
Project synopsis: Nature provides countless examples of surfaces with unique interfacial behaviors. From the lotus leaf, which strongly repels water, to the Namib desert beetle’s shell, which permits these creatures to attract and collect water necessary for survival in the most arid of climates, there are numerous examples of interfaces with unique or unexpected behaviors. Interfacial interactions are governed both by the chemical composition of a surface and also by micro- and nano-scale topographical surface features. This project aims to find methods in which we can engineer similar surfaces using techniques that are energy efficient and require mild chemicals. We will approach this project using a photopolymerization method which is chosen as photopolymerizations are energy efficient and can easily be controlled in terms of space and time. Our previous work indicates that shrinkage towards a substrate can be used as a driving force for the formation of rough, structured interfaces using photopolymerizations. With a particular model system we demonstrated the ability to exploit this behavior to form surface features similar to those observed on rose petals with similar interfacial character. This project will focus on identifying how the inclusion of a polymer with crystalline behavior can further enhance the formation of rough interfaces through this mechanism by imparting additional structure to the polymerized interface. The researcher on this project will design synthesize polymers typically known for crystalline behavior, characterize these polymers (thermal properties and mechanical integrity), and include them in resins to develop photopolymerized coatings. They will evaluate the difference in coating character (roughness, surface morphology, hydrophobicity) based on the fraction of crystalline polymer and the temperature at which the polymerization is conducted and use it to better understand the driving forces at play during the formation of surface features via photopolymerizations.
Description of the RA position: Since this work will be accomplished in a lab setting, it will be very collaborative in that different experimental techniques and trainings will be taught to the URAP student by myself, other laboratory members, or Northwestern affiliates. As the majority of the work will be done in a chemical laboratory, the working hours of the student will be communicated weekly to ensure that myself or another affiliate is always present in the laboratory to ensure a safe working environment. The student will be invited to attend weekly research group meetings (and will have the opportunity to present their work at such a meeting one time per quarter to get valuable feedback from graduate students, myself, and tenure track faculty). I will have regular meetings (every other week, 30 min length) with the student, in which they will present the progress they have made with their work, their insights as to what their results may indicate, bring up any questions they have based on the work so far, and then give them the opportunity to propose future directions for the project. At each meeting we will agree on specific tasks that should be completed before the next meeting. If a task cannot be completed, the next meeting should include discussion as to what was limiting that task so we can troubleshoot issues within the research project. The initial period of this project will focus on the student spending time familiarizing themselves with relevant background information, literature, and previous work that serves as the motivation for this project. From there, the primary role of the student will shift to mastering the relevant experimental techniques for this project (photopolymerization of polymers, characterizations of polymer, interfaces, and polymer networks). During this phase of the project, I will be working side-by-side with the student to train them in specific techniques and general laboratory protocols. This period of the project will vary in length depending on the prior experience, if any, of the student. Once the appropriate techniques are mastered, the student will then begin to conduct independent experiments. For safety and guidance, I will make myself available during their time in the laboratory in case any unexpected issue arises but the overall goal is to have the student be able to independently manipulate and run experiments (e.g. create precursor solutions of monomers, conduct photopolymerizations, characterize polymers using thermal and mechanical analysis, etc.).
Position Expectations: I will oversee the student and have responsibility for most of their training so that they have the tools necessary to complete their work. This will include teaching them the methods associated with synthesis of appropriate polymers, photopolymerizations, coating fabrication, and characterization of thermal and mechanical properties. Regarding general lab safety training, the student will be responsible for completing relevant online trainings developed by the Office of Research Safety (ORS) on campus (e.g. Hazardous waste training, General Lab safety protocols, etc.). I will make sure that the student has access to these online trainings. For many experimental and characterization techniques, it will be necessary that the student is trained by a graduate student or Northwestern employee who is in charge of certain apparatuses and equipment on campus. In those cases, I will aid the student by making the necessary arrangements to organize the trainings, and I will attend the trainings with the student. While the student will receive training from other researchers at Northwestern during this project, I will remain their main supervisor.
Time Requirements: At the very beginning of the project (i.e. first mentor / trainee meeting), I will present an outline for the work I expect to be accomplished, goals that I have in mind for the science we are studying, and expectations I have for the student (time commitment, communication, preparation for meetings). I will explain these in depth to the student. Since I want to foster a collective and collaborative mentor/mentee relationship, we will plan a second meeting (likely the next week) in which the student can come to me and discuss whether they think these goals are appropriate and if they would like to modify or add any goals. Once we have agreed on overarching goals, we will create a document stating these goals and will refer back to this document throughout the project to ensure that we are on track with our initial expectations. This will also be used as a reference in case any disagreements arise regarding the overall goals of the project. After this initial stage, we will fall into the schedule of having meetings every other week to check-in and to give the student the opportunity to present their progress. At each meeting, we will formulate tasks and goals to accomplish prior to the next meeting. The expectation will not be that each goal has to be completed in its entirety. Instead, the student will do their best to reach these goals, and in the cases where that does not happen, they will be expected to communicate what issues led to the goal being unattainable (unexpected issues in the laboratory, unexpected results, etc.) Our regular meetings will ensure that we communicate regularly and are in contact. Beyond this, I will also be available for additional discussions and responsive via email to ensure the student has the support they need. Furthermore, I plan to formulate a laboratory schedule with the student, so even if they are working independently in the laboratory, I will be available in my nearby office at the same time. That way, in case of an immediate concern or question I will be readily available. I plan to foster an environment of mutual respect.
Applicant Prerequisites: The interview will be used to assess the interests, goals, and motivation to pursue this opportunity for the different candidates. I will also be asking them what aspect of the work I propose is most interesting or seems most exciting for them. I will ultimately assess the candidate based on their overall interest and enthusiasm towards the project and research in general. Demonstration of effective time management will be taken into account.
Faculty name: Jennifer Tackett
School and Department: WCAS, Psychology
Faculty Bio: My name is Jennifer Tackett and I received my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Minnesota with minors in statistics, personality, and behavior genetics. I am a graduate of the Texas Academy of Math and Science and Texas A&M University, and I have held previous faculty appointments at the University of Toronto and the University of Houston. I am a senior editor at Collabra: Clinical Psychology and an associate editor at Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science and the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. I am also a former associate editor at the Journal of Personality, Perspectives in Psychological Science, the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, the Journal of Personality Disorders, Assessment, and the Journal of Research in Personality. My research interests are the externalizing and disinhibitory psychopathology in youth, genetic and hormonal influences on externalizing problems, youth personality and gender and racial/ethnic disparities in externalizing problems.
Project synopsis: Traits and behaviors characteristic of good leaders are well understood in adults, but their development in adolescence is not. Which traits do successful adolescent leaders possess? How do other adolescents recognize who is a leader? How can we expand our definition of leadership to fit adolescents’ unique social and academic contexts? The Game Changers Study is an ongoing project aimed at answering these questions about teen leadership in a sample of community adolescents. We have many teens come into our lab at NU to participate in Game Changers, and we are always looking for more. The study involves teens (ages 13-17) answering questionnaires, watching videos in an eye tracker, providing saliva samples, engaging in behavioral tasks and more.
Description of the RA position: Our current data collection project is a study of adolescent leadership called Game Changers. Collaborating on the Game Changers Study will teach the student detail orientation through data management and curation tasks including transcription, data entry, and video editing. Specific tasks will include transcription of videos taken of a parent-child interaction task in one of the PAD-Lab’s previous studies and “slicing” videos of participants into shorter chunks which can then be rated by other research assistants. The student will also be involved in community outreach for participant recruitment, which will enhance communication skills through recruiting new participants in the community and collecting data from participants in the lab. In addition, as a youth tester for our GC Study, the student will gain exposure to issues surrounding research ethics, including data handling, integrity, and participant confidentiality. The student will also gain clinical interviewing skills and learn to manage potentially noncooperative participant behaviors. The PAD-Lab allows students to manage their own hours (with guidance from more senior research staff), which will strengthen the student’s time management and accountability skills. The student will participate in weekly lab meetings (1 hour) and a weekly recruitment meeting with the rest of the Game Changers recruitment team (.5 hours). These meetings will also foster the student’s accountability skills, as the meetings serve to ensure all of our students are delivering quality independent work, meeting research target deadlines, and contributing to what the PAD Lab values as a sense of community and leadership. Adding a URAP student to our lab will increase our valued sense of community, allow graduate students to grow as mentors, create relationships and networking opportunities for mentees, and create a high- functioning structured, collaborative lab environment for successful research. Finally, the student will have the opportunity to be involved with more independent, though still supervised, research projects with his/her/their graduate student mentor. This will involve conducting literature reviews, basic data analysis, and interpretation of results on a project built in collaboration with me, the URAP student, and his/her/their graduate student mentor.
Position Expectations: The URAP student will need to go through an orientation with our Lab Manager and complete (1) CITI Training, where he/she/they will learn the ethics of research with human subjects and (2) eIRB registration and approval. Through direct supervision of an assigned senior RA and assigned graduate student mentor, the URAP student will learn to collect participant data through the Game Changers Tester Training, which is an 8-week-long weekly training program. Once the student is trained, he/she/they will be eligible to run testing independently and have the opportunity to train subsequent new lab members. A shadowing model is applied for other lab tasks, including participant recruitment, video transcription, and video slicing. This means that, after the student has read through the protocol, he/she/they will observe a senior RA perform the task first, then have an opportunity to do the task while being observed before performing the task independently.
Time Requirements: Student feedback on progress is provided through weekly project-specific meetings and general lab meetings, which are scheduled to maximize the attendance of all lab members. By attending and participating in these lab meetings, the URAP student will demonstrate his/her/their progress, learn about research methods, stay updated on projects and tasks, and get direct feedback from other research assistants, graduate students and the principal investigator.
Applicant Prerequisites: Students who are interested in personality, temperament, externalizing disorders, self-regulation, emotional regulation, personality disorders, and the development of any of these are encouraged to apply. While we do not require any minimum coursework, precedence is given to students who have taken introductory psychology courses. Requirements include the availability to work for two consecutive quarters. We are especially interested in candidates who demonstrate intrinsic motivation for learning about the scientific process, enthusiasm for working collaboratively with the rest of the research team, and good organizational skills.
Faculty name: Sarah Taylor
School and Department: WCAS, Religious Studies
Faculty Bio: Sarah McFarland Taylor is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and teaches in the Program in Environmental Policy and Culture and in American Studies at Northwestern University. Her research and teaching focus on media, environment, religion, and public moral engagement. Author of the award-winning book, Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology, Taylor is also a candidate for an advanced degree in Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement. Her book Ecopiety: Media, Green Virtue, and the Storied Earth will be published in the spring of 2019 with New York University Press. Taylor teaches an undergraduate seminar at Northwestern called “Media, Earth, and Making a Difference” and serves on a scholars group for The Center for the Study of Media, Religion, and Culture that addresses “Public Religion and Public Scholarship in the Digital Age.” Taylor’s research for this group is directed toward public engagement of environmental issues.
Project synopsis: No Planet B: Media and Presence at the End of the Earth is a book-length academic monograph project in process that explores and analyzes mediations of extraterrestrial earth escape fantasies in the contemporary media marketplace. In particular, the project examines billionaire technocrats who have tapped into both historically embedded narratives of “manifest destiny” and contemporary otherworldy popular apocalyptic “bug out” narratives that currently thrive in the U.S. culture of “doomsday preppers.” Space travel consumerism marketed via proposed Mars colonization, this project argues, effectively constitutes an ultimate “bug out” plan for the 1% -- a plan that consigns disposable people to be left behind on a disposable planet. In Space X-promotional verbal rhetoric, Elon Musk repeatedly proclaims the urgency for humans to move off the earth and relocate to Mars “as soon as possible.” But who exactly is involved in this corporate-entrepreneurial-led migration, whose interests are truly served by it, and, at least in theory, who claims the real estate of Mars and to what end? The No Planet B book project raises the moral question of whether Musk’s media sell -- the narrative that human extraterrestrial migration is unavoidable and humans have no other option than to abandon a “used up,” no-longer inhabitable earth -- sets in motion a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy. Exorbitant financial and planetary resources must be extracted and consumed to make this enormously logistically difficult and costly human migration to Mars feasible. In the process, the very resources critically needed to heal and repair our home planet are squandered in the service of a planetary “bug out” plan to colonize new territory. In contrast to Space X’s marketed “earth exit” fantasies, the tactical media surrounding the “No Planet B” global environmental messaging campaign focuses squarely on reinhabiting instead of abandoning earth. Rather than promoting a human “cut and run,” or a “bug out” plan for the 1%, the “No Planet B” global campaign espouses the ethics of “staying at home” and “belonging to place” that are associated with the environmental philosophies of bioregionalism. The public discourse associated with the “No Planet B” campaign, in championing the priority of healing and restoring of earth as planetary home, resists the colonial impulse to extract natural resources for profit, render a wasteland, and then move on to the “next great place.” Mediations of the “No Planet B” environmental messaging campaign concomitantly and implicitly subvert embedded Western cultural and theological narratives that associate salvation and redemption with some other off-site home that is not this earth. No Planet B: Media and Presence at the End of the Earth ultimately is concerned with the kind of cultural work being done by both space colonization marketing and environmental media messaging in shaping divergent public perceptions of imagined human planetary and extra- planetary futures. The research assistant for this project will be helping me to gather a range of print, video, photographic, and other digital media materials and artifacts of visual culture related to the marketing of Mars colonization, its resistors, and critics.
Description of the RA position: Looking for a student with strong interests in the environment, culture, and technology to assist professor with online research and primary source collection related to topics dealing with proposed Mars colonization, earth doomsday narratives, and popular media works concerning human survival in the Anthropocene. Most of the research will involve primary source data gathering online from space travel company marketing materials, media coverage of rocket launches, media profiles of competing tech company heads, and examining a selection of popular cultural sources that narrativize earth’s future. A familiarity with Mars-themed digital games would be helpful, as would an ability to summarize, analyze, and compare them. Other responsibilities would involve cataloguing and summarizing project visual media archives, as well as making some limited phone calls and initiating correspondence for information and material requests to related organizations.
Position Expectations: With my previous RAs, I have constructed a very detailed outline and project to-do list, with steps broken down, search instructions spelled out, and then instructions on how to gather, record, and organize the primary source data once obtained. We meet regularly and I discuss what I have in mind for each sub-section of the project and also we address any questions the RA may have and clarify any points of confusion. We have a mutually agreed upon timetable of check-ins and benchmarks at the outset and then revisit these as needed, depending on the volume and nature of data gathered and the student’s own course work responsibilities.
Time Requirements: In the past, I have done check-ins every two weeks with research assistants to provide guidance in research, to help with any obstacles, and to help the student develop their research skills, often walking them through the materials, and conducting some searches together. In this case, virtually all the research will be conducted online.
Applicant Prerequisites: I would be looking for a student who is mature, responsible, and trust-worthy, especially as my RAs usually receive a key to my office and are entitled to work on their own there and to print out research materials from there when I am not holding office hours or appointments. Beyond that, excellent skills in online research would be necessary and a working knowledge, preferably, of current environmental issues. Since a substantial component of the book project deals with contemporary technocrat billionaires and their apocalyptic earth escape fantasies, a familiarity with the world of technology and narratives of space exploration/Mars colonization would be a plus. Curiosity, of course, and the ability to think analytically and critically about verbal and visual rhetoric would be wonderful. EPC minors who are focused on the Environmental Humanities would be ideal candidates, but I am open to a range of applicants who have strong interests in technology, media, and environmental topics.
Faculty name: Erin Waxenbaum
School and Department: WCAS, Anthropology
Faculty Bio: I am a biological anthropologist with classes and research focusing in human skeletal biology and variation, evolution and forensics.
Project synopsis: Human skeletal collections housed at academic institutions and museums are the “bread and butter” of biological anthropological education and research. These donated human remains are curated by these institutions in perpetuity to allow researchers to develop new methodologies and test those techniques for future generations of scholars and publication for the advancements in the field and professional journals. I currently have a collection of human skeletal remains that have been donated to me by faculty at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. A portion of this material has been inventoried, labeled and prepared to serve as the main content for my Anth 309 Human Osteology course through personal efforts and a successful URAP 2 years ago. This is a dry lab intensive course allowing students to gain a deeper appreciation for human skeletal anatomy and variation. Students are forever wanting for greater examples of variation and new materials to learn from. The elaboration and continuation of the processing of the remainder of my human skeletal collection will allow a student (or students) with a background in human osteology the opportunity to apply that knowledge to how human skeletal collections in academic institutions are developed, curated and managed. Additionally, the exposure to material outside of that Human Osteology class (whether occurred concurrently or after the class has been completed) will allow a student (or students) greater exposure to human variation affording them the opportunity to apply what they have learned in class and possibly expand their experience by imparting what they have learned to future students.
Description of the RA position: 2 students may be hired, which means each position can earn a max of $1000. The student assisting with this project will begin by reviewing and checking for accuracy the skeletal collection currently inventoried. My skeletal collection is used multiple times per year for class purposes and material can become misplaced. This experience will allow the student the opportunity to become accustomed to the system, labeling process and appreciation for any “holes” where additional material for class purposes may be necessary to acquire. The student will then continue with uninventoried material by processing, cleaning, fragmenting and labeling new human skeletal remains to be incorporated into the existing collection. I see the position culminating in serving as a teaching assistant for my Spring 2019 Human Osteology course. This would afford the student(s) the opportunity to see their work “in action” as they will be exposed to how the material is used for educational purposes while at the same time maintained for other courses and academic research.
Position Expectations: My presence and direct oversight of the project will allow a continual “on the job” training throughout the grant period. As new material is acquired and issues arise, I plan to work directly with the student(s) involved to ensure they are an equal partner in ensuring the project runs smoothly.
Time Requirements: 5-10 hours per week for the winter and spring quarters. 1-2 students may be selected for this position.
Applicant Prerequisites: A student would need to be current enrolled or have completed Anth 309 Human Osteology to be a potential applicant.
Project title: Literature Review of mass/consumer media coverage of the intersection of art and science, specifically in areas of preservation and conservation of historic and significant artworks and objects
Faculty name: Patti Wolter
School and Department: Medill, Magazine/Science Writing
Faculty Bio: I’m an Associate Professor and the Helen Gurley Brown Magazine Professor in the Medill School of Journalism and former editor at Mother Jones magazine, Self magazine and others, as well as a freelance writer and editor for consumer magazines. At Medill, I teach a wide variety of courses, but relevant to this grant is my ongoing work in teaching science writing at the BSJ, MSJ and STEM PhD levels. I place a lot of emphasis on narrative storytelling structures in nonfiction and unique media storytelling opportunities. I am constantly looking for good examples of narrative storytelling about science.
Project synopsis: This is a comprehensive literature review of the mass media efforts to write about art conservation science. The job entails developing the criteria for what counts as a legitimate mass media story about art conservation science, coming up with a list of media venues to explore, then looking intensively to catalog and analyze roughly the past five years of stories about art and science. If there's a lot, we'll make it the past three years; if not many, we'll reach back further in time. The goal is to be able to articulate what kinds of stories media/editors grab on to, and which stories audiences respond to. Ultimately, I aim to create some guidelines or criteria for scientists and art museums alike about what gets strong media coverage, where coverage is lacking, different ways to successfully frame complicated art conservation science for a lay audience and develop some intelligence on what the public understands about art, science and the little-understood but interesting science around conservation.
Description of the RA position: As a journalist, I always start a story with a strong Google search to find out how to pitch something fresh to an editor. As a teacher, I integrate a “backgrounder” research assignment into substantive writing assignments to teach students how to understand the media landscape for any piece of writing they wish to pursue. This project takes that idea and expands it to the entire arena of art conservation science to ask questions of story type, story success, audience reach and then come to some critical analysis about the state of media coverage in understanding of art/science and interest. Specifically, students will work with me to develop criteria, search out stories across media channels and catalog them, and then develop an analysis tool for what we find—story length, type of media outlet, circulation and audience size, profile vs. topic, breaking news, emphasis on art vs. science aspects, etc. Depending on the speed of the literature review, there is a possibility during Spring Quarter or as an extended summer project, to add qualitative interviews with media editors and producers about what they want to see in stories about art and science.
Position Expectations: In truth, the experience of this “hunt” through media will be part of the deliverable—how hard is it to find and identify these stories? A student not adequately making the effort will have to discuss this with me and create a better schedule for their time to be productive. They will write weekly reports, identifying strengths and weaknesses and suggesting next steps. One sign of progress will be the student's ability to troubleshoot, re-direct and apply critical analysis to the work as part of the weekly report to me. I expect, however, that a fully realized report will only come toward the end of the project as I guide the student in each of these areas weekly.
Time Requirements: There will be weekly deadlines and reports on research conducted and findings and weekly meetings with me to assess the results and target the next step. This work will be done as the student’s work needs allow--ie. it doesn't have to be done in a lab or office (except for meetings with me), but rather on their own laptop. I would estimate the student would spend between 5 and 7 hours a week on this at the most. I will expect a weekly meeting with me for about an hour or so to keep the research moving. Initially we will meet for longer and more frequently to establish the research guidelines, adjust and adapt them based on findings, give structured guidance on how to do a literature review through a variety of different databases and resources, etc.
Applicant Prerequisites: This is a straight-up guided literature review and analysis of mass media, consumer press, and no prior experience or coursework is necessary. The main requirement the student needs to bring is curiosity and a willingness to dig deep and wide into all corners of media. Some facility with Excel will be useful. A love of art/art history, science, magazines, news, podcasts and facility on YouTube are a plus. Scientists looking for ways to interact with the non-science world are also welcome to apply. Sophomores are likely ideal, but freshmen and juniors welcome. Ideal candidate would also be affiliated with a residential college, please include this information in your cover letter.