Project Descriptions Fall 2024

Application links available to undergraduates subscribed to the Schar listserv


Project Number: 1

Faculty: Michael Hunzeker

Rank: Associate Professor

Title: Mapping the Cross-Strait Military Balance

Project Description: I am trying to build a detailed map of the cross-Strait military balance. To pull this off, I need a small team of RAs who can help me scour open source documents in order to build an accurate map of American, Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese military bases, ports, airfields, radar sites, silos, urban centers, beaches, navigable waterways, MSRs, etc. This map will help support future policy research on cross-Strait security and stability.

Job Description: Data collection, Coding (data entry), Managing spreadsheets or databases; organizing data, Writing literature summaries, Library research, Translation

Necessary Skills: Potential RAs should be interested in East Asian security and/or military affairs; and they must be responsible, reliable, and able to work independently.

Desirable Skills: A military background, familiarity with military terminology, and/or the ability to read simplified and traditional Mandarin characters are all desirable (but certainly not required)


Project Number: 2

Faculty: Todd La Porte

Rank: Associate Professor

Title: Cultural Heritage and Climate Change: How do climate challenges affect cultural heritage: physical sites, institutions, practices, and lifeways? What can be done to improve the chances of vulnerable cultures surviving more extreme and uncertain conditions in the future?

Project Description: Cultural heritage has come to be recognized as tangible representations and intangible practices communities nurture and affirm. These practices are essential for community survival, particularly in the face of rapid economic, social and environmental change.

Communities ratify cultural artifacts and iconic practices as central to community identity: they create monuments, parks and museums, but also protected areas, forest and agricultural regions and wildlife reserves, as well as festivals, community celebrations and the like.

In the United States there are over 429 national parks sites, nearly 7,000 state parks, and innumerable activities that bring together communities, affirm their identities and reenforce their meaning. But despite their widely accepted value, many are under threat from climate-related change. Heritage sites are like a kind canary in the mineshaft, indicators of environmental and community.

This project seeks to learn about these conflicts, which may help us understand opportunities to encourage climate action.

URAP students will help create data records of heritage sites and climate threats in the United States. They will prepare 4-12 summaries of climate challenges to heritage sites (e.g. National Registry of Historic Places, state and national parks, tribal lands, other locations with cultural significance). Summaries will include information on climate risks, on sites' cultural significance, on response plans, and will provide contact information. We will meet weekly as a group.

Summaries will help answer:

• What are the threats climate threats?
• What plans have been developed to respond?
• What resources do managers need to execute them?
• What programs or policies enable/hinder efforts to take action?

Job Description: Data collection, Writing literature summaries, Library research, Support in conducting interviews, arranging appointments for interviews, or logistics related to research of this kind, Though not required, I would love it if you can travel to a regional heritage sites (park, historic district, refuge) to take photos, record impressions. There's nothing like experiencing a cultural site in person!


Project Number: 3

Faculty: Bassam Haddad

Rank: Associate Professor

Title: Knowledge Production Project

Project Description: The Knowledge Production Project (KPP) is an open-access archive which aims to gather and make available for analysis all knowledge produced on the Middle East in English since 1979.

Understanding that the production of and access to knowledge is never an impartial or equitable process, the Knowledge Production Project creates new ways to identify and redress these disparities through innovative data visualizations and advanced search capacities.

The KPP archive is now informed by eleven separate databases, compiling records of: peer-reviewed journals, books, dissertations, translated books (from Arabic to English), book reviews, think tank publications, congressional testimonies, films, documentaries, television programs, and online sources.

Job Description: Data collection, Coding (data entry), Managing spreadsheets or databases; organizing data, Library research


Project Number: 4

Faculty: Ketian Zhang

Rank: Assistant Professor

Title: Economic Interdependence and Rising Power Grand Strategies

Project Description: Compared to historical rising powers, China does not use force as often as historical rising powers, prefers to utilize coercion instead of force, and tends to resort to nonmilitarized coercive tools. China exhibits a curious pattern of using nonmilitarized means to achieve its grand strategic ends. What explains China’s divergent path compared to historical rising powers such as the early American republic, Germany under Bismarck, and Meiji Japan? Specifically, what is the impact of global economic interdependence on rising powers’ grand strategies? Do current global production and supply chains provide different incentives to contemporary rising powers’ grand strategies? This book intends to apply theories in international political economy to examine rising powers’ grand strategic choices, comparing China’s grand strategy against historical rising powers’ grand strategies. It plans to employ qualitative methods such as process tracing and congruence testing, leveraging rich empirical evidence, including primary Chinese documents and interviews with Chinese and foreign officials, as well as historiographies, economic data, and archival documents on historical rising powers.

Job Description: Data collection, Coding (data entry), Writing literature summaries

Desirable Skills: Chinese/German/Japanese language skills are useful but NOT required.


Project Number: 5

Faculty: Jennifer Victor

Rank: Associate Professor

Title: Political Capital Manuscript Support

Project Description: I seek research support for a book manuscript in progress. The book is about the manifestation of networks among members of the US Congress and how political capital is produced from network associations. I develop a framework for understanding the production of political capital in congress and use quantitative and qualitative data to test expectations from the theory.

Job Description: Writing literature summaries, Library research, Support in conducting interviews, arranging appointments for interviews, or logistics related to research of this kind

Necessary Skills: RAs must be self-motivated and work well with limited supervision.

Desirable Skills: Zotero, MS Word reviewing


Project Number: 6

Faculty: Jennifer Victor

Rank: Associate Professor

Title: Congressional Network Analysis

Project Description: I seek RA support for data analysis related to a book manuscript in-progress. The book analyzes the emergence of political capital from formal and informal social networks among members of Congress. I'm looking for RAs with experience with network analysis or visualization. RAs will work with data for the book and help generate visualizations.

Job Description: Support in statistical analysis, writing code, scraping data, etc.

Necessary Skills: R or Python or Gephi

Desirable Skills: Familiarity with network analysis; training in data visualization