Research Internships

Since Fall 2018, I have been building a research internship program for undergraduates in political science, economics, communication, and sociology, in coordination with the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research

The program is centered around my commitment to empowering undergraduates through social scientific research. It is designed to (i) support students in engaging with research in their social science classes; (ii) encourage them to pose their own research questions and develop their own theories about the world around them; and (iii) teach them cutting-edge methods in order to test their hypotheses and sharpen their understanding of why the world works the way it does. This is done through a combination of hands-on experience, working on one of my on-going research projects, and coursework the includes readings, exercises, and discussions about the research process.

I describe my approach to undergraduate research in my 2023 PS: Politics & Society article, entitled "A Student-Centered, Expanded Approach to the Undergraduate Research Experience." 

The article is available open-access here, with supplementary materials available here. Replication materials for the analysis can be found at Dataverse.

As currently designed, the internship program includes courses covering four semesters. It is highly recommended that students commit to at least two semesters in order to benefit from the experience. These courses are as follows:

In addition to completing nine weekly hours of research work, students complete a sequence of readings and assignments covering key pieces of the research process in the social sciences. How can we use data to identify interesting puzzles? How can we engage with and build off of existing research? What are the steps involved in generating data? And how can we become more responsible consumers of ready-made data? We conclude by developing a couple of small research questions that speak to each student's own interests.

While continuing to complete nine weekly hours of research works, students begin to develop their own mini research project. They are guided through a series of exercises designed to identify one or more research questions that they are motivated to answer. Once they settle on a question, students synthesize existing research on the topic and develop their own contribution. Finally, they are supported in designing a test of their theory, using existing data sources or beginning to build a new dataset.

Students take their PS 292B project or a different research idea and develop into a full project. We spend time articulating the exact research question, engaging with the existing literature on the topic, and defining the theory of change before thinking about how the theory can be effectively tested. If working with quantitative data, students learns some basic R skills, allowing them to manipulate existing datasets or build their own. In the second semester, projects are tweaked and/or expanded. Many PS 492 projects have gone on to become students' honor thesis projects.

I was honored to have my research internship program recognized with the 2021 Larine Y. Cowan "Make a Difference" Award for Teaching and Mentoring in Diversity. The award is one of four given annually by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (OVCDEI) at the University of Illinois, celebrating the achievements of faculty, academic professionals and civic service employees who make significant contributions to create and sustain an inclusive living, learning, and working community at UIUC

Research internships are currently by invitation only, although students interested in being considered for an internship can indicate their interest and availability on this form. Typically, new cohorts of interns are recruited in the fall semester of each academic year. Please note that summer internships may be available but will require summer enrollment.