UMass Amherst Department of Political Science

Undergraduate Research Engagement Program

The Research Engagement Program (REP) is designed to partner advanced undergraduate political science and legal studies majors with faculty for hands-on, one-on-one research experiences.

Through the REP, the Department of Political Science fully integrates a select group of undergraduate fellows in research activities. The REP offers a new model for undergraduate education in the social sciences by training students to work collaboratively with faculty to develop studies with real‐world significance and to carry them out with practical, readily transferable skills that will provide them with a crucial edge in the job market. Students who gain sophisticated research skills will be highly‐sought after by potential employers: they will understand how to conduct research; how to choose and use the appropriate qualitative or quantitative methods to carry out studies; how to work collaboratively towards a common goal; and how to write effectively in order to convey their findings to the public. These students will be able to not only tell potential employers about the classes they took, but clearly indicate on their resumes and in their interviews the deliverables that they helped produce. Furthermore, these students will gain critical information about substantive political and legal topics that will place them head and shoulders above other graduates competing for internships and jobs in public policy or the civil service.

The topics and projects that have already been advanced through the REP reflect the breadth of faculty expertise in the department, as well as the range of interests among political science and legal studies majors. In past semesters, for instance, the REP trained undergraduate students to construct and manage public opinion surveys and analyze data through the UMass Poll; to draft in-depth literature reviews about sanitation reform in India; to conduct archival research on the death penalty; and to compile and analyze a database of the ratification of international environmental treaties – just to name a few projects!  

Student researchers are encouraged to present the research conducted through the REP at conferences like the Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference. They receive opportunities to co-author reports, and they are able to incorporate the skills and methodology learned through the program into their capstone or thesis projects. Most importantly, the REP is a unique opportunity which students can include on their resumes as they apply for graduate school or enter the workforce.

How does it work?

Unless it is otherwise stated, students will receive academic credit for UREP projects. Students should apply for jobs listed below. Once selected to work on a project, they will be enrolled in POLISCI/LEGAL 398R - Research Practicum. Students may take up to 18 practicum credits while at UMass. Those credits may count towards the total needed for graduation, but they do not count toward Political Science or Legal Studies major requirements. In general, 1 credit hour is equivalent to about 40 hours of work during the semester and students may generally enroll for up to 3 credits per semester.  The practicum is graded as pass/fail.


Current Openings

Fall fellowship positions are usually posted in April/May. Spring fellowship positions are usually posted November/December. General research assistant positions may be posted at any point during the year.



Supervisor Description Prerequisites Project Dates
Application Procedure
Timothy Pachirat I seek an undergraduate research assistant with knowledge of evangelical Christian missionary organizations and/or of mainland Southeast Asia to assist me with identifying and collecting relevant archival materials on the history of Christian missionary organizations in mainland Southeast Asia.  This research will be a component of a larger project on the politics of identity in the hill regions of mainland Southeast Asia that examines the triangular relationships between lowland states (like Thailand and Burma), highland, non-state indigenous groups (such as the Hmong peoples), and Christian missionary organizations (such as the Summer Institute of Linguistics).  I am particularly interested in the question of how the creation of written scripts for previously oral indigenous languages by Christian missionary organizations impacts the political relationships between lowland states and highland indigenous groups.  
Credits to be determined by hours worked.
None Spring 2015 Interested students should send, as a single .pdf file: 1) a one page statement describing their interest in the project, 2) a writing sample of no more than five pages, 3) an unofficial copy of their current transcript, and 4) the name of a professor willing to act as a reference on their behalf to The position will remain open until it is filled.
 Timothy Pachirat

I seek three undergraduate majors in the social sciences or the humanities to assist me with identifying, gathering, and synthesizing literature on three separate in-depth case studies.

  • Case study one: The use of drones and other unmanned technology in contemporary warfare. (position filled)
  • Case study two: The rise of nursing homes as institutions in the West and in urban areas around the world. (position filled)
  • Case study three: The rise of "Do It Yourself," boutique slaughtering and butchering of animals for human consumption in Germany and the United States.


Each case study is a component of an ongoing book project that seeks to understand how distance and concealment are at work as mechanisms of power in contemporary "civilized" societies. I am particularly interested in three related dimensions across each of the three case studies: language (euphemism, dysphemism, public and hidden transcripts, etc.), space (borders, walls, checkpoints, special economic zones, camps, policing and surveillance technologies, modes of experience-distant warfare, etc.), and social organization (the division of labor, hierarchy, chains of command, etc.).

Credits to be determined by hours worked.

None Spring 2015 Interested students should send, as a single .pdf file: 1) a one page statement describing their interest in the project and specifying which of the three case studies they would be most interested in working on, 2) a writing sample of no more than five pages, 3) an unofficial copy of their current transcript, and 4) the name of a professor willing to act as a reference on their behalf. The positions will remain open until they are filled.
Candan Turkkan I seek two or three undergraduate student assistants who are interested in food, food supply chains, and Turkey. Assistants will help me collect information (newspaper and magazine articles) on Istanbul’s urban transformation, zoning and land regulations, changes in the inheritance laws, new agricultural policies, import and export data on agricultural products. Assistants will also be transcribing voice recording of interviews conducted (in Turkish) with various NGOs, and other persons of interest. Fluency in Turkish Spring 2015 Interested students should get in touch with Candan Turkkan at Each candidate will be interviewed, in Turkish, regarding their backgrounds and interests. Interviews will be in Turkish. The position will remain open until it is filled.
MJ Peterson Two-level Networks: the IMF and World Bank compared

Data collection for a project comparing the educations and earlier career experiences of individuals who have held the most senior positions in the IMF (managing director, deputy managing directors, and department heads) and in the World Bank (president, managing director, and department heads) over at least the last 10 years began over the summer but is not yet complete.

The research assistant would pick up where the summer data-collection effort ended and continue to work on compiling information about education, earlier positions, and subsequent positions, The information would then be used to map out similarities and differences between the two sets in terms of where and in what fields they received advanced degrees, the extent to which they worked in their respective organization and for other public or private sector employers, and the extent to which they served in senior level national positions.

There is considerable speculation about how the two sets of people are similar or different from one another. I am also interested in the extent to which individuals move between senior IMF or World Bank positions and senior national economic policy-making positions. I am aware of one article relating the percentage of national economic policy-makers educated in “neoliberal” economics departments to their country’s ability to secure IMF loans on relatively generous terms, but it uses simple correlations rather than network analysis tools. Thus the area remains unexplored.

This would be an opportunity for an undergraduate to participate in building a database using Excel and drawing on information available on the Internet (IMF and World Bank websites, national government websites, name searches). The actual network analysis will be varied out using network analysis tools in R.

 Experience with Excel preferred  Spring 2015  Interested students should email a resume, cover letter explaining their interest in the position and their qualifications, and the name of a professor who can serve as a reference to
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