UMass Amherst Department of Political Science

Undergraduate Research Engagement Program

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

Through the UREP, the Department of Political Science fully integrates a select group of undergraduate fellows in research activities. The UREP 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 UREP 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 UREP 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 UREP 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 UREP 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
Regine Spector I seek two undergraduate assistants to study the property, political, and legal dimensions of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States. Assistants will compile secondary literature on conflicts surrounding these fracking plays, and trace the role of individuals, municipalities, NGOs, corporations, and other government bodies over time. Significant quantities of data (newspaper articles, court cases, academic articles, court cases) will be compiled using Zotero. This research will form the foundation of a new project that seeks to understand the ambiguities surrounding property relations and the way in which “rule-of-law” operates in this important energy sector that undergirds our U.S. economy.  none  Fall 2015 Interested undergraduates should send to as a single .pdf file: 1) a statement of their interest including whether they have taken my Energy Politics course, why they are interested in the project, and their other research experience, if any; 2) an unofficial transcript copy; 3) the name of a professor willing to serve as a reference; and 4) a maximum five-page writing sample. Applications received by August 15, 2015 will receive priority consideration.
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. Case study two: The rise of nursing homes as institutions in the West and in urban areas around the world. 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.).


n/a Fall 2015 Please write directly to Professor Pachirat to confirm that the position you are interested in are still open and wait to receive confirmation from him before submitting an application. Interested students then should send to, 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. 
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. n/a Fall 2015 Please write directly to Professor Pachirat to confirm that the position you are interested in are still open and wait to receive confirmation from him before submitting an application. Interested students then send to, 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. The position will remain open until it is filled.
Alyssa Maraj Graham I seek one to three undergraduate students with an interest in political economy, democratic movements, and/or natural resource politics to assist on a project investigating the European economic crisis that began in 2008 and subsequent recovery efforts. The project focuses in particular on Iceland, Scotland/UK, and the European Union. Tasks include data cataloguing, interview transcription, collecting and reviewing document sources, and collaboration on developing a set of codes to analyze the data. Students will gain experience using Qualitative Data Analysis software (Dedoose) to analyze interview data, archival materials, government publications, and media sources.
Credits to be determined by hours worked.
None Fall 2015 Email the following in a single document: a short resume, unofficial transcript, and a ~250-word cover letter stating your interest in the project and what you hope to gain from the experience.
MJ Peterson

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. There is considerable speculation about how the educational background and career experiences of senior IMF and senior World Bank officials are similar or different from one another. There is one published 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. 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, something on which no one has published as far as I know. Thus the area remains unexplored.

The research assistant will pick up where the fall data-collection effort ended and continue to work on compiling information about education, earlier positions, and subsequent positions into an excel database, The information will 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.

Experience with Excel preferred Fall 2015 Email a resume, cover letter detailing your interest in the project, and the name of one professor who can serve as a reference.
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 Fall 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.
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