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Research Opportunities AY2024–25

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The following research opportunities were available for Predoctoral Research Fellows in the 2024–25 academic year and are now closed. Opportunities for the 2025–2026 academic year will be posted in fall 2024.

Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change in the Global South  
Faculty mentors: Marshall Burke, Earth System Science
Professors Marshall Burke, Carlos Gould and Stephen Stedman are seeking a Predoctoral Research Fellow to support a newly formed research initiative on how to promote climate resilience and adaptation in the developing world. The initiative is focused around the production of a spatial extent database that georeferences hundreds of local and national-level programs that may promote climate resilience or adaptation. This database will then be used to estimate the effect of a large class of interventions on resilience and adaptation in three domains: conflict and political stability; economic growth and agricultural yields; and public health and well-being. The predoc will support both components of the project. Data collection efforts will entail identifying programs that are plausibly climate protective, searching for publicly available existing information on spatial extent for each program and, where such information is not available, working with program staff or government agencies to build the spatial extent data directly. Preliminary analysis will use a combination of conventional econometric models and cutting edge approaches to conducting causal inference with modeled data, including the use of machine learning architectures. The predoc will be expected to work closely with the faculty PIs and at least one postdoc as well as two additional research assistants, and to participate in weekly lab meetings, including presenting regular research updates. We consider our predocs full members of the research team and most of our past predocs have been co-authors on multiple resulting publications.  
Preferred qualifications: A substantive interest in climate science, economics, public health or political science; strong coding skills in R and/or Python; excellent data science and visualization skills; and a familiarity with creating and manipulating spatial data. Because of the strong outreach component of our work, strong candidates will also have excellent communication skills, with intermediate or advanced command of at least one foreign language desirable but not required. 

Effects of Climate Change on Political Systems in the Global South  
Faculty mentors: Amanda Kennard, Political Science 
Professor Kennard is recruiting one Predoctoral Research Fellow to support a new research project on the effects of climate change on political systems in the Global South. The project will require generating two novel data products. The first involves collecting spatial data on electoral returns for countries in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia so that we can assess how climate shocks are affecting electoral stability. The second is a large database of geolocated and harmonized survey responses that will be used to estimate individual-level attitudinal and behavioral effects. This database will be built primarily through the use of a novel natural language processing algorithm designed to automate both the geolocation of respondents and the identification of commonly occurring questions across different surveys. We are seeking a predoc to support these data collection efforts as well as preliminary analysis that employs the new data products. The predoc will work closely with Professor Kennard and her postdoc as well as several research assistants from the United States and Latin America, and to attend weekly lab-style meetings where we share research progress and provide feedback on each other's work. For predocs with strong computer science skills, there will also be opportunities to work with and train cutting-edge machine learning models with an eye towards credible estimation of causal effects in downstream tasks. This includes the use of transformers, LLMs, and other so-called foundation models. 
Preferred qualifications: A strong quantitative background; strong coding skills in R and ideally in Python; previous experience working with high-resolution spatial data; and strong data visualization skills. A background in climate science, economics or political science is preferred but not necessary. The position would be ideal for someone intending to apply to graduate school in the social sciences and with a strong substantive interest in climate change. 

Guestworker Migration Initiative      
Faculty mentors: Melanie Morten, Economics, and Beatriz Magaloni, Political Science 
To gain a comprehensive understanding of the economic impact of migration and current migration policies, it is essential to rely on empirical evidence. The Guestworker Migration Initiative focuses on measuring the effects of key immigration-related policies, particularly the H-2A agricultural visas, in the United States. It seeks to understand what role temporary legal work can play in alleviating global poverty. This project involves designing and conducting surveys, as well as performing statistical analysis on original household data. The research findings will directly contribute to policy discussions surrounding immigration in the US and will be utilized for policy outreach to important stakeholders in the US government and industry during the later stages of the project. This position would be an excellent match for someone interested in immigration policy, from both a policy and research side.  
Preferred qualifications: A strong preference for programming experience in Stata and/or R. Previous experience in designing or working with household survey data and proficiency in Spanish are considered a plus.

Household Flooring and Soil-transmitted Helminth Infections  
Faculty mentor: Jade Benjamin-Chung, Epidemiology & Population Health, School of Medicine   
Professor Jade Benjamin-Chung is recruiting one Predoctoral Research Fellow to work on the following project: Soil-transmitted helminth infections and diarrhea are responsible for a large burden of morbidity and mortality among children under 5 years and are associated with increased growth faltering, anemia, impaired child development, and mortality. The Benjamin-Chung group is conducting a randomized trial in Sirajganj District, Bangladesh to measure whether installing concrete floors in households with soil floors reduces child enteric infection. The study will randomize 800 eligible households with pregnant women and install concrete floors before the birth cohort is born. Follow-up measurements will be collected when children are ages 6, 12, 18, and 24 months on the effects on household floor contamination, child soil-transmitted helminth infection, diarrhea, child growth and development, and maternal depression and well-being. To minimize any negative environmental impacts, we are also exploring the use of an alternative cement mix with lower greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of developing a sustainable flooring intervention. Using causal mediation analyses, the group will investigate whether effects occur (or do not occur) through maternal and environmental pathways and will estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for both maternal and child outcomes using disability adjusted life years. The findings will provide rigorous, policy-relevant evidence about whether concrete flooring installation should be delivered as a public health intervention to reduce child enteric infection. 
Preferred qualifications: Coding experience in R and Stata; proficiency in Excel; fluency in Bengali; willingness to spend a few months of the year in Bangladesh; interest in a career in global health, planetary health, and/or epidemiology.

Improving Health, Intelligence and Economic Growth by Reducing Lead Exposure  
Faculty mentor: Stephen Luby, Medicine  
Stephen Luby, Professor of Medicine, and Jenna Forsyth, Research Scientist, are seeking a predoctoral fellow to join the Stanford King Center Lead Initiative. Possible project topics include questions related to getting lead out of the economy, such as: i) identifying the many uses of lead in the economy, characterizing their replacement, costs and pathways to achieve this; ii) developing and piloting strategies to remove the scrap metal and leaded products from their informal recycling loop in Bangladesh, and iii) exploring options for dealing with the lead that is unintentionally extracted during zinc mining. The economy still needs zinc. Mining zinc also generates lead. What would be the plan for the mined lead? Results from the research are of direct policy relevance and may be reported in white papers and mainstream media publications in addition to technical academic publications. The fellow will also be expected to contribute to the different aspects of empirical work involved in the project, including data management, visualization, and basic descriptive statistics. Pending interest, there will be ample opportunity to learn and apply more advanced computational techniques. The fellow can also expect to work in a team setting, in which they will get to collaborate with and learn from faculty members and older students/fellows. 
Preferred qualifications:  A strong quantitative background, excellent computer programming skills (STATA and R), and a serious interest in pursuing research. A background in economics is helpful, but not necessary. Previous research experience is a plus. An interest in traveling to South Asia is a plus, along with knowledge of Urdu, Hindi, Bengali or any dialects spoken in Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh.