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2021–2022 Academic Year Part-Time Undergraduate RFs

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Can Economics and Finance Reduce Ethnic Conflict and Political Polarization?

This project uses historic natural experiments and contemporary field experiments to understand how economic approaches, including financial innovations, can empower individuals, reduce ethnic conflict and mitigate political polarization. The RA will work with historical source materials, gather and analyze data from around the world.

Faculty mentor: Saumitra Jha, Graduate School of Business
Research fellow: Vivian Urness, '23, undeclared

Characterization of the Aetiology of Neonatal Sepsis in South Asia (ANISA): Learning from a Multi-country Study

Neonatal infections cause an estimated one-fifth of 2.6 million neonatal deaths annually, nearly all of them occurring in developing countries. Given the gap in knowledge about etiology of neonatal infections and the widespread use of empirical treatment with antibiotics, the emergence of multi-drug resistance in the community is a serious concern. With few exceptions, etiology studies conducted to date have systematically missed newborns in the first days of life with very limited capture of infants on the day of birth when most neonatal deaths occur. Moreover, etiology studies in low- and middle-income countries have largely been hospital-based, enrolling infants seeking healthcare.

To address these shortcomings, the ANISA case-control etiology study was conducted in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan between 2011 and 2014. Dr. Darmstadt is leading a team which is assembling a collection of manuscripts which capture learning from the ANISA trial. Manuscripts will highlight the risk factors for developing possible serious bacterial or viral infection and for mortality, care-seeking behaviors, and validation of community health workers’ diagnoses compared to health facility workers.

Faculty mentor: Gary Darmstadt, School of Medicine 
Research fellow: Nardos Solomon, '22, human biology major
Community partner: Child Health Research Foundation, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Climate Change and Soil Arsenic Impacts on Bangladeshi Rice Yield and Grain Quality

Rice is a staple for more than half of the world’s population. Soils used for rice cultivation within South and Southeast Asia are derived from Himalayan sediments that have naturally occurring arsenic. Moreover, irrigation with arsenic containing groundwater is increasing the soil concentrations of arsenic. Arsenic poses a chronic threat to human health when consumed, and it also retards growth of rice plants, threatening rice yield and grain quality. Our previous studies revealed that climatic stressors coupled with soil arsenic substantially decrease rice yield and jeopardize grain quality for the Californian rice. We are now expanding our studies to represent global rice production, examining different soil types and rice varieties, with a specific emphasis on rice production in Asia where 95% of global rice is grown.

The goal of this project is to assess to what extent elevated temperature and atmospheric CO2 (parameters of climate change) combined with soil arsenic affect rice yields and grain quality within South and Southeast Asia. We used soils from Bangladesh and greenhouse conditions emulating current and future climates. We conducted highly-controlled greenhouse experiments with different soil arsenic concentrations and climatic conditions projected to occur over the rest of this century. Yield will be determined by measuring the weight of dehusked filled grains, which will be later digested to measure As, Cd and micronutrient in rice grains.

Faculty mentor: Scott Fendorf, Department of Earth System Science
Research fellow: Sonya Epifantseva, '25, earth science major

Crime, Violence, and Policing: Patterns and Hotspots in India

Nirvikar Jassal is exploring law enforcement in India for a book project. The book highlights the impact of interventions that encourage women and minorities to comfortably approach the police for cases of sexual violence and hate crime. The book uses a novel dataset of crime records; the undergraduate researcher interested in this topic will assist in the additional scraping, cleaning, and merging, as well as assist in the development of research papers on sexual violence, ethnic conflict, and political violence. 

Researcher mentor: Nirvikar Jassal, King Center on Global Development
Research fellow: Shirley Chen, '23, computer science and international relations majors

Data-Driven Approaches to Human Trafficking Detection

Recognizing this need, the Stanford Human Trafficking Data Lab has created a partnership between Stanford University researchers and Dr. Assis, the Brazilian federal labor prosecutor in charge of anti-trafficking data collection efforts and strategic data partnerships, to undertake an ambitious project designed to understand the way trafficking networks function, interact with each other and with supply chains, and evade detection. The team is building a machine learning-driven predictive model of trafficking risk, an “Intuition Engine,” designed to use large pools of regularly collected, raw data from a range of sources to detect the strongest signals of human trafficking in supply chains.

Researcher mentor: Grant Miller, School of Medicine; Kim Babiarz, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI),
Research fellows: Lauren Kong, '23, computer science major; Yesenia Ulloa, '22, product design major; Amy Zhang, '22, computer science major

Data-Driven Predictions of Potential Leishmania Vectors in Latin America

American cutaneous leishmaniasis (ACL) is a neglected tropical disease vectored by sandflies and caused by ~11 Leishmania species (blood-borne protists). Vectors of ACL were initially associated with primary and secondary forests. Thus, in the mid-late 1900s, parasitologists predicted that ACL would be eradicated as deforestation and urbanization intensified. However, the number of new cases of ACL has since increased, with outbreaks occurring across forested, rural, and urban settings. The disparity between early predictions and current reality likely stems from a lack of knowledge of each link within the complex ACL transmission cycle, as all competent vectors have yet to be identified. Generally, land-use shifts human density and vector and reservoir host communities, ultimately adjusting the probability that an infected vector will bite a human. Thus, the lack of comprehensive recognition of vectors species, and their corresponding ecology and biogeography, makes predictions regarding the effect of land-use change on ACL incidence challenging to formulate. 

Faculty mentor: Erin Mordecai, Department of Biology
Research fellow: Gowri Vadmal, '24, undeclared

Disentangling the Human Vector Relationship to Disrupt Dengue and Chikungunya Virus Outbreaks in Kenya

The climate-enabled vector abundance, human movement and activity space, and viral introductions are critical factors for transmission and human disease in sub-Saharan urban environments. The presence of dengue and chikungunya disease has long been under-recognized and underreported in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Kenya. In this project, the potential impact of targeted interventions on human chikungunya virus and dengue virus incidence and vector abundance will be examined using advanced models parameterized on robust human, vector and virus field data. 

Faculty mentor: Desiree LaBeaud, Department of Pediatrics
Research fellow: Bethel Bayrau, '22, human biology and African Studies majors

Emergency Medical Services in South and Southeast Asia

This research project extends an ongoing economics research project on public and private roles in the health sector into the realm of pandemic response and emergency medical services in Southeast and South Asia. Building on a few preliminary case studies and econometric analyses of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), this work will deepen and broaden quantitative and qualitative research on the historical and evolving roles of public and private organizations in testing and caring for COVID-19 patients, delivery of vaccines, and in emergency medical services, including conducting virtual interviews with experts in the region who study this topic. The analyses will inform comparison of state and non-state organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit, in health and medical care compared to education services in low- and middle-income countries in Asia, in comparative global perspective. The research seeks to explore whether patterns of contracting-out service delivery for “local public goods” like population health, basic medical care, and compulsory schooling quality, are correlated locally and over time; whether the trends help to explain trends in disparities (urban/rural, gender, etc.); and whether patterns of development follow what an extended model of “The Proper Scope of Government” (Hart, Shleifer and Vishny 1997) predicts about mixed-ownership markets including private nonprofits. 

Faculty mentor: Karen Eggleston, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI)
Research fellow: Darren Wong, MS '23, civil and environmental engineering

Entrepreneurship Education to Aid Developing Economie

With 25.9M refugee cases recorded by the UN in 2018, refugees' self-reliance has become a challenge for policymakers. Recent research focuses on refugees' wage employment to address this issue, while many refugee-hosting countries struggle with a high unemployment rate of their citizens. This project focuses on entrepreneurship as a solution for the refugees' self-reliance issue. Literature shows that refugees have stronger entrepreneurial incentives compared to local citizens, but they face greater challenges in starting and growing their businesses. This project aims to study how providing entrepreneurship education and facilitating refugees' team formation using data-driven methods, such as machine learning and matching algorithms, can promote entrepreneurship among refugees.

Faculty mentor: Chuck Eesley, Department of Management Science and Engineering
Research fellows: Victoria Yang, '22, MS, '23 economics major, computer science coterm; Rachel Ochoa, '22, international relations major

Gender Equality Impacts by the Legal System in Ethiopia

Dr. Darmstadt recently led the development of The Lancet Series for Gender Equality, Norms and Health. Since the series was published in May 2019, the world has entered a time of crisis for health and economic equity. There is now an urgent need to reimagine a bold, intersectional approach to addressing systemic gender inequalities and its impacts on health and development. This research examines the origins of legal pluralism in Ethiopia and its effects on gender equality and health for women and girls. Our aim is to publish one or more manuscripts to call greater attention to legal pluralism as a root cause holding back the advancement of gender equality and health globally.

Faculty mentor: Gary Darmstadt, School of Medicine 
Research fellow: Sophia Nesamoney, '23, human biology major, and creative writing minor

High Throughput Stain-Screening Pipeline Development for Microscopy-Based Diagnosis of Malaria and Other Infectious Diseases

Innovations in Methods and Data

Infectious diseases carry an enormous global burden, particularly in low-resource settings. In recent years, the Prakash lab has developed numerous frugal science tools to combat their effects, particularly in diagnostic contexts. Through such projects, we have noted the important role that biological stains play in microscopy-based diagnostics. However, we have also noted that the stains chosen for various diseases often have limitations, or in some cases, do not exist at all. 

To that end, we would like to create a high-throughput stain-screening pipeline: just as scientists often use high-throughput drug-screening platforms to aid in drug discovery and design, it would be highly useful to develop a platform on which hundreds of stains can be tested against cultures of various pathogens. For a given disease, we’d hope to use such a platform to identify a stain that is long-lasting, temperature-insensitive, and environmentally friendly (i.e. well-suited for low-resource regions), which can provide sufficient contrast to detect pathogens on a given microscopy platform. 

Faculty mentor: Manu Prakash, Department of Bioengineering
Research fellow: Rinni Bhansali, '23, electrical engineering and mathematics majors

How Have Health-Related Knowledge and Behavior Changed Over Time in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

We have achieved great success in global health with improving coverage of certain healthcare products. For example, taken by more than 25 million individuals across the world, antiretroviral therapy is estimated to avert more than a million deaths per year. Similarly, coverage with essential childhood vaccinations is above 90% in many low- and middle-income countries, even some of the least economically developed countries. Yet, the global health community has also spent millions of dollars on improving health-related knowledge and bringing about behavior change. What these dollars have achieved, however, is much less studied. The hypothesis of this project is that global health efforts aimed at improving knowledge and bringing about behavior change have had little impact, despite large amounts of money having been spent on these efforts. The contribution of this project lies in its comprehensiveness. We will bring together all Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) as well as Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) that have ever been conducted in a low- or middle-income country to systematically examine how responses to questions on health-related knowledge and behavior have changed over time, and how trends vary between world regions.   

Faculty mentor: Pascal Geldsetzer, School of Medicine
Research fellow: Amod Hegde, MA '24, management science and engineering

Identifying Effective Strategies for Malaria Eradication

In 2019, the Lancet Commission on malaria eradication called for a global effort to eradicate malaria worldwide by 2050, and several countries in southern Africa have set goals to eliminate malaria locally by 2030. In settings approaching malaria elimination, transmission is low, and cases cluster in geographic “hot spots”. This study investigates the effectiveness of public health interventions delivered in the neighborhood around malaria cases. These interventions include malaria testing, antimalarial treatment, and indoor residual spraying with insecticide. The study will analyze data from three randomized trials in Namibia, Eswatini, and Zambia.

Faculty mentor: Jade Benjamin-Chung, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health
Research fellow: Marie Riviere,  MA '23, civil and environmental engineering

Improving State Effectiveness through Bureaucrat Assignment: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo

This is an opportunity to gain research experience in development economics, including experience analyzing data from large-scale randomized controlled trials conducted by the PI in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The research fellow will work on several ongoing research projects, including but not limited to the following topics: (1) the optimal allocation of bureaucrats to teams and tasks, (2) the effects of taxation on bureaucrats’ performance and public goods provision, (3) the effects of progressive taxation on compliance, revenues, and the social contract.

Researcher mentor: Augustin Bergeron, King Center on Global Development
Research fellow: Hongyu Ge, '23, economics and political science majors

Information, Distribution, and the State in Sub-Saharan Africa

Developing countries’ inability to evenly administer policy is often thought to be a problem of low state capacity. This project examines how the economically stratified effects of state-building schemes distorts how, and to whom, states administer policy as they develop. It focuses on states’ efforts to solicit information from citizens and how such efforts affect the levels and distribution of state-citizen linkages---such as through the state’s ability to extract from citizens, or through citizens’ abilities to make demands on the state.

Researcher mentor: Jeremy Bowles, King Center on Global Development
Research fellow: Corinna Ha, MA '23, Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy 

Integrating Migrants and Winning Votes: Evidence from an Anti-Exploitation Campaign in the Italian Agricultural Fields

Policies that favor the integration of migrants frequently increase xenophobic voting and backfire against their promoters, making integration a politically difficult objective to pursue. This research project explores the political and economic consequences of a different type of integration policy: fighting migrant labor exploitation. Dr. Dipoppa considers the context of the Italian agricultural fields, where more than 400,000 migrants are estimated to be subject to labor racketeering organized and controlled by criminal organizations. Dr. Dipoppa examines a campaign designed to give migrants information and incentives to denounce their racketeers. Exploiting the staggered roll-out of the intervention, Dr. Dipoppa shows that this (i) increased reporting on exploitation and (ii) prosecution of criminal organizations, who are often responsible for smuggling and controlling migrants; (iii) raised awareness among the civil society, and (iv) increased the vote share for pro-integration parties. Survey evidence ties this last result to a change in preferences for immigration: in treated locations, respondents become more pro-integration post treatment. Learning about migrants’ exploitation fostered sentiments of sympathy for migrants, shifting moderate voters towards pro-immigration parties. Unlike other integration policies, fighting migrant exploitation can directly undermine organized crime and improve migrants’ situation at no political cost for parties supporting it.

Researcher mentor: Gemma Dipoppa, Department of Political Science
Research fellows: Adelaide Madary, '25, international relations and French majors; Sophia Ann Zamoyski, '23, psychology major

Identity Politics and Policy Change: The Impacts of Quotas on Policy Outcomes in India

Which women become politicians, particularly under quotas, and when and why does women’s electoral representation lead to changes in policy outcomes? While we know that the electoral representation of minorities leads to shift in policies, the reasons for these differences remain unclear. This project will use big data from across India to study the conditions under which the world’s largest quota system leads to policy and social change.

As a result of the mandated political reservations in local office, women’s electoral representation in India has markedly risen in the past several decades. While only 12% of parliamentarians in India are women, more than 33% of elected representatives in the three tiers of local government are women as per Constitutional mandate. Past research has documented the important policy consequences of these reservations: women elected representatives are more likely to invest in services desired by women. The reasons for these gendered differences in policy-making, however, remain unclear. In fact, these findings stand in contrast to a common norm described in interviews conducted when visiting rural communities: while women may hold de jure power they often act as proxies for male relatives who hold de facto power. While the refrain of proxyism is so common that it has been coined into a term – pati sarpanch – past research has found little evidence of this. This research has been limited to survey analysis conducted in a small sample of communities in one state of India. We are left without a complete answer to the question: when (and why) do female elected representatives act to elevate the particular voices and demands of women?

Faculty mentor: Soledad Prillaman, Department of Political Science
Research fellow: Somsiree Bryant, '22, international relations and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies majors

Keeping the Promise? Understanding the Appropriation of Inclusive Education in Developing Nations

Inclusive education has become a global movement advancing many promises, such as increasing access to education for marginalized groups and pledging to change attitudes in educational systems toward “diverse” groups (e.g., students with disabilities, poor learners, ethnic/linguistic minorities), increasing these groups’ meaningful participation in education and improving learning outcomes for all learners. These promises are derived from discourses and research conducted in developed nations. However, the knowledge base on how inclusive education is being appropriated and implemented in the developing world is thin. Enormous financial, social, and educational barriers as well as colonial legacies perpetuate inequities in many parts of the developing world, posing serious challenges to keeping these promises. The purpose of this study was to contextualize inclusive education in Guatemalan contexts.

Faculty mentor: Alfredo Artiles, School of Education
Research fellow: Alejandra Salazar, '23, public policy major

Leveraging Data from WASH Randomized Controlled Trials

Several large trials of water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions have recently concluded, offering the opportunity to leverage the data to answer additional questions about the household environment and child health. The research fellow will assist with two ongoing projects that use these datasets to (1) explore the relationship between household flooring quality and child gut health, and (2) quantitatively assess potential bias in the assessment of self-reported health outcomes.

Researcher mentor: Yoshika Crider, King Center on Global Development
Research fellow: Habboba Musa, '22, human biology major

Personnel Flow and Economic Development

What are the forces that have fueled the rapid economic development in China in the past four decades? Some attribute the success story to the top officials who govern the administrative levels of the localities, dispatched by the Chinese state through a top-down process. Others emphasize the important role of local elites, especially those local officials who live and work in the same locality for an extended period of time, many spent their entire work career in one locality. In this research project, we aim to resolve this research question by collecting data on both economic indicators and official career information, and analyze how different types of officials, characteristic of distinct career trajectories and affiliation with these localities, affect economic development and social welfare there. We will construct a longitudinal dataset with rich information on socioeconomic indicators at different localities (counties, prefectures, and selected provinces) so that we can examine and compare changes in the association between the elite mobility and economic development (and social welfare) across regions and over time in China.

Faculty supervisor: Xueguang Zhou, Department of Sociology
Research fellow: Zecheng Wang, '21, MA '22, political science major

Planning for Productive Migration in Niger

In the face of the challenging social, political, economic, and ethical issues raised by the substantial increase in foreign-born populations, the Immigration Policy Lab conducts research that employs field and natural experimental methods to examine the impact of immigration and integration policies throughout the world. Using large datasets, creative research designs, and modern analytical tools, we bring new evidence to bear on the urgent problems practitioners face. Through collaborations with the people who set public policy, as well as those who serve immigrant communities, our research generates solutions with the potential to improve lives.

Faculty mentor: Jeremy Weinstein, Department of Political Science
Research fellow: Roxane Somda, '23, economics major

Strengthening Legal Frameworks to Combat Child and Forced Marriage, FGM, Gender Based Violence and Human Trafficking

Over the past 15 months, Dr. Cohen wrote with a group of Stanford undergraduates an analysis of how Ethiopia’s legal framework and pluralist legal system impacts the federal government’s initiatives to end child and forced marriage, FGM, human trafficking, gender based violence, and the denial of women’s property rights. That project recently resulted in the completion of a 12,000 word report that will be published by the Center for Human Rights and International Justice, so-authored by myself and the 3 students. Dr. Cohen's intention is to broaden the scope of this research to develop a comparative study that will examine the ways in which a group of countries in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have dealt with similar issues. The goal is to identify best practices that can form the basis for recommendations to legislators, judiciaries, and national human rights institutions in contexts where efforts for reform are underway. The research will encompass countries that have pluralistic legal systems, some federal, some unitary.

Faculty mentor: David Cohen, Department of Classics
Research fellows: Cathy Nguyen, '22, human biology major; Maggie Roache, '22, political science major and human rights minor

Technology-Enabled Modernization of the Sales Function of SMEs in Latin America: A Field Experiment

This project aims to understand the impact of modernizing the sales function of small and medium businesses in Guatemala, El Salvador and Columbia through a Randomized Controlled Trial. Small businesses often do not have the systems and tangible practices employed by big businesses to generate and qualify sales leads, track them through the purchase funnel and build customer relationships. The aim of this research is to understand how modernizing the sales through a mix of training, mentorship and adoption of technologies impacts firm business outcomes such as sales and profits. We focus on two aspects of the sales function – transactional and relational - and examine how these impact the business. To this end, Professor Sridhar Narayanan and his team have designed a field experiment that is currently in the pilot phase, and will launch in the field over the summer.

Professor Narayanan and his team have partnered with a mobile application-based CRM solution firm to develop a customized Spanish language version of the app for the businesses in our experiment.  They have also developed training modules that owners and selected employees of the businesses will undergo to upgrade their sales management skills and practices.  The businesses will also undergo customized one-on-one sessions to help them implement the skills learned in the training modules. We will collect data generated by the mobile app, as well as data collected in the field for our empirical analysis.  The research assistance will involve all aspects of this project, including material development, the creation and deployment of web-based material for continuing engagement with the participants of the experiment, and data analysis.

Faculty mentor: Sridhar Narayanan, Graduate School of Business
Research fellow: Thanawat Sornwanee, '24, electrical engineering major

The Politics of Humanitarian Aid: Why Do Governments Prevent Emergency Aid to People Who Need It?

Governments of poor countries often rely on aid from foreign countries to fund basic services, such as health, education, and infrastructure. When these countries experience emergencies, foreign donors offer additional aid to help people in harm’s way. Recent events in countries such as Venezuela, Syria, and Ukraine illustrate how governments refuse offers of humanitarian aid or make it difficult for aid to reach populations in need. This project investigates why governments prevent emergency humanitarian aid from reaching people who need it. 

Researcher mentor: Allison Grossman, Department of Political Science
Research fellows: Kelsey Carido, '23, international relations major; Lena McEachern, '25, international relations and science, technology, and society majors; Daania Tahir, '24, undeclared; Jessica Zhu, '24, international relations major

The Role of Soil in Nutritional Outcomes in India

Despite decades of economic growth, India remains a country with very high levels of childhood stunting, anemia, and zinc deficiency. While many factors contribute to these outcomes, an underappreciated role may be the fact that many soils in India are very deficient in both iron and zinc. Some recent studies in other regions (e.g., Nepal, Malawi) have suggested that soil deficiencies in essential elements like iron, zinc, and selenium can explain spatial patterns of human deficiencies in those same elements.

The main goals of this project are threefold: (1) To use newly available national datasets on soil deficiency and human health outcomes (including biomarkers of iron and zinc deficiency) to document the spatial association between soil and human deficiencies in India, even after controlling for other plausible determinants; (2) to leverage satellite data to map local areas with high deficiency; (3) to work with local partners to design a large scale intervention study and write a proposal to obtain funding for the intervention and monitoring of impact. For both (2) and (3), a key set of data will relate to canopy nutrient levels, as these are both more directly related to satellite measures than soil data and are the more immediate (and thus measurable) impact of large-scale interventions as compared to human biomarkers. We are currently partnering with Plantix to provide phone-based data on canopy deficiencies.

Faculty mentor: David Lobell, Earth System Science
Research fellow: Claire Morton, '24, undeclared

Topical Emollient Therapy for Prevention of Atopic Diseases in Young Children in Bangladesh

Atopic diseases impact child physical and emotional health, and family and national economies. In collaboration with Professor Peter Elias at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Dr. Darmstadt has developed a highly efficacious, low-cost, quality-assured, easy-to-manufacture Optimized Emollient Mixture (OEM) designed for daily use in newborns and young children from birth to avert infections and atopic diseases in young children. Through this project, Dr. Darmstadt aims to develop a study protocol and grant application to 1) demonstrate the acceptability and safety of his OEM product, 2) test the clinical impact of OEM on skin barrier function; incidence of atopic dermatitis (primary outcome), asthma and food allergies; incidence of serious infections; and weight gain, and 3) determine household economic impacts of prophylactic treatment of young children with OEM compared to sunflower seed oil-treated and control children. Skin barrier repair therapy with this product is meant for every child globally, from birth and continuing into childhood, and has the potential to substantially improve the survival, health, well-being and economic status of hundreds of millions of children and their families worldwide. Professors Darmstadt and Elias are working with a business partner on plans for commercialization of the OEM product through a business model that will ensure that the product is affordable for families at the lowest levels of socio-economic status worldwide. 

Faculty mentor: Gary Darmstadt, School of Medicine 
Research fellow: Keona Blanks, '23, earth systems major

Understanding and Predicting Income-Generating Electricity Use in India

Energy access and use is directly linked to changes in income generation and productivity. The Indian government has tracked the financial activities of over 200 prominent income-generating activities in manufacturing (both rural and urban) for over 30 years, including their use of electricity. It is not well understood how electricity introduction or changes in consumption differentially impact the financial situations of these income-generating sectors over time. This is due, in part, to many additional factors at the local, state, and national level that influence markets, energy supply, and politics to name a few. The aforementioned government data captures these interwoven influences and gives us the ability to see how the effects of electrification on economic activity changes over time. These historic trends might allow us to predict how these sectors will change in the future. This information is important when identifying when certain sectors may grow or disappear with the introduction and intensification of electricity usage and where or when more electricity is needed to support growth.

Faculty supervisor: Michael Machala, Precourt Institute for Energy Postdoctoral Scholar
Research fellows: Anna Clark, '23, applied and engineering physics major; Sunny (Junyang) Sun, '24, undeclared

Vaccine Hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy is one of the most important impediments to resolving the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a proliferation of studies that attempt to influence beliefs and motivate people to get a vaccine, as well as a variety of ongoing public health campaigns. Studies have considered a wide variety of interventions including using different types of information (e.g., benefit to self versus others), language of messaging (e.g., clinical or empathetic language), and social norms (e.g., others’ vaccine willingness) to change vaccine willingness. Most of these interventions are one-shot messages with no interaction. A small literature has considered a more interactive approach using chatbots, but the interventions remain a series of one-shot messages that resemble a sophisticated question and answer page. Moreover, while many of these studies analyze subgroups ex post, little consideration is given to arguably the most important segmentation of users: reason for vaccine hesitancy. Impediments to vaccination likely vary substantially across individuals, with some individuals’ hesitancy based on deeply held beliefs, while others may face accessibility barriers or low intrinsic incentives. We propose that integrated chatbots on social media platforms are an underexplored and potentially powerful tool for both identifying segments of users and delivering sustained, targeted interventions. 

Faculty mentor: Susan Athey, Graduate School of Business
Research fellow: Dawson Verley, '22, political science major