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2020–2021 Summer Full-Time Undergraduate RFs

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American Cutaneous Leishmaniasis: Data-Driven Predictions About Transmission Cycles Along Land-Use Gradients

American cutaneous leishmaniasis (ACL) is a neglected tropical disease, vectored by sandflies, and caused by ~20 Leishmania species (blood-borne protists). Mammals across eight orders have been identified as reservoir hosts. Vector and reservoir hosts of ACL were initially associated with primary and secondary forest. 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 each component of the cycle (i.e., all vectors and reservoirs for each Leishmania sp.) has yet to be resolved. Generally, land-use shifts human density as well as vector and reservoir host communities, ultimately adjusting the probability that a human will be bitten by an infected vector. Incomprehension of vector and reservoir host identities, and their corresponding ecology and biogeography, makes predictions regarding the effect of land-use change on ACL incidence challenging to formulate. This research project uses machine-learning and network science to identify the vectors and reservoir hosts of the neglected tropical disease Leishmaniasis. Professor Erin Mordecai and her team will use model output to examine how land-use change influences variation in Leishmaniasis transmission cycles in South America.

Faculty supervisor: Erin Mordecai, Department of Biology
Focus country or region: South America
Research fellow: Gowri Vadmal, '24

Determinants of Human Trafficking Among Brazilian Firms: Data-Driven Approaches to Trafficking Detection

Recognizing the need for new tools to better identify hidden networks of human traffickers and to disrupt their operations effectively, the Stanford Human Trafficking Data Lab is undertaking an ambitious research agenda aimed at developing new methodologies to understand trafficking networks and the determinants of human trafficking risk. The Human Trafficking Data Lab seeks a research fellow based in Brazil to work in close collaboration with the Chief Data Officer at the Brazilian Federal Labor Prosecution Office and the Stanford-based research team in operationalizing raw data inputs from a variety of administrative and archival sources, with diverse data structures, for use in collaborative academic research on trafficking networks. In addition to data wrangling and documentation, the research fellow will conduct regression-based analysis using large pools of firm data to understand the determinants of human trafficking in Brazilian firms in a variety of economic sectors.

Faculty supervisor: Grant Miller, School of Medicine
Community partner: Brazilian Federal Labor Prosecution Office
Focus country or region: Brazil
Research fellow: Maria Clara Rodrigues, '21, economics major

Entrepreneurship Education to Aid Refugee Populations

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 supervisor: Charles Eesley, Department of Management Science and Engineering
Focus country or region: Ethiopia
Community partner: Jobs Creation Commission - Ethiopia
Research fellow: Siddharth Gehlaut, '21, economics major

Eradicating Cervical Cancer in West Africa (Nigeria) Through Enhanced HPV Vaccination by Employing Comic Book-Based Education

The purpose of this research project is to develop and execute a comic book and media-based HPV vaccination education campaign in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. HPV is the causative agent of >95% of cervical cancers, as well as several other cancer types. For over a decade, the HPV vaccine has been administered in high income countries to good effect, decreasing HPV-related cancer incidence and deaths due to HPV-related cancers. Unfortunately, cervical cancer remains the #2 cancer killer of women in Nigeria, and the HPV vaccine has not been widely taken up in Nigeria or many other west African countries. Recently, in collaboration with a nonprofit organization named Global Oncology, Professor Ami Bhatt and her team developed a creative education campaign that leverages comics and online videos to engage school age children and their families to learn more about the vaccine. They are coordinating with both the public and private sector (government, local industries) to help spread this education as well as coordinate this with the planned rollout of the vaccine in 2021.  Given the COVID-19 pandemic, high quality education about vaccination and its safety and efficacy is even more important than ever, and this project may also investigate ways to expand this education campaign to cover the topic of vaccines, in general. This research project will involve designing and executing elements of this campaign, and working closely with campaign ambassadors in Nigeria and the USA. Professor Bhatt and her team will also be developing an assessment tool to evaluate the efficacy of the educational materials that are developed and administered through this program.

Faculty supervisor: Ami Bhatt, School of Medicine
Focus country or region: Nigeria
Community partner: Global Oncology, Inc.
Research fellows: Faiza Manzoor, '23, psychology and international relations majors, creative writing minor; Joddy Nwankwo, '22, anthropology major

Extreme Poverty, Infrastructure, and Climate (EPIC) Initiative

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is the only world region in which the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased since 1990. SSA is home to 16% of global population, yet more than half of those in extreme poverty live in the region. Lack of access to physical infrastructure such as roads, water supply and electricity is a key element of how ‘poverty’ is often defined. The association between infrastructure and economic development is well established; however, the causal pathways that link them are often implied rather than interrogated. Understanding those links is important for developing sound investment strategies. The Extreme Poverty, Infrastructure, and Climate (EPIC) initiative, which is supported by the Stanford King Center on Global Development, is focused on the broad goal of amplifying the poverty-alleviating impacts of infrastructure investments, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. It aims to improve understanding of the extent to which, the conditions under which, and the pathways by which road and water infrastructure investments affect the well-being of households living in extreme poverty in Uganda. The initiative also seeks to consider the effects that a changing climate is likely to have on the links between infrastructure and poverty alleviation.

Faculty supervisors: Jenna Davis, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Eric Lambin, School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences
Focus country or region: Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania (Sub-Saharan Africa)

Financial Crises and Capital Misallocation

This project investigates how a short-term banking crisis can have potential long-term effects for decades through the channel of capital misallocation. Capital misallocation can come in many forms, including productive firms not being able to invest in physical capital or capable people not being able to invest in human capital. Professor Chenzi Xu and her team will take a historical view, looking at various financial crises, which will allow them to examine the long-term, intergenerational effects of these initial misallocations. The research fellow would be working very closely with Professor Xu and Professor Adrien Matray at Princeton University, and could be involved with every step of the project, from data construction and cleaning to analysis, depending on interest and skill level. The project is broad in scope and will likely include studying both the United States and foreign countries, in many different time periods.

Faculty supervisor: Chenzi Xu, Graduate School of Business
Focus country or region: Global
Research fellow: Ian Sills, '23, economics major

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, 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.  Professor Alfredo Artiles and his team have already reported findings based on national aggregate patterns identified through qualitative methods. The research fellow will support a cross-case analysis from five distinct regions in Guatemala.

Faculty supervisor: Alfredo Artiles, Graduate School of Education
Focus country or region: Guatemala
Research fellow: Alejandra Salazar, '23, public policy major

Poor Democracy: Improving Representation and Policy in South Asia

The political class primarily comprises the elite across the world. Nowhere is this more true than in South Asia, where elected politicians are dynastic, male, rich, and have criminal backgrounds. In spite of these problems, however, remarkable strides have been made across the subcontinent in solidifying democracy. The research project will set up a novel theoretical apparatus to conceptualize problems related to having an elite political class and how the benefits and costs associated with making democracy more representative can be evaluated. It will bring evidence from three cases to empirically examine the question of what happens to policy when democracy is broadened: the first case relates to the expansion of local government with substantial political reservations for Scheduled Tribes, a historically marginalized community of over 100 million in India. The second case is a field experiment Professor Saad Gulzar conducted in Pakistan that encouraged ordinary citizens to run for political office. I trace impacts all the way to policy changes. Finally, Professor Gulzar and his team will examine the case of Nepal, where the recent establishment of a republic has created tremendous space (and challenges) for ordinary people to participate in politics.

Faculty supervisor: Saad Gulzar, Department of Political Science 
Focus country or region: South Asia
Research fellow: Avni Kakkar, '21, computer science major

Trials, Truth Commissions, or Reparations? Indonesia's Struggle to Address Past Gross Human Rights Violations

A new initiative by the president of Indonesia has opened up the opportunity for finally bringing six pending human rights cases (1964, 1998, 2003-2004) forward for full criminal investigation and trial. Cases that are deemed too unsubstantiated to go to trial may be referred to “non-judicial measures” such as a truth commission. Professor David Cohen has previously (2016-2018) assisted the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission in preparing two of the dossiers from these cases, but due to various political events that process stalled. He has now been asked to resume that work and also to conduct research and training for the prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office who will be dealing with these cases. Professor Cohen and his team may also have the opportunity to engage directly with the Attorney General’s Task Force that has been appointed to work with the National Human Rights Commission on the resolution of these cases. The research and training will be conducted together with the National Prosecution Training Center’s principal Indonesian NGO partner, the Institute for an Independent Judiciary. On the basis of the research, Professor Cohen and his team will prepare new curriculum modules for the National Prosecution Training Center that they will then use as course materials when they conduct the trainings and workshops at the Center. The research will also involve developing the best strategies to deal with the evidentiary, legal, and political issues that prosecuting these cases will involve. The research fellow will function as a full member of the team and, since the trainings will be conducted remotely, will be able to participate in that part of the project as well as the research.

Faculty supervisor: David Cohen, Department of Classics
Focus country or region: Indonesia
Community partner: Institute for an Independent Judiciary
Research fellow: Sarah Myers, '21, international relations major

What is the Effect of Air Pollution on Maternal and Child Health Outcomes?

Determining the health effects of air pollution has been difficult due to the multitude of potential confounding variables in the relationship between air pollution and health. This project aims to exploit a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of air pollution on maternal and child health outcomes. Air pollution in many areas of South Asia is seasonal, with large spikes in particulate matter concentration occurring in the winter months. Whether or not a pregnancy is exposed to this winter spike in air pollution is random if the timing of conception is unrelated to any factors that are linked to maternal and child health outcomes. Using this analytical strategy, Professor Pascal Geldsetzer and his team aim to compare pregnancies that were exposed to this winter spike in air pollution with those that were not. The data source for this project will be the Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in relevant regions of South Asia (particularly India, Bangladesh, and Nepal). A first step in the analysis will be to test to what degree the timing of conception correlates with observable characteristics of mothers (e.g., household wealth and education).

Faculty supervisor: Pascal Geldsetzer, School of Medicine
Focus country or region: South Asia
Research fellow: Jennifer Pham, '22, mathematical and computer science major