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2019 - 2020 Summer Undergraduate Full-time RAs

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2019 - 2020 Academic Year

Blasphemy Laws, Human Rights, and Discrimination in Indonesia

This research opportunity is offered through a partnership between Stanford’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice and its main partner NGO in Indonesia, the Institute for an Independent Judiciary (LeIP). The research involves working with LeIP on a project, funded by the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, that builds upon previous research on the increasing use of blasphemy laws to suppress or discriminate against minorities and marginalized groups.  The project will involve research leading to training tools and policy recommendations on the full range of human rights issues and their interaction with the Indonesian Electronic Communications Law and the Criminal Defamation Law. This research will provide the basis for revising the human rights curriculum module in the National Judicial Training Center and National Prosecution Training Center. Another research direction will involve developing human rights training materials for a USAID sponsored initiative in collaboration with the Council of ASEAN Supreme Court Chief Justices. Students will be part of the collaborative effort between LeIP’s research team and the Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Activities will also include participating in capacity building workshops for civil society emphasizing evidence-based advocacy as well as training workshops for justice sector officials.

Faculty supervisorDavid Cohen, Department of Classics 
Focus country or region: Indonesia 
Community partnerInstitute for an Independent Judiciary
Research assistants: Sarah Saboorian, '22, economics (major), human rights and sustainability (minors) and Lindsay Thornton, '21, international relations (major), Spanish (minor)


Transitional Justice and Vulnerable Populations: Lessons Learned from Rwanda, Cambodia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Bosnia, and South Africa

The goals of transitional justice mechanisms in post-conflict countries are ambitious and laudable. They typically aim to bring justice, reconciliation, closure, healing, reparations, and peace to communities that have suffered mass atrocity and various forms of violent conflict. Although a great deal of energy has been devoted to different "models" that incorporate various instantiations of courts, quasi-judicial proceedings, truth commissions, traditional, community-based justice processes, and reconciliation and reparations schemes, less attention has been paid to the long term impact that such institutions have, particularly among the populations that have been left most vulnerable. Such populations include victims of gender based violence, child soldiers, and groups that were already marginalized before the conflict.  The research assistant will identify and analyze primary source materials as well as evaluations, reports, and surveys conducted to assess the immediate reception and mid- and long term impact of the mechanisms deployed in the particular case studies.  In the case of East Timor, they will also examine the work of the centers set up to provide psychosocial services to victims of gender based violence or torture and assess the extent to which the recommendations have been implemented; in the case of Rwanda, they will also inquire as to how the different temporal dimensions of the respective programs' work influenced the mandate, activities, and impact of their initiatives.

Faculty supervisorDavid Cohen, Department of Classics 
Focus country or region: Global
Research assistant: Melodie Liu, '20, history (major)


Implementing Strategies to Improve Sustainability of Clean Water and Hygiene Services in Rural Healthcare Facilities in Uganda

In early 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General put out a global call to action to establish universal water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in all healthcare facilities. This came in the wake of a 2015 report by the World Health Organization that revealed 38% of healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries lack access to water, 19% lack sanitation, and 35% do not have adequate soap and water for handwashing. The current project is part of a larger grant to address sustainability of WASH services in rural healthcare facilities with an emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa. Student researchers will participate in implementing strategies to address barriers for sustainability of WASH services in rural healthcare facilities in Uganda. The intervention will require iterative changes at multiple stages and will likely include focus group discussions, measurement of hand washing compliance, and healthcare facility assessments. The process and results of the intervention will be used as a model for scaling up the intervention and applying it to other low-resource healthcare facilities.

Faculty supervisors: Jenna Davis, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Stephen Luby, School of Medicine 
Focus country or region: Western Uganda
Local community partner: Makerere School of Public Health
Research assistants: Paul Phan, '20, human biology (major) and Lian Stemler, '22, human biology (major)


Socioeconomic Impacts of Urbanization in Côte d’Ivoire

In recent years, African nations like Côte d’Ivoire have been experiencing rapid economic growth as well as high urbanization rates and urban sprawl, as people and businesses are moving from rural areas to capital cities and surrounding areas. Yet, there has been limited scientific analysis of a large set of issues that are peculiar to cities, such as urban poverty, employment/unemployment patterns, migration trends, firm characteristics, and urban governance. Most existing socio-economic surveys in Sub-Saharan Africa are largely focused on rural populations and many of them are cross-sectional. The Stanford Economic Development Research Initiative (SEDRI) intends to fill this gap by creating long-term panel datasets of households, businesses, and local administrators in peri-urban areas of multiple Sub-Saharan African countries. Under the guidance of senior Stanford economists and project staff, the summer undergraduate RA will help with need-finding and survey piloting in the greater Abidjan area. The work will include conducting exploratory interviews, gathering administrative data, preliminary data analysis, and report writing. The student will also be helping with data collection activities.

Faculty supervisors: Pascaline Dupas, Department of Economics and Marcel Fafchamps, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) 
Focus country or region: Côte d’Ivoire 
Local community partner: Innovations for Poverty Action


Impact of Technology-based Rapid Hiring in Entrepreneurial Ventures in Thailand

One of the major challenges for entrepreneurs is hiring the initial team to turn their ideas into prototypes and initial products. Particularly, for entrepreneurs who are not located in the epicenter of entrepreneurial activities, it becomes a major trial. Often times investors demand to see a working prototype before making an investment decision. The problem is almost like a double-edged sword – entrepreneurs need financial resources to hire employees and build the initial product, but they need employees and initial product to secure financial resources. Given financial and reputational constraints, attracting talent becomes so cumbersome that many entrepreneurs have to quit their promising ideas even before the ventures officially take off. In this study, we propose to develop a “gig economy” platform for entrepreneurs enabling them to seamlessly recruit, form, hire and possibly fire “flash teams” of workers in entrepreneurial ventures. We will develop a software platform and run a few accelerator programs in Thailand and would measure the impact of our platform on their performance. Under the guidance of Professor Chuck Eesley, the summer undergraduate research assistant (RA) will help with conducting surveys with entrepreneurs attending the accelerator and gather performance data of the enterprises. The work will also include conducting interviews, preliminary data analysis, and report writing.

Faculty supervisor: Charles Eesley, Department of Management Science and Engineering
Focus country or region: Thailand
Local community partner: Advanced Info Services
Undergraduate research assistant: Monica Tavassoli, '23, management science and engineering (major), sociology (minor)


Teammate Matching Algorithms and Entrepreneurship Education for Refugees in Ethiopia 

As of 2018, 29.9M refugee cases have been recorded by the United Nations (UN). Among the many issues concerning refugees, their self-reliance and integration in the hosting countries are priorities for the UN. Current research and practice are mostly focused on how using data-driven algorithms in the matching of refugees to resettlement locations can increase 90 day wage employment (Bonsak et al., 2018; Trapp et al., 2018). However, some of the top refugee-hosting countries are among the developing countries, where the unemployment rate is an issue for the government. Thus, there is a concern from residents and the government of the hosting countries on whether refugees take job opportunities from domestic citizens. We aim to address this issue by analyzing how data-driven algorithms can promote entrepreneurship among the refugee (and domestic) population in the hosting countries. Contextual information and social capital of individuals are among the primary resources to succeed as entrepreneurs, and refugees' situation prevents them from access to these resources. Using the data on refugees' background, their resettlement location, and their recognized opportunity for their venture, we can build a data-driven model that identifies and suggests the teammates that can increase refugees' chance of success (Gompers et al. 2017). By focusing on entrepreneurship, not only can we help refugees' self-reliance, but we also can alleviate the concerns regarding unemployment rates in hosting countries, and contribute to poverty reduction and job creation in developing countries. Our project will leverage a hybrid online/offline approach utilizing local partners, such as the Ethiopian government’s Jobs Creation Council, the UN High Commission for Refugees, and a technology platform to deliver both educational content as well as machine learning driven recommendations of potential team members and mentors among the refugee and host populations. The work will involve managing the logistics of the platform, literature review, interviews and preliminary data analysis

Faculty supervisor: Charles Eesley, Department of Management Science and Engineering
Focus country or region: Ethiopia
Undergraduate research assistant: Sarah Verschoor, '21, political science (major), data science (minor)


Health Disparities and Chronic Disease Control in China or Thailand

Residents in low- and middle-income countries, especially in rural areas, often lack access to effective prevention and control of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) compared to their counterparts in high-income countries.  Even in health systems with universal coverage like Thailand and China, delayed diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, diabetes, and other NCDs often leads to preventable complications and shortened lives. This research opportunity supports a network of researchers studying how to enhance cost-effective NCD control in Thailand or rural China. The student members of the team will assist with data collection and analysis related to (1) strengthening primary care for NCD control in Thailand or rural Zhejiang province, China; (2) comparing and evaluating national programs in Thailand or China that promote better physician supply in rural areas; and (3) supporting the work of the Equity Initiative promoting leadership for health equity in southeast Asia or China.

Faculty supervisor: Karen Eggleston, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI)
Focus country or region: China or Thailand 
Local community partner: The Health Equity Initiative and Chulalongkorn University, Thailand; or Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China
Undergraduate research assistants: Sarah Myers, '21, international relations (major), Joddy Nwankwo, '22, anthropology (major), Nicholas Welch, '22, mathematical and computational science, East Asian studies (majors)


Did Financial Institutions Mitigate or Exacerbate Conflict in China?

This project examines the process of nation-building in China in the crucial 1920s and 1930s. It was a period of both financial revolution as well as widespread civil and international conflict. We are interested in understanding to what extent the spread of financial institutions and opportunities aligned the incentives of local elites with peace and development, and to what extent they may have instead fostered further conflict.

Faculty supervisor: Saumitra Jha, Graduate School of Business 
Focus country or region: China
Undergraduate research assistant: Xin Ma, '22, economics (major), computer science and data science (minors)


On the Promise and Limitations of Non-Violent Protest: Evidence from the Indian Independence Struggle 

This project involves researching biographies, and merging and entering data from secret intelligence sources and other archives on individuals who participated in India's struggle for independence. The aim is to understand who they were and what the institutional features were that allowed the movement to be successful when it was, and to fail when it did.

Faculty supervisor: Saumitra Jha, Graduate School of Business 
Focus country or region: India 
Undergraduate Research Assistant: Lusha Jetley, '23, economics and political science (majors)


The Impact of COVID-19 on Technology Adoption in China

COVID-19 will likely have a long-lasting impact on the future of work and technology adoption. The health care sector, especially the long-term care sector which is more vulnerable to infectious diseases, will likely be at the forefront of these changes. This project examines how COVID-19 affects technology adoption, staffing, and quality of care in nursing homes in China and other East Asian countries that have been aging rapidly. The research assistant will be working with a team of researchers at Stanford and China.

Faculty supervisor: Yong Suk Lee, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) 
Focus country or region: China 
Undergraduate research assistant: Luke Miller, '20, public policy (major)


Stanford Human Trafficking Data Lab: Data Repository Development

The Stanford Humen Trafficking Data Lab selected an undergraduate research assistant to assist the 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. The team wishes to finalize the general architecture of the data repository, including full dataset integration, data wrangling, production of scripts to perform data cleaning and merging tasks, data documentation, and protocol development.

Faculty supervisor: Grant Miller, School of Medicine 
Focus country or region: Global
Undergraduate research assistants: Kim Ngo, '20, computer science and German studies (majors), Maria Clara Rodrigues, '21, economics (major)


Using an Epidemiological Model of COVID-19 Dynamics to Understand the Socio-Economic, Racial, and Demographic Underpinnings of Disparities in Epidemiological Dynamics and Outcomes 

The Mordecai Lab at Stanford has built an epidemiological model of COVID-19 dynamics that can be fit to data from specific locations, estimate important epidemiological metrics, and model different long-term intervention scenarios. An undergraduate research assistant helped to fit the model to different counties across US states and multiple low- and middle-income countries (including Kenya, Grenada, and Brazil), and use the estimated epidemiological parameters to understand the socio-economic, racial, and demographic underpinnings of disparities in epidemiological dynamics and outcomes. The student accesses publicly available data and use our open-source code to fit the model to locations of interest (covid-measures.github.io).

Faculty supervisor: Erin Mordecai, Department of Biology
Focus country or region: Global
Undergraduate research assistant: Ella Tessier-Lavigne, '20, symbolic systems (major), neuroscience (minor)


Is Knowledge Power?: Civics Training, Women’s Political Representation, and Local Governance in India

There is a persistent gender gap in political participation and representation in India despite decades of targeted policy interventions. Even after de jure enfranchisement, the barriers to women’s political participation and representation seem insurmountable, particularly in places where gender-biased social norms persist. The goal of this research project is to evaluate how the provision of political information via gender-oriented civics education affects women’s political representation. Through a gender-oriented civics training implemented by the NGO Pradan, women will receive information about the political system and their rights and entitlements within this system and will be directly exposed to existing political institutions, with the aim of reducing informational barriers to political participation. This program was launched as part of a randomized control trial in 2019 across more than 200 villages in rural Madhya Pradesh, India.

Faculty supervisor: Soledad Prillaman, Department of Political Science 
Focus country or region: India 
Local community partner: Pradan
Undergraduate research assistants: Lusha Jetley, '23, economics and political science (majors), Abigail Neely, '23, psychology and international relations (majors), Spanish (minor)


Folk Musicians Research Project

There are over 100,000 folk musicians in India; songs are inherited between generations and so is the profession of being a singer. Qawwali is one such category of folk music, which originated 700 years ago as a form of Sufi devotional music at the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi. Currently there are at least 150 groups of singers of this lineage in Delhi, but these singers have been struggling to make ends meet over the last few decades. In recent years, folk musicians are faced with decreased earnings as the traditional patronage system has disappeared and audiences lack exposure to folk music. With the availability of low-cost and easy-to-use recording devices, recorded music made available through online platforms could be an important tool to increase the market and earnings of folk musicians. Folk musicians can also reach a much wider audience if they gain some visibility through creative collaborations with contemporary musicians. We hope to assess the impact of these two interventions on the earnings and outreach of musicians using both qualitative, interview methods as well as field experimental methods.

Faculty supervisor: Aruna Ranganathan, Graduate School of Business 
Focus country or region: India 
Undergraduate research assistant: Aayan Das, '21, economics and Chinese (majors)


Recovering Disinfectant from Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant Effluent

Lack of excreta collection and treatment endangers individual and community health across the developing world, particularly in rapidly growing urban centers. Through collaborative work at Stanford and in Dakar, Senegal, we aim to increase sustainable sanitation access, reduce diarrheal disease through disinfectant production from fecal sludge treatment plant effluent, and reduce environmental impacts of disinfectant production. Based on previous laboratory development and field trials, the research team will establish proof-of-concept of an electrochemical separation process to recover ammonia disinfectants from urine. Urine-derived disinfectant will be compared to conventional disinfectant in terms of bacterial inactivation rates and regrowth potential. The collaborative team will also compare local production costs and inputs for wastewater-derived and conventional disinfectants in Dakar. By combining molecular-scale laboratory investigations with real-world evaluation, this multidisciplinary effort to prioritize future optimization efforts and business model development.

Faculty supervisorsWilliam Tarpeh, Department of Chemical Engineering
Focus country or region: Senegal
Local community partner: Delvic Sanitation Initiatives
Undergraduate research assistant: James Juma, '21, management science and engineering (major)