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2021 - 2022 Summer Undergraduate Full-time RAs

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2021 - 2022 Academic Year

The Political Economy of Nepal

This project studies political development in Nepal. Nepal's rich political history and isolation from the rest of the world until the mid-twentieth century makes it a fascinating case for studying the process of modernization in a closed society.

Faculty supervisor: Avidit Acharya, Department of Political Science
Focus country or region: Nepal

Increasing Farmer Engagement to Alleviate Poverty

We conducted a study in India on 1 million farmers in the state of Odisha. The goal of the experiment was to increase farmer engagement in the phone-based advisory service. We used cutting edge machine learning methods to predict the optimal message timing for the sample of 1 million farmers. Next, we plan to launch a new experiment in a new geography in the second quarter of 2022 - likely Pakistan.

The team runs experiments that deliver individualized information that enable farmers in Pakistan to improve crop optimization. By designing and testing the optimal message content, they can develop a scalable method that lifts large populations out of poverty.

Faculty supervisor: Susan Athey, Graduate School of Business
Focus country or region: Pakistan
Cardinal Quarter community partner: Precision Development

A New Start for Human Rights in Indonesia: Will the Human Rights Courts Succeed this Time?

At the beginning of the reform period after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship, Indonesia adopted a human rights regime to provide for accountability for the worst international crimes and human rights violations. Law 26/2000 both created a new system of specialized human rights courts with jurisdiction over "gross human rights violations." Equally importantly, the law incorporated international criminal law by defining gross human rights violations as genocide or crimes against humanity. This law provided the basis for 12 trials in 2002-2005 focused on the role of the Indonesian military in East Timor in 1999.

There is now a significant opportunity to revitalize the human rights courts because Indonesian President Jokowi has ordered the Attorney General to resolve the pending cases (which range from the 1965 massacres to current killings in Papua) by either judicial or non-judicial measures. Over the past year our Center has been training Indonesian prosecutors in the legal framework for these cases. The research assistant will be working with me on studying and evaluating the process by which this case is moving forward to a trial that, we hope, will commence in summer 2022. The research will focus initially on gaining a better understanding of the violence associated with the Papuan independence movement and on the context in which the 2014 massacre occurred. 

Faculty supervisor: David Cohen, Department of Classics
Focus country or region: Indonesia

Emollient Therapy for Improved Survival and Growth of Very Low Birth Weight Infants in Zimbabwe

Mortality of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants at the University of Zimbabwe Sally Mugabe Central Hosp is 58%. We will set up a clinical trial to test whether sunflower seed oil applications will reduce mortality of hospitalized VLBW infants by 25%.

Faculty supervisor: Gary Darmstadt, Department of Pediatrics
Focus country or region: Zimbabwe
Cardinal Quarter community partner: University of Zimbabwe

Impact of Regional Land Use Changes in Kenya on Malaria Prevalence 

Amid rapidly-changing environmental conditions, there is much evidence to suggest that mosquito-borne diseases like malaria are spreading to new regions throughout the world. Land-use changes like deforestation, agriculture, and urbanization, as well as factors like climate change, can all alter a region’s mosquito habitability and cause them to carry pathogens to new populations. This project would examine the impact of regional land-use changes in Kenya on malaria prevalence over the past 30 years.

Faculty supervisor: Desiree LaBeaud, Department of Pediatrics
Focus country or region: Kenya

Environmental Pollution and Stillbirth in Bangladesh

Exposure to heavy metals in the environment is a pressing environmental health threat, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Metal exposure during pregnancy has been associated with certain adverse birth outcomes, yet the link between metals and stillbirth risk remains unclear. Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of stillbirths globally, as well as widespread and persistent environmental metal pollution. This study aims to identify the sources of metal exposure among pregnant women in Faridpur, Bangladesh, and the potential role of this exposure in contributing to the elevated rate of stillbirth. We are leverage the framework of an ongoing child health and mortality prevention surveillance study to compare placental biomarkers of metal exposure among stillbirths and live births. We will also evaluate concentrations of various metals in drinking water, soil, rice, and turmeric to identify the likely routes of exposure to metals during pregnancy. This research will inform interventions to reduce women’s exposure to metals during pregnancy and may identify pathways connecting environmental metals to stillbirth, generating policy-relevant data for improving birth outcomes.

Faculty supervisor: Steve Luby, School of Medicine
Focus country or region: Bangladesh

Data-Driven Approaches to Trafficking Detection

Human trafficking and modern slavery is one of the most pernicious problems in global supply chains. Labor trafficking networks in key industries are skilled at evading detection by hiding behind complex ownership structures, using illicit third-party recruitment practices, and concentrating victims in remote or temporary work sites at the most distal tiers of global supply chains. Despite the good-faith efforts of many governments and industry actors, the lack of systematic evidence about the functioning of trafficking markets, the effectiveness of strategies for reducing trafficking, or the evasion tactics used by perpetrators has severely limited intervention efficacy, leaving traffickers unchecked and exposing firms to unwanted reputational risk.   

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 HT Data Lab seeks a research assistant to work in close collaboration with the Chief Data Officer at the Brazilian Federal Labor Prosecution Office and the Stanford-based research team to support two streams of research around building a decision support toll for anti-trafficking task forces and implementing AI to identify forced labor camps in the Brazilian Amazon.

Faculty supervisor: Grant Miller, School of Medicine
Focus country or region: Brazil

Gendered Networks

How can women’s voices be better represented in existing political institutions? This project seeks to understand whether stronger linkages between female citizens and elected representatives augment the representation of women’s interests.

Faculty supervisor: Soledad Prillaman, Department of Political Science
Focus country or region: India
Cardinal Quarter community partner: PRADAN

Transforming Systems of Early Autism Detection and Intervention in Bangladesh using Mobile AI Methods

Our team seeks to understand the ability of gamified and crowd-powered systems to aid in the screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Bangladesh through home videos collected via mobile platforms. We will use machine learning algorithms to improve screening and diagnostic methods for children with autism or other developmental disorders, relying on home videos and parental responses to questions. 

Faculty supervisor: Dennis Wall, Department of Pediatrics
Focus country or region: Bangladesh
Cardinal Quarter community partner: Dr. Naila Z. Khan, Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation and Square Hospital

International Banks and Trade During the Ages of Globalization

From the mid-19th century until WWI, international banks expanded throughout the world and were a significant form of short-term capital flows. These banks have not been studied in a comprehensive way, and this project collects comprehensive data on their locations and operations annually at the city-level for a period from 1850 until 1914 and will link those bank operations to patterns in international trade. In addition, the data source documenting international bank branches continued through the collapse of globalization in WWI, the interwar years, WWII, and the Bretton Woods era until 1970. This latter segment of data from 1914 until 1970 can be used to study the changes in financial capitalization that occurred during this period. The earlier data has been thoroughly collected, digitized, and mostly cleaned, so the RA would be tasked with further data checks and data analysis.

Faculty supervisor: Chenzi Xu, Graduate School of Business
Focus country or region: Global

Bureaucracy and Development

This project aims to understand how local officials respond to administrative overload and problem solving amidst Covid-19 pandemic. The research plan is for the student to learn from local residents, community organizers, and local officials and understand the kinds of challenges they have faced in the unexpected Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, what kinds of coping strategies are used in response to the tremendous task of vaccination, Covid-test, and shelter in place for floating population, and how these measures have affected local economic activities. The research method involves a mixture of interviews, participatory observations, and archival research on records of local activities in that community.  

Faculty supervisor: Xueguang Zhou, Department of Sociology
Focus country or region: China