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Student Research and Prizes

Students in the Political Science Department are strongly encouraged to pursue research opportunities during their time at Swarthmore.

Some students engage in their own independent research (often in the form of a senior thesis), with the help of faculty and mentors.  To acknowledge particularly strong independent research of this kind, the Department annually awards the Judith Polgar Ruchkin Prize, given to a junior or senior that writes the most outstanding piece of scholarship during that academic year. 

Students, especially those considering graduate school, are also encouraged to revise their best work and submit these papers to one of the many undergraduate political science journals around the country.  Whether they are writing a normal class paper or working on a more ambitious thesis project, students may want to consult the TriCo Political Science Research Guide page, a particularly useful resource for finding data, sources, and other information. 

Those students interested in pursuing independent research over the summer may also want to look into applying for a research grant from the Social Sciences Division. We encourage students to look into the Pennock Fellowship for consideration. The J. Roland Pennock Undergraduate Fellowship in Public Affairs provides a grant to support a substantial research project in public affairs. This Fellowship is awarded for a program of off-campus research in public affairs in which observation, interviews, or other forms of inquiry beyond the library play an important role. 

This summer (2021) we are excited to say we have several Political Science students working on research projects with our faculty:

  • Political Science major Yousef Khan '22 was awarded a summer research grant from Swarthmore's Social Sciences Division to support his project on "The Paradoxes of New U.S. Imperialism: Protection Money and the U.S. War in Afghanistan." Yousef will be working under the supervision of Visiting Assistant Professor Osman Balkan. 
  • Political Science major Satchel Tsai '23 was awarded a summer research grant from Swarthmore's Social Sciences Division to work on a joint student-faculty research project with Visiting Assistant Professor Osman Balkan on "Decolonizing Monuments." 

Other students may engage in collaborative research with a faculty remember, often while working as a research assistant.  Some examples of recent collaborative projects are listed below:

  • Visiting Assistant Professor George Yin '09, in collaboration with Gao Lan (Professor of International Politics and Deptuy Director of the Center for Japanese Studies, Fudan University),  has a team of eight students (Alan Beltran Lara '23, Cassidy Cheong '23, Philip Hou '23, Zane Irwin '23, Eli Kraversky '23 (Haverford), Jordan Rothschild '22, Alexandra Thomas '23, and John Woodliff-Stanley '21) working alongside PhD students from Fudan University, University of Tokyo, and Waseda University on a project that examines how US think tanks assess China's maritime disputes.  This project seeks to better understand how US foreign policy elites assess China's actions and the role of political polarization in shaping the US foreign policy response.
  • In recent years, Professor Carol Nackenoff has co-authored a chapter every year with a student research assistant for an annually published book on that year's major Supreme Court decisions.  Recent collaborators have been Natasha Markov-Riss '20 ("McGirt v. Oklahoma: On Native Rights"), Alison Diebold '20 (“Rucho v. Common Cause on Partisan Gerrymandering and the Political Questions Doctrine”), Gilbert Orbea '19 ("Justice Neil Gorsuch Joins the Court"), and Allison Hrabar '16 ("Quaker Roles in Making and Implementing Federal Indian Policy: From Grant’s Peace Policy through the Early Dawes Act Era (1869-1900)”)
  • Assistant Professor Sam Handlin '00 has been working with a number of students on projects related to the use and abuse of digital surveillance technology in Latin America.  Jackelyn Mejia '20 and Frank Kenney '20 worked to help analyze a trove of leaked documents from the Venezuelan secret police, examining how digital surveillance technologies have been utilized.  Sam Jacobson '21 has joined this project more recently.   Valentin Sanchez '21 and Sicheng Zhong '21 worked to analyze and understand the spread of commercial spyware around the world, helping amass a dataset on which countries seem to be utilizing common forms of spyware on their citizens.