In fall 2020, the CAS Dean’s Office announced a new call supporting CAS undergraduate research internships, focusing on the following two thematic areas: 1) social justice and inclusion and 2) sustainability. This endeavor, entitled the CAS Social Sciences Undergraduate Internships in Social Justice and Sustainability, aims to help support and advance faculty research in these areas and to provide undergraduate students interested in honing their research skills with an experiential learning opportunity.
2020–21 Selected CAS Social Science Internship Projects
The selected projects draw on social science methods and explore questions related to human society and social behavior. You can read about these projects and the involved CAS and Pardee student interns and faculty advisors, including quotes from the students about their work, below.
This initiative runs for the course of Academic Year 20/21 with student participants presenting their final work at the CAS-sponsored research symposium featuring the interns and their mentors in April 2021. It has been made possible thanks to generous philanthropic support.
Criminal Justice Reform – Changes to the Carceral State in Light of the Pandemic and Black Lives Matter Protests
Helen Bekele (CAS’21)
Political Science major and African American Studies minor working with Spencer Piston, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Student intern Helen Bekele is helping lead a team of undergraduate researchers collecting data to document the reconfiguration of the carceral state, in light of the protests and the pandemic, across four major metropolitan areas: Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C. Together with Professor Spencer Piston, Helen is then analyzing under what conditions does meaningful reform occur or not and assessing the prospects for improvements to the US’s criminal justice system in this historic moment.
“The research I’ll be conducting with Professor Piston intends to understand how the judicial system in the United States has shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic and analyze if an individual’s experience with the criminal justice system varies depending on where they live. We also plan to measure the different responses of court systems and institutional actors to the COVID-19 pandemic across major metropolitan areas. The project’s specific goal is to create a dataset of responses by court systems and institutional actors in Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, and D.C.” – Helen Bekele
Religious Toleration in China and Korea, Past and Present. The Case of Christianity
Rownyn Curry (CAS’21)
International Relations and Korean Language double major working with Eugenio Menegon, Professor of History
Since 2018, Professor Eugenio Menegon has been a part of a collaborative Digital Humanities project, the China Historical Christian Database (CHCD). The CHCD quantifies and visualizes the place of Christianity in modern China (1550–1950), creating spatial maps and generating relational networks that reveal Christian activities in China. As an intern, Rownyn Curry is conducting data entry based on her own research, attending workshops with Professor Menegon, and possibly presenting on her own research, including transforming her work into an online exhibition to help prepare her for her interests in Museum Studies.
“As both a research intern and a student in Professor Menegon’s seminar on Maritime Asia, I began my work for the internship by exploring Christianity in the Qing Dynasty of China (1644–1911) and the Chosŏn Dynasty of Korea (1392–1910) in comparative perspective. I proposed that Christianity was able to maintain an influence on Korean and Chinese ritual culture due to the localization of its practices during the Chosŏn and Qing dynasties, specifically in relation to Confucianism. To display this preliminary part of my work, I created a website that functions as a non-exhaustive photo essay and art exhibition focusing specifically on the roles of Confucian ideology, the Chinese and Korean elite, and localization. Following this project, I assisted over winter break in the collection of primary and secondary source documents for Professor Menegon’s paper ‘The Way Has Not a Constant Name. State Attitudes To Religious Toleration in Chinese History’ for the Toleration in Comparative Perspective Conference run by the Center for Democracy, Toleration, and Religion and Reset Dialogues on Civilizations. Currently, I am working on helping to expand the China Historical Christian Database, a database focused on visualizing Christianity in China, to include important figures from Korea, beginning with the preliminary research I mentioned above.” – Rownyn Curry
The Ancestral Alutiiq Foods Project
Lauren Knasin (CAS’21)
BU Marine Program major and Archaeology minor working with Catherine West, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology; Director of Zooarchaeology Lab; Fellow, Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer Range Future
The Ancestral Alutiiq Foods Project was developed by Professor Catherine West and the Alutiiq Museum. It’s a community-focused effort to chronicle the diversity of foods people have used for thousands of years in the Kodiak archipelago in Alaska. The intent of the research on these ancient findings is to help revitalize and support Native Alaskans and their identity. Intern Lauren Knasin is participating in four aspects of the project: 1) curation and care of the museum collections; 2) the hands-on zooarchaeological analysis; 3) archival research; and 4) creation of the traditional foods list. The student intern’s contributions will be part of a poster presentation (in English and Alutiiq) to the community in Kodiak.
“The Ancestral Alutiiq Foods Project is a collaboration between the BU Zooarchaeology Lab and the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska. Native Alaskan identity is closely related to traditional foodways, so our goal is to understand, revitalize, and protect Native Alaskan identity and culture by evaluating and interpreting midden samples from archaeological excavations in the Kodiak archipelago of Alaska. Middens represent food waste left behind by Alutiiq ancestors over thousands of years and contain the bones of commonly harvested foods, like marine mammals, fish, and birds, as well as shells and plants. Not only do these samples provide insight into what food Alutiiq ancestors were eating for thousands of years, but zooarchaeological analysis can tell us how food was harvested, processed, and stored. The focus of this research project is to identify the shellfish species recovered in midden samples from Chirikof Island, which is located at the southern end of the Kodiak archipelago. Shells are commonly neglected in zooarchaeological analyses, so this information will be compiled into an ancestral foods database that can be used to better understand the species utilized by the Alutiiq people.” – Lauren Knasin
Race and Radioactivity: Uranium Mining in Namibia, Niger, and New Mexico
Cristina Rivera Morrison (Pardee’22)
Political Science and International Relations double major working with Jayita Sarkar, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Pardee
Ariana Thorpe (Pardee’22)
Linguistics and International Relations double major working with Jayita Sarkar, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Pardee
This project uncovers the political, legal, and social processes of systematic disenfranchisement of populations in those sites. Both Cristina Morrison and Ariana Thorpe, as research interns, will develop one in-depth case study based on digitized declassified primary source collections and secondary source literature, under the guidance of Professor Jayita Sarkar. The final product from this specific project on Namibia and New Mexico is expected to result in a co-authored journal article or research essay by all three for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
“As a native New Mexican with family history ties to the Manhattan Project, I am eager to better understand the human contexts of the landmark detonation at Trinity. In studying the Trinity Test Site, I intend to shed light on the injustice endured by Hispanic and Native American communities for generations following the world’s first test of an atomic weapon. These people, often forgotten or ignored in many historical accounts of the Trinity test, have not only suffered lasting health consequences in the aftermath of the detonation but continue to be excluded from the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), the federal government’s compensation program for families who have suffered illnesses resulting from radiation exposure. In the years immediately following the test and throughout the subsequent decades, ‘downwinders,’ inhabitants of the area surrounding the Trinity site, have experienced unprecedented levels of illness, including high rates of cancer, birth defects, and stillbirths. These communities, including the Santa Clara and San Ildefonso Pueblos and Mescalero Apache Tribe, have sought government acknowledgement and compensation for years and are only just beginning to receive public attention as well as adequate research into the health effects from the blast. In my research, I plan to create a holistic study of the human legacy that continues to endure the effects of the Trinity test, incorporating firsthand accounts of these communities’ experiences as well as documenting their ongoing struggle for justice.” – Cristina Morrison
“The research of the Race and Radioactivity in Namibia [project] analyzes how uranium mining has contributed to systematic political, social and legal disenfranchisement of Namibians during South African occupation and post-independence. The Rössing uranium mine in the Namib desert became another instrument of apartheid politics that resulted in long-term consequences that disproportionately affected Black people while white supervisors in the mining industry profited from racist policies. After decades of political suppression, contamination, and radioactive exposure under the apartheid regime, remnants of South African colonization are apparent in present-day Namibia as Namibians have incurred illnesses, permanent environmental damage, and socio-economic inequality.” – Ariana Thorpe
The Role of Nature in Facilitating Resilience and Well-Being in Women of Color
Kathleen Novak (CAS’21)
Psychology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology double major working with Brenda Phillips, Lecturer, Psychology and Brain Science
Emily Parkington (CAS’21)
Psychology major and Public Health minor working with Brenda Phillips, Lecturer, Psychology and Brain Science
This internship explores the role of nature in facilitating resilience and well-being in women of color. The purpose of this internship is to give undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in research that will directly impact the support that black women receive in lower income communities in Boston. In particular, this research program is designed to a) assess women’s perceptions of psychological well-being, including their sense of connection to nature, b) compare well-being outcomes for women living in lower-income and/or ‘sacrifice zones’), and c) create and/or partner with nature-based, community-oriented programs to support women in their need for psychological refuge.
“Our work aims to address the difficulties Black women face in meeting their psychological needs. While nature connectedness has a demonstrable positive impact on women’s well-being and emotional resilience, access to nature (or urban green spaces) has historically been denied to people of color, specifically Black women living in urban settings. Previous psychological studies concerning women’s abilities to seek solitude in nature were not representative of Black women’s experiences. Therefore, our goal is to design a mixed-methods study with questions that address Black women’s needs and experiences specifically. As an intern, I am conducting interviews with spiritual leaders in low-income Boston neighborhoods in order to gain their perspectives regarding the issues they believe are most pressing for Black women. Our results will then guide us in the design of a follow-up survey to be distributed to women within their spiritual communities. I am also aiding in participant recruitment.” – Kathleen Novak
“This internship will explore the role of nature and access to green spaces in the city of Boston in facilitating resilience and well-being in black women. Using a mixed-methods approach to measure participants’ emotional and social well-being, spirituality, and connectedness to nature, we will examine the barriers to accessing nature and urban green spaces. Gauging Black, female, community leaders’ relationship with the environment around them, we hope to support prior feminist and antiracist research and compare well-being outcomes in women afflicted by systemic forms of inequality. Emphasizing the restorative impacts of contemplative practices, my role as an intern will be to assist in analyzing women’s reliance on nature as a psychological resource through connecting with spiritual and religious communities in the Greater Boston Area.” – Emily Parkington
Stories of the State: State Actors, Emergent Narratives and Inequality in Three Cities
Madison Tyler (CAS’21)
Psychology and Sociology double major working with Max Greenberg, Lecturer in Sociology
This internship supports an ongoing project that investigates how young people’s interactions with state actors over time shape narratives of state legitimacy, trust and power. This research, using a narrative coding approach, draws on a robust and previously unexamined three-years of longitudinal in-depth interviews, collected by the Center for Promise at Boston University, with 52 young people and their caregivers from 2011 to 2014 in high-poverty neighborhoods in three medium-sized cities. Intern Madison Tyler is supporting this program by: 1) Incorporating demographic information and doing a cursory analysis compared to city-level data; 2) Continuing to code youth interviews; 3) Beginning to write longitudinal memos that capture the emergent narratives of a sample of students across the course of the study.
“As a participant in the Social Sciences Undergraduate Research Internship program, I am working with Dr. Greenberg on a project examining young peoples’ stories about their interactions with state actors. This project utilizes longitudinal in-depth interview data with young people from high-poverty neighborhoods in three US cities. Using this data, Dr. Greenberg and I are investigating the ways in which young people’s interactions with state actors and experiences with institutions influence the narratives they construct about the legitimacy of the state and power. An additional focus of this project is identifying the components of youths’ narratives about the state and institutions that align with either engagement with or avoidance of state actors and civic engagement going forward. In my coding efforts thus far, I have focused on young people’s interactions with teachers, counselors, and police officers and the narratives they have constructed about the importance of schools and education.” – Madison Tyler