The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Research Opportunities

Photo of campus in fall

Change the world through research. 

Collaborate with faculty. Learn about public policy through hands on research. Research opportunities will be posted here as they become available.

Alternatively, if you have your own idea for an independent study, ask your advisor for support in connecting with a sponsoring faculty member.

Current Research Opportunities:

Gov Lab Research Assistant

2-3 credits (6-9 hours/week) depending on student availability, Spring 2024 Semester

Job Description: Working with community partners, we are in the early stages of exploring how to build GovLab -- a regional partnership network between SPP and local governments. This position would explore the contacts, contexts and needs of various local governments and how they might connect with SPP curriculum and research. This will include analysis of governmental documents, creation of a local government database, and, potentially, interviews with local government representatives.

What You Will Learn: Students will learn how to conduct qualitative analysis, including content analysis; build a database that can support decision-making; and, how to interview and engage local government representatives.

Prerequisites to Apply: Junior or senior

How to Apply: A resume and a short cover letter explaining your interest in local government and university-community partnerships should be sent to Professor Thad Miller (thaddeusmill@umass.edu).

 

Energy Transformation Response Lab Research Assistant

1 credits (3 hours/week), Spring 2024 Semester

Job Description: Professor Katz is seeking an Undergraduate Research Assistant to join my new Energy Transition Response Lab. The ideal candidate will have an interest in renewable energy, social science, and a passion for understanding public perceptions and responses to the energy transition. **Responsibilities:** 1. Assist in the collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data related to public perceptions and responses to renewable energy. 2. Support literature reviews, including reading, summarizing, and organizing academic articles. 3. Help prepare and present research findings in various formats: written reports, presentations, and infographics. 4. Engage in regular lab meetings, contribute to discussions, and collaborate effectively with other team members. 5. Provide administrative support when needed, such as organizing meetings, maintaining databases, or communicating with collaborators.

What You Will Learn: Participate in academic research on the energy transition; identify actors, actions, and outcomes related to conflict over renewable energy siting; differentiate between groups in society mobilized around renewable energy; extrapolate practical implications of US policy commitments to enable the renewable energy transition;

Prerequisites to Apply: 1. Currently enrolled in an undergraduate program, preferably in social sciences, environmental studies, or a related field. 2. Demonstrated interest in renewable energy and environmental sustainability. 3. Basic understanding of research methods and data analysis; prior experience is a plus but not necessary. 4. Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, particularly Excel and Word (or similar Google products like Docs and Sheets). 5. Excellent written and oral communication skills. 6. Strong organizational skills, attention to detail, and ability to manage multiple tasks. 7. Self-motivated and able to work independently with minimal supervision. This is an excellent opportunity for students interested in pursuing graduate studies in social sciences, energy policy, environmental studies, or related fields. Please note that while no prior research experience is required, a willingness to learn and a keen interest in our research areas are crucial. Training will be provided for all lab-related tasks.

How to Apply: Interested students should send a cover letter (two pages or fewer), along with their resume, to Professor Katz juniperkatz@umass.edu.

Anthropocene Lab Research Assistant

2-3 credits (6-9 hours/week) depending on student availability, Spring 2024 Semester

Job Description: The Anthropocene Lab is a new, interdisciplinary initiative at UMass Amherst that will bring together artists, humanists, social scientists, and scientists to explore how we can tell new stories about the human relationship to nature and each other. The Research Assistant will work with Professor Miller at SPP and other interdisciplinary faculty members to analyze how various research centers and initiatives around the world are approaching research and creative work that engages the Anthropocene. This will include internet searchers, document analysis, and result in a report on research networks in the Anthropocene.

What You Will Learn: Students will learn how to work in an interdisciplinary team; how to conduct qualitative research, including content analysis; how to present research to an interdisciplinary audience; and, students will learn how to work in a new, innovative area of research.

Prerequisites to Apply: Prefer students with an interest in environmental science/policy/humanities, sustainability and/or the Anthropocene.

How to Apply: Students should send a resume and short cover letter explaining their interest in the topic of the Anthropocene to Professor Thad Miller (thaddeusmill@umass.edu).

 

Prosecutorial Decision-Making and Court Communities Research Assistant

1-3 credits (3-9 hours/week) depending on student availability, Spring 2024 Semester

Job Description: An interdisciplinary project team led by UMass Amherst faculty members Jamie Rowen, Kelsey Shoub, and Youngmin Yi seeks undergraduate research assistants through the Undergraduate Research Program in the Legal Studies/Political Science Department, Sociology Department, and School of Public Policy. In this arm of the project, we are focused on conducting ethnographic research to observe and document day-to-day processes and environments in district courts in western Massachusetts, with the intent of helping us understand differences in court communities as varying contexts in which prosecutors make and enact critical decisions about criminal legal possibilities and proceedings. Research Assistants should expect to work both independently and in teams to visit and sit in district courts (no more than 30 minutes away from Amherst), taking careful notes on aspects of the courts functioning and environment that are relevant for the project.

What You Will Learn: Research Assistants will receive course credit, hands-on training from faculty supervisors, the opportunity to learn and work in a professional research setting with peers and faculty supervisors, and formal recognition for their contributions in research products stemming from this work. They will (1) develop an understanding of local court systems and (2) develop and hone ethnographic skills, such as observation and note taking.

Prerequisites to Apply: Research Assistants will need to have access to a car to travel to the district courts for their ethnographic work; gas/mileage will be reimbursed as a business expense. There is a strong preference for applicants whose academic and/or professional interests align with the proposed project, are organized and detail-oriented, are comfortable working independently as well as in teams, and are able to commit to weekly or biweekly meetings with project collaborators in addition to completing research tasks.

How to Apply: To apply please send an email with the subject line “Undergraduate Research” that includes a brief letter of interest of a page or less that describes both why you would like to work on this project and that describes your relevant background, as well as your resume or CV, to Dr. Rowen (jrowen@umass.edu). 

 

Policy Impact on Arts and Culture, Research Assistant

2 credits (6 hours/week), Spring 2024 Semester

Job Description: The RA will support a research project on the pandemic impacts on New York City's arts and culture sector. The assistance will involve providing research support, such as literature review, creating data graphics, and managing social media channels. Depending on the skillset, the RA will participate in writing a policy brief, academic papers, and assisting in the development of presentations. The RA will participate in weekly team meetings with the three co-principal investigators on the project.

What You Will Learn: The student will learn how to work on a professional research team. The RAs work is integral to the success of the project. The student will hone their research and data presentation skills. Depending on their skills and interests, the student can work with our dataset to identify patterns and graphically display them. They may also learn how to conduct an interview, clean transcripts, and code the transcripts using qualitative data analysis software.

Prerequisites to Apply: Students must have strong writing skills; all students may apply.

How to Apply: Interested students should send an email that includes why they are interested in the RA position and what they can contribute to the project. Include a resume, unofficial transcript, and writing sample. They should email Professor Bushouse (bushouse@umass.edu).
 

Sustainable Open-Source Software: The Role of Nonprofit Incubator Programs, Research Assistant

2 credits (6 hours/week), Spring 2024 Semester

Job Description: Students will work on a team researching the sustainability of open-source software (OSS). The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the UMass team collaborates with a University of California Davis. My expertise is in the governance of the nonprofit organizations that provide incubators for OSS development. A key fall focus is researching the Apache Software Foundations decision making processes through an analysis of board minutes, policy manuals, and bylaws from 1999 to the present. The team utilizes machine learning to analyze large text datasets and students can learn how the algorithms allow us to identify patterns. The student may have the option focus research attention on the Eclipse Foundation OSGeo, Foundation.

What You Will Learn: Students will be matched by the experience and skill to appropriate tasks. Potential learning objectives could be to learn to turn text into data using qualitative data analysis software, assist in research paper development, and data analysis. An important learning objective is to participate on a team that includes multiple professors, post-doctoral, and doctoral research assistants. It is an excellent opportunity to gain exposure to a $1.2 million dollar research project.

Prerequisites to Apply: We prefer students who are interested in continuing as RAs but a one semester commitment will be considered. No prior knowledge required.

How to Apply: Email Professor Bushouse bushouse@umass.edu with a paragraph describing your interest in the project, your resume, and an unofficial transcript

 

U.S. Early Childhood Education Policy, Research Assistant

2 credits (6 hours/week), Spring 2024 Semester

Job Description: Students on the team will code NYT articles for their relevancy to early childhood education, participate in analysis, and support development of a paper .

What You Will Learn: Learn how to translate text into data, analysis with Excel, experience working on a team, and gain knowledge on the history of early childhood policy in the U.S.

Prerequisites to Apply: We prefer students who are interested in continuing as RAs but a one semester commitment will be considered. No prior knowledge required.

How to Apply: Email Professor Bushouse bushouse@umass.edu with a paragraph describing your interest in the project, your resume, and an unofficial transcript

Before Applying...

Have you had your resume and cover letter reviewed by SBS Pathways? During the semester, there are walk-in hours with Peer Advisors in Thompson 128 (M, T, W 10-4 and Th, F 10 - 2) to get you started.