The SPIA data science research program welcomes its first fellows
In the fall of 2021, Princeton’s Empirical Studies in Conflict (ESOC) Project, with support from the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), launched the ESOC Fellowship for Data-Driven Research, a program that prepares recent college graduates from underrepresented backgrounds to conduct data-driven research.
The first fellows are Hanjatiana Nirina Randrianarisoa, a graduate of Trinity College, and Chris Buckley, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, both of whom are already at Princeton and are actively pursuing their research projects.
Both Randrianarisoa and Buckley take part in the one- to two-year program, studying topics ranging from fake news and misinformation to social media and political preferences. They support professors and graduate students in their research, while receiving training in data science, as well as mentoring.
“We launched this program as part of ESOC’s commitment to Princeton’s and SPIA’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and we are absolutely thrilled with our fellows and the contributions they make. contribute to our research. We hope they will consider pursuing higher education and careers that make intensive use of their newly acquired data skills,” said Ethan Kapstein, Associate Director of ESOC.
Before starting their fellowship, Randrianarisoa and Buckley participated in an intensive 10-week training program, preparing them to contribute to data generation, aggregation and analysis. The course draws heavily on existing data processing and visualization courses, econometric texts, research papers, and course textbooks. It is open-source and available here.
Randrianarisoa, from Antananarivo, Madagascar, said the initial training program introduced him to different areas of research he hadn’t considered before the program. “I never thought I would learn how to use geolocation data in research, for example,” Randrianarisoa said. “The training exposed me to many different areas of research that I was not aware of before.”
And although forming the program was difficult at first, Buckley said the end result was worth it.
“The training schedule was pretty grueling,” Buckley said. “The first week was a refresher for data science and coding, but then we started doing more theory, which was daunting for me because it wasn’t in my training. But we finished it, and I did my capstone project and I’m now working with professors on their projects. I like the research I’m doing right now.
Buckley now works with Andy Guess, assistant professor of politics and public affairs, and Thomas Fujiwara, associate professor of economics and international affairs, analyzing Twitter data for projects studying social media, misinformation and preferences. policies. Randrianarisoa works with Kapstein; Kristopher Ramsay, professor of politics; and Jacob N. Shapiro, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, on various projects related to development finance and disinformation.
As part of their fellowships, Randrianarisoa and Buckley have weekly check-ins with Yining Sun and Nilima Pisharody, who are both research specialists, to ensure they are on track with program benchmarks. Both fellows said they valued the opportunity to broaden their skills and work alongside experts to put different approaches to research into practice.
“It meant a lot to be chosen for this program,” Buckley said. “That’s exactly what I was hoping to do. I wanted to continue doing research and working with professors before applying to graduate schools or looking for jobs in research or in the public sector. It’s a really important opportunity for me and my career goals.
Randrianarisoa shared a similar sentiment about the experience. “I am very grateful to be able to conduct groundbreaking research with world-renowned professors and researchers,” he said. “In Malagasy, we have a saying: ‘education is the greatest form of inheritance.’ And working in an institution like Princeton is one of my dreams, that of my parents and my grandparents has come true.