Current Openings

Fall 2019

SSP Renowned Woman Scientist Research Assistant

Pnina Abir-Am
WSRC Resident Scholar (50-hour position)

“A Small Scientific Commune: The Legacy of C2, Brandeis’ First Woman Professor of Biology, 1929-2017”

This project seeks to contribute to a biography of internationally renowned Carolyn Cohen (C2), 1929-2017, Brandeis’ first woman professor of biology and a pioneer in science and in gender equality for women scientists. This project will examine C2’s personal papers (correspondence, manuscripts) at Brandeis University Archives and Special Collections, as well as interview C2’s colleagues and mentees at and beyond Brandeis. The project capitalizes on C2’s Personal Papers at Brandeis University Archives which the Scholar helped organize for conservation so as to conduct archival research and oral history with C2’s colleagues and mentees at and beyond Brandeis.

The plan is that the Student will serve as co-author of an essay for journals in the history of science and WGS. The student will interview senior and junior scientists together with the Scholar, transcribe the interviews, and extract analytical themes and pertinent data (such as scientific concepts, collaborators and institutions which shaped C2's career or were shaped by her.) The student will also participate in archival work by processing correspondence. The student will present interim progress with the Scholar at WSRC, elsewhere on campus or at conferences in Greater Boston.


  • Coursework: Structural Biology and/or Biochemistry and/or Molecular Biology; Intro to WGS;

  • Technical Skills: Excellent writing skills; proficiency with Microsoft applications, advanced web search;

  • Past Experience: Archival research; oral history interviewing with scientists; transcription;

  • Other: Ability to analyze interviews for content and theme; excellent editorial skills.

Cascading Research Group: Graduate SSPs

Building on the success of the interdisciplinary Cascading Workshop last year, the WSRC is sponsoring the Cascading Research Group, 2019-2020. The CRG acts as a forum to present work-in-progress and exchange ideas about empirical projects. Brandeis faculty and WSRC Scholars work with graduate student SSPs to explore the literature, research design and findings.

1. The Relationship to Wealth and Health Inequities: Addressing the Needs of Women of Color and Their Children

Tatjana Meschede
Senior Scientist and Senior Lecturer, Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson
Visiting Associate Professor UMass Boston; Visiting Scholar, Heller School for Social Policy and Management

This study will examine the reciprocal relationship between wealth and health for women of color and impacts on the well-being of their children. Central to this research will be the exploration of the role of gendered racism on the relationship between maternal health disparities and wealth disparities among women of color in their reproductive age group, and their impacts on the well-being of their children ages 0-18. We propose gendered racism as an intervening variable, explicitly underscoring the role of a specific type of racism that partially drives inequality in America, and may exacerbate the relationship between health and wealth inequities.

This project includes preparatory data analysis to be included in a larger mixed method proposal. The student will help adding to the existing literature review and preliminary quantitative data analysis.

Desired Student Qualifications

  • Related Coursework: course on race and racism, critical race and gender theory

  • Technical Skills: ability to work with data sets

  • Past Experience: experience working with secondary data a plus

2. Gender and Agrarian Distress in India: Cascading in Rural India

Smriti Rao
Associate Professor of Economics and Global Studies, Assumption College; WSRC Scholar

This project seeks to evaluate i) the extent and nature of agrarian distress in India in the last decade; ii) The gendered impact of this agrarian distress; iii) the most useful empirical measures of agrarian distress that could be used in future research. India's liberalization process involved changes in the extent of government support for agriculture from price controls and input subsidies, to trade protection. Combined with larger shifts in global markets, this shift in policy led to a slowdown in agricultural output, yield, and employment growth. Numerous field studies pointed to rising indebtedness and losses in income for marginal farmers with un-irrigated farmland in particular. The tragic phenomenon of farmer's suicides did bring some public attention to agrarian distress, at least in part contributing to the development of India's rural employment guarantee scheme, which was designed to provide a safety net to rural agricultural workers. Since the mid 2000s there has been an increase in overall agricultural growth, measured in terms of agricultural output. However, there are sharp regional differences in the extent of recovery, and a continuing, perhaps even accelerating, decline in agricultural employment.

The student will be responsible for: a) Compiling a comprehensive list of studies on agrarian distress in rural India between 2005-2015, with a special focus on the gendered impacts. b) Making one page summaries of each relevant article. c) Working with me to brainstorm a set of conceptual themes that we can use to organize these studies. d) Working with me to identify the main empirical measures of agrarian distress used in these articles, and evaluating their pros and cons. e) Working with me to identify gaps in this literature, both conceptual and empirical.

Desired Student Qualifications:

  • Related Coursework: A student with some interest in/background in economic development. Coursework in: either economics, development studies, public policy or economic sociology. Any coursework on South Asia would be an added benefit. Any coursework on Feminist economics would be an added benefit.

  • Technical Skills: Coursework in Statistics would be useful, but since this is a literature review, the main requirement is careful, close reading and note-taking.

  • Other: A strong work ethic and an interest in the impact of economic change

Application Information

The Student-Scholar Partnership is an exciting, paid mentoring opportunity for Brandeis undergraduate students offering educational and real-world experience. Students are hired for up to 50 hours of meaningful work over the course of a semester and are paid $12 an hour.

To apply, please search for SSP Listings through Workday.

Job ID #s are listed next to the title. If chosen to interview, you may need to submit a writing sample directly to Kristen Mullin in Epstein at the WSRC. The writing sample can be any length or topic (relevant to project is better). It needs to show you can take a thought, put it in on paper and then discuss it clearly and intelligently. Many students have used past graded papers before.

Tips from Past SSPs