top of page

Please note: The SPEC Lab will not be running this program for the summer of 2023. Please check back on this page in the future for any updates about research opportunities provided by the SPEC lab.


The Security and Political Economy (SPEC) Lab at the University of Southern California typically welcomes applications from current undergraduate students for an 8-week intensive summer research and training program. The program includes training in research methods and work as a research assistant on faculty-led projects related to the political economy of security. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation, and all non-USC student participants will receive free housing on the USC campus, travel reimbursement, and a stipend. If the public health situation or other extenuating circumstances prevent an in-person summer, the program will be conducted remotely.

The SPEC Lab REU normally runs from mid June to early August. Students will be expected to work 30 hours per week in the lab, inclusive of hours spent in formal trainings and professionalization.

Program Overview

An unprecedented level of economic interdependence complicates development of any U.S. strategy for competition with rivals like China or Russia. This heightened economic interdependence between allies and competitors alike both shapes the costs of military conflict and makes available new tools of economic statecraft and coercion. Equipping future scholars to both understand the economic dynamics that drive conflict and propose solutions is critical for pursuing US national interests in an era of economic interdependence. The SPEC Lab will provide ten undergraduates per year with an 8-week summer research experience (SRE), where they will engage in graduate-level research on the political economy of international security and attend weekly workshops in research design, data science, and professional development.

Each SRE participant will contribute to one of several ongoing research projects in a collaborative team format. In addition to their research work, SRE participants will complete formal trainings in research design and applied data science. They will also participate in professional development programming aiming to prepare students for doctoral programs in the social sciences and careers as social scientists more broadly.

Qualifications and Application Procedures

Prior research experience is not required for participation. However, we hope to prioritize participation by
students who intend to pursue research careers in the social sciences. We expect that most participants
will be rising juniors or seniors. We also particularly welcome applications from first-generation
college students, minority students, and other students from under-represented groups. Due to constraints on NSF funding, participation by non-USC students is limited to US citizens and legal permanent residents. 

Please reach out to us at with any questions. 

NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates

A SPEC Summer Program Funded by the National Science Foundation

bottom of page