Elijah Bakam is in his 4th year at the SPEC Lab as an undergraduate research assistant with Ben Graham's TALUS Team as well as the Everyday Respect group. He has also served as the SPEC Lab Manager for the past 2 years. He is pursuing a double B.A. in International Relations and French Studies. He wants to open his own NGO one day focusing on corruption and foreign aid utilization in Africa. Outside of his studies you can usually find Elijah at a tennis court or making YouTube videos.
Undergraduate Research Team Leads
Annie is a junior research assistant for Dr. Ben Graham’s TALUS Analytical Team. At USC, she is pursuing a double major in international relations and environmental science, as well as a minor in dance. Academically, she is interested in the intersection of climate change, global poverty, and corruption, as well as the potential for utilizing sustainable development as a means of reducing inequality. Outside of the lab, she enjoys dancing, painting, and spending time outside!
Aren Wright is a junior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Economics and Latin American Studies. Outside of the lab, they also develop curriculum and teach in local high schools as a program coordinator at the USC Center for Active Learning in International Studies. In their free time, they enjoy cooking, gardening, and hiking. They joined the SPEC Lab’s Resource Curse team in January 2022.
Undergraduate Research Assistants
Mekdi is a junior at USC with a double major in International Relations and Economics. She joined SPEC in June 2021 and was previously a member of the Education, Conflict, and Aid Allocation team as well as the Consulting for Social Change team. Her research interests include development in East Africa, Human Rights, and Racial Justice. Mekdi is now a part of the Everyday Respect team led by Professor Benjamin Graham. Outside of the lab, she is on the board of BlackGeneration Capital, as well as the East African Student Association.
Yuchen (Aaron) Gong
Aaron is a senior studying Intelligence and Cyber Operation with a minor in Computer Programming at USC. He is currently part of the Talus team. His academic interests include software developments, algorithms, data analysis, and international relations. Outside of the lab, Aaron enjoys jazz, tennis, playing the piano, and watching movies.
Gabriel Solis is a junior studying Economics and Mathematics at the University of Southern California. He is a research assistant for Dr. Benjamin Graham's TALUS Analytical Team and is interested in industrial economics, applied microeconomic theory, and public economics. Outside of the lab, Gabriel enjoys watching Seinfeld and listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, and Bob Dylan.
Double Majoring in are international Relations and Journalism; Hometown is Burtonsville, Maryland; Interest/Focus at the lab is working on the organization of our website and everything media related, as well as delivering and organizing our research into a cohesive piece for the public; An interesting fact about myself is I love music and have been singing since I was little!
Janice Jung is a junior studying International Relations and Global Economy major and Legal Studies minor at the University of Southern California. She is a research assistant for Dr. Benjamin Graham's TALUS Analytical Team and the Everyday Respect Project. Outside of the lab, Janice enjoys listening to k-pop, going out to eat in k-town, and exploring nature.
Alix Ziff is a PhD candidate in the Political Science and International Relations department and the Lab Manager at SPEC. She also oversees the Power-sharing Project Team with Professor Graham. Alix has a M.A. in African Studies from Stanford University and a B.A. in Political Science & International relations from UCSD. Her research interests focus on how different groups are affected by conflict, instability and political contention differently. She is specifically interested in the roles of both governments and external actors in access to education in conflict-affected areas.
Miriam is a doctoral student in Political Science and International Relations and Provost's Fellow in the Social Sciences at the University of Southern California. Her primary research focuses on nuclear politics, arms control, and treaty commitments, as well as the intersection between international security and political economy. She is also interested in quantitative political methodology, particularly text-as-data, machine learning, and network analysis.
Gaea Morales is a Ph.D. student in Political Science and International Relations at USC. She joined the SPEC Lab in Summer 2020 to support the development of training for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program and now serves as the Director of Data Science. Her own research is focused on environmental security and conflict prevention, and local-global governance and institutional linkages in the pursuit of sustainability. Outside of the lab, she is co-chair of the USC Keck Institute on Inequalities in Global Health Student Advisory Council. She holds a BA in Diplomacy and World Affairs and French Studies, and a minor in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies from Occidental College.
José Javier Alcocer
José Javier is a PhD candidate in the Political Science and International Relations department and research associate at SPEC. He has a M.P.P. from the Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC and a B.A. in Political Science from CSULB. His research focuses on how racial and gender identity affects institutional strategies of elected officials in office. In addition, he is interested in the use of causal inference tools along with machine learning models to understand behavior across political institutions.