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Team Lead: Ryan Barr
THE Security and Political economy LAB
The SPEC Lab hosts an 8-week intensive research training program for non-USC undergraduates. The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) 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 USC Dornsife.
Summer 2020 (Remote) REU Undergraduate Research Assistants
Clayton is a junior at Saint Louis University studying computer and data science with minors in international studies and mathematics. In SPEC, he researches on the IPE/Talus team and his main research interests are global development and globalization. Outside of the lab, Clayton enjoys reading, traveling, and studying foreign languages. Clayton joined the lab summer 2020 as part of the REU program.
Bethany Thompson joined the Summer 2020 REU as a rising senior and is a research assistant for Dr. Megan Becker's resource curse replication project. She is majoring in International Studies and minoring in International Economics and Spanish at California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests include migration from Asia to Latin America and the intersection of security and emerging technology. Outside of research, she enjoys nurturing her plant collection and exploring her creativity through visual and performance art.
Zachary Johnson is a Junior at Iowa State University majoring in Political Science, Data Science, and Statistics. His main research interests surround American elections and American voting behavior but he is enjoying getting a change of pace in studying comparative politics and international relations in the lab. Outside of the lab Zachary is a member of ISU’s marching band, is a student ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, and is a Community Advisor for ISU’s dept. of residence. Zack joined the lab in the summer of 2020 and is a member of the IPE/Data Resource Team.
Ari Kelo is a rising junior majoring in Theatre, Political Science, and Environmental Sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a Research Assistant for Dr. Becker's resource curse replication project, Ari is exploring interests in international relations, civil conflict, and the intersection of climate and political issues. Ari also enjoys researching political psychology, having done an independent research project on how sleep sensitivity influences political ideology. Outside of research, Ari participates in the comedy and theatre scenes on campus, alongside working as an environmental journalist and advocating for student issues through the Student Government. Ari joined the SPEC Lab as an REU student for Summer 2020.
Bethany Ford is a rising senior majoring in Economics and International Studies at Washington College. Her research interests are in female financial inclusion and accessibility, particularly in South/Southeast Asia. She’s working on the Resource Curse project at SPEC this summer. Outside of school, she’s a volunteer service puppy raiser with Fidos for Freedom, and loves to cook and bake!
Sara Lowe is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin double-majoring in International Relations and Global Studies and Government. She is currently on the Education in Emergencies team at SPEC and studies patterns of education aid in Sub-Saharan Africa. She’s incredibly interested in international development, particularly in the study of good governance, democracy, and women's economic development. Sara works as a team lead at the Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD) lab at UT, where she studies classifications of vulnerability in research. In her spare time, Sara loves singing with her a cappella group, listening to musicals, consuming far more coffee than the human body should be able to handle, and is always on the hunt for the best boba in town.
Anahi Rodriguez is a sophomore studying Political Science and Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently working with the SPEC lab's IPE/Taulus team.
Deven Clark is a junior studying Economics, World Economy & Business, and Political Science at The Ohio State University with a minor in Japanese. He is a REU student working for the SPEC lab in the 2020 summer on the Talus and IPE Data Resource team. Outside of the lab, Deven enjoys volunteering, reading, and all kinds of art.
Minela Ikanovic is majoring in Ethics and Public Policy with a specialization in Political Science, and a minor in rhetoric and persuasion. She also serves as an Honors Ambassador. After graduation she plans to work. Minela believes the best part about the REU program is the friendships you make and always having someone cheering for you in your corner.
Akhil Thadani is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University where he majored in political science and double minored in economics and philosophy. Born in India, he spent the majority of his life in Lagos, Nigeria, before moving to Texas during high school. He is currently a research intern in the Economics Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies working at the intersection of technology, economic, and security policy. He spent his Summer 2020 SPEC REU working as a research assistant for the Gunboat Capitalism team. His past experiences have involved working at the House Judiciary Committee and at a private law firm. In his free time he enjoys drawing and has previously had his work featured in museums and exhibits.
Summer 2021 (Remote) REU Undergraduate Research Assistants
Spencer Dee is a sophomore studying International Relations and East Asian Area Studies at the University of Southern California. His research interests currently include conflict resolution, humanitarian crises, democratic governance and international law. Outside of the SPEC Lab, he enjoys spending time watching movies with family and friends. He joined the Resource Curse team at the SPEC Lab in June 2021.
Maya Schroder is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studies political science and economics with a minor in music. At the SPEC Lab, she is a research assistant on the Resource Curse team. She has previously worked as a research assistant for the book Market Power Politics. Her research interests include natural resource extraction, authoritarian politics, and sovereign debt default. Outside of research, Maya enjoys teaching for Musical Empowerment at UNC, watching sitcoms, and cheering for the Tar Heels.
Mekdi is a sophomore at USC studying International Relations and the Global Economy. Her research interests include development in East Africa, Human Rights, Middle Eastern politics, and more. Outside of the lab, her interests include Model UN, travelling, and playing tennis. Mekdi joined SPEC in June 2021 and became a member of the Education, Conflict, and Aid Allocation team as well as the Consulting for Social Change team.
William Ortell is a rising sophomore studying International Relations and is currently a part of the Resource Curse Team. At USC, he is involved with the Unruh Associates, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and Trojan Scholar Society. His research interests include interstate and domestic conflict and the ideological roots of policy. In his free time, he enjoys listening to hip-hop, cooking, and exploring Los Angeles. Will joined the lab in Summer 2021.
Robert Huang is a sophomore studying Economics and Data Science with a minor in Environmental Studies at USC. He is currently part of the Powersharing team. His academic interests include public policymaking, international trade, and environmental economics. Outside of the lab, he enjoys running, traveling, playing the violin, and watching Netflix.
Rodrigo is a fourth year Political Science and Philosophy major. His academic interests include international organizations and their subversion of state sovereignty, the causes and exacerbating elements of genocides, and the long-term state stability-related effects of state violence on citizen populations. Rodrigo has served as a research assistant to Dr. Susan Hyde since May 2020, researching regional organizations, human rights, and policing in the United States. He also researched mechanisms of the resource curse as a member of the USC Security and Political Economy lab during the summer of 2021. Since 2016, Rodrigo has worked as a leadership conference facilitator and event host for the Future Farmers of America Organization, presenting workshops, conferences, and TED-style events In Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, and various other cities. When Rodrigo is not in Berkeley, he is at home in Salinas, CA, surfing, backpacking and reading.
Sabrina is a senior at the University of Minnesota double majoring in political science and global studies. She has worked on the Development & Education Equity Team at SPEC researching education and development aid patterns in East Africa. Sabrina is interested in foreign policy and international development. In her spare time she likes to read and hang out by the lake!
Carlotta Dalal Alaai
Carlotta Dalal Alaai is a junior double majoring in International Relations and Global Studies at USC. Her academic interests include peace and conflict studies with a regional focus on the Middle East. Outside of SPEC, she tutors with Kinder2College, a program that strives to improve literacy and academic skills among local LA elementary school students. In her free time, she can be found baking, reading, and convincing her family to adopt stray cats. Carlotta Dalal joined the lab in the Summer of 2020.
Abhinav is a rising junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Political Sciene and Economics with minors in Spanish and Data Science. When he's not hacking at R code and merging datasets, you can find him at the farmers' market, preparing to cook an unnecessarily complicated dinner.
Bethlehem is a sophomore at the University of Kansas. She has an interest in economics and East African politics. Her interests outside the lab include poetry and visiting art galleries.
Annie Zhou is a Junior at University of California, San Diego majoring in Political Science/Data Analytics and minoring in Business. Her main research interests surround using data to make informed decisions, whether they be in politics, business, or law. She is part of the TALUS Analytics team, working on data management and visualization using R. Outside of the lab, Annie enjoys hiking & skiing (especially in her hometown of Denver, Colorado) as well as playing tennis and playing the piano. Annie joined the SPEC Lab as an REU student for Summer 2021.
William is a junior at The University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill, double-majoring in Computer Science and Political Science with a Minor in Data Science. As part of the lab, he provides figures and analytics for the lab's papers as well as the LEWIS Registry. In addition, he assists with troubleshooting during Data Science Training and Stats Consulting Office Hours. In his free time, William enjoys reading, exercising, and playing chess.