Research Teams and Projects: AY 2020/2021

These were the teams active in academic year 2020-2021. If you are interested in a particular research area, please reach out directly to the faculty member(s) leading the work. They can tell you whether they have current opportunities available. 

  1. Lead researcher/mentor: Peter Damiano, DDS – Public Policy Center/ Chris Kromphardt, PhD – Public Policy Center
  • Kadel Coakley
  • Mallory Obenauf
  • Sarah Luke
  • Elizabeth Burns
  • Abigail Davison

Project info:
The COVID pandemic has caused job losses that were exacerbated by the associated loss of employer-based health insurance coverage. This team of students will be investigating the following topics as a part of their research: 1) trends in employment in the US and Iowa related to COVID; 2) trends in health insurance coverage and employer-based insurance in the US and Iowa during the pandemic; 3) the impact of COVID-related health insurance loss on access to health care and health status. Primary data related to health insurance coverage during the COVID pandemic will be analyzed as part of this project. These data were collected with an online panel of 1000 Iowa adults, who were surveyed between August and October 2020.

  1. Lead researcher/mentor: Louise Seamster, PhD – Sociology & Criminology
  • Terry Saul III
  • Hannah Zadeh

Project info:
In 2020-2021, PPC support will help fund team undergraduate work in the Flint Email Lab, a collaboration with the Digital Publishing and Scholarship Studio at the University of Iowa’s library. This project seeks to increase the accessibility of a unique and important publicly-available set of emails on the Flint Water Crisis released by Michigan’s then-governor Rick Snyder. In early 2016, Snyder published a large archive (around 455,000 pages) of emails relating to the crisis from multiple government agencies. Flint residents brought Flint’s water catastrophe to light by conducting their own research and collaborating with experts, an example of the role of “citizen science” in ensuring water quality and access. 

We seek to contribute to these efforts by making the contents of the archive easily searchable to members of the public, especially affected communities. We are prototyping a website and initial data visualizations and analyses, and will keep expanding the website’s capacity iteratively. This project has involved students in conceptualization and execution from its beginnings in 2017. In Fall 2020, PPC student research fellows are cleaning data and removing duplicates, testing the database, and helping produce training material and workflows for a spring 2021 Applied Research class in which all students will be contributing to this project. The PPC fellows will be student mentors in this class.

  1. Lead researcher/mentor: Brian Lai, PhD – Political Science
  • Katarina Newcamp
  • Regan Day
  • Abbi Denner
  • Eduardo Garces
  • Hiatt Holman
  • Grace Kiple
  • Kaiya Luethje
  • Amelia Thoreson

Project info:
The international politics research team is engaging in two projects. The first is to collect data on all attempted peace negotiations in civil wars from 1980-2010. Our goal is to use this data to better understand when violence is likely to occur during a negotiation attempt and what factors influence the outcome of these attempts. We also plan to use this research to write about how to structure negotiations in a few current civil wars. The other project collects data on non-state actor control of territory during a civil war. We are collecting data on where rebels control territory during a civil war. This project will look at how territorial control influences settlement efforts with the government, the duration of a civil war, and the transformation of rebel groups into political parties after the war. 

  1. Lead researcher/mentor: Karen Heimer, PhD – Sociology & Criminology
  • Kaitlin Abshire
  • Cecelia Bonilla
  • Natalie Grodnitsky
  • Omar Lopez
  • Aurora Palmillas
  • Anjali Puranam
  • Myah Rhodes
  • Alexandra Skores
  • Konstandina Spanoudakis
  • Antonio Woodard

Project info:
Through the City of Waterloo’s partnership with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC), Public Policy Center faculty and students are working on a study of Law Enforcement, Mental Health, and Community Relations. The project is led by Professor Karen Heimer, along with IISC Director Travis Kraus.  The primary project partners are the Blackhawk County Sheriff’s Office and the Waterloo Police Department. Additionally, the team is working with a variety of community mental health service providers in Waterloo and Blackhawk County.  

The team will work on the project for the entire academic year.  In the fall, they are conducting preliminary fact-finding interviews and planning details of data collections, which will occur in the spring semester.  Student researchers are currently meeting with law enforcement and service agency directors; in the spring they will interview local stakeholders and service providers in law enforcement, the county jail, and mental health service organizations.  In addition to interviewing community residents about their perceptions about how the police and social services can better serve residents who have mental health needs, the team will analyze data on calls made to the police and sheriff’s department. They will also examine policies, programs, law enforcement trainings, and social services that are in place to help those with mental health challenges. 

The project will culminate in a report to the City of Waterloo that includes findings and best practices. 

  1. Lead researcher/mentor: Bryce Dietrich, PhD – Political Science, Social Science Informatics
  • Allison Beckner
  • Ella Daniels
  • Ganon Evans
  • Alex Hefel
  • John Kamp
  • Nicholas Pryor

Project info:
In one project, students are identifying how protests are framed on social media. In a second, they are identifying changes in pedestrian behavior on city streets leading up to an election. Students will also be pursuing their own research projects with guidance from Professor Dietrich. 

  1. Lead researcher/mentor: Kajsa Dalrymple, PhD – Journalism and Mass Communication/ Fred Boehmke, PhD – Political Science
  • Liam Kaboli
  • Elisabeth Oster
  • Rylee Wilson
  • Chloe Weidl
  • Olivia Bull
  • Noelle Hass
  • Stephanie Gutierrez
  • Maya Sims
  • Marissa Good
  • Sam Avery
  • Amelia Thoreson
  • Zachary Slocum 
  • Makenna Gregurek
  • Elizabeth Storey
  • Thomas Dainty
  • Kyle Starkey
  • Julian Nieto
  • Andrew Bohn
  • Sierra Wicks
  • Jordan Miller
  • Madison Rush

Project info:
The Iowa Policy and Opinion Lab (IPOL) studies policy and representation in Iowa. Participants will collect and analyze data on state government policy activity, including legislation, regulation, and executive orders. We will compile and code a multi-year database of all Iowa bills, executive orders, and administrative rulemaking. IPOL will also regularly collect data on Iowans’ opinion on policy priorities and preferences on specific policies. We will use these data to examine the link between citizens’ stated priorities and preferences and state government’s activities. While we will collect data on the entire spectrum of policy topic areas, students are currently organized into four groups emphasizing specific topic areas: race and crime, health and COVID-19, the environment, and social and women’s issues. 

  1. Lead researcher/mentor: Elise Pizzi, PhD; Kajsa Dalrymple, PhD; Kylah Hedding, PhD – Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Maya George
  • Maxwell Bernstein
  • Sam Harper

Project info:
Local communities are on the front lines in responding to natural disasters, climate events, and other social disasters such as pandemics. The goal of this project is to understand the variation in disaster preparedness and communication strategies at the local level across Iowa. The research team is currently addressing three research questions: (1) How do counties vary in the way that they develop, implement and communicate disaster preparedness plans in their community? (2) What communication best practices are incorporated into community response plans (e.g., speaking to local contexts and engaging local stakeholders)? (3) How do different audiences rely on government organizations, media outlets, and interpersonal networks for safety information in order to develop personalized plans for mitigating risk? We are currently gathering data on seven pilot counties and will expend to all 99 counties in the next phase.