Student Research

The Bill Lane Center prides itself on being an academic home for Stanford undergraduates. The Center strives to provide students with high-quality, interdisciplinary opportunities and resources. This page lists the three main programs available to both undergraduate and graduate students: research assistantships on existing BLC projects, research assistantships on independent projects, and an environmental journalism internship. Students from all years are encouraged to apply for positions. 

The Center's research assistants (RAs) pursue original research with faculty, working part-time for a maximum of 10 hours per week each quarter and full-time up to 40 hours per week during the summer. Students meet regularly with their mentors to discuss goals and plans for research. The Center's research assistant positions are partially funded by the office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE). Please see the student eligibility requirements

For questions about the undergraduate research program, please contact Surabhi Balachander (surabhi2 [at] (surabhi2[at]stanford[dot]edu)).

Students interested in applying for any of these programs should join our mailing list.

Applications for Summer 2023 Research Assistantships are now closed.

Click here to learn more and apply!

Read about current and past research assistants and their projects here.

Who should apply?

Lane Center student researchers come from across the academic landscape and bring skills just as diverse. At the Lane Center, you can find projects to fit interests in quantitative and qualitative work alike. 

Although our Center often attracts students from the American West, or those who feel a strong connection to the region, the most important factors in the success of prospective research assistants are their curiosity for learning and passion for conducting research. You don't have to be a lifelong Westerner to dig into the region's most pressing issues, and you may even develop a newfound affinity for the richness of Western land, resources and people along the way. Thus, we encourage all students to bring an open-minded approach to their time with us. Our staff works hard to match students to projects they will find both stimulating and fulfilling. 

The Center's work often sits at the intersection of various disciplines. Students should be able (or willing to learn) to analyze problems through various lenses. Students bring skills from across the academic spectrum and apply them to their projects. Data analysis, web-scraping, programming, policy analysis, geospatial mapping, art criticism, photography, and audio/video production are all skills that can make effective BLC researchers.

Meet past research assistants

More about Lane Center research

The Bill Lane Center for the American West is dedicated to advancing the scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of Western North America. In the research space, the Center places an emphasis on issues related to Western governance and policy, and environment and energy in the West. Many of our projects are concerned with questions related to these issues but often go beyond these limits. The Center works hard to incorporate projects related to the art, culture, history, and people of the Western region into its scholarly pursuits.

Meet the research team

What sets our opportunities apart?

The Center's projects engage students throughout the entire process of original research — from design, literature review, and data collection, all the way through to analysis, scholarly writing and production of visual scholarship, such as maps and interactive media. Findings are communicated through peer-reviewed publications, oral presentations, our website and other public-facing media sources.

The Center is committed to providing necessary training to equip our RAs with the tools needed to complete their projects. For example, past RAs have pursued Center-sponsored training on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with the Stanford Geospatial Library. Other students dive deep into large-scale data mining, machine learning and textual analysis projects using data science tools like R and Python. Students have also explored journalistic interviewing and podcast production.

How do you get involved?

Join an existing project

The Lane Center has a number of ongoing research projects already in motion, and interested students may join an existing project as a research assistant. Faculty Director Bruce Cain sets the Center's multi- and inter-disciplinary research agenda with the intention to attract interest from students across the academic spectrum. View and apply for current opportunities here

Design your own project

Bill Lane Center research projects can take many shapes. The Center will consider any proposal as long as it relates in some way to the study of the American West. The examples below provide insight into the range of projects former research assistants have completed. Apply for self-designed projects here

Environmental Journalism Internship

Work with the Center's writer-in-residence Felicity Barringer on an environmental journalism project. Editorial interns gain valuable journalistic experience by reporting and writing stories published to our "...and the West" blog. Check out some of the pieces written by previous interns. To indicate interest in this program, please email Felicity at febarr [at] (febarr[at]stanford[dot]edu).

Students interested in applying for one of these programs should join our mailing list.

Past student projects

Award Winning Research on Air Quality

Cade Cannedy, an undergraduate research assistant since the summer of 2018, started working on an air quality project that would later become his senior thesis. Cade's thesis was awarded the prestigious Firestone Award.

Research on Bay Area Policing

Joyce Tagal worked with the city managers from across the mid-peninsula to study policing practices and room for reform.

COVID-19 Podcast

In the summer of 2020, Aja Two Crows, Hannah Kelley and Sophie Boyd-Fliegel planned and recorded a podcast to better understand the experience of Native American communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tap Dancing in the American West

In the Summer of 2019, Shiriel King Abramson choreographed a four-part suite of tap dances that captured the sonic richness of natural elements — earth, air, fire and water.

Photographing the American West

Sarah Ondak spent a summer completing a historical photography project in Ouray, Colorado, a mining town-turned recreation destination.

Research in National Park Archives

Max Klotz used support from the Lane Center to complete research for his senior thesis on tourism in National Parks. He traveled to both Yellowstone and Zion National Parks to read through historic documents in the Parks' respective archives. 

Sea Level Rise in the Bay Area

Becca Nelson investigates how Foster City, a city built on marshes, tackles sea level rise.

Bees for Hire

Emily Wilder reports on the mutually beneficial relationship between bees and California almond farms.

Small Farmers and Groundwater

Madison Pobis hears from small farmers in California's Central Valley about the future of their access to groundwater. 

Check out the titles of current Lane Center projects

  • Telemedicine, Homelessness and the Indigenous Population
  • State Emergency Powers
  • Sustainability Practices in Santa Clara County
  • California Air Resource Board & Air Quality Regulation
  • EPA's Air, Water, Drinking Water, and Hazardous Waste Violations
  • Police Reform in California
  • Western Interconnection Data System to Inform Utility Wildfire Mitigation Efforts
  • Wildfire Recall and Ballot Initiatives
  • Learn about these projects in depth by reading our news story, "2020 Student Research Tackles Urgent Regional Concerns"

Check out other student works

Write your own story

Student Profiles


There are many ways to get involved with the Lane Center and each student's path will be different.  We invite you to read the stories of previous Lane Center students who shared their Western journeys. You may decide to follow their lead or use their experiences as inspiration to write your own story.

Visit our student profiles page.

Meet the research team

Bruce Cain, Faculty Director

Bruce Cain is a professor of political science and an expert in U.S. politics, particularly the politics of California and the American West. A pioneer in computer-assisted redistricting, he is a prominent scholar of elections, political regulation, and the relationships between lobbyists and elected officials. Professor Cain sets the Center's research agenda and works closely with undergraduate and graduate students. Professor Cain is also a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and at the Precourt Institute for Energy, with which the Lane Center often partners on research projects.


Felicity Barringer, Writer-in-Residence

Felicity Barringer joined the Center as writer in residence in September 2016. She is the editor and lead writer for the Center’s “... & the West” blog on western environmental and health issues. She was a national environmental correspondent during the last decade of her 28 years at The New York Times. Barringer provided an in-depth look at the adoption of AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change bill after covering state’s carbon reduction carbon policies and, more recently,  focused on the West’s water challenges. Earlier, Barringer covered the United Nations and worked as a correspondent in Moscow.