Meet the Undergraduate Researchers

The Bill Lane Center for the American West, in collaboration with the office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE), offers on-campus research opportunities for Stanford undergraduates to work with faculty on projects related to the American West. We welcome students from a wide variety of disciplines to engage with issues related to western land and life in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The Center's Research Assistants (RAs) pursue original research with faculty, working part-time for a maximum of 10 hours per week during the school year and up to 40 hours per week during the summer. Students meet regularly with their mentors to discuss goals and plans for research. There are three types of research projects: student-initiated, faculty-initiated, or pre-identified projects posted on the Center's website. Students often stay on for multiple quarters to continue their research projects or pursue investigations in different western-related topics.

Summer 2021 Undergraduate Research Assistants

2021 Research Assistant Faces
Members of the 2021 research assistant cohort. Image credit: Tia Schwab
Research Assistant Topic Description
Allan Zhao Examining a new form of environmental governance in California: Community Choice Aggregators, or CCAs Allan Zhao, Esther Filipek, and Ana Escandell are investigating how different California CCAs are internally governed, and how these governance structures might affect rates, emission reduction goals, and their particular mixes of energy sources.
Abraham Ryzhik Participation in meetings of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Together, John Coyle, Shayana Venukanthan, and Abraham Ryzhik are using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and Google Cloud Platform tools to examine the transcripts of thousands of California Air Resources Board meetings from the 1960s to the present. They are specifically looking to understand more about representation from the historically underrepresented groups that are most impacted by air pollution.
John Coyle Identifying patterns in CARB meeting participation John is looking through thousands of transcripts of California Air Research Board meetings since the 60's, identifying who participated, what companies/groups they represented, and their race/gender. The goal is to build a dataset to analyze participation and get a clear picture of who exactly is being heard at these meetings.
Miri Powell Fire Resilient Governance: Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority In 2020 Marin voters approved a ballot measure to fund the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority. The agency coordinates between seventeen existing fire districts and municipalities to improve fire resiliency throughout Marin. This case study examines the new agency to understand how communities are adapting to increasing environmental concerns like wildfire.
Hunter Johnson Hydrologic adaptation and mitigation in California's Central Coast  Johnson is focusing on a variety of solutions for adaptation to and mitigation of dramatic hydrologic events such as floods and droughts. As climate change intensifies the frequency, duration, and severity of these events, research on such solutions can help optimize future climate planning.
Shayana Venukanthan Participation in meetings of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Together, John Coyle, Shayana Venukanthan, and Abraham Ryzhik are using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and Google Cloud Platform tools to examine the transcripts of thousands of California Air Resources Board meetings from the 1960s to the present. They are specifically looking to understand more about representation from the historically underrepresented groups that are most impacted by air pollution.
Augustus Wachbrit Fire Resilient Governance: Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority In 2020 Marin voters approved a ballot measure to fund the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority. The agency coordinates between seventeen existing fire districts and municipalities to improve fire resiliency throughout Marin. This case study examines the new agency to understand how communities are adapting to increasing environmental concerns like wildfire.
Estefania Lacarieri Perceptions of climate change among ranchers and farmers Lacarieri's project “aims to discover whether farmers and ranchers who believe in anthropogenic climate change are more likely to support the implementation of solar energy on their properties and/or more likely to find the idea of producing clean energy for local cities appealing.” 
R.J. Moore California 100 grant project Emphasizing federalism and international cooperation, they will work to identify best practices for governing natural resources, such as water and wind, across many political jurisdictions, including international borders. 
Coby Dulitzki Impact of air filters in California schools Dulitzki will determine the capacity of air filters installed in schools for mitigation of the potential effects on respiratory health of smoke inhalation during wildfire season.
Esther Filipek Examining a new form of environmental governance in California: Community Choice Aggregators, or CCAs Allan Zhao, Esther Filipek, and Ana Escandell are investigating how different California CCAs are internally governed, and how these governance structures might affect rates, emission reduction goals, and their particular mixes of energy sources.
Itbaan Nafi Police reform in suburban cities Nafi has read minutes and listened to city council meetings, conducted interviews with city employees, searched local media, and sent a brief survey to police departments, all with the objective of identifying proposed police reforms in six cities over the year since the murder of George Floyd.
Connor Lane The works of author Wallace Stegner Lane is perusing the works of iconic Western writer and longtime Stanford faculty member Wallace Stegner with an eye to Stegner’s environmental writing and activism. Lane will work to frame the contemporary lessons he and other students can gain from reading Stegner’s work. 
Jooee Karwande California 100 grant project Emphasizing federalism and international cooperation, they will work to identify best practices for governing natural resources, such as water and wind, across many political jurisdictions, including international borders. 
Lea Wang-Tomic Extreme Climates How do individuals perceive their personal experience with extreme climates and weather events (such as wildfires, droughts, extreme heatwaves or cold-spells, etc) and how does this relate to an individual's personal beliefs about climate change and the effects of it? The project looks into aspects of identity and community, such as political party and geographical location, and these factor's effects on perception of climate change and extreme weather events.
Lucy Chae Investigation on public opinion of the introduction of driverless and electric vehicles Working with the results of a nationwide transportation poll, Chae says, “Autonomous and electric vehicles have the potential to cut down on emissions and transportation accidents.” She hopes that her research can inform the adoption of these vehicles across the West and the country. 
Sheila Cochrane Environmental shifts occurring in the West over the last century Cochrane is working to determine the effects of long-term declines in cattle ranching in the American West on conifer and shrub growth in the region.
Lucian de Nevers Variation in the use of state emergency powers in the United States Emergency powers became a flashpoint at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with states having different codified powers and means of employing them. This project extends beyond COVID response scenarios to consider the historical factors leading to the variation in state emergency powers, as well as the general applicability of these powers to other emergency situations, including flooding or hurricanes.
Ana Escandell Examining a new form of environmental governance in California: Community Choice Aggregators, or CCAs Allan Zhao, Esther Filipek, and Ana Escandell are investigating how different California CCAs are internally governed, and how these governance structures might affect rates, emission reduction goals, and their particular mixes of energy sources.
Molly Campbell John Birch Society and grassroots opposition to the 1960s farmworker movement Campbell’s hope is that this case study will point to the relationships between agribusiness and political conservatism in the Central Valley, as well as larger trends of political radicalization in the region.
Janae Belk California 100 grant project Emphasizing federalism and international cooperation, they will work to identify best practices for governing natural resources, such as water and wind, across many political jurisdictions, including international borders. 
Alex Ross California 100 grant project Emphasizing federalism and international cooperation, they will work to identify best practices for governing natural resources, such as water and wind, across many political jurisdictions, including international borders. 

 

 

2020

Summer 2020

Research Assistant Topic Description
Leila Braganza State Emergency Power This project examines variation in emergency power across states during COVID-19.
Sophia Boyd-Fliegel Local Government Emergency Power This project examines variation in local emergency power within the state of California during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sam Baucom Local Government Emergency Power This project examines variation in local emergency power within the state of California during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cade Cannery CARB and Environmental Regulation This project studies how institutional designs affect the regulatory function of the California Air Quality Board.
John Coyle Environmental Justice Working with Abraham Ryzhik, John is using webscraping to compile databases of EPA violations in the U.S. to examine spatial inequality in pollution-burden. This project examines the spatial variation of EPA contamination and enforcement in California.
Jessica de la Paz COVID-19 and School Ventilation Systems This independent research study examines the variation of ventilation system in public schools in the Bay Area and how that affect health outcomes.
Devin Hagan Sustainability Practices in Santa Clara County This project examines soil and land management practices as wildfire prevention strategies.
Hannah Kunzman Local Government Emergency Power This project examines variation in local emergency power within the state of California during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hannah Kelley The Impacts of COVID-19 on Native American Tribes This project compares how native Americans residing in Novajo Nation and Seattle and their experience with COVID-19.
Lila Mack Wildfires and the Bay Area This project studies the factors preventing Latinos from accessing emergency services in Sonoma County, California.
Sofia Monroy State Emergency Power This project examines variation in emergency power across states during COVID-19.
Mateo Massey SGMA (Water in the West) Working with Water in the West, Mateo will analyze the integration of climate change into the newly released SGMA groundwater sustainability plans to provide lessons learned, barriers and opportunities for groundwater agencies and water managers.
Francisco Nodarse COVID-19 and Rural America This project contrasts how different rural towns in American west have experienced COVID-19.
Ayush Pandit Webscraping In conjunction with the state and local emergency power projects, this project collects and analyzes textual data issued by government agencies or elected officials.
Rizina Policy in Australia This project examines factors leading to a successful establishment of an independent policy institution.
Sarah Raza SGMA (Water in the West) Working with Water in the West, Sarah will analyze the integration of climate change into the newly released SGMA groundwater sustainability plans to provide lessons learned, barriers and opportunities for groundwater agencies and water managers.
Abraham Ryzhik Environmental Justice Working with John Coyle, Abraham is using webscraping to compile databases of EPA violations in the U.S. to examine spatial inequality in pollution-burden. This project examines the spatial variation of EPA contamination and enforcement in California.
Aja Two Crows The Impacts of COVID-19 on Native American Tribes This project compares how native Americans residing in Novajo Nation and Seattle and their experience with COVID-19.
Calista Triantis Sustainable San Mateo This project, in conjunction with the Sustainable San Mateo County (SSMC), examines the effectiveness of various water conservation practices.
Joyce Tagal Peninsula City Managers Joyce is working with local city managers to better understand policing reforms in the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Angela Zhao Wildfires and Local Ballot Measures This projects examine factors that facilitate successful passing of wildfire related ballot measures in local elections in California.

 

2019
2019 summer research team from left to right: Surabhi Balachander, Iris Hui, Abraham Ryzhik, Bruce Cain, Hannah Kelley, Cade Cannedy, John Coyle, Chapman Caddell, Jenna Brown.

Summer 2019

This summer, we are pleased to welcome a cohort of nine Undergraduate Research Fellows to the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

Under the direction of Professor Bruce Cain and Senior Researcher Iris Hui, these students are in the midst of spending ten weeks exploring such topics as air pollution, broadband access and telemedicine in the rural West, water management and funding in California, and automated redistricting in the American West. Their areas of study range from American Studies and History to Computer Science and Symbolic Systems. Please join us in welcoming our young researchers.

Research Assistant Topic Description
Sarah Ondak Photography in the American West A photography project of a Colorado mining town.
Tanvi Gambhir Allocation of Water Funding in California Using a variety of data sources, Tanvi is examining the allocation and impacts of water funding from Props 50, 84 and 1
Chapman Caddell Broadband in the Rural West Through case studies, Chapman is exploring the reasons behind successes and failures of broadband expansion in the rural West.
Abraham Ryzhik and John Coyle Environmental Justice Using webscraping, Abraham and John are compiling databases of EPA violations in the U.S. to examine spatial inequality in pollution-burden.
Kevin Li Automated Redistricting Kevin is working on a NSF-funded project to explore the implications of using computer-automated algorithms in drawing electoral districts.
Cade Cannedy Air Quality in Fresno Working with the Sean Parker Center, Cade is conducting a field study in Fresno to examine the potential health impacts of wildfire smoke.
Hannah Kelley Digital Health in the Rural West Hannah is exploring inequality in digital healthcare access among disadvantaged populations in rural West.
Shiriel Abramson Tap Dancing & Environment Tap Dancing & Environment

 

2018
From left: Adam Elliott, Samuel Kwong, Lilla Petruska, Benek Robertson, Winton Yee; Not Pictured: Cade Cannedy

Summer 2018

Under the direction of Professor Bruce Cain and Senior Researcher Iris Hui, the students spent ten weeks exploring such topics as air pollution and health in the rural West, water management and permitting in California, and the future of renewable energy policy. Their areas of study range from Political Science and Philosophy to Computer Science and Bioengineering.

Reseach Assistant Topic Description
Cade Cannedy Air Pollution and Health in the Rural West Working with the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research to examine the impact of air pollution on health in the Central Valley.
Adam Elliott Air Pollution and Health in the Rural West Working with the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research to examine the impact of air pollution on health in the Central Valley.
Samuel Kwong Water Management and Permitting Process in California Web-scraping, Natural Language Processing and other textual analytic tools to examine the water management and permitting process in California.
Lilla Petruska Renewable Energy and Environmental Permitting Work examining the prevalence of renewable energy in the West and investigating how variations in regulations and state policies affect the adoption of renewable energy.
Benek Robertson Public Opinion on Infrastructure Investment Work designing two public opinion polls on willingness to pay for various water and transportation infrastructure projects.
Winton Yee Water Management and Permitting Process in California Web-scraping, Natural Language Processing and other textual analytic tools to examine the water management and permitting process in California.

 

2017
Top row, from left: Nikhil Basutkar, Maggie Bruck, Tanvi Gambhir, Cole McFaul, Johnstone Kipyator; Bottom row: Regan Pecjak, Jack Seigenthaler, Ada Statler, Ron Pritipaul, Caroline Kimmel; Not Pictured: Jason Chen

Summer 2017

Under the direction of Professor Bruce Cain and Senior Researcher Iris Hui, our RA’s spend ten weeks exploring subjects ranging from integrated water management, air pollution and health issues, the history of Chinese railroad workers in the West, to computer assisted text analysis of congressional speeches and more. Please join us in welcoming our young researchers.

Research Assistant Topic Description
Nikhil Basutkar Air Pollution and Health in the Rural West This project examines factors contributing to air pollution and how they relate to respiratory health in the American West.
Maggie Bruck Ethnographic Study of Water Issues in Monterey County This project examines local water issues and explores how regulatory frameworks operate to manage water resources.
Jason Chen Textual Analysis of Congressional Speeches Climate change and cybersecurity are two of the most pressing challenges of this century. When and how do senators talk about such issues? Using a web-scraped database of Senate floor speeches from 1990 until the present, this project applies natural language processing to shed light on critical determinants of political attitudes towards – and stances – on two important topics.
Tanvi Gambhir Collaborative Governance: Integrated Regional Water Management in California This project examines the factors that facilitate collaborative governance of cross-jurisidictional water issues in the state of California.
Caroline Kimmel Coastal Cities and Counties’ Climate Change Adaptation in California This project examines preparedness among coastal cities and counties in California for climate change.
Johnstone Kipyator Energy Grid in Kenya This project examines the potential for green energy production and an energy grid in Kenya.
Cole McFaul Air Pollution and Health in the Rural West This project examines factors contributing to air pollution and how they relate to respiratory health in the American West.
Regan Pecjak Air Pollution and Health in the Rural West This project examines factors contributing to air pollution and how they relate to respiratory health in the American West.
Ron Pritipaul Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project I will be working on mapping the contribution of Chinese Railroad workers on the railroads of Western Washington. I may be incorporating textual analysis of Seattle newspapers to bolster my research and observe trends in news stories of Chinese-Americans in the 1870’s to 80’s.
Jack Seigenthaler Ethnographic Study of Water Issues in Monterey County This project examines local water issues and explores how regulatory frameworks operate to manage water resources.
Ada Statler Air Pollution and Health in the Rural West California is known for its progressive energy and climate policy, but fewer people know much about where that energy actually comes from. A substantial portion of the state's energy, both renewable and fossil fuel-based, comes from Kern County, a rural and politically conservative area north of Los Angeles. This project is a look at how the changing energy sector is affecting the lives of rural workers in the industry.

 

2016

Summer 2016

Miguel Samano, 2019, Undeclared: US-Mexico Pollution

Troy Barnhart, 2018, Earth Systems: Permitting

Masha Gorkovenko, 2019, Computer Science: Regional polling, IWRM

Daylon Tippett, 2018, Symbolic Systems: Transportation initiative and freshman helmet study

Victoria Mao, 2017, Energy Resources Engineering: Energy

Johnstone Kipyator, 2017, Energy Resources Engineering: Green energy in Africa

Maame Kome-Mensah, 2019, Computer Science: Green energy in Africa

Griffin Bovee: Chinese Railroad Workers project

Juliana Chang: Chinese Railroad Workers project