Elena Conis, Professor

Closed (1) Pesticides and Public Understanding of Science

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Seeking a research assistant for a professor writing a book on the use of pesticides in the U.S. and the public's understanding of scientific risks and communication in modern U.S. history.

Student will use Lexis-Nexis, ProQuest Newspapers, Pub Med, the Internet Archive, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, and other databases to collect primary source material and fact-check information. Student will also use Excel, Zotero, and Google Drive to organize sources and data as needed.

Qualifications: Required: Interest in topic, attention to detail, well organized, proficient in deep research, including database searching, able to work well and efficiently independently. Must be able to meet weekly and write up concise weekly progress reports. Preferred: Experience or familiarity with Zotero and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Closed (2) The Personal Belief Exemption to Vaccination in Context

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

In the United States, vaccine mandates are normally bundled with exemptions that permit certain individuals to forego vaccination. Traditionally, these exemptions come in three forms: medical, religious, and personal. The medical exemption has remained a generally uncontroversial norm since its inception, and historical scholarship has well characterized the chronology of the religious exemption, tracing its ascendancy to the activism of Christian Scientists in the 1960s. But less is known about the history of the personal belief exemption. The personal belief exemption, in fact, is one of the most amorphous constructs in public health law: it has been broadly introduced, repealed, and modified across different states for two centuries; it has been offered to only certain populations, and to mandates for only certain diseases; and it has been described by a breadth of vocabulary ranging from 'philosophical' to 'conscientious.'

Our project seeks to systematically compile and analyze the history of the personal belief exemption. Using methods from the digital humanities, we aim to create a database cataloguing the history of the personal belief exemption through the three traditional institutional arms of the government: the legislative, executive, and judicial branch. Drawing from a variety of archival materials, including historical newspapers, legal treatises, public health reports, legislative archives, and many other sources, we seek to explore and characterize the many forms in which the personal belief exemption has been constructed in each state.

We are seeking two student apprentices to aid in the data collection. One student will focus on locating legislative materials—specifically bills—related to the personal belief exemption; the other will focus on locating rules and regulations promulgated by executive branch bodies (e.g,. Department of Public Health) related to the personal belief exemption. Prospective students should expect to conduct most of their research online, and will check-in with the project supervisor on their progress through weekly reports.

Qualifications: Qualifications: Required: (1) Access to computer with Microsoft Word, Excel, and a stable internet connection. (2) Basic programming ability, equivalent to completing Data 8 or Stat 20. (Independent projects, past enrollment in MOOCs, or other avenues of gaining programming expertise accepted). (3) Basic familiarity with library resources. (4) Interest in topic, attention to detail, good organization, proficiency in deep research, including database searching, and ability to work well and efficiently independently. Desired but not required: (1) Experience with Completion of CS61B (or equivalent experience).

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: http://www.elenaconis.com