I teach in the fields of comparative politics, ethnic politics/conflict, public policy, health, development, and research methods, at both the undergraduate and Ph.D. levels, through a mix of seminars, lecture courses, and individual supervision of independent research.

If you are an undergraduate student at MIT or Wellesley, and would like to work as a research assistant (UROP) with me, please send me an email describing your interests and research skills.

Courses offered (2019-20)


17.506: Ethnic Politics (graduate). This course (co-taught with Volha Charnysh) explores the political implications of the ethnic differences embedded within states and societies. We will be seeking to understand the nature of collective identities, the driving forces underlying their persistence and change, their mobilization, and their intersection with and effect on the nation-state system, which remains the basis for political organization around the world today. Our discussions will be comparative and theoretical, while also engaging concrete examples. The study of identity politics intersects with all of the fields of political science, and the theory and literature learned in this seminar will have relevance for anyone working on identity-related issues in any part of the discipline.


17.571 Engineering Democratic Development in Africa (undergraduate). In this course, we will examine the varied relationship between democracy and human development in sub-Saharan Africa. Encourages students to apply “engineering thinking” to better understand which institutions, practices, and technologies have helped, and which have hindered, the achievement of health, education, infrastructure, and other outcomes. Addresses many of the challenges and dilemmas of democratic practice in poor, diverse, and unequal societies, while inviting students to propose practical interventions. In this “flipped classroom” course, students will watch lectures in advance of our two-hour seminar meeting, Tuesdays 9-11. Previous SYLLABUS: syllabus17-751spring2017


17.571x Democracy and Development: Perspectives from Africa (introductory).

In Fall 2017, I released my first “MOOC” on the EDx platform, “Democracy and Development: Perspectives from Africa,” and you can enroll in the archived version now:

And here’s what it looked like… behind the scenes!

MIT News Profile on MITx/EDx course

Other courses (not currently offered)

17.special: State-Building (graduate). This doctoral seminar is taught jointly with Daniel Ziblatt at Harvard. We will investigate the politics of state-building in comparative perspective. The course is intended primarily for Ph.D. students in political science/government, particularly for those with research interests in comparative politics. Throughout the semester, we will try to tackle the following questions: How should we conceptualize the state? What are the best empirical strategies for measuring state “strength” or power? What is the range of theoretical explanations that account for variation in state power, and what is the quality of the evidence in support of such propositions? Can we improve upon the existing state of theory and/or the quality of empirical research?

17.572 African Politics and Democratic Governance (graduate). What are our best theoretical expectations for how democracies should work? Does reality (or at least our data to measure reality) fit such models? Which institutions and practices are likely to produce critical public goods and services? Do ordinary citizens enjoy real opportunities to influence government action, and to what extent are such powers mediated by ascriptive and other identities? What do citizens want and how do they express their preferences? These are general questions, relevant across world regions, but in this seminar, we will pose them in the context of the relatively young democracies of sub-Saharan Africa, which generally have emerged under conditions of weak statehood and widespread poverty.

Doctoral training in political science

Phil Martin successfully defends his dissertation, June 2019.
Yang-Yang Zhou successfully defends her dissertation, May 2019.

I am very proud of the various doctoral students I have advised, who have completed outstanding doctoral dissertations in Political Science, addressing major questions in comparative politics, and international relations. Their work has spanned all world regions, on topics relating to development, human rights, violent conflict, ethnic politics, and democratic governance. Several of these students have won prestigious dissertation awards. Most have gone on to tenure-track academic jobs, including at Brown University, the College of New Jersey, George Mason, Harvard University, Northwestern University, Olin College of Engineering, St. Andrews University, Syracuse University, University of British Columbia, University of Missouri, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Riverside, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Chicago, and the University of Toronto.

If you are interested in working with me for your doctoral studies, please apply to the MIT Ph.D. program in political science.


*indicates chair of dissertation committee

Current (ABD)

  • Paige Bollen* (MIT)
  • Jeremy Bowles (Harvard)
  • Rorisang Lekalake*(MIT)
  • Nina McMurry (MIT)
  • Gabriel Nahmias* (MIT)
  • Blair Read* (MIT)
  • Stuart Russell* (MIT)
  • Nicole Wilson (MIT)

Previous (PhD received)

  • Lamis Abdelaaty (Princeton)                                                     
  • William Barndt  (Princeton)
  • Graeme Blair*  (Princeton)
  • Jaquilyn Waddell Boie*  (Princeton)
  • Sarah Chartock  (Princeton)
  • Eun Kyong Choi (Princeton)
  • Chris Danrton (Prineton)
  • J. Tyler Dickovick (Princeton)
  • Kim Dionne (UCLA)
  • Daniel de Kadt  (MIT)
  • Jonathan Garcia (Mailman School of Public Health)
  • Yanilda Gonzales  (Princeton)
  • Ehrhardt Graeff (MIT Media Lab)
  • Kristen Harkness  (Princeton)
  • Aram Hur  (Princeton)
  • Philip Martin (MIT)
  • Gwyneth McClendon*  (Princeton)
  • Andrew Miller (MIT)
  • Benjamin Morse (MIT)
  • Kanta Murali  (Princeton)
  • Rachel Riedl*  (Princeton)
  • Leah Rosenzweig (MIT)
  • Anna Schrimpf  (Princeton)
  • Prerna Singh  (Princeton)
  • Yang-Yang Zhou  (Princeton)
End-of-year bowling and beer (2019)
End-of-year Senegalese dinner for associated graduate students