The Bill Lane Center for the American West offers on-campus research opportunities for Stanford undergraduates to work with faculty on projects engaged with issues related to Western land and life in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The Bill Lane Center for the American West is dedicated to advancing scholarly and public understanding of the past, present and future of Western North America. It supports research, teaching and reporting about Western land and life through three broad areas: history, arts, and culture; energy and environment; and Western governance and policy.
The Bill Lane Center's vision of the West extends from San Francisco Bay to the fabled 100th meridian, from Western Canada to all of Mexico and outward to the Pacific world. As a hub for research and expertise about the American West, it works with Stanford students, faculty, and outside partners to address challenges facing the region. One of the main objectives is to provide helpful tools, reporting and research to leaders who make decisions that impact California and the American West. In addition to supporting sound policymaking, it also strives to showcase the art, history and culture of the West to preserve and foster appreciation for the region’s uniqueness. The Center is deeply engaged in exploring digital mapping, spatial history and analysis, data analysis and visualization, multimedia storytelling, social media and collaborative research and teaching using new digital tools.
The Bill Lane Center prides itself on being an academic home for Stanford undergraduates and strives to provide students with high-quality, interdisciplinary opportunities and resources. Students from a wide variety of disciplines regularly conduct research at the Center as research assistants. This page lists the three main research programs available to both undergraduate and graduate students: research assistantships on existing Bill Lane Center research projects, research assistantships on independent projects, and an environmental journalism internship.
The Bill Lane Center's research assistants pursue original research with faculty, working part-time for up to 10 hours per week each quarter and/or full-time up to 40 hours per week for 10 consecutive weeks during the summer. Students meet regularly with their mentor(s) to discuss research goals and plans.
Part-time research assistants are given a stipend of $1,500 each quarter (or a prorated amount depending on the start date). We are no longer seeking applicants for Spring 2023.
Full-time research assistants are given a base stipend of $7,500 for the summer quarter. Student financial aid needs and cost of living adjustments may be added to the stipend depending on need.
Students from all years and all disciplines are encouraged to apply for positions.
Students will undertake a defined project under the mentorship of a faculty member and will present research results at the end of the project.
The Bill Lane Center is seeking students interested in contributing in the following areas. We are especially seeking additional students for the first project listed for summer 2023, but may consider additional students for the other two projects as well.
Water, Climate Change and Disasters on the Western Coast (we are particularly seeking additional students for this project for Summer 2023):
As climate change leads to increasingly extreme weather events across the American West, coastal areas of California and other western states face multiple risks. In addition to more extreme and frequent droughts, floods, and wildfires, sea level rise both exacerbates flooding and impacts groundwater supplies through salt water intrusion. Many areas of the coast also face potentially disastrous consequences from the combination of an earthquake and tsunami.
Research under this theme may relate to the analysis of these complex disaster risks, economic and political interests around water use and access in coastal regions and across California, the role of local and state government in planning for and funding disaster response, and policy options for improving coordination for more effective water resource management and disaster preparedness.
Local governments are playing an increasing role in energy policy, ranging from energy procurement to transportation systems and building electrification. How will this decentralized approach shape progress toward carbon emissions reductions, and what challenges arise as cities and counties choose divergent paths?
Additional areas of interest include the study of political conflicts around the siting of renewable energy, transmission lines and other infrastructure, analysis of the effectiveness of different programs for building out electric vehicles across states in the Western United States, and more.
Wildfires in the American West:
The frequency and severity of wildfires has been growing, with significant impacts to communities, human health and lives, and the environment. Under this priority, The Bill Lane Center is particularly seeking a student to review academic journal articles for a systematic literature review examining the most destructive wildfires and hurricanes in the United States.
In addition, students may contribute to a project focused on understanding the effectiveness of coordination across multiple local government agencies for fire preparedness and response in Marin County.
Self-Designed Research Projects: please see this separate application.
The Bill Lane Center also welcomes proposals from undergraduate students for self-designed projects on topics related to the American West. During the 2021-22 academic year, self-designed research projects included fieldwork on rural and urban political attitudes in Arizona and Nevada, examining Cormac McCarthy's work with respect to race and colonialism, a visual ethnography of tourism in Waikiki, and the effects of sexual stereotypes on Native American women at Stanford.
In the application for a self-designed research project, students are asked to provide a summary of the proposed research project and the name of a faculty member who will supervise the research (or the Bill Lane Center can help find a mentor).
Faculty Mentor: Professor Bruce Cain, Faculty Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West
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.
All Stanford undergraduate students, of all years and disciplines, in good academic standing are eligible to apply.
These are full-time (35-40 hours per week for 10 consecutive weeks) summer research opportunities, open to continuing undergraduate students.
Students will present their research at the end of the project.
Students must be paying undergraduate tuition and registered for classes except during summer quarter.
Please indicate in the application if you wish to be considered for part-time or full-time research opportunities, or both.
- Students are not permitted to engage in another full-time internship, research position, job, or volunteer opportunity (whether funded by Stanford or otherwise) during full-time, summer research assistantships.
- Student athletes should confirm the impact of any awarded stipend on their athletic eligibility by contacting the Compliance Services Office prior to committing to a research project.
For Self-Designed Research Projects: please see this separate application.