Division of Social Sciences


Virtual Depictions of Actual Space

Project Description: This project will task TMN students with building

a 3d representation of a real location and presenting it to others in the

Maker Mayhem. Combining skills from modeling, photography, animation, and

computer programming, we will model a portion of downtown Philadelphia.

Student Requirements:

Faculty Name: Jake Benfield

Faculty Email:



Virtual Reality and Urban Neighborhoods

Summary of Research Project How do people respond differently to a

neighborhood when subtle information is changed about the environment and

people in it? This project will explore how urban neighborhoods, presented in

virtual reality, can be seen differently when the users of that neighborhood

are changed.

Student Requirements:

Faculty Name: Jake Benfield

Faculty Email:

Criminal Justice

Capital Punishment for Offenses Committed by Youth: A Population-Based Analysis

Summary of Research Project

Of the 824 people executed in jurisdictions across the United States from

2000 through 2015, 142 were youths aged 18, 19, or 20 years when they

committed the capital offense for which they were executed. Using publicly

available information, this project considers the application of the death

penalty to this population of youths. Despite neuroscientific evidence that

brain maturation continues into the early-to-mid twenties in prefrontal

regions affecting impulsivity, behavior, future planning, and processes

likely relevant to determining criminal culpability, youth are not protected

from the death penalty by jurisprudence as juveniles are by Roper v. Simmons

(2005). Here we report on the more pronounced racial disparities in the

application of the death penalty among youths relative to all those executed

in the U.S. We also consider how legal factors and those pertaining to the

specifics of each case of interpersonal violence influence the amount of time

from arrest to conviction and conviction to execution. Policy implications

are then discussed.

Requirements for Students? Strong writing skills and interest in reviewing

social science and law review articles.

Faculty Member Name: Oren M. Gur

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7904

Faculty Member Office Location: 310c Sutherland


Criminal Justice

Accidental Drug-Related Deaths in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Summary of Research Project The United States is facing an

epidemic of accidental drug overdoses; Pennsylvania has been particularly

hard-hit, and in Montgomery County the proportion of drug-related deaths

involving opioids has increased precipitously since 2000. Extending

Zinberg’s conception of “Drug, Set, and Setting” (1984), this project

considers how the opioid overdose epidemic has impacted Montgomery County by

collecting, entering, and analyzing records from the Montgomery County

Coroner’s Office (MCCO). We will report on the drugs, people, and places

associated with overdoses in this county since 2000, and there will be

opportunities and support for students to develop and investigate additional

research questions utilizing the dataset.

Requirements for Students? The project requires a database specialist (or

two) who can help manage over 1,000,000 data points utilizing Red Hat;

proficiency in SPSS statistical software a plus.

Faculty Member Name: Oren M. Gur

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7904

Faculty Member Office Location: 310c Sutherland



The Use of Comparison Groups in Post-9/11 Terrorism Research

Summary of Research Project        Most terrorism studies do not

include a comparison group.  The absence of a comparison group prevents the

construction of a causal explanation and reduces confidence in findings.  The

current project seeks to understand what comparison groups are used in

terrorism studies when they are included and grapple with the question over

what the proper comparison group should be (e.g. violent terrorists versus

nonviolent terrorists, criminal versus noncriminal extremists,

ideologically-motivated offenders versus "regular" criminals, etc.).  The

project will require a student to collect all empirical terrorism studies

published in peer-reviewed journals after September 11, 2001.  The student

will collect data from each study, including research questions, theory used,

presence of comparison group, data source, unit of analysis, methods,

findings, appropriateness of the comparison group, and journal outlet.  The

findings will be of interest to terrorism scholars as well as policymakers

and practitioners in terrorism prevention efforts.

Requirements for Students? Proficiency in use of Penn State Library databases

and other Internet search engines as well as Google Drive and Microsoft Word

and Excel.  The student must also have a GPA above 3.0

Faculty Member Name: Dr. Colleen Mills

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7335

Faculty Member Office Location: Sutherland 310D


Science Education

Aren't You Afraid of Getting Sick? Dumpster Diving  and Food Waste Education

Summary of Research Project

Dr. Kathy Fadigan’s current research investigates dumpster diving as a means of educating the public about the socio-scientific issues surrounding food waste, such as food safety, microbiology, decomposition, waste disposal,hunger and food insecurity, and sustainability. She is interested in evaluating the use of Facebook as an educational tool. She will also be looking at the effectiveness of food waste curriculum in various informal learning environments such as social media, museums, schools, and community-based organizations.

Requirements for Students? None

Faculty Member Name: Kathy Fadigan

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: x7564

Faculty Member Office Location: 202 Cloverly



In the mind's eye: How situations and personality impacts prototypic facial mapping

Summary of Research Project The human face is the most

important social stimuli. It yields a host of trait invariant information

(e.g., age, sex, race) as well as variant information (e.g., emotions). All

people have, stored in their mind, prototypes for various facial categories;

what does the prototypical happy person look like? What does the prototypical

woman look like? What does the prototypical black man look like? Gay man look

like? Professor look like? These prototypes can vary among people and can

vary based on personality factors but also by situational factors. This year,

I am going to be conducting a series of studies related to this broad line of

research. In one line, I'll be examining how Whites and Blacks differ in what

the prototype of police officers look like? We'll also be examining how happy

looking whites look like from White and Black perspectives. This will be done

using experimental methods and a procedure known as reverse correlations.

Requirements for Students? Students should be interested in social science

broadly and be willing to dedicate time to reading primary source scientific

articles in social psychology. They should be interested in learning more

about statistics and methods and should be willing to learn how to program

using various computer software programs (prior expertise is not required).

They should also expect to dedicate a few hours a week to data collection in

late Fall or early Spring.

Faculty Member Name: Michael J Bernstein

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: x7479

Faculty Member Office Location: 236J Woodland


Projects Starting in Spring 2018


Technological Competence Creation of EMNCs and Performance: Empirical Justification of EMNC Theories

Summary of Research Project This project aims to offer

empirical justifications for three common assumptions in Emerging Market

Multinational Corporations (EMNC) theories, namely the critical role played

by overseas subsidiaries in knowledge seeking, the systematic integration of

subsidiary knowledge and home country activities, and the positive

relationship between the first two and firm performance. This project focuses

on the most innovative EMNCs from India and China, with a control group of

Multinational Corporations (MNCs) from mature industrialized countries. The

latest US patent citation data up to 2014, complemented with other firm-level

and country-level data, are employed to empirically test MNCs’

international learning patterns. This project offers a finer-grained picture

of the EMNC’s technological knowledge seeking patterns and contributes to

the clarification of various theoretical frameworks of EMNCs.

Requirements for Students?

Minimum GPA 3.2

B or better in Statistics courses, if any

B or better in Business related courses, if any

Faculty Member Name: Feng Zhang

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 2158817829

Faculty Member Office Location: