Research agenda and personal bio
I am a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate at Purdue University, majoring in international relations (IR) with a minor in political methodology. I am also a 2023-24 United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Peace Scholar, and a 2023-24 Predoctoral Research Fellow at the Gender and Security Sector (GSS) Lab at Cornell University. My research broadly focuses on the intersection of security and non-state actors. My security research often focuses on United Nations (UN) peacekeeping and evaluating how, when, and where peacekeepers effectively protect civilians. For example, my dissertation, The Local Effects of UN Peacekeeping, examines the effects peacekeepers have on saving civilian lives and preventing violence against civilians with advanced quantitative methods at the most granular level used in the peacekeeping effectiveness literature.
As a Research Affiliate at the GSS Lab, I am passionate about conducting research that addresses important questions about gender and security. The GSS Lab focuses on researching the barriers to women’s participation in the security forces, including peacekeeping missions, and how gender shapes security force personnel’s beliefs about violence. Using various methods such as survey data, institutional questionnaires, and elite interviews, we aim to understand the differences between military and police personnel’s beliefs about gender, violence, abuse of authority, and security force autonomy.
My research on non-state security actors includes a focus on Russia’s Wagner Group. In research on the Wagner Group, my coauthor Matthew Kyle Ellis and I conceptualize them as a quasi-private military contractor (QPMC) that maintains ties to the state while utilizing the identity of traditional PMCs. In this paper, we examine the group’s operations within the Central African Republic and explore why QPMCs like the Wagner Group commit substantially more lethal political violence than the state actors who employ them. To test this theory empirically, we use the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine as an instrument to deal with endogeneity. This research aims to expand our understanding of how QPMCs operate and the implications of their actions for international security.
I am always open to collaborative research projects and am currently working on several projects with other graduate students and professors. In research with another graduate student Mitushi Mukherjee, we highlight the problematic nature of the racial origins of the phrase “sub-Saharan Africa” and how it can lead to incorrect conclusions when used as a catch-all term. We find that political scientists should avoid making overly-generalizable conclusions and find alternative approaches to avoid perpetuating the racist connotations associated with such generalizations. I’m also working on a peacekeeping project with professors Zach Warner and Doug Atkinson, examining when violence fills the vacuum left when peacekeepers leave. Finally, I’m working on a research project with Catalina Vega-Méndez, where we investigate how peacekeepers act as institutional actors to increase trust in the state. If you are interested in reaching out for potential collaborations, please see my contact information on the left panel of this page.
Before starting my Ph.D. program at Purdue, I received my BA from Purdue in 2019. I grew up in Indianapolis, IN, and started my undergraduate studies in 2015 in political science. I initially started grad school to advance my expertise in IR to a Master’s level. However, collaborations with fellow graduate students and professors alongside rigorous training in methodology fostered an affinity for all things research, leading me to pursue academia as a career. I am a first-gen queer scholar seeking to improve the lives and experiences of those marginalized by academia and the broader world, especially minority and first-gen grad students who often face barriers invisible to others.