CAC Hosts Second Virtual Colloquium for Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities

screenshot of three panelists and moderator on Zoom presentation
Top right Anya Wahal (SFS’23), top left Ania Zolyniak (SFS’21), bottom right Tommaso Astarita, bottom left Michael Beeli (C’21)

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The Colloquium for Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities (CRSSH) is an annual conference that allows students from across the university to present their research findings to their peers and professors. This year, three undergraduates presented their research virtually through video and powerpoint in the panel presentation moderated by Tommaso Astarita, a professor in the Department of History. 

Michael Beeli

An economics major, Michael Beeli (C’21), presented his senior thesis research in a project entitled “How Can National Programs and Robust State Capacity Neutralize Infectious Health Risk: Quasi Experimental Evidence from India’s Deworming Day.” 

Beeli’s research, which focused on international development and economics, was an evaluation of the largest single-day public health campaign in the world — India’s deworming day. 

The goal of this public health initiative is to distribute pills that treat parasitic infection by worms to children throughout India. One day each year, these pills are distributed through government-run public schools, which make up about 60% of India’s schools. The remainder of children in India attend private schools.

In his research, Beeli compared outcomes of the initiative between public and private schools by examining children’s education attainments and commented on how these differences affected the impact of national deworming day. He found that deworming day has a huge positive impact. 

“The results speak to the importance of large scale public health programs and their ability to fight infectious diseases that can be hugely effective and lead to much better outcomes that aren’t necessarily even health related,” Beeli says. “I saw strong evidence for the importance of good government in both international development and health programs.”

Beeli was able to conduct his research through the Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation (GUI2DE) on campus. He recommends that any students interested in research be in contact with professors, read the latest research and take classes that will develop applicable skills. 

The senior says that this study aligns with his future career ambitions to conduct research in international development and that his time at Georgetown has exposed him to various opportunities that will prove useful post-graduation.

“I have been able to make great connections with international development groups like the World Bank and other organizations through the university,” Beeli says. “Though I am going into the private sector now, I plan to complete a masters degree in a few years and these experiences will be invaluable.”

Anya Wahal 

Science, Technology and International Affairs major Anya Wahal (SFS’23) seeks to answer how cities can be made more inclusive and accessible in the 21st century given accelerating urbanization and pronounced patterns of social exclusion. The sophomore examined urban spatial data produced by state agencies in Delhi, India to address this question. 

“Delhi is an ideal context because of its equal access to government services and patterns of spatial exclusion,” Wahal explains. “Inequalities that exist there are particularly pertinent now due to COVID-19.”

Wahal combined four types of data to map resources throughout planned and unplanned settlements, including spatializing government data on services and land tenure, satellite imaging, field work and community participation. Ultimately, she was able to map more than 3,000 out of an estimated 4,500 settlements in Delhi, finding ration shops, health clinics, police stations and more that were otherwise unidentified.

“In doing so, we provide a valuable service to Indian citizens, particularly those living on city peripheries who are already marginalized,” Wahal explains. “Our maps allow government officials to see which areas lack support and tell relief volunteers where they’re needed. In attempting to answer the question of how to make cities more inclusive and accessible, we find that producing a dynamic digital observatory can further those goals.”

Wahal was able to complete this research through funding from Mortara Center and the Improving the Human Conditions Grant. She will continue her work developing the urban spatial observatory throughout her remaining time at the university by focusing on other cities such as Mumbai, India. 

When asked what advice she would give to other undergraduates interested in conducting research, Wahal says that it is important four students to advocate for themselves and find communities of like-minded people.

“From my experience, professors are very kind and accommodating especially if you show interest in their work,” Wahal says. “I have also found that doing research in similar cohorts as other students has been really helpful for me. In fact, developing a peer-to-peer relationship has been just as important as developing a faculty relationship.”

Ania Zolyniak

Ania Zolyniak (SFS’21) completed her research on how water is defined and conceptualized on a global level as part of her International Politics Honors thesis. Graduating with a concentration in law, Zolyniak was inspired to focus on this topic after hearing claims that likened fresh water to oil alongside increasing concerns regarding global water scarcity. 

“Fresh water, unlike oil or other natural resources on earth, is a unique, non-substitutable and necessary precondition for all life,” Zolyniak explains. “In delving into this topic, I chose to focus my research on the specific conceptualization of water as an item of trade in and of itself, which has been identified by some as a way to sustainably balance both increasing water scarcity and intensifying global water demand.”

Opponents of bulk water trade argue that it threatens water as a human right and as a limited unique natural resource. In her thesis, Zolyniak compiles the first ever collection of successful instances of bulk water trade at the international level and analyzes case studies representative of varying cases of such trade. 

“I found that successful instances of bulk water trade offer key insights that could significantly inform the development of an international framework for such a trade and create typologies for varying definitions of water that are articulated in various international legal regimes,” Zolyniak says. 

The senior came across the topic of bulk water trade by reaching out to experts in the broader field of water law. She recommends that other students interested in research should contact faculty members who study the same or similar topics.  Zolyniak also suggested looking into the Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (GUROP) at the university. 

After graduating from Georgetown, Zolyniak plans on attending law school where she hope to “continue to do work that examines how the threats we are seeing today result in changes in how we conceptualize our management of our resources.”