Working Groups

CIS sponsors several interdisciplinary working groups. Working groups enable the MIT scholarly community to tackle research issues that are not confined to a single department or discipline. Several groups are structured to link the efforts of social science professionals with those of engineers and natural scientists on problems of academic and policy significance. They also encourage collaboration between graduate students and faculty members. Most working groups are open to any MIT faculty member or student who wishes to participate; some draw participants from outside the MIT community. If you are interested in participating in one of the groups listed below, please contact the working group coordinator to see whether the group is open to additional members.

Several working groups will close at the end of the academic year and we expect new ones to open up from time to time. The following CIS working groups are still active (coordinator names and email addresses are listed in each case):


Political Science Graduate Student Work-in-Progress Group

Coordinators: Nicholas Wolf Ackert and Esteban Manuel Fernandez

The goal of the Graduate Student Work in Progress Group is to provide a forum for graduate students in political science and related fields to present their work in a structured and collaborative setting. Presenters have included first and second year students receiving feedback on seminar papers for revision, post-generals students preparing for dissertation colloquia, and senior graduate students preparing for conferences, second colloquia, dissertation defenses, and the job market. With over 20 meetings each year, students of all years in the Political Science Department received detailed and specific feedback on their projects in a constructive, mutually supportive environment. Whereas other working groups are focused on subfield-specific topics, the Graduate Student Work in Progress Group is explicitly intended to bring graduate students of all interests, background, and experience together in a single forum. The result is not just better individual projects, but the continued growth of the Political Science community at MIT outside the classroom.


IR Student Work-in-Progress Group

Coordinator: John David Minnich

The purpose of IRWIP is to provide advanced IR Ph.D. candidates with a forum for presenting their research. Such works include dissertation proposals and chapters, articles, and grant proposals. IRWIP will provide its members with a positive, rigorous, and constructive environment for discussing preliminary findings and working through challenges that they encounter during the course of their research. Membership is open to all MIT IR studentsstudents (though typically students begin attending after completing coursework because of the commitment to read written work in advance of each meeting) and advanced Ph.D. students from other programs that currently have MIT affiliations (such as predoctoral fellows).


Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Working Group

Coordinators: Jarrod Goentzel and Tim Russell

The MIT Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Working Group seeks to provide a forum in which students and faculty can share their research and insights into the critical field of humanitarian and disaster relief with the aim of fostering interdisciplinary, practical solutions to the problems facing the worlds most vulnerable populations. The goal is to establish a campus organization that represents the community of those interested in the field at MIT on campus and build the presence and reputation of MIT in this field in Boston and throughout the world. The group focuses on exploring research and field research methods as well as building stronger connections with other institutions in the Boston area. Activities include a humanitarian practitioner roundtable series, a guest lecture series and discussions of research works in progress by various members of the working group. For more information about the group please contact the student organizer.


Global Sustainability Working Group

Coordinator: Shekhar Chandra

The Global Sustainability Working Group (GSWG) brings together graduate students, faculty and research scientists from across MIT to discuss global sustainability challenges and appropriate governance frameworks. The group is a continuation of the Environmental Vulnerability, Resilience, and Justice group founded in 2008. The name has been changed to reflect the genesis that has taken place in the scope of inquiry.

The GSWG looks across a variety of scales and disciplines and from diverse methodological and epistemological standpoints to tackle questions of environmental, social and economic sustainability. We consider existing and emerging theoretical advancements as well as how researchers and practitioners can contribute to the creation of more sustainable cities and regions in both the global North and South. The issues we address include: energy, climate change, transportation and infrastructure, food security, water and sanitation, and environmental justice.

The sessions will be anchored in discussions of student and faculty work in progress. The intent is to encourage analytic discussions and critical feedback among the members of the group and invited participants. Work in progress encompasses new faculty projects, doctoral and masters-level student papers, research reports, and dissertation and thesis projects at different stages of development. Once each semester, we will invite faculty members and researchers from the Boston area whose work is of particular relevance to the global environmental sustainability topic so that we can explore emerging areas of research of interest to members of the working group.


Working Group on Women in International Security

Coordinator: Apekshya Prasai

The purpose of the Women in International Security Working Group is to build a local, multi-generational community of individuals dedicated to the advancement of women in the field of international security. The primary participants are students pursuing advanced degrees, faculty and researchers in fields related to international security at universities and think tanks in the Cambridge area.

Although the group is based out of MIT, it's membership is open to interested individuals at Harvard’s Government Department, Harvard’s Kennedy School, Tuft’s Fletcher School, as well as political science departments at Boston University, Boston College, and Brandeis.

The group’s membership is open to men and women working on a range of international issues that intersect with questions of international security and have an interest in advancing opportunities for women in the field of international security.


Security Studies Working Group

Coordinator: Eleanor Gladding Freund

The Working Group on the Strategic Use of Force seeks to convene individuals interested in studying both state and sub-state actors' strategies and tactics to deploy force or coercion in order to achieve their objectives. This group is interested both in the strategies themselves and a variety of conditions that influence the strategic effectiveness, including civil-military relations, alliances, and regime type.

This is an MIT working group for individuals with research interests in violent state and non-state actors and will serve as a forum for students, faculty, and outside researchers to present their ongoing work and received feedback. Its aim is to examine why particular actors select the coercive strategies they do, as well as the means and tactics they use. Topics may include but are not limited to the causes, organization and consequences of inter-state conflict, inter-state coercion, deterrence, military intervention, as well as studies of sub-state violence including civil war, terrorism, and insurgency.

The working group is meant to cover a number of questions and theories on security within the fields of international relations and comparative politics that specifically deal with the threat or application of force.

Roger Petersen is the faculty sponsor of this working group.


Chinese Politics Research Workshop

Coordinator: Shiyao Liu

The Chinese Politics Research Workshop provides a forum for (1) sharing and getting feedback on China-related research at all stages of development; (2) discussing the practical and methodological issues that come with doing research in and on China; (3) building a stronger academic community among graduate students, research fellows, and faculty members in the greater Cambridge area who work on Chinese politics. The workshop hopes to bring together an inter-generational, interdisciplinary, and international group of China researchers from MIT, Harvard, Boston University and other nearby universities.

Past workshops have covered methodological topics such as archival research, quantitative China data, ethnographic research techniques, elite interviewing, and the continued relevance of “Kremlinology.” Faculty and graduate student research presentations that served as the mainstay of the workshop represented various social science disciplines and ran the gamut from brainstorming memos to book/dissertation chapters and article drafts.

The workshop will meet every Wednesday from 6:00pm to 7:30pm at Harvard or MIT. In the coming year, we hope to continue to expand our community of participants, especially to include those who conduct politics-related research among various MIT departments. To sign up for our mailing list, please go to:


Nuclear Politics Working Group

Coordinator: Jason Kwon

Scholarship on nuclear weapons and their effects on international politics is becoming an increasing strength of MIT’s Political Science Department, with numerous faculty and graduate students engaged and actively conducting and publishing research on nuclear questions, in addition to researchers based in CIS and SSP. This working group series is constructed to take advantage of – and further develop – this community. The nuclear politics working group will meet for lunch once per month during the semester throughout the academic year. There will be a mix of sessions: some “book group”-style discussions in which all participants read a recent book on nuclear weapons which serves as the starting point for discussion; and some sessions where participants present and receive feedback on their own research.


Latin American Working Group

Coordinators: Emilia Simison and Lukas Wolters

The goal of the Latin American Working Group is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for faculty and students across the Institute that work on issues related to Latin America. It gathers the growing number of students and faculty, both inside and outside the Department of Political Science, who work on issues related to Latin America. The group covers a wide range of projects, from dissertation chapters to work-in-progress, using a variety of empirical methods. It also includes special sessions for graduate student work. Meetings are structured to have either one or two presenters over 90 minutes. The updated schedule is available at


War Gaming Working Group

Coordinator: Benjamin Norwood Harris

The purpose of the War Gaming Working Group is: 1) to provide a learning environment for those interested in war games; 2) to play, test, and discuss new games, and new game methodologies; 3) to examine war gaming as a method in political science and its connection to international relations theory; 4) to think about war game conception and design, and 5) to consider research programs, both theory-oriented and policy relevant, that may result from war games. The War Gaming Working Group will be both a forum for those interested in war gaming to experiment with new games and a resource for those who are interested in incorporating war games in their research. The working group will meet fortnightly.


To apply for a working group grant:

Interdisciplinary working groups in international affairs at MIT may apply to CIS for a small grant to cover the costs of working group refreshments and modest honoraria for an occasional outside speaker (up to $1,500 per academic year). Working groups may be initiated by graduate students, but must have a faculty chair, and preference will be given to those groups in which faculty and graduate students are working together on scholarly problems of common interest and meeting on a regular basis.

Proposals should include:

  • a statement of purposes and proposed activities of the working group;
  • a list of members and their departmental affiliations; and
  • a budget.

Please send proposals to the CIS Executive Director, John Tirman. Requests will be considered as they are received.

To receive a reimbursement after a meeting go to the ATLAS Self Service webpage (certificates required) and select 'Reimbursement' from the list. Enter the relevant info, leaving the G/L and Cost Object boxes blank. You need to scan in your itemized receipts and attach them. The system will give you an option to send it to someone for approval -- enter Amalia Teglas. Your message is sent to Amalia who approves it and forwards it electronically to MIT Accounting.

Note: Tax will not be reimbursed.

For payment of an honorarium for a visiting speaker, you must submit the honorarium request with the speaker's name, address, Social Security Number, Citizenship (if not a US citizen) and Visa type (if not a US citizen). MIT will send the speaker the check following the event. Note: If the speaker is not a US citizen, taxes are taken out in advance.

We would also like to receive a brief written report within one month of your final working group meeting, assessing what was achieved by the working group and listing papers presented, etc. We are especially keen to hear about any additional activities stimulated by the working group. The funds for the working groups have been provided as "seed" money - we are eager to demonstrate that they have, on occasions, led to follow-on activities.


Last modified 08/10/2020