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 (GSWIP)

Coordinators: Daniel Cebul and Helen Webley-Brown

Faculty Advisor: F. Daniel Hidalgo

The Political Science Graduate Student Work-in-Progress Group provides a forum for graduate students in the Department of Political Science and related fields to present their work in a structured and collaborative setting. As a department divided across office buildings as well as fields of interest, the working group provides an opportunity for students to connect and gather critiques from a variety of perspectives. Specifically, the group aims to:

          • provide students practice in making formal presentations of their work and in fielding questions from a knowledgeable audience; presenters distribute either a paper or an abstract in advance of their talk;
          • give graduate student attendees the opportunity to ask questions and participate in discussion in a way that builds the confidence to participate in departmental and other scholarly events;
          • facilitate the exchange of research ideas across sub-fields in political science and related disciplines.
The group welcomes dissertation-stage presenters as well as graduate students working other major research projects. Meetings are structured to have either one or two presenters over 60 minutes.


International Relations Student Work-in-Progress (IRWIP)

Coordinators: Kathryn Dura and Julia Lodoen

Faculty Advisor: Richard Samuels

The purpose of IRWIP is to provide IR Ph.D. students 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 students and advanced Ph.D. students from other programs that currently have MIT affiliations (such as predoctoral fellows).

This group is a regular feature of the IR grad student experience, and that it has historically enhanced the quality and pace of research by advanced Ph.D. candidates in our department. This group is different from existing WIP groups for three reasons. First, by limiting the membership to graduate students, the group provides a low-risk environment to discuss what will normally be unpolished pieces. Second, by limiting the group to those within the IR subfield, the discussions will remain focused on the literature with which we are most familiar. Third, this is the only group that focuses on in-depth critiques of written work.

We plan to have 6-8 working sessions during each semester, in order to allow all of the participants to have a chance to present their research.


Women in International Politics and Security (WIPS)

Coordinator: Kathryn Dura and Julia Lodoen

Faculty Advisor: Fotini Christia

The purpose of the Women in International Politics and Security (WIPS) Working Group is to build a local, multi-generational community of individuals dedicated to the advancement of women in the field of international security. Our membership, comprised of PhD students, fellows, and professors in the Boston area, continues to grow as we add new members each September, while sustaining the interest and commitment of our existing membership. This group is a unique and extremely valuable resource to women studying international politics in the Boston area.

Unlike other working groups, our membership includes women at all stages of their careers from institutions throughout the Boston area. This approach has led to the development of a diverse community of women, and fosters the creation of excellent mentoring relationships. In addition, WIPS is unique in combining substantive programming with broader discussions about the challenges facing women in this field. This dual purpose ensures that our events offer participants an opportunity to enhance the quality of their research and scholarship, while also addressing the unique challenges and opportunities that work in international politics and security can entail for women.

We generally hold 3-4 events each semester that have both a substantive and networking component. With a current membership roster of over 100 women in the area, the attendance generally, runs from 10 to 20 participants for each event. In the past, our events have included roundtables and discussions with senior women in academia and policy, as well as networking events with open dialogues about the challenges facing women in the profession. This year we are planning to host at least eight events. Our events will include: discussions with SSP speakers and guest speakers, and panels related to issues such as the unique challenges faced by women in publication, teaching, and national security work. We may also repeat the successful Research Spotlight (which provided members a forum to share their research with each other). We additionally hope to invite some speakers independent of the main department speaker series.


Security Studies Working Group (SSWG)

Coordinators: Julia Lodoen and Raymond Wang

Faculty Advisor: Erik Lin-Greenberg

Now entering its sixteenth year, the Security Studies Working Group has grown into the primary forum at MIT for presenting and receiving feedback on research related to security studies. The working group convenes graduate students and visitors interested in studying both state and sub-state actors’ strategies and tactics to deploy force or coercion in order to achieve their political goals. SSWG discussions cover all topics related to coercion and violent political conflict, including both the strategies themselves and the variety of conditions that influence strategic effectiveness, including civil-military relations, alliances, and regime type. It does not include studies that focus narrowly on human rights, for example, without reference to the political causes and consequences of violence against civilians. Nor does it include studies focusing on human development. However, the field does include areas such as negotiations to end armed conflict, international cooperation in the security realm, the role of human rights in military decisions, and other facets of politics that nonetheless directly relate back to the broader issues of security and the use of force. In short, security studies includes all topics connected to the use of force, but presenters need not be studying the use of force per se.

Specific research topics presented have included 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. Through our weekly meetings, the group seeks to foster a climate of free intellectual exchange, constructive criticism, and collaboration amongst its members.

For the upcoming 2023-24 academic year, we intend to meet approximately once per week. As with last year, we are planning on holding SSWG in person.


Chinese Politics Research Workshop (CPRWG)

Coordinator: Ye Zhang and Ziyi Wu

Facultiy Advisor: M.Taylor Fravel

The Chinese Politics Research Workshop was established by MIT, Harvard, and Boston University graduate students in 2010. Despite the lingering pandemic over the past academic year (2021-2022), this workshop has sought to serve as a forum for: (1) sharing and receiving feedback on China-related research at all stages of development; (2) discussing practical and methodological issues and challenges associated with doing research in and on China; (3) building a stronger academic community among graduate students, research fellows, and faculty members in Cambridge who study Chinese politics; and (4) the most importantly, stimulating additional activities between participants of the research workshop.

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.

To sign up for our mailing list, please go to:


Latin American Working Group (LAWG)

Coordinator: Carla Garcia

Faculty Advisor: Ben Ross Schneider

The goal of this working group is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for faculty and students across the Institute and beyond who work on issues related to Latin America. The group started during the fall of 2013, led by Professor Ben Ross Schneider, as an informal gathering of faculty and students interested in Latin America. It became clear from these meetings that there was a growing number of students and faculty, both inside and outside the Department of Political Science, who work on issues related to the region, and yet there were few venues in which they could meet to discuss academic and policy research.

In the spring of 2014, the meetings were turned into a permanent venue for students and faculty to present and discuss their research in the form of a CIS workshop. In the following years, the meetings continued with good participation and the contribution of speakers from both MIT and other institutions in the greater Boston-area, such as Harvard, Boston University, and Tufts, and from Latin American institutions. Furthermore, the participants came from different disciplines, such as political science, business, and public policy, and included people with academic and policy concerns.

The group has been meeting in a hybrid format since the 2021-2022 academic year. We typically host sessions in the Millikan room and serve lunch, while also allowing participants the option of attending through Zoom. We occasionally host speakers remotely who are based outside the Boston area, in which case attendees still convene in the Millikan room and we watch the presentation synchronously over Zoom.

The updated schedule is available at


War-gaming Working Group (WGWG)

Coordinators: Kathryn Dura and Nina Miller

Faculty Advisor: Eric Heinbotham, Erik Lin-Greenberg, and Richard Samuels

Since its inception in 2019, the Wargaming Working Group (WGWG) has become MIT’s primary forum to advance the use of wargaming as a method of social inquiry. Originally developed as a tool to understand the dynamics of military operations, wargames are now a growing methodology in political science research related to strategic behavior and interaction. The group is a venue for those interested in wargaming to experiment with new games and a resource for those who are interested in incorporating wargames into their research and teaching.

 The Wargaming Working Group provides a forum for graduate students and visitors interested in wargames to: (1) play, test, and discuss wargames and wargaming methodologies; (2) learn about military capabilities and operational dynamics; (3) evaluate games as a method to address political science and international relations research questions; (4) design and field wargaming and simulation exercises in their own research; (5) connect with external practitioners and academics who employ wargaming or simulation methodology. The group aims to foster a supportive and collaborative atmosphere in order to advance wargaming as a method of education and social inquiry, including but not limited to research on emerging technologies, great power competition, crisis dynamics, and attribution.

For the upcoming 2023-24 academic year, the group plans to meet approximately every three weeks for students to receive feedback and support on their research and engage with outside speakers. In addition, there will be at least three full-day wargames, in order for the group to play through an operational tabletop game or crisis simulation in its entirety. The Wargaming Working Group will continue to partner with the Naval Postgraduate School to conduct larger political-military simulations that feature a mix of MIT and NPS students and faculty. Through these exercises, WGWG members will learn about the intricacies of game design and execution, as well as wargaming as a pedagogy tool.

In case of a return to remote meetings, the Wargaming Working Group will pivot to online wargames and research presentations from outside experts, including those at the Naval War College, the Center for a New American Security, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, the RAND Corporation, and MIT graduates.


Comparative Politics Works-in-Progress (CPWIP)

Coordinator: Clemente Sánchez 

Faculty Advisor: Mai Hassan

Considering the success of CPWIP on its initial run during Spring 2023, I propose to renew this forum for developing works in progress by students of Comparative Politics at MIT. CPWIP has thus far allowed students to present and receive feedback on written research related to Comparative Politics, broadly defined to include Political Economy and American Politics. In the past, students have presented papers with topics such as bureaucratic control under autocracies, welfare state policies, and estimating judicial ideology.

Feedback from our peers, especially before submitting written work to academic journals, is one of the most important ways scholars improve upon their work. Moreover, feedback from other students is also useful in order to move dissertation projects forward, as well as providing students with spaces to develop key professional skills. Under the stewardship of Katharin and Ayelet, CPWIP saw more requests to present papers than available slots.

In contrast to GSWIP, which I helped organize during the 2022-2023 academic year, CPWIP is intended to serve as a platform for more advanced, in-depth workshopping of research projects, as well as incomplete-yet-promising works. Presenters are required to circulate a draft, which the rest of the participants read in advance. This format has been particularly useful for students in upper years who are working on their prospectus and research papers.


Political Science Women's Coffee Hour (PSWCH)

Coordinators: Ipek Bayraktar, Suzanne Freeman, Miriam Hinthorn, and Elizabeth Parker-Magyar

Faculty Advisor: Kathleen Thelen

The Political Science Women's Coffee Hour is a group run by women-identifying graduate students for other women-identifying graduate students in the MIT political science department, which creates a space where students can meet and support one another. The group is the only student group for women in political science at MIT that includes every subfield and cohort year. Political Science Women's Coffee Hour was founded in 2018 and previously funded by the Office of Graduate Education, and we now hope to bring the group under CIS. During the past five years, the group has been a space for women graduate students to meet each other, build mentorship relationships, and ask for help and advice on graduate school activities. Each coffee hour event in the 2022-2023 academic year included the majority of women graduate students in the department. The group also holds events with faculty to talk about research and professionalization topics. In the past, we have discussed topics such as: research, conferences, the job market, grants, fieldwork, and mental health. This year we also plan to open conversations or invite guests to discuss having a family during graduate school, navigating feedback at workshops and conferences, and considerations specific to international women. Our discussions and peer mentorship often focus on unique challenges faced by women in the discipline.


New Directions Working Group (NDWG)

Coordinator: Jim Walsh

The New Directions Working Group was originally convened by SSP Professors George Rathjens and Jack Ruina.  I participated as a grad student in the 1990s. Ruina founded SSP, known then as Defense and Arms Control Studies (DACS). Carl Kaysen later joined at a the group after coming to MIT and the American Academy. Kaysen had served with Rathjens and Ruina in the Kennedy Administration, and later succeeded Robert Oppenheimer as director of Princeton's Institute for Advance Study. 

The purpose of the ND is to generate ideas and knowledge in the service of addressing pressing and consequential contemporary problems in international security. The "new" in New Directions indicates an intellectual stance that is critical and change-oriented. In addition, ND aims to support the intellectual and professional development of its members, e.g., through skill development and shared resources.  

ND is focused on developing ideas through iterated verbal exchange, i.e., rigorous conversation.  It will not, therefore, rely on the typical 30 minute presentation, Q&A format. One implication of this choice is that the group, at least initially, should be limited in size: 12-15 people that will translate into 10 participants for any given meeting. As the group develops trust and familiarity, it may consider adding members. 

The new Directions Working Group will be a diverse, collective, non-hierarchical enterprise that values group participation and ownership for the application scholarly knowledge and data to important real world problems. It will also pursue the mutual support and skill development of its members.

The agenda will be determined by the participants, but it is expected that it will start, initially, with attention to nuclear weapons, emerging technology, and related issues.  The earlier ND covered topics as wide-ranging as nuclear weapons, the military budget, threat inflation, and humanitarian intervention, among others. Each meeting will employ a variety of formats and exercises to generate ideas.


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:

  • Coordinators and their year
  • Faculty support
  • Name of group
  • Statement of purposes and proposed activities of the working group
  • Budget
  • Prospective member and their academic affiliations

Please send proposals to cis-info@mit.eduRequests will be considered as they are received and approved by CIS Director, Evan Lieberman.

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 Robert Chambers. Your message is sent to Robert 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 ask 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 11/09/2023