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: Julian Lodoen and Clemente Sanchez

Faculty Advisor: F. Daniel Hidalgo

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: Tingxuan Zhu

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.


Working Group on Women in International Politics and Security

Coordinator: Suzanne Freeman and Tingxuan Zhu

Faculty Advisor: Fotini Christia

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

Coordinators: Samuel Leiter and Nina Miller

Faculty Advisor: Mariya Grinberg

Now entering its fifteenth 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.


Chinese Politics Research Workshop

Coordinator: Hao Zhang

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.

The workshop will meet every Tuesday 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:


Latin American Working Group

Coordinators: Peter Cummings and 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 from different departments 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.

During the 2021-2022 academic year, the group continued to realize its purpose of serving as a forum for research on Latin America. The group held 6 sessions over Zoom and 2 sessions using a hybrid format, in which the presenter was in the Millikan Room and others had the option of attending in person or over Zoom. LAWG hosted presentations by graduate students, visiting researchers, and faculty from MIT, University of Utah, Universidad del Pacífico del Perú, Universidad Católica del Perú, National University of Lanús (Argentina), Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Brazil), and Dickinson College. The attendance ranged from 5 to 12 attendees. The attendees included both graduate students and faculty from MIT and other institutions in the United States and Latin America.
For the academic year 2022-2023 the group will continue to cover a wide range of projects, from working dissertation chapters to book projects, authored by people who use a variety of empirical methods. The sessions will include MIT graduate student work and invited speakers from other institutions. We will plan to implement a hybrid format, hosting the sessions in the Millikan Room and serving lunch while also allowing the option of attending through Zoom. Meetings will be structured to have either one.

The updated schedule is available at


Wargaming Working Group

Coordinators: Benjamin Norwood Harris and Suzanne Freeman

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

Since its inception in 2019, the Wargaming Working Group (WWG) 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 2022-23 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 Working Group

Coordinators: Ayelet Carmeli and Katharin Tai

Facultiy Advisor: Noah Nathan

We propose to establish a new forum for developing work in progress by students of Comparative Politics in MIT and the Cambridge/Boston area. This group will allow students to present and receive feedback on written work in progress related to Comparative Politics, broadly defined to include Political Economy and American Politics. Feedback from our peers, especially before submitting written work to peer review, is one of the most important ways
scholars improve upon our work, produce high-quality work and write papers and dissertations hitting important career milestones like article and journal publications.

However, an institutionalized forum for receiving this kind of peer feedback on written work does not exist for students in the subfields named above: equivalent groups for the subfields of IR (IRWIP) and Security Studies (SSWG) allow students working on those topics to circulate drafts and receive feedback on them from their colleagues. Students from the 3rd year onwards often use SSWG to workshop earlier-stage ideas and IRWIP to workshop prospectus drafts, dissertation papers, or journal and conference paper drafts. The department’s general group for works in progress, GSWIP, serves a (highly valuable and helpful) forum for workshopping ideas in early stages, where students begin with a brief presentation which serves as the basis for
feedback and discussion with other participants. Students during their coursework stage often use
GSWIP to workshop ideas for course assignments.

CPWIP is intended to serve as a platform for more advanced, in-depth workshopping of research projects of a full draft of all, or most, components of the paper. Presenters will be required to circulate a draft, which the rest of the participants will be required read in advance. This will enable more thorough discussion and development of papers and ideas at a more advanced stage. Thus, CPWIP will provide students with useful feedback before they present their papers at conferences and workshops, submit them to journals for publication or receive feedback on their prospectus from their committee. This holds especially significant potential benefits for students in upper years, working on their prospectus and research papers, which are key to their long-term
career development.


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 Director, Richard Samuels. Requests will be considered as they are received.

Please consult MIT’s Covid-19 policies at and conform to MIT rules when organizing events. Consult the COVID-19 Undergraduate Student Policies | Division of Student Life ( or COVID-19 Graduate Student Policies | Division of Student Life ( and follow the guidelines. For any visitors that will join your events, please follow the MIT guidelines.

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 Rodney Walkes. Your message is sent to Rodney 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 3/07/2023