Oxford Q-Step Centre

Alexandra (Alexa) Zeitz

I’m a fourth year DPhil in International Relations based at St. Antony’s college. I am interested in international finance, particularly how developing countries interface with the international financial system. My dissertation studies whether African countries’ relationships with their “traditional” donors like the World Bank changed once they gained access to Chinese loans and international bond markets. I am a strong believer in mixed methods. My thesis combines statistical analysis of aid and loan terms across sub-Saharan Africa with three case studies based on in-depth fieldwork (Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya). I received my BA in Politics, Psychology, and Sociology from the University of Cambridge and completed an MPhil in International Relations at Oxford before embarking on the DPhil. I was very new to quantitative methods when I arrived at Oxford and the discovery of what we can learn through careful analysis of appropriate data has made me passionate about good quantitative methods training.

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Catharina Lewerenz

The reason why I wanted to do my undergraduate degree in Political Science was that I had a strong interest in Political Theory. I soon realised, however, that the University of Mannheim was not the right place to do so. On the contrary, the focus was on empirical analyses and statistics. It was hard but I stayed. It took me three years but slowly I started to enjoy engaging with data. And I stayed there even longer to do my Master degree in Political Science as well. As a part of a cooperation program of the University of Mannheim, I went to the University of Nottingham in my second year to do a double master’s degree in International Relations (Research Track). And again, the focus was mainly on statistics but by that time I had learned to handle and appreciate numbers. Not least because of this, I worked as ‘statistician’ before coming here to do my DPhil in International Relations. In my project, I refer primarily to statistics in order to examine the impact of pro-government militias on violent and nonviolent dissent.

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Ilona Lahdelma

I tried to avoid studying statistics for almost thirty years, up until starting my DPhil where I had no choice but to try. And it was then when I realized just how much I enjoyed doing it! Taking stats enabled me to think differently about the world and about what I can ask and answer as a social scientist. Quickly my friends and family witnessed as I transformed from a theorist and a qualitative historian to what they sometimes refer to as a born again statistician. I now research European attitudes on refugees and the impact of refugee settlement on local politics by mainly quantitative methods of causal inference, with mixing in my historian's and theorist's background as much as I can.

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Jacob Nyrup

My way to becoming a political scientist was almost over before it got started. After my first year of undergraduate studies at the University of Copenhagen I was frustrated and I was considering changing subject. I was thinking to myself, "Why don’t we also learn to study the world?"  Thankfully, my first methods class was an awakening. Since then I have been hooked on using data to analyse the questions we face in the social sciences. After graduating with a MSc in Political Science and Political Economy from the London School of Economics, I went on to do another MSc in Political Science at the University of Copenhagen. Wanting to take a break from studying, I worked as a management consultant for Deloitte Consulting, where I used statistical methods to solve some of the biggest problems facing the public sector in Denmark. Having started a DPhil in Politics at Oxford in 2016, I study why some authoritarian countries are better at promoting economic development than others. In addition, I am doing research on wealth inequality as a part of the WEALTHPOL project.

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Julia du Pont de Romémont

I am a third-year DPhil candidate in Politics at Nuffield College. I completed my secondary education in a French-German school in France, before studying Politics and Public Administration at the University of Konstanz in Germany. I then came to the University of Oxford, where I took an MSc in Politics at Trinity College in 2014. I never really consciously decided to get into political science, but once I chose this path it appeared to me like the logical choice. What I instantly enjoyed about social science is that I learned a way of thinking about facts and not only the facts themselves. I find it fascinating to uncover unexpected patterns of social behaviour through empirical research. I grew up in a bi-national family, with grandparents who had experienced the second world war on seemingly irreconcilable enemy sides. I try to remain aware that my existence and way of life is due to political decisions to cooperate, but also that our socio-political situation is always in a fragile balance. Outside of academia, I enjoy dancing, talking about dance, photography and discussing politics.

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Raluca Pahontu

Growing up I was interested in many, many things – from piano to math to figure skating. When time came, I decided to go for what I thought was the middle ground between them all – PPE. I finished my bachelor at the University of Essex, where, among other things, I learned about and loved stats. I decided to continue my studies at Oxford in a discipline that allowed me, as an econ and philosophy enthusiast, to study both: political science. I have since continued to mix and match different parts of these disciplines in my work. Currently, in my DPhil, I study the political economy of risk and demand for insurance in quasi-experimental settings.

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Sam Rowan

I learned statistics the way most of you will learn this year! I had taken an introductory social statistics course in my undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of British Columbia, but the material didn’t really sink in. For me, the small amount of quantitative research that I’d been exposed to seemed very abstract until I started reading more of it on websites like The Monkey Cage and FiveThirtyEight, where I saw new kinds of questions being answered with new kinds of data. When I came to Oxford, I took the introductory and intermediate statistics courses on the MPhil in International Relations and slowly the pieces came together. Now I use statistics in my DPhil to study how participation in international institutions leads states to undertake more cooperative behaviour.

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Tom Robinson

I thought I wanted to be a philosopher. I wasn’t particularly concerned with narrow concepts like democracy and ideology. I blame a series of recklessly enthusiastic politics tutors who encouraged me to search out my own data, not knowing they’d find it hard to get rid of me after my BA. Now studying for a DPhil in Politics, and focussed squarely on quantitative methods, I’ve gone from having never studied statistics at school to using these techniques every day. My own research focusses on American politics, ideology and democratic representation. I am particularly enthusiastic about helping those who, like me, had little if any formal training in statistics prior to coming to university. Outside of my research I enjoy cycling, playing the piano and drinking coffee.

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