Oxford Q-Step Centre

Anna Petherick

My undergraduate degree was in Natural Sciences. Everybody studying with me—botanists to astrophysicists—had to do statistics, whether they liked it, or not. In that environment, letting your research interests be guided by an aversion to a particular set of methods would have seemed as weird as becoming an art critic who refuses to look at the colour red. I worked as a journalist when I graduated, and started hanging out with people who’d at some point gained a degree in politics and often didn’t much like numbers. A disturbing proportion of them sought to be swayed purely by the eloquence of an argument when a little bit of data analysis would have gone a long way. Frustration with this kind of silliness led me to comparative government studies at Oxford. My DPhil here uses quantitative methods to look at the impacts of corruption.

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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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Gerda Hooijer

For a high school project, I wanted to know whether local policies increased the emancipation of female immigrants in my hometown. Since I could not find any data on their experiences, I designed a (very simple) survey and fielded it among a (completely unrepresentative) sample of women I knew. Ever since, I have been interested in the relationship between immigration and the welfare state in advanced democracies, and I have used comparative and quantitative methods to analyse it. For my DPhil project, I examine the effects of immigration on support for the welfare state. Before that, I studied Comparative Social Policy at Oxford and Political Science at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. 

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Jeffrey Wright

My interest in politics emerged as a pimply and curious high school student in rural Montello, Wisconsin (United States) -- population 1397! -- where I became enamoured with my home state's progressive political history and leaders. Did you know that social policy reforms such as workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance (first enacted in Wisconsin in 1911 and 1932) served as a model for the rest of the country? Or that the "Badger State" became the first in the nation to allow collective bargaining for public employees in 1959? Things have changed since then (read: Scott Walker) but my passion for the political process has not! After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the top prize in political science, I went to work in Washington, DC, as a policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and later as a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations. I started the DPhil in International Relations at Oxford (Nuffield) in 2013 and have loved every minute since. My research applies mixed methods (statistical techniques and case study analysis) to understand the factors shaping representation in global governance institutions. In my spare time I love to run, practice yoga, and cheer on the Green Bay Packers!

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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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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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