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Paid Undergraduate Research Opportunities in CESTA: Spring 2017

Feb 9 2017

Interested in picking up some research experience on campus? CESTA is now hiring undergraduate research assistants!

(This application period has passed and is now closed)

Paid Undergraduate Research Opportunities in CESTA: Spring 2017


The Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) is an open and collaborative work environment, home to the Spatial History Project, the Literary Lab, the Poetic Media Lab, Text Technologies, Humanities + Design, and the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, among other initiatives. We work with faculty, graduate students, and postdocs from Stanford and around the world on digital humanities research projects that bring together paradigms from history, geography, literary studies, education, media and cultural studies, sociology, and more. For more information on CESTA’s projects and labs, which range from multi-layered maps of London and Rome to timelines of evolving text technologies to neural networks that read novels, please explore our website.

CESTA seeks to hire undergraduate research assistants for a variety of projects in spring and summer of the 2016-17 academic year. Student tasks range from conducting traditional historical or archival research, learning new tools, developing interactive websites, creating databases and much more.


To Apply

If you are interested in working at CESTA, please fill out our application form no later than midnight on Sunday, February 26 for opportunities in spring. (Applications for summer will be accepted only on a rolling basis; we will follow up with summer applicants during spring quarter.) The application asks questions about your availability, experience, and interests; it also asks for a resume and cover letter. Please read the attached project descriptions and write a brief cover letter indicating why you might be a good fit for one or more of them. This is an opportunity for you to expand upon what you have included in your resume and apply those items to the projects you are interested in. Have your resume and cover letter ready to upload in a single PDF document at the end of the application form.

Prompt applications will receive preferential consideration, as will applicants who are open to receiving independent study credit. Any applications submitted after the deadline will be considered only if the need arises. Students who applied after last quarter's deadline may reapply by sending an updated cover letter, with new project preferences, to



Research Assistants are supported through Federal Work Study, independent research credit, stipends, or faculty support. Students who are funded through a stipend will receive a one time payment of $800 for the entire quarter for a baseline of 5 hours per week. Students paid hourly are paid $16/hr and work between 5 to 10 hours per week. Students will have access to faculty and staff mentorship for their projects in addition to a great working space.

If you are not placed on a project this quarter, do not be discouraged to re-apply for summer positions or next fall! We have over 30 rotating projects with new projects being added every quarter. In addition, projects positions open up from quarter to quarter based on student availability.

Thank you for your interest; we look forward to meeting you. We encourage you to give us a call or send us an email if you have any questions about the application process. We can be reached at 650-721-1385 or you can email Celena Allen ( and Hannah Walser (


Application Deadline and Timeline

Sunday, February 26 by 12 midnight : Application due

Wednesday, March 1 : Interview invitations sent out to select candidates

Week of March 9 : Interviews begin

Week of March 16 : Hire decisions made


Project Descriptions


  1. Poetic Media Lab: Web and Drupal Developer (Amir Eshel, Brian Johnsrud). Keywords: pedagogy, technologies of reading, Drupal, ed tech

  2. Literary Lab (Mark Algee-Hewitt). Keywords: text mining, literary history, genre, aesthetics

  3. Beyond Borders: Mapping Early Modern Regimes of Movement (Luca Scholz). Keywords: migration, nation-states, GIS, German/Latin/Italian language skills

  4. Land History Project (Deborah Gordon). Keywords: ecology, JavaScript, XLSForms, interactive mapping

  5. Modernist Archives Publishing Project (Alice Stavely and Michael Widner). Keywords: book history, publishing,

  6. Travels, Publications, and Correspondence of Francesco Algarotti (Cheryl Smeall). Keywords: eighteenth century, Enlightenment, visualization, Adobe Illustrator

  7. Mapping Taipei’s Environmental Complaints (Jennifer Hsieh). Keywords: urban studies, ecology, class mobility, GIS, Chinese language skills

  8. Grand Tour Project (Giovanna Ceserani). Keywords: Italy, eighteenth century, data visualization, database management


Web and Drupal Developer for Poetic Media Lab

Project Leads: Prof. Amir Eshel (Comparative Literature), Dr. Brian Johnsrud

The Poetic Media Lab seeks a Drupal developer to work on existing Drupal modules for the Lacuna Digital Learning Platform ( Lacuna is an exploratory, interactive, and collaborative tool for learning in higher education. Stanford's own version of Lacuna ( creates innovative reading and learning opportunities for students in courses in literature, history, PWR, and across campus.

If skills are on hand, the position also can include developing new modules to extend our platform for exploring, annotating, and learning collaboratively in college-level courses. We are seeking someone who is interested in being a collaborator and who will be invested in the project's long-term goals. The ideal candidate will also be interested in learning more about the field of digital humanities while gaining practical experience working in cross-disciplinary teams.



  • Flexible schedule

  • Be a key member on a project used by your fellow students at Stanford and at other major universities


  • Debug existing Drupal modules

  • Develop new modules, as needed

  • Work in collaboration with a cross-disciplinary team of researchers and developers at Stanford

Skills Required


  • PHP and Github experience

  • Good communication skills and ability to work in an iterative, team-based environment

Optional (but helpful) Skills

  • Javascript

  • Drupal


The Literary Lab

Project Lead: Prof. Mark Algee-Hewitt (English)

The Stanford Literary Lab uses quantitative and computational methods to ask and answer questions about texts. From tracking the historical rise and fall of iambic pentameter to training a neural net to identify suspenseful passages in novels, the Lab pursues hypotheses about literary history and form on the scale of hundreds or thousands of texts, exploring fiction and poetry through methods such as network analysis, stylometry, and topic modeling.

During winter quarter, the Lab will hire one RA to work on some combination of its ongoing projects. Depending on the student’s interests and skills, these projects may include a study of the literary canon as constructed in the Norton anthology series; an exploration of the role of genre in fan fiction; an analysis of racial and ethnic terms in American fiction from the 18th to the 20th century; and/or a large-scale experiment aimed at identifying the influence of author identity on readers’ perception of aesthetic merit and beauty.

Job Description: Depending on the project to which the student is assigned, duties may include digitizing documents; manually tagging texts for character, setting, or time frame; maintaining a database of metadata on authors and texts; building networks of character interactions; and/or working with project leads to design an experimental protocol. In all cases, students will collaborate closely with project leads, with Lab director Mark Algee-Hewitt, and with project manager Hannah Walser.

Preferred Skills:

  • Attention to detail and strong communication skills
  • A passion for literature
  • Experience working with spreadsheets and updating databases
  • Familiarity with Python and/or R is a plus


Beyond Borders: Mapping Early Modern Regimes of Movement

Project Lead: Dr. Luca Scholz (History)

Project Description: Aiming to provide alternatives to conventional representations of early modern states as bounded territories, this project devises ways to visualize early modern political orders as regimes of movement. By applying GIS to the history of free movement and its restriction, it uses spatial analysis to historicize one of the most controversial issues of our day.

Job Description: The student will work together with Luca Scholz in identifying, processing and visualizing the data necessary for producing such maps. In a first step, we will augment an existing corpus of historical maps and prints as well as more recent, edited sources. The initial focus is on Europe, especially the fragmented German-speaking lands at its heart, but a broader spatial framework may be envisaged as the project evolves. We will then use the collected material to extract, analyze and visualize data in ways that allow to understand space not in absolute terms, but taking into account the experience of mobile populations and their actual possibilities of using it at different times and under different conditions. This job provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the use of visual sources and the practice of digital spatial history in a flexible and creative way.

Desired skills: Experience with GIS and, ideally, design and data visualization. Creativity and an interest in spatial history. Language skills in German, Latin or Italian are desirable but not essential.


Land History Project

Project Lead: Prof. Deborah Gordon (Biology)

Project Description: We seek an earnest Stanford student to spend 5 hours per weeks building a prototype mobile application for collecting multimedia interviews and presenting them in their geographic context through an interactive map application.


  • Demonstrable experience with HTML, CSS and (preferably) JavaScript

  • Microsoft Excel

  • Successful personal project management skills

Additional: Experience with JavaScript coding is desirable. Technologies to be used in the prototype will include XLSForms, Esri’s Survey123 and ArcGIS Online. Candidates should familiarize themselves with, and be prepared to articulate an understanding of, the basic features of XLSForms before interview. This position will be managed jointly by the Stanford Geospatial Center and CESTA and will provide students with the experience of working with teams producing cutting edge map-based research applications.


The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP)

Project Leads: Dr. Alice Staveley (English) & Dr. Michael Widner (DLCL & Stanford Libraries)

Project Description: The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP) is an international collaboration amongst academics in the UK, USA, and Canada to digitize, tag with metadata, and visualize thousands of archival documents related to early twentieth century modernist book publishing.  In phase one, we are starting with the thousands of papers—rare dust jackets, business records, letters, order books, etc.—associated with the founding and development of The Hogarth Press.  The Hogarth Press was the private in-house press started by Leonard and Virginia Woolf exactly one hundred years ago and is most famous as the publisher of all Virginia Woolf’s novels and essays after 1922.  She was an early and terrifically successful self-publisher who remarked that having access to her own publishing house made her “the only woman free to write what I like.”  Yet The Hogarth Press was much more than a “small press”: during the quarter century of the Woolfs’ co-ownership (1917-1941) it published over 300 different authors and 500+ titles, ranging from political tracts, to children’s literature, to health, wellness, and etiquette manuals, to biographies, and realist fiction. Its archives are vast and unplumbed, but geographically diasporic; we are working at the moment with six different libraries in three countries to collect and digitally aggregate these papers.   All of our data exist in excel sheets that have been fed into a purpose-built Drupal content management system to allow, ultimately, display and network analysis.

Responsibilities: We are looking for a research assistant to help us on any number of crucial tasks in the run up to our site going ‘live’ at the International Virginia Woolf Conference held at the University of Reading, UK, this summer.   Depending on the skills and experience of the successful candidate, help with site navigability is a high priority to move us from a ‘gallery show’ of materials to a display organized around content types.   Other needs involve fleshing out metadata, transcription of order book material into excel, and quality assurance between data sheets and digital importation.

Preferred Skills:  

  • Attention to detail and excellent communication skills

  • A passion for book, publishing, or business history

  • Familiarity or experience with excel spreadsheets

  • Willingness to learn and take initiative

  • Understanding Drupal or similar CMS a plus but not essential


Travels, Publications, and Correspondence of Francesco Algarotti

Project Lead: Cheryl Smeall (McGill University)

Project Description: In what can be described as a reverse Grand Tour, Venetian polymath Francesco Algarotti (1712-1764) travelled to and lived in a stunning number of cities over the couse of his lifetime. Described posthumously by Voltaire as having “belonged to Europe,” Algarotti felt at home and gained entry into intellectual circles wherever he went. Like many of his contemporaries, Algarotti maintained a voluminous correspondence which was wide ranging, both in terms of of geography and variety of recipients. A prolific author, one of his earliest successes was a popularization of Newtonian science for women entitled, Il Newtonianismo per le dame, or Newtonianism for the Ladies. Published in 1737, this book went through numerous editions over the course of the eighteenth century and was translated into several European languages almost immediately. This work, in combination with his extensive travels and the networks he established along the way, enabled Algarotti to make a name for himself across Europe.

Responsibilities: The most complete collection of Algarotti's correspondence can be found in the 1791-1794 edition of his Opere. The data from these letters (date, location, recipient) has already been entered into an excel file. Algarotti's letters to his brother Bonomo Algarotti, most of which remain unpublished, offer further insight into Algarotti's movements over the course of his life. The data from these letters has already been entered into an excel file as well.

We are looking for someone to use this data to do the following:

  • prepare it for use in Palladio;

  • create a visualization of Algarotti's travels across Europe;

  • create a visualization of Algarotti's networks;

  • complete a visualization of the influences on, and eighteenth-century editions and translations of, Algarotti's Il Newtonianismo per le dame.

Required skills:

  • familiarity with Excel and basic data management

  • knowledge of Adobe Illustrator

Familiarity with javascript visualization libraries like D3.js or P5.js an asset.

Creative input welcomed and encouraged!


Mapping Taipei’s Environmental Complaints

Project Lead: Jennifer Hsieh (Anthropology, DHAsia)

Project Description: This project examines the spatial and temporal patterns of environmental complaints in contemporary Taipei. The project utilizes Taiwan’s open government database in order to create online, interactive maps that will compare data on environmental complaints with existing urban planning structures. Visual comparisons between the most complained-about environmental issues in Taipei—noise, noxious smells, and illegal dumping—will be juxtaposed to the geographic features of the city. Throughout this project, the research assistant will work in collaboration with the project lead to examine environmental awareness in the context of urban development and class mobility. The project will inform a set of essays on civic engagement and big data as a source of knowledge-formation.

Responsibilities: The research assistant will help with the creation of a series of maps and explore online platforms to disseminate the maps to online audiences. By taking part in this project, the RA will play an integral role in the initial design and implementation of the project and will gain experience combining qualitative social analysis with spatial mapping techniques. This project is well suited for students with an interest in urban studies, environmental issues, and city governance.

Desired skills:

  • Familiarity, experience, or interest in learning GIS (ArcGIS or other web mapping platforms)

  • Basic reading of Chinese (traditional) is a plus, but not required


Grand Tour Project

Project Lead: Prof. Giovanna Ceserani (Classics)

Project Description: The Grand Tour of Italy attracted thousands of northern Europeans throughout the eighteenth century. It was a formative institution of modernity, contributing to a massive reimagining of politics and the arts, of the market for culture, of ideas about leisure, and of practices of professionalism. The Grand Tour Project enriches our understanding of this phenomenon by bringing us closer to the diverse travelers, elites and otherwise, who collectively constituted its world. We are working with the more than five thousand entries in John Ingamells’ Dictionary of British and Irish Travelers to Italy to create a dynamic searchable database, along with digital visualizations, of these travelers’ journeys and lives.


  1. Build on the data we already have. In particular, we want to add to the current database, created mostly by parsing, place names and personal names found in narrative sections of the Dictionary; this will involve text mining and editing

  2. Experiment with best visualization practices for this new data (how to envision a geography of all places mentioned beyond Italian Grand Tour destinations, and a prosopography of all people mentioned beyond the travelers themselves)

  3. Think of how to link our data — that is, connect people who traveled together, or met at certain times in certain places


  • Familiarity with Excel and basic data management

  • Familiarity with visualization systems (e.g. Tableau, Palladio, Carto)

  • Basic text mining skills are desirable