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The Social Science & Policy Studies (SSPS) Department uses our extensive teaching and research facilities to uncover new information and to teach students how to apply that knowledge and results to real-world situations.

The best word to describe the research conducted by the Social Science & Policy Studies Department is diverse. Whether they are seeking solutions for a broad range of societal challenges—from economic recession to underperforming schools to international conflict and beyond—SSPS researchers examine a wide variety of perspectives and use WPI’s extensive facilities and resources to do so.

That’s why they take an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, while staying focused on society and technology and observing how they coexist.

Learn more about:

Faculty research and publications
Student research and projects

Our Labs

The role of research and teaching facilities is to inspire students to not only acquire knowledge, but also to gain an awareness of how to apply that knowledge to real-world challenges. The Social Science & Policy Studies Department benefits from sharing top-notch facilities with several other academic departments and programs.

  • Creativity, Education, Affect, and Reasoning (CEDAR) Lab

    The CEDAR Lab conducts research on creative and flexible thinking in mathematics, reasoning of complex concepts, and how student experiences shape thinking and learning in mathematics and statistics education. Our lab relies on experimental methods, observational data, learning analytics, and qualitative methodologies to better understand teaching and learning in STEM subjects. 

    Contact Prof. Stacy Shaw for more information.

  • Experimental Economics Lab

    Located within WPI’s Salisbury Laboratories, the Experimental Economics Lab is designed for conducting computerized economics experiments. This space remains available for use by faculty members and students from all disciplines.

    Contact Prof. Alex Smith for more information.

  • Development Design Lab

    The Development Design Lab deploys our values of inclusion and improving the human condition through transformative and transdisciplinary research, application, social change and supportive policy development. With our partners, we aim to push development design  beyond its current framing by drawing on new design thinking, cross-cultural co-creation, and project-based learning, in ways that will re-conceptualize the relationship between so-called “western” experts and the communities they hope to serve. We see technological innovation and  intervention beyond simply transferring from “North to South” but rather as the material manifestation ideas and action that has been mobilized in a collaborative milieu. Our team  understands the dynamic of co-creation that leads to self-sufficiency, sustainable, and socially just outcomes.

    For more information, reach out to Prof. Rob Krueger.

  • Math, Abstraction, Play, Learning, and Embodiment (MAPLE) Lab

    Teaching and learning mathematics is a highly complex social, exploratory, and creative process. In the MAPLE Lab, we design novel dynamic technologies that make “math come alive” (Graspable MathFrom Here to There!) and use eye tracking, mouse gestures, and log files to explore the coordination of attention, cognition, gestures, and strategies when solving mathematical equations. 

    We also use a variety of applied multilevel quantitative methods, observational measures, and assessments to examine the efficacy of instructional, social, and emotional classroom interventions that can improve K-12 math teaching, learning, and engagement. 

    Contact Prof. Erin Ottmar for more information.

  • Stigma, Eating, & Endocrinology Dynamics (SEED) Lab

    Work in the Health Psychology Lab explores issues like connections between the biological basis of psychology and psychophysiology. The mind-body connection brings on both psychological and physical changes. By assessing these connected relationships, students learn about stress, resilience, protective health factors, cognitive effort, implicit biases, and health disparities among varied populations.

    Contact Prof. Angela Rodriguez for more information.

  • Social Psychology Inquiry (SPI) Lab

    The SPI lab supports a variety of methodologies for conducting human participant research—particularly social psychological experiments. The emphasis is on research that examines how environmental factors influence attitudes, decisions, interactions, and cultural understanding. 

    Contact Prof. Jeanine Skorinko for more information.

The Social Sciences Participant Pool

At WPI, students actively participate in ongoing research. Our participant pool provides an opportunity to show social science methodology in action, instill excitement about the discipline, provide an occasion to imagine life as a social science major or professional, and teach something about current research and the practice of social science. In addition, it provides researchers at WPI an opportunity to post studies and collect data fairly quickly and efficiently.

All studies submitted through the participant pool are reviewed by the Internal Review Board (IRB), and also clearly define how it is related to social science to ensure the studies meet the educational goals for the participants.

Our Research Associates

Statesman in Residence: Barfour Adjei-Barwuah

Dr. Adjei-Barwuah is the current Ambassador of Ghana to the United States of America with concurrent accreditation in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. His first Ambassadorial assignment was Ambassador to Japan with concurrent accreditation to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. He has a counselling qualification from London’s Centre of Advancement of Counselling and runs his own consultancy firm - Learning Works Consult- in Accra, Ghana.  He is also a certified chaplain.

Lucy Agyepong

Dr. Lucy Agyepong is the Associate Dean of Engineering at Academic City College, a premium tertiary education institution offering holistic education to create world-rounded minds, located in Accra, Ghana. With a Masters in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering followed by a PhD in Mechanical Engineering with an Aerospace Design focus, she has over 10 years’ specialist experience in conducting advanced research on both Academic and Industrial levels. Her research has spanned Aircraft Design, with focus on alternative weight estimation and reduction methodologies.

Khatera Alizada

Khatera Alizada has served as an adjunct faculty member in the Social Science and Policy Studies Department and a visiting researcher at the System Dynamics Program at Worcester Polytechnic University (WPI). Her areas of specialization and research interest include modeling and simulation, quantitative methodology, System Dynamics modeling, agent-based modeling, international relations; comparative politics; post-conflict state-building and democratization; peace-building; international political economy; human rights; globalization, renewable energy and policy diffusion.

Linda Deigh

Dr Linda Deigh has over 25 years’ experience in the UK with industry and academia. Linda is currently the Associate Dean of Faculty of Business Administration and Communication Arts at Academic City University College in Ghana. Her role supports the institution’s vision to nurture the future business professional in Africa by addressing the socioeconomic challenges on the continent which require rigour in designing relevant practical business solutions and the keen ability to create narratives along that journey. Linda is involved in collaborations with WPI in areas of research, curriculum development and delivery, and student exchange.

Eric Keys

Eric Keys is the monitoring and evaluation advisor for the Center for Digital Development at the United States Agency for International Development. He is an environmental geographer with backgrounds in natural resource conservation and economic development, and global environmental change. During his career, Eric has carried out research on commercial agriculture and tropical deforestation, wildlife friendly development policies, land use and land cover change, and field methods and techniques. Dr. Keys served as a post-doctoral fellow at CIPEC; faculty member at Arizona State University, the University of Florida, WPI; and Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is interested in linking WPI faculty and students to interesting development and conservation opportunities.

Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye

Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye has been an adjunct professor at Boston University City Planning and Urban Affairs Program since 2004., teaching courses on Urban Environmental Issues, Developing Sustainable Communities, International Development, and Environmental Law.  He also worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an urban environmental coordinator, sustainable development coordinator, and environmental justice coordinator. BS, MCP, Boston University; JD, Suffolk University Law School. He is the Chief of Akyem Dwenase, Akyem Abuakwa State, Ghana.

Stuart Hilger

Stuart Hilger is a senior marketing and business development executive with broad experience in financial service firms including Fidelity Investments and Fleet Bank (now Bank of America).  In addition, Stuart has been the founder or senior team member in several successful startups in financial services and consumer tech including Route401k, CardStar and RememberIn.  Stuart is author of patent US 8881251B1 Electronic Authentication Using Pictures and Images November 2014.

Justin Hollander

Justin B. Hollander, PhD, FAICP, is a professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. His research and teaching is in the areas of physical planning, Big Data, shrinking cities, and the intersection between cognitive science and the design of cities.  He has plans to collaborate with WPI faculty around several of these topics.  He co-edited the forthcoming book Urban Experience and Design: Contemporary Perspectives on Improving the Public Realm (Routledge, 2021) and is the author of seven other books on urban planning and design.

Chakanetsa Mavhunga

Chakanetsa is a Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) at MIT and founder Research || Design || Build (RDB), a rural community-based research and innovation institute in Zimbabwe. Chakanetsa is the author of three books on African science and technology: Transient Workspaces: Technologies of Everyday Innovation in Zimbabwe (2014). What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa? (editor, 2017), and The Mobile Workshop: The Tsetse Fly and African Knowledge Production (2018), all with MIT Press. He will be collaborating with colleagues on community development engineering projects in Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

Jim Thompson

In 2020, Jim contributed his national health system model to WPI’s SSPS department for use in the Global Health Initiative. He is working with Mike Radzicki and supporting an MQP to document the thousand-equation closed system feedback model and test structural policy choices. For over 30 years, Jim applied system dynamics methodology in the field of healthcare among other accomplishments including recently developing a novel community health insurance program with colleagues around the world

Hermine Vedogbeton

Hermine Vedogbeton is a Ph.D candidate in the department of Economics with a focus in environment and development at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She also holds a master’s degree in International Development and Social Change. Her research interests include valuation of natural resources and environmental effects on maternal and child health. She recently worked on the National Science Foundation Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education Sustainability project on salt marsh persistence and value and published in the Environmental and Resource Economics journal.

Raafat Zaini

Raafat Zaini spent over 20 years in the design and manufacturing industry where he held several technical and managerial positions before pursuing a Ph.D. in system dynamics and organizational behavior. His interest is in the area of organizational dynamics and innovation sustainability with a focus on a multi-perspective design approach and the dynamic modeling of R&D organizations and higher education institutions. Raafat worked as a researcher at the MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center and as and consulted for the Advance Management Group, among other accomplishments.

Psychological Science Research Opportunities

Psychological science is unique among the sciences in its ability to engage students in active, cutting-edge research. Physics, chemistry, and biology do have laboratory components to their work, but it is rare that students in those courses experience novel research as it happens. WPI students can participate in this cutting-edge research in two ways: as participants and as researchers.

Resources for Using the Participants Pool and SONA

As Participants:

All students in psychological sciences classes participate in a research participation assignment. This assignment is designed to enhance the education of students in courses that focus on social science methodology and human-subjects research by providing them with hands-on experience. It also serves to enable researchers using human subjects to collect data more efficiently. Participants will sign up for research studies using SONA Systems software an online experiment-scheduling program.

As Researchers:

Students interested in being part of the design and running of psychological science studies at WPI are encouraged to contact the faculty members whose research interests them to get involved. Students work as research assistants in the labs helping out with current studies.

Students can also get involved in research through Independent Study Projects (ISPs), Capstones (for Minors), Interactive Qualifying Projects (IQPs), and Major Qualifying Projects (MQPs). For more information, please contact Jeanine Skorinko, the Director of the Psychological Science Program.

For Researchers:
For Instructors: