About the lab



The STAIR lab is a collaborative research group directed by professor Maurits van der Veen. We use text mining and machine learning tools to analyze and address political issues, with a particular focus on international relations.

Students work on ongoing projects in the lab and also contribute their own ideas for new questions or issues to explore on their own or collaboratively. The goal of the lab is to advance the state of knowledge in the field, while simultaneously providing students with the training and skills to pursue their own independent research and preparing them for post-graduate opportunities.

Click here for an overview of current projects.



The STAIR lab shares the space of the Social Science Research Methods Center (SSRMC) with other lab groups, including prof. Settle's SNAPP lab and prof. Holmes' PPIR lab. The SSRMC is located in Blow Hall, below the Charles Center. Use the ground floor entrances ( what3words locations: dozes.caring.shopping and scenery.reckoned.integrates)

Professor van der Veen can most easily be reached by email.


Joining the lab

If you are a William & Mary undergraduate interested in our research, consider applying to join the lab! Taking part in our research will help you develop valuable skills while doing cutting-edge work with a faculty member outside the classroom, and interacting with other students with similar interests.


There are no formal qualifications or prerequisites for joining the lab, though already having familiarity with computer programming in general and python in particular will be very helpful. (You should be willing to teach yourself basic python programming if you have no such background.)

More important is an interest in using texts as data to answer questions about politics and international relations, and in doing so by applying text mining and machine learning techniques. Depending on your background, the research may focus more on developing new computational tools and approaches or on applying existing methods to specific international or political issues.

Structure & time commitment

Lab members work collaboratively on one of the ongoing projects in the lab, and help develop and shape new avenues of research. New lab members must sign up for 2 credits of GOVT 394 (Directed Research).

Returning members can receive up to 3 credits of GOVT 394 or affiliate with the lab while receiving credit for an independent study or honors thesis. All lab members put together a portfolio each semester describing their research activities and findings.

You should expect to commit 5-10 hours/week to your work on shared or independent research projects. In addition, we hold weekly lab meetings on Mondays for the whole lab, and each research group also meets with prof. van der Veen on a weekly basis to discuss progress, challenges, and next steps.

If you continue for subsequent semesters, you can adjust the number of credits up (to 3) or down (to 1) in consultation with prof. van der Veen, as your research goals and other commitments change.

Application process

If you are interested in joining the lab, send prof. van der Veen a message in which you address the following four questions:

  • Which international or political issue interests you most, and why? If someone were to give you a large sum of money to design your own research program right now, what would you want to research? (Your answer need not have anything to do with our current projects.)
  • What specific skills or background do you have, if any, that would help you contribute to our research? Include computer experience, previous research experience, etc.
  • Why are you interested in joining the lab? What do you hope to gain from the experience?

The best time to apply is during the two weeks prior to the start of classes in a given semester. For Spring 2021, the deadline is Sunday, Jan. 31.

Lab meetings will generally begin during the second week of classes.